Approximately 350 protesters gathered in the lawn outside Orbach Science Library on March 5 to stand in solidarity with the UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) graduate student wildcat strike. Margarita Vizcarra, an organizer, chant leader and a second-year GSOE graduate student, began the march around 11:45 a.m. with acknowledgment of the native lands the university stands on, and the protestors moved out of the Orbach lawn at 11:50 a.m.
Marchers walked by the Physics building and down the quad, heading toward the HUB shouting chants such as, “Janet Janet, we can’t stand it, give us COLA, we demand it,” and “When our rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back,” and “F— Janet.”
The march reached the HUB at 12:00 p.m. and marchers gathered in front, holding a long red ribbon between them. The leaders of the march went to the second floor of the HUB and draped large canvas signs over the side reading “COLA for All” and “we run the UC.” Protesters stood and continued chanting “Fire Janet” and “Fire Wilcox.”
At 12:10 p.m. the protestors moved under the Transfer & Commuter Lounge bridge to avoid the sun and have greater acoustics as a lineup of students were about to begin speaking. Christina Manzano began by reading various facts, such as the salaries of UC president Janet Napolitano UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox, which are $578,916 and $406,495 respectively, juxtaposed to the average UC graduate student stipend of $22,000. Other facts included UCSC firing 74 graduate student strikers, and UC admin sending out emails to undergraduates to turn them against the strikes. Each fact read was met with a unified shout of “What the F—!” from the crowd.
Romina, a UCR graduate student in ethnic studies and a parent, spoke of her experiences surviving on her grad student stipend. She said that “after (her) rent, insurance and groceries, (she) is left with $9 a day to support (her) family of three.” She also spoke about how UCR no longer pays their utilities, and paying a $200 light bill during the summer leaves her with nothing.
Two undergraduates, Nicholas Darten and Jorge Plascencia, gave speeches as well. Darten called for undergraduate student solidarity and support of UC graduate students, bringing about a chant from the crowd of “undergrads got your back,” bringing some graduate students in the crowd to tears of gratitude. Plascencia, a first generation student, spoke of the great pride he had in being admitted to UCR, but became very discouraged by seeing UC workers and grad students alike suffering. He spoke words of encouragement and joy in seeing strikes to make lives for workers better saying, “we are filled with leaders, organizers, allies and advocates for a better future.”
Cuauhteomoc, another graduate student and local of Santa Cruz, gave his speech first in Spanish, then translating and continuing. He begins saying “I came here to say today, that the president is basura (trash in English).” He explained how graduate students are not eligible for the same financial assistance as undergraduates are and how that makes them endure great hardship. He described the fragile nature of the graduate student position saying “If I, in sickness, have to become homeless and jobless and take time off from school in order to survive.”
The final speaker was Dylan Rodriguez, a member of the faculty and head of the Academic Senate. He spoke of how humbling, as a faculty member, the march was. He referred to the protest as “education at its finest,” and highlighted that students should know who the regents are and that they “have no background whatsoever in education, they are governors.” He called on students to stay aware of “how power runs in this institution.”
The Highlander received comments from Vizcarra, Yajira and Manzano, organizers of the movement, who were all very pleased with turnout and how the protest went. Vizcarra stated “we want UCR students to understand that Santa Cruz is not an isolated incident and the administration milks us all for our labor.” Yajira added that the administration needs to know that graduate students are not standing down and that, “the intimidation tactics will not work.” Vizcarra also said that COLA (cost of living adjustment) is not the only demand, “we are seeking a reversal of the retaliation against grad students and de facto deportation of international students.”
The Highlander also spoke with Dylan Rodriguez who stated that the faculty have a responsibility to support grad students. He stated, “We are raising up the next generation of the professoriate, and they need to know we have their back and want them to be taken care of so they can be effective and successful.”
The march concluded at 1:00 p.m. Marchers were encouraged to stay around and make cards as signs of support for UCSC strikers who have been fired by the UC.