Friday, November 20, 2009

Protests at UC Berkely as student fees increase 32%

This video was from yesterday, where student protesters sit around a van to block regents from leaving UCLA. The UC Regents voted earlier in the day on November 19, 2009, to raise student fees by 32% by next fall quarter.

Here is today's update:

ktvu TV 36

Posted: 7:14 am PST November 20, 2009Updated: 11:08 am PST November 20, 2009

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Four people, including at least two students, have been arrested in connection with the takeover of Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley campus Friday morning to protest fee hikes approved by the UC Board of Regents.

A UC Berkeley spokesman said the students began occupying Wheeler Hall, located just east of Sproul Plaza, between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Undergraduate student fees will increase by more than $2,500, or 32 percent, by the 2010-11 school year, with some increases taking effect next spring.

The students locked the building from inside, apparently by using bike locks and placing chairs near the doors, the spokesman said.

Campus police were able to get into the first floor of the building and arrested three people, including two students, for burglary, according to the spokesman.

Police cleared the building except for the second floor, where a group of students have barricaded themselves.

Word of a fourth arrest connected to the protest surfaced at around 10:30 a.m. So far, it is not known if that person was a student or not.

Blanca Misse, a UC Berkeley graduate student, said she was told that there were about 50 protesters inside the building as of about 9:30 a.m., and that they have a list of demands before they leave the building.

Misse said the demands include having the fee hikes rescinded, eliminating the layoffs of campus employees, and being able to leave the building without being charged with a crime.

The university spokesman said authorities are evaluating their options for how to get the protesters out of the building.

Wheeler Hall houses various humanities departments, and the spokesman said the protests are causing students to miss classes in the building Friday morning.

Protests over the fee hikes have taken place all week at UC Berkeley and other campuses by students and university union members sympathetic with their fight.

Lisa Kermish, vice president of the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communication Workers of America union Local 9119 said "students have every right to be furious and angry and drawing attention" to the fee hikes.

"It's such a severe, monumental threat to public higher education in California," she said. "The fee hike yesterday is the most egregious example of the dangerous path that the regents have taken. It means many students are going to be dissuaded from even applying."

A similar protest is also taking place at UC Santa Cruz, where on Thursday dozens of students and other people entered Kerr Hall, an administrative building on campus, and have refused to leave.

Jim Burns, a spokesman for the university, said the protesters remained in the building this morning.

Campus Provost David Kliger released a statement Thursday criticizing the action by the students.

"We are all concerned about fee increases and the impacts of $50 million in state budget cuts to our campus. Unfortunately, occupying buildings ... does little more than divert precious resources while denying others their rightful access to campus facilities and services," Kliger said.

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