Up to a thousand students, faculty, and staff gathered at UCSB yesterday to protest the effects that budget cuts have been exacting on each respective group—including fee hikes while receiving less education, a significantly smaller number of classes to choose from, hundreds of job cuts, and increased furloughs.
“You say cut back, we say fight back!” we yelled in unison as fists pumped in a display of long-sought empowerment.
As a student at UCSB who relies entirely on financial aid, the sudden 32 percent increase in tuition didn’t just hamper my tight budget, it made me feel as if my education was against me. Maybe it’s my comparative literature class, but I felt like a forsaken peasant caught in the grasp of wasteful feudal management, doomed to waste away tilling dried-up land while being “lorded” over by people who reduce me to my student ID number. But how do you escape?
“Start now!” was the rallying cry as various speakers, ranging from students and teachers to Santa Barbara politicians, encouraged the crowd to capitalize on their newfound unity and march downtown demanding change. “This is just the beginning!” speakers and protestors promised, as signs reading “We won’t fund your crisis” and “We stand united” flared up, bobbing with the rebellious spirit that oppression cultivates rather than hinders.
Various student groups and campus organizations came together to leverage the unity that this event symbolizes. Recent problems at UC campuses, notably UC San Diego, involving nooses, swastikas, and racial-themed parties have come to light, and the outrage over that was also apparent. “It affects us all!” came the cry from speakers, as students cheered in a display of kinship, showcasing the camaraderie that every group shares against the harsh persecution of friends and fellow students.
For his part, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang did sent a representative to read a statement he prepared, and Yang provided the buses to transport students from campus to downtown for the march. Nevertheless, shouts of “Where’s Henry?” drowned out his statement at times, and boos from the crowd represented the overall sentiment that students feel against “the man.”
The rally was the first event in which students and others gathered in large groups to make their agitation clear. Walter Bellow spoke about the similarities between the International Monetary Fund and California legislation; State Assembly candidate and Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams urged the crowd to vote politicians out of office “if they don’t work for you,” and professors warned against the decline of education in the face of state depreciation. For the first time that I’ve seen, students came together, raised their fists, and shouted, “We won’t take this!”
As Desmond White, a fellow UCSB student, said, “It’s like the climax of this whole crazy rollercoaster that we’ve been on … It’s wonderful.”