Hundreds of UCSB students gathered around Storke Tower on Thursday to participate in a march to protest rising student debt and to fight for a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers and tuition-free public colleges.
“The United States is the richest country in the world, yet students have to take on crippling debt in order to get a college education,” the Facebook event page for the march said. “We need change, and change starts in the streets when the people demand it. With students, college graduates, and workers united, we can build a movement capable of winning debt-free college for all and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers!”
At the march, while students chanted “Hey-hey, ho-ho, student debt has got to go,” and “the students united will never be divided,” The Santa Barbara Independent spoke with one of the march’s leaders Joseline Garcia. Garcia is an executive on campus and the National People of Color Student Coalition Chair with the United States Student Association. “Our education is a right to us, but it has become a commodity — it has become privatized,” Garcia said.
In 1968 the UC was a tuition-free institution until then-president Ronald Reagan implemented the first ever student fees, which have since time risen by 827 percent nationwide, according to a flyer distributed at the march.
“All of these things that we are asking for are our rights,” Garcia said of the march’s goals. “For students of color in particular, it’s a whole different story — it’s a different struggle. I have been surrounded by students who unfortunately have had to drop out of Santa Barbara because of the same issues — because their education and their livelihood, their prosperity has not been prioritized.” Garcia’s words were echoed by the crowd’s angry chant of “UC Regents I see racists.”
Over 100 schools across the U.S. were expected to participate in what is nationally called the Million Student March, according to Garcia.
“Students are trying to survive this institution,” Garcia said. “They are busy trying to get the good grade, trying to get the degree, and sometimes institutions and society tell you that something is just not possible. So it’s important for students to come here to understand that this is a possibility — that there is room for improvement and that it is definitely possible.”