Sunday, November 20, 2011

#Occupy at UC Davis

This is the video of yesterday's incident at UC Davis. There are plenty of reasons to watch the entire +8 minutes.

I am a Ph.D. student in the School of Education at UC Davis. A lot of the work I do here is with the University Writing Program, because my interests involve the improvement of instruction and access to early undergraduate writing courses.

Over the course of the past year and two months, I have worked with over 300 UCD undergraduate students from a large variety of majors and backgrounds. That's a pretty good sample. So I feel confident when I say this: UC Davis undergraduate students are intelligent, driven, reasonable, and articulate people.

The group that was protesting this week did not come out to demonstrate because they are lazy or because it's what the hip kids are doing or because they want someone else to pay for their mistakes or because they love urban camping.

The protesters in the video above are students at a competitive public university where the estimated cost of a 5-year education (the average time it takes to graduate) is $154,000 - that's the cost of a home in this region. And the price of that education is likely to go up even while the UC puts austerity measures in place.

Not my generation, nor any before my own had such a price tag attached to higher education. 

The UC Davis students are protesting because they have the critical capacity to evaluate the system in which they are participating; they recognized that the deck has been stacked against those who earn less. They have also recognized that it is not enough to sit at home and whine about how unfair that seems.

Those students decided, "If the democratic system in which we participate is unfair, we need to make our voices heard." So they demonstrated peacefully while maintaining contact with the authorities at the school.

Like I wrote, they are intelligent, driven, reasonable, and articulate people. I am proud to study and work at a university with such an impressive student body - a group that not only believes in participative democracy, but also is capable of remaining civil in the face of hostility and violence. The students in that video are amazing and deserve the University's respect.

They certainly have mine.

I am troubled to be associated with a University where administrators and safety officers will bend the rule about camping one day, only to reinstate it the next through the use of violence and arrests.

However, as the students in the video assert, "This is our University."

To those who would assume otherwise, "You can go."