This past week has demonstrated that students and workers have tremendous power. We have shown that we have the capacity to pursue collective action and have our demands met. The threat of a five-day strike by AFSCME prompted the UC to concede to their demands, and on Tuesday, the UAW was likewise able to receive full concessions for their grievances in response to their own threatened strike.
Last night about fifty students occupied the Hahn Student Services building for eighteen hours, demanding the resignation of recently appointed UC president Janet Napolitano. The occupation was in response to a call for solidarity by the UC Berkeley Students of Color Solidarity Coalition, following their occupation of the Blum Center on the occasion of President Napolitano’s visit to the campus.
We stand in opposition to Janet Napolitano for many reasons. For one, she has no past experience as an educator, nor does she have knowledge of the issues that are specific to California. Additionally, as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, our new UC president was responsible for the deportation of 1.6 million people, causing immense suffering for countless families and loved ones.
At the University of California she is continuing this role, imposing the logic of crisis management, one that has been unfolding since the financial crisis several years ago when budget cuts and fee hikes were unilaterally passed without any student approval. Her record is an index of repressing the self-organization of students and workers combatting increasingly precarious working and living conditions – of using fear, force, and violence to further the exploitation of labor.
Starting at 2:30 PM yesterday, students gathered for a rally at which it was made clear that the AFSCME and UAW victories should not be accepted piecemeal but should be a part of a longer struggle. After a march to McHenry Library, more than a hundred-strong, students went to the Hahn Student Services building and subsequently occupied it. Speakers from a number of organizations such as MEChA, Students Informing Now (SIN), Committee for Justice in Palestine (CJP) and Youth Immigrant Coalition spoke at the occupied space and discussion groups were spontaneously formed, allowing students to talk about their future, both inside and outside the university.
Hahn was transformed into a site for students to meet and have face-to-face conversations, talking about various issues that they are unable to have in the normal everyday activities of university life. For a temporary period of time, this building truly belonged to the students, as a place to gather forces. And this is only the beginning. We call on other campuses to take up the fight, to continue escalating this struggle, just as we call for others on our campus to join us in reflection and action.
- Autonomous Students