Irene Tu_The Highlander

Last Thursday, three UC San Diego student workers were arrested after accusations of conspiracy and vandalism by UCSD officials. The workers were held for 12 hours and face felony charges. The incident which they were arrested for involved washable markers and chalk at a peaceful protest at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in May. It appears that the UC system isn’t interested in even being subtle about its attempts to manipulate and disrespect workers.

The 2022 UC system strike by SRU-UAW workers was the largest ever higher education strike in U.S. history and technically ended in December 2022. However, members of UAW Local 2865 have said that UCSD’s administration has not implemented the agreed-upon contracts since. In addition to the aforementioned arrests, UAW 2865 has claimed that UCSD issued 67 false or exaggerated misconduct charges this past June instead of upholding their hard-won contracts. This has obviously been a source of conflict for the union and the university in the last few months. 

One of the arrested individuals, William Schneider, said, “This is, in my opinion, very clearly part of a larger coordinated crackdown of union activities across the UC. UC has systematically tried to renege on the contract they signed with UAW and the graduate student researchers union.” There is nothing to suggest that Schneider is wrong about these assumptions, with UCSD refusing to honor the negotiated contracts, which still did little to help with astronomical California housing costs.

According to a statement from the university, the damage amounted to over 12,000 dollars, though it’s uncertain how washable products could cause thousands of dollars in property damage. The statement also mentions that the protest disrupted official campus events, though one might imagine that doesn’t inspire much sympathy or concern considering how much these arrests, as well as the ongoing struggle for fair pay, have disrupted the lives of student researchers and workers.

In addition to the humiliation and scare of facing criminal charges, this conflict is about a struggle for respect. Postdocs, researchers and graduate students contribute essential labor to the existence of higher education institutions, and this battle isn’t a recent problem. The demands made during the 2022 strike were years in the making as housing costs went up and workers resorted to extreme measures to meet financial obligations. The agreements made in December, while still nowhere near matching what these workers are worth, were at least a step in the right direction. To renege on that agreement now is both disrespectful and cruel.

When campuses shut down with classes that had no one to teach them, and work went ungraded, it was made apparent and undeniable just how much SRU-UAW workers run UC schools. These arrests further serve to highlight how little that work is valued and how creative UCSD and the UC system overall are willing to be in order to avoid acknowledging that work on a basic level.