Occupy, California-Style

 California

As an extension of the country-wide Occupy protests, students at University of California, Berkeley, are occupying campus to protest a whole variety of problems at the school. In this case students appear to have a very specific solution, too.

According to an article by Justin Berton, Nanette Asimov, Demian Bulwa,Kevin Fagan at the San Francisco Chronicle:

As many as 10,000 students and Occupy activists overflowed UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza on Tuesday night following a daylong classroom walkout and established a small camp in defiance of the university’s edict that no tents be erected, setting up a potentially tense standoff with authorities.

Organizers with the groups ReFund California and Occupy Cal had asked students and faculty to ditch the indoors to hold teaching sessions and rallies outside as a sign of their rage over rising tuition, executive pay and other issues they consider to be signs of a diminishing public university system.

It’s not really an Occupy protest per se; it’s an extension of the same protest students have been having in the Golden State for years.

As state funding declines and the cost of attendance goes up, the University of California system, which was initially tuition-free for California residents, has been charging higher and higher fees to students.

Alex Barnard, a Berkeley graduate student, spoke to KQED’s Jon Brooks recently. She explained that:

The message we’re trying to get out is there isn’t a lot of difference between the banks and the UC Regents,” he says. We have regents who sit on the boards of banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, and it’s clear their interests are not ours; they have the interests of the 1 percent of the banks at heart. We want to change that and put pressure on them. If they started pressuring the legislators and voters to pass this Refund California initiative, this could really be transformative.

Refund California supporters argue that because banks created the state’s economic collapse, administrators at California state universities should support higher taxes on banks and other corporations. These higher taxes can be used to improve funding for state colleges. Let’s see if policymakers buy this argument.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer