I did a little bit of digging yesterday as I hadn’t seen any posters, flyers, or emails about UCSB’s involvement with Oct. 7th. My fellow grads had not heard of the rally either, and one faculty member in the art department was surprised to hear of it as well, and expressed disappointment in the lack of communication about this event.
I spoke to a student representative from CALPIRG yesterday and he gave me some information about the rally. The event was organized by an informal UCSB coalition that began over a year ago, composed of faculty and various student organizations. The plan for action was to have all protesters and participants meet at noon at The Arbor on campus and then march to the Student Resource Building located near its neighboring community, Isla Vista.
My class ended at 11:50am this morning, just in time for the rally. I rushed towards The Arbor to find the mass. Several students of mixed races dressed in red t-shirts and one could hear the rhythmic beats from the percussion instruments played by a group of Latin American students. A young LGBTQ undergrad named David was in possession of a bullhorn and expressed his grievances to what had started as a small crowd of around 100. I looked around and tried to identify any familiar faces from the graduate art department, but felt like a stranger and at the same time not alone. I asked myself, “Who else was here from the arts to support?”
I was amazed to see several faculty represent and speak on behalf of the rally. Claudio Fogu of the French and Italian department expressed frustration as he has had for months, been looking for something that connected the student fee hikes and classroom crowding. He raised important questions to the students about their mind and position to the university budget cuts. Aranya Fradenburg from the English department cried out to all the students: “What if the administration decided they could do with a writing program but it really didn’t need an English department? Art History? Ethnic Studies? [...] A drastic change is happening in your backyard.” She urged the students that were merely sitting at nearby tables and passersby to participate as well.
After hearing several members speak, we marched along campus chanting and cheering. From, “The people, united/ We’ll never be divided,” to “UC students under attack/ What do we do?/ Stand up fight back!” the crowd appeared to grow to somewhere between 200-300 students and faculty. As we marched past the picnic tables of apathetic students texting and eating their lunches, and the temporary traffic nodes of students on their bikes waiting to get through campus, we marched forward to the Student Resource Building demanding for justice.
After the rally today I had walked over to the grad advising office and spoke with the grad advisor Carol. She’s is new to the department and works a part-time position for both the art and art history departments (so she’s really working 25% for the art department, 25% for the art history department). I asked her if she had heard of the rally and she seemed aware about it but was too bogged down from the amount of work that had to be done. Needless to say, the print lab technician came in who was in preparation for his furlough tomorrow and Monday and also admitted that he had too many work commitments to take time out to participate in the rally. It is interesting and mind-boggling to see how the UC budget cuts have pressed so much work on the staff yet cut back on resources for its students.
To further explain I had a recent experience where I was in a scramble to turn in my official paperwork to add classes before the late-fees incurred and was notified by email just a couple of days before the filing deadline. After I had contacted the faculty and instructor, I traversed back and forth across different parts of the campus getting one signature after the other. The art department as I write, is undergoing seismic retrofitting so many offices and studios are separated and tucked in other buildings (the Old Gym, Ellison Hall, Bldg 434; there are only a few used classrooms in the actual Arts building itself…). Needless to say, I wasn’t able to meet Carol yesterday as she had the day off and worked with the other department to try to process my paperwork. If our department had a full-time staff would we still experience these last-minute day-to-day urgencies?
[All videos by Van Tran]
Van Tran is a first-year MFA student in the art department at UCSB. She is interested in public & social practice and is researching the different communities surrounding her new geography of place. More information can be found on her website: http://thinkcollectdisseminate.weebly.com/