October 7 at UCSD
At UCSD a group of approximately 300 students, workers and faculty members gathered at the Silent Tree outside Geisel Library to shout an alarm. Their message? Once again, the UCOP (UC Office of the President) has proposed a further fee increase of as much as 20%, a year after they voted in an increase of 32%. Indeed, according to UC Budget Director Patrick Lenz, the UC Regents will consider a tuition increase of up to 20% at their November meeting” — 9% in Summer 2009, 32% Fall 2009, %20 Fall 2010. This is a % 70 increase, in compound terms, in a mere year and a half. Our question: Will we stop them?
For many witnessing the gathering, these increases, and the business practices that accompany them -such as predatory lending- were news. Throngs of incoming undergraduate students looked on, and many joined their fellows on Library Walk to learn, for the first time, that they were entering into a field of conflict in which they would be asked to act as isolated and passive consumers or socially-engaged and active producers of their own education.
Across the UC’s, this unfolding drama spooled out further, as institutionally-funded student bodies and groups aggressively assumed control of what they apparently perceived as a formless and undifferentiated ‘student body’ rather than a mutually assembled commons ready and able to imagine and enact change in the present. These bodies were told to sit. They were photographed. Sitting. Listening. They were chided for their inactivity. They were told that their experience in this moment was ‘activism.’
Students and Faculty from UCSD Department of Visual Art listened, and waited, respectfully, for a moment of open and shared exchange that never came. We, each of us, and together, have recognized and shown a deep investment in the possibilities for social change in this moment. Brett Stallbaum responded to this scene actively-raising his voice in response / interjection to the canned speeches presented by self-appointed and institutionally-funded student ‘leaders.’ We were told to write a poem, introduce ourselves to our neighbors and sign a circulating petition.
We wanted to sit-in at the newly opened CHASE bank branch in the Student Union behind us. We wanted to register our own discontent and resistance in ways that were not only unimaginable to those behind microphones staged in front of us–but in ways that were apparently unacceptable.
One question hangs in the air above us and calls out for response:
‘Will we stop them?’ And how?
Cara Baldwin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Arts: Art History, Theory, Criticism and Practice at UCSD.