Students sit in at Yudof’s office

November 25, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif.--Nearly 100 students demonstrated inside the lobby of the University of California (UC) Office of the President and demanded a meeting with UC President Mark Yudof on November 23. The protest came after felony charges were dropped against three activists who were arrested at UC Berkeley for occupying a building to protest a 32 percent hike in tuition.

Dozens of demonstrators came to the Alameda County Court to show solidarity at the arraignment of the three activists. When the charges were dropped, demonstrators decided to protest at the Office of the President in downtown Oakland, blocks away from the court.

"We wanted to go to the president's office because the problems we fought against last week still remain," said Alexander Jacobson. "Students still face a 32 percent tuition increase, we are against the violent force that was used against us by police."

The protesters entered the building through the parking garage and eventually made their way to the main lobby. Curiously, they were not halted by security until the students got to the lobby and made their presence known by sitting in and demanding to speak to the president.

For two hours, demonstrators tried to negotiate with top administrators to set up a public meeting with President Yudof. Nathan Brostrom, the interim executive vice president of business operations, spoke to the protesters to try to reach an agreement. However, despite efforts to be polite and cordial, students were not given straight answers or commitments.

"All we had to say is that 'We're here, we're peaceful and we want to set up a meeting,'" said Alex, a fourth-year geography student from UC Berkeley. "Brostrom kept saying that the president is out of town and the best he could do was send an e-mail to Mark Yudof. We asked for [the president's] secretary, we asked when he was free. The top administration is missing in action."

While the talks continued, dozens of supporters gathered outside. In the face of a massive police presence that obstructed two blocks downtown, the mood outside was confident and cheerful. All of the supporters discussed the next steps for the student movement, how to foster more solidarity with students and staff, and how to deal with acts of police brutality during the three-day walkout action the week before.

One of the supporters outside was Emily Montan, who works at the Office of the President, and is a shop steward for the University Professional and Technical Employees union. "I just stepped out for lunch, and when I came back, I found the lobby occupied and police blocking the doors," said Emily. "I'm so glad to see students put their bodies on the line. We need to do what it takes, because Yudof and the Regents choose not to listen."

As it became apparent that representatives of the administration would not give any commitment for a future date to meet, the protesters voluntary left the building together. They were welcomed outside by loud chants of "Lay off Yudof" and "This is what democracy looks like."

Marika Goodrich, of the Student Worker Action Team, addressed the crowd, saying, "We wanted to talk to the president, the man who should answer to all of us. They gave us nothing but spin and said that an e-mail will be sent [to Yudof]. We're not going to give up."

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