By Celine Littlejohn
It’s a troubling time for the state of UC Irvine. On Wednesday, October 16, the Take Back UCI rally was held at the flagpoles where students united in solidarity showing support for both UC workers and its students. Everything from budget cuts and tuition fee hikes to UC workers’ rights and the controversy surrounding Janet Napolitano’s recent appointment as the new president of the University of California system were issues addressed at the rally. After the speeches, protesters peacefully marched around Aldrich Hall and the Student Center dressed in all black as they carried a casket that symbolized “Death of Public Education” and “Death of Worker’s Rights.” While the entrance to the administrative offices was blocked, peaceful protesters remained outside. They were soon prompted to chant “WHOSE UNIVERSITY? OUR UNIVERSITY!”
On Thursday, October 24, the ASUCI Executive Vice President and the Workers’ Justice Coalition presented “The Worker’s Justice Town Hall” at Humanities Hall 254 where a panel of service workers, TAs, and lecturers were able to express their concerns with issues they are currently facing.
Over the aroma of Papa John’s pizza, there was a sense of uneasiness in the room when the panel would speak. Students in attendance were both shocked and disgusted at the level of mistreatment the workers explained they faced. For example, if a grounds worker called in sick at Mesa Court — as opposed to the normal three workers — the labor force would be reduced to only two workers doubling the amount of work.
These campus workers and patient care technicians from UCI Medical Center have suffered cuts in both salary and benefits. A common battle cry among the students in attendance was that workers, lecturers, and medical staff were the driving force behind the university. Without them, the university would not be able to run as efficiently.
Various petitions were passed around the room, including one that suggested a strike from campus workers to show how differently the university would function without them. At both events, the workers expressed gratitude for all of the support including the support from students and staff.
In the TAs and lecturers’ cases, they stated they would love a system in which there were fewer students per class. It can be difficult for a TA of a class of nearly 70 students in a 10-week period. They said it would be nice to have as much one-on-one instruction as possible.
The question that was also raised was where and when the fees from Proposition 30 will be distributed to students. Billions of revenue for education is supposed to go to the students so when will this take into effect?
The general message that the meeting wanted to address was the following. As one of the most prestigious public university systems in the nation, it is crucial that issues that are addressed be solved as soon as possible. Events, such as these, prove that not only is student activism alive and well, but that it does whatever it takes to make a difference. Every little bit helps.