UC Berkeley Students Stage Walkout to Protest Tuition Hike
Protesters at UC Berkeley on Monday called for a repeal of tuition increases approved last week. (James Tensuan/KQED)
Several hundred UC Berkeley students staged a walkout and march on Monday to protest a series of tuition increases approved last week by the University of California Board of Regents.
The crowd marched through downtown Berkeley before gathering outside California Hall, which houses the offices of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. Students demanded the chancellor, who issued a statement in support of the tuition increase last week, come out and meet with them.
After more than an hour, Dirks did just that, emerging from the building to tell protesters that both students and administrators are on the same side in the dispute -- they all want more money from the state to help fund the university.
"We need to work together," Dirks told the students. "This is not a contest. We agree on much more than we disagree. We agree that the state has an obligation to support the great system of higher education that it produced."
University leaders, led by UC President Janet Napolitano, have argued that the tuition increase is necessary to offset cuts in state funding. But they also say they hope that negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature will make the increases -- 5 percent per year for each of the next five years -- unnecessary.
Dirks delivered his message to students who say the hikes could prove harmful both to those who want to attend the university and to UC itself.
"I do not believe that a system like the UC can survive when it’s choking the oxygen, which is basically the students," said Dartanyan Tzanetopoulos, a second-year student from Los Angeles. "We are providing the life for this university, we are the Golden Bears, and I don’t think the system will survive if it’s restricting itself from its own breath."
Maiya Moncino, a fourth-year student from Scotts Valley, was a spokesperson for protesters. She said raising tuition imposes a new burden on students already struggling to get by and it could hurt campus diversity.
"I have friends who work 40 hours a week and are full-time students," Moncino said. "And that’s something that I don’t believe should be the case. I think it really affects the quality of the education they can get. I think it changes the demographic of the university because people do make different choices based on how much it’s going to cost here. So I feel really strongly about public education."
The hall has been the past site of violent clashes between students and campus police. Dirks says authorities are unlikely to don riot gear or bring out billy clubs this time though.
"There was a serious review of how campuses responded to protests after 2011. And in the wake of what was a really long and heartfelt reconsideration of how campus police worked, there was a whole new protocol that was out in place," he said.
Students are currently occupying other UC campus buildings, including at Davis and Santa Cruz.