UC Berkeley and the University of California system have a strong and proud hxstory of student and worker solidarity, building coalitions that successfully resist privatization and austerity measures that heavily affect marginalized communities on our campuses. One does not have to look far back to see the extraordinary power that students and workers have when they join together to fight back – just last November, students and workers came together to participate in the largest strike in UC hxstory. More than 30,000 students and workers united to protest the intimidation of our campus workers by the administration during their contract negotiations. This is just one of the many examples of the strength that students and workers posses when they join forces and organize against the tyranny of the University and its Board of Regents.
Who is SEAL?
We call on our school to prioritize education by providing opportunities for hands-on engaged learning, and to fulfill its mission as a Public University by expanding opportunities for community-driven research serving community needs. We not only ask for this innovative vision, we are actively engaged in creating this reality.
As our first campaign, we are calling on the University of California, Berkeley to consider an alternative plan at the Gill Tract Farm in Albany that better services student and community needs.
The University of California is an active engine of the death economy- An economy where our labor is exploited for the extraction of natural resources and community wealth, while polluting our homes and bodies, all to generate power and profit for a select few. The only way to uphold this system of greed and destruction against the inevitable popular uprising, is through a repressive military and police force.
The UC has every ingredient of this cycle. The UC extracts wealth directly from its students, with the looming threat of even more tuition hikes. For students who still find ways to afford an education, structural racism and classism within every level of the institution creates an un-safe zone for students to think critically and question the oppression that pervades our lives. Students leave burdened with debt and afraid to engage in political resistance because of the pressure to find paying jobs. Student movements have historically been some of the most radical and transformative struggles for reimagining a new world- our silencing is strategic.
Student debt is a growing economic and moral crisis. The average U.S. college student today graduates with over $25,000 in debt, and nationally, unpaid tuition debt exceeds one trillion dollars.
One trillion dollars: 1,000,000,000,000.
Only a few decades ago when tuition cost a few hundred dollars, student debt was almost nonexistent. Even members of the Republican Party believed that education was a central public good that sustained the future of a truly democratic citizenry. Here at Cal, our tuition has increased 300% since 2002, and the average debt burden per student is $20,000. Students from low-income households are regularly charged more than one third of their family’s annual earnings for a year of tuition at a public college. The rate of black and Latino students graduating with unmanageable debt burdens is around 20 percent higher than that of their white counterparts. This debt burden constrains the future choices of students and perpetuates inequality.
When the UC Regents attempted to pass an 81% fee hike in Fall 2011, students and workers launched the Occupy Cal movement in protest. The fee hike ended up being cancelled soon after one of the biggest protests the University of California has ever seen. Though the UC may not admit it, the mass mobilization around Occupy Cal, which gathered 5000-7000 students, workers and community members in Upper Sproul Hall steps in November 15 for a rally and a night of occupation, is what put the 81% fee hike on hold, and pressured the UC regents and Governor Brown to call for the freezing of tuition for at least 3 years. But now, after 3 years of the freeze, Governor Brown and the State of California are talking of a budget shortfall, and the UC Regents have been discussing the possibility that tuition increases could restart as soon the 2015-2016 school year. So the question is: can we once again stop this coming fee hike?
This fall will bring with it the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Though the movement has been relegated to the pages of history, its issues are just as relevant today as ever. The piece below was written by Michael Rossman, a key organizer of the FSM, on its 10th anniversary, in 1974.
As seen through the national media, the FSM began in October 1964, when three thousand students held hostage a police car that had arrested a civil rights worker on the Berkeley campus, and climaxed three months later when 800 students were arrested in the first campus sit-in, 10,00 more went on strike and shut the campus down, and the faculty voted to ratify the major student demands.