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Feb 21, 20

Wildcat Strike Spreads: UC Santa Cruz Shut Down & UC Dining Halls and Offices Occupied

Cover photo: @backup_sandwich

In what is being referred to as “Doomsday,” UC President Janet Napolitano has given striking student workers at the University of California in Santa Cruz until midnight on February 21st to turn in withheld grades. Teaching Assistants (TAs) have been refusing to turn these grades since late last December, when a wildcat strike was first launched to demand a cost of living wage increase. Last Monday at UC Santa Cruz, student workers began an escalation and launched a “full strike,” declaring they would shut down the campus.

Heeding the call, hundreds of students took part in pickets at the entrances to the Santa Cruz campus, shutting down the university. Campus administration responded by spending millions on mobilizing riot police to break the pickets, which last Wednesday resulted in police violence and several strikers being injured. In the wake of the police attacks, the pickets swelled as did support for the wildcat.

As the strike entered into its second week, Napolitano issued a warning to the entire UC system, threatening to fire striking TAs if they did not turn in their grades – and has even stated that international students will be deported if they take part in strike action. As The Guardian wrote:

Lori Kletzer, the executive vice-chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, set a deadline for 11:59pm Friday for all graduate students to turn in their grades. “We are giving these students one final opportunity to fulfill their teaching responsibilities and show that they can fulfill future responsibilities,” she wrote. “Those who do not submit full grade information by February 21 will not receive spring quarter appointments or will be dismissed from their spring quarter appointments.”

For many students, that will mean having to drop out of their programs, Komori said. For international students like Komori, who is from Canada, that can put visas at risk. “It’s a big scary decision for a lot of people, but there’s been a lot of really positive conversations,” she said. “One thing is that our administration hasn’t guaranteed that we won’t face some kind of discipline or retaliation even if we do turn in the grades. We haven’t closed the poll but a good number, potentially a majority of people, still plan on withholding grades and will continue to hold them past the deadline.”

But if the actions that broke out across the University of California system on Friday, February 21st are any indication, the strike wave is growing across the UC system and students and workers aren’t backing down. In fact, hundreds of students across the University of California system have pledged to join the strike and also withhold grades if Napolitano holds true to her word of firing student workers. As one report wrote:

Graduate students at UCSD with the COLA campaign announced that, along with hundreds of other graduate students across the UC system, they will withhold final grades for the quarter if the UC system retaliates against UCSC graduate students for going on strike.

Friday saw thousands of students, staff, and faculty take part in mass rallies, marches, street blockades, dining hall takeovers, and building occupations at almost every campus throughout the UC system. The actions hearken back to the wave of student occupations that broke out in California in 2009 and show no signs of slowing down. With the struggle centered around the rising cost of living and the housing crisis, issues that many can directly related to, the real question is: will the strike spread outside of the universities and spark a larger rebellion within greater society? Time will tell. Until then, check out our roundup of #COLA4All actions which took place today across UC campuses.

Berkeley

  • Large rally.
  • March through city.
  • Dining hall liberated and opened to public.

Davis

  • Mass rally and march on campus.
  • Regents confronted.

Santa Cruz

  • Mass rally and march featuring staff, faculty, grad student workers, and undergrads.
  • Massive picket on both entrances. University shut down.
  • Streets in front of the university shut down.

Santa Barbara

  • Mass march.
  • Students launch occupation of Chancellor’s office.

Irvine

  • Mass rally.
  • Occupation of administration building.

Riverside

  • Rally organized.

Los Angeles

  • Mass march and picket.

San Diego

  • Mass rally.
  • Attempt to take over library.
  • Shutting down of intersections.

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