Fear of tuition hikes boil then simmer
The year opened up with the possibility of a tuition hike of up to 5 percent each year for up to five years, which caused widespread protests across the UC system. The proposed hikes, approved by the UC regents last November, have since been delayed until 2018.
According to Napolitano, the plan was a result of an increasing campus population (with undergraduate enrollment increasing by over 11,000 from 2013 to 2014) and future development for the UC, which planned to increase enrollment by 5,000 over the next five years.
During the entire debate, UC President Janet Napolitano and Governor Jerry Brown frequently came to disagreements, with Napolitano demanding that the state fund the UC more, while Brown advocated for executive pay cuts.
Further controversy arose over actions taken by both student protesters, and remarks made by Napolitano. At a UC Regent meeting in March, over 30 protesters stripped down to protest the UC’s action, prompting Napolitano to chide,“Let’s go. We don’t have to listen to this crap.”
After six months of uncertainty and preparation for the hikes to occur in fall, Napolitano and Brown worked out an agreement in May which provided the UC with $436 million over three years to provide for its pension obligations, while $25 million will be provided to support building maintenance and energy efficacy. While students in California will not be affected by tuition hikes, out-of-state tuition will increase by 8 percent each year.
Protests erupt then slowly fade
Fall quarter opened with numerous demonstrations over both the tuition hikes and controversy regarding numerous incidents of police brutality throughout the year. While the tuition hike protests boasted approximately 150 students and the die-in in December brought 60 student protesters, other efforts to address police brutality saw only four student protestors by May.
The deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown brought out multiple student demonstrations throughout the year, with two large demonstrations occurring in December and smaller protests occurring throughout the year.
Popular slogans across the nation included the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
While the amount of participation varied throughout the year, incidents during the protests generated concern. In December, a motorist drove a BMW into a crowd of protestors by the Mission Inn during the popular Festival of Lights.
Later in May, a sociology graduate student stepped on an American flag as a form of protest, which led a student veteran to rip the flag from underneath them. While the graduate student stated that they would press charges, it is unknown if further actions were taken.
Other demonstrations throughout the year held by students included a vigil for the 43 student student teachers who disappeared in Ayotzinapa, Mexico and a protest joined by numerous UCR students in Bakersfield to protest a proposed $163 billion in budget cuts to student aid.
The agony and ecstasy of ASUCR
Along with numerous projects, numerous controversies arose within the student government this year, resulting in the censure of two executive cabinet officials, including ASUCR President Nafi Karim, and [OUR]Voice sweeping elections.
Projects such as R’Gear drew in a massive amount of student participation resulting in thousands of freshmen lining up for free sweaters by the SRC. While detractors criticized the amount spent on the program for costing over $50,000, others remained supportive, saying that it bolstered school spirit.
In a less controversial measure, ASUCR implemented a food pantry on campus, establishing UCR as the final UC to implement one. The program, which will continue to expand into the next year, will seek to hire a full-time staff member and increase volunteers.
Elections dominated ASUCR discussions, however, as allegations over laptopping (coercing a student to vote for an individual or party with an electronic device) among the [OUR]Voice party and allegations of bias by the elections committee in support of PAC: Pride, Action, Change and [YOU]CR, inflamed arguments in the senate chambers.
The controversy culminated in May, as Executive Vice President Michael Ervin, and Karim were both censured for dereliction of duties by the senate. In the weeks leading to their censure, Vice President of External Affairs Abraham Galvan also brought forward concerns that the two were attempting to influence elections in their favor.
To some students, however, the timing was very suspicious as it occurred in the middle of elections week, leading students to question why the concerns regarding their dereliction of duties — the main reason for their censure — were not brought forward earlier.
After being disqualified by the elections committee and re-admitted by the judicial branch, the [OUR]Voice candidates, who swept the elections with 13 out of 16 seats took place as the ASUCR student representatives for the 2015-2016 school year.