Around 300 UCSB students, faculty, and community members marched Thursday at noon from Davidson Library to People’s Park in Isla Vista as a sequel to November’s Million Student March. The march demanded free tuition at public universities, student debt relief, university divestment from private prisons, and a $15 minimum wage on campus. Organized by a group of student leaders, this march was part of the national #MillionStudentMarch movement rallying for social change and responding to recent campus controversies.
As stated on the Facebook event, the march was organized “in an effort to reclaim UCSB’s campus after heinous, racist, sexist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and transphobic chalk statements led to an intensification of campus climate.” Late late month, statements like “Build a wall,” “Muhammad fucked children,” “Torture Muslims,” and others were chalked on campus, some outside of the Student Resource Building.
Reactions to these chalkings included an April 7 town hall meeting held to discuss expectations of campus community and free speech. In a campus-wide email, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn wrote, “The intolerance contained in these messages is inconsistent with our core values and our commitment to maintaining an inclusive and safe learning environment for every member of the UCSB community.”
Jason Garshfield — accompanied by a small group of students donning “Make America Great Again” hats — wore a Trump sign to the march. “The last protest in November severely lacked critical thinking, so I wanted to come here today with a dissenting opinion.” Trump supporters marched peacefully alongside other peaceful protestors who were carrying Bernie Sanders signs. “Trump 2016” markings, though not addressed in the march, were the first messages scrawled in chalk at the start of spring quarter.
Speeches presented at various stopping points during the march emphasized student solidarity — including students of color, undocumented students, and Jewish students — against hate speech and racism. But the pervasive theme of college affordability and burdening loan debt was apparent as students chanted “UC, step off it. The people over profit.”
Nawar Mameh, a student leader in Associated Students and participant in the rally, sees the local impact of these student actions. “Bringing attention to the issues students face is important, but these protests can also have local effects. Chancellors across the UC system are being pressured for not supporting rights of student workers and temporary workers. When the administration sees students standing up for $15 minimum wage and for workers’ rights, they will have these events in mind when we go to lobby them.”
“We want more awareness of these issues,” says Lily Cain, one of the student leaders who organized the rally. “The demands are nationwide, and it takes so many local actions to make change. But we have no intention to stop.”