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Photograph by Jaclyn Victoria Barcewski

Tent U Tango: UCSC students and administrators get caught up in a political dance over the location of Tent U.


A Tale of Two Protests

Intended as a festive, alternative educational environment, Tent University Santa Cruz--a student-run symposium encompassing community outreach, activism, and social issues--got off to a rocky start on Monday, April 18, with 19 arrests and growing discontent with UC officials.

Tent U's organizers and participants say they met resistance Monday night after they violated a UC no-camping ordinance. UC officials say they encouraged Tent U to relocate from the base of campus to the quarry--a safer, more private location--but Tent U organizers refused, citing lack of visibility from the road and First Amendment issues.

Meanwhile, video footage captured UC police making aggressive arrests of students who were charged with trespassing, resisting arrest and unlawfully assembling.

"I was fully prepared to be arrested over this issue," said COLIN BROWN, a UCSC second-year literature major who spent the night in jail. "However, I was not expecting how violent the officers would be. They tried to stop the blood flow to our heads by applying pressure to our necks so that we would pass out. It was horrifying."

As of presstime, neither the DA nor the UC administration has determined what consequences the 19 arrested students will face, but since this skirmish with campus police, Tent U has been primarily concerned with issues of police brutality and where to sleep at night, rather than their loosely stated goals, which were to facilitate progressive workshops and teach-ins.

"Unfortunately, what has been lost, because of one group's fervor for civil disobedience, has been Tent U's original objective, whose message has become garbled and amorphous," said UCSC spokeswoman LIZ IRWIN.

Even students seem puzzled over Tent U's intent. After an evening class at the encampment, first-year biology major FRED MOSQUEDA absent-mindedly asked his classmates, "Is Tent U here because they don't like having classes in buildings?"

According to Irwin, Tent U still hadn't clearly stated its demands as of April 22; it was poorly organized, and would have been more successful had students given the UC admin more than two weeks' advance notice.

As an exemplary model for how to organize a large-scale event, Irwin holds up ACTION IN DEFENSE OF EDUCATION, the group that organized the April 20 walkout at high schools and public colleges throughout California in an effort to address the general decline of public education through program cuts.

Here in the Cruz, many AIDE supporters linked arms, some waved banners and others chanted "Si, se puede" as they joined forces with some Tent U supporters at the base of campus, while a bewildered caravan of motorists looked on.

Unfazed by honky horns and red traffic lights, over 200 students and community members took over Bay Street, Mission Street and Pacific Avenue before settling at the county building on Water Street where they expressed their concerns.

"The real direction UC is turning toward is privatization and that worries many people," said DEVIN SAMPSON, a fourth-year environmental studies major, as he marched to the county building. "The UC teaches us to think for ourselves. Here we are, thinking. Raising student fees 67 percent in the last three years isn't right."

Atop the steps of the courthouse, members of AIDE made three demands in response to the budget cuts. Supporters urged GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER to fund PROP. 98, which guarantees minimal funding levels to public schools. The group also wanted the top 1 percent of U.S. citizens to be taxed (instead of students and the working poor) and insisted that the state of California invest in its children's future by increasing outreach programs for the underprivileged.

"The UC, State University and community college systems are interconnected," said UCSC Student Union Assembly organizing director PAULINA RAYGOZA. "When tuition increases, students may fall into the community college system. It's making it so that only the privileged elite can afford to go to college."

Up among the "privileged elite" on campus, Irwin contrasted the organization of the two protests, but in old-school UCSC style, she withheld letter grades in favor of a brief narrative evaluation:

"AIDE was exemplary in the way they directed their demands to the legislature," says Irwin. "The university is a place for the free exchange of ideas. We are not knocking Tent U for its politics. We hope that in the future Tent U and other events can be executed more effectively so that its goals can be reached."

Reel Work

Unofficially distinguishing itself as the Film Festival Most Likely to Make the World a Fairer Place, the REEL WORK MAY DAY LABOR FILM FESTIVAL celebrates its fourth year with another eye-opening lineup of documentary films, filmmakers and labor activists. Famed documentary filmmaker SAUL LANDAU already came and went, but there are still plenty of films yet to be shown at the fest, which culminates May 1, also known as INTERNATIONAL WORKERS' DAY. Highlights follow; for the full schedule, go to www.reelwork.org.

April 27, 7pm, at Kresge College, and April 29, 7pm, at Cabrillo College Watsonville Center Forum: Eyes on the Fries goes beyond Fast Food Nation as it points out possibilities to improve the working conditions of fast food workers. Also, a performance by the RAINBOW THEATER celebrates the legacies of DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

April 28, 7pm, at Del Mar Theatre: A panel of worker activists from Argentina will answer questions after this screening of The Take, a film about their effort to take back abandoned factories in the wake of the 2001 Argentinian economic collapse.

April 30, 6pm, at Cabrillo College Watsonville Center Forum: Fighting Wal-Martization documents communities' efforts to keep Wal-Mart out; Maid In America tells three stories of Latina immigrants working as maids.

May 1, 2pm, at Poet & Patriot Pub: After a parade starting at the Town Clock at 1pm celebrating International Workers' Day, a screening of The Wobblies celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the Industrial Workers of the World through interviews with remaining members and historical footage and photographs. Admission at all events by voluntary donations!

Purple Heart

In town to promote her memoir, My Life So Far, JANE FONDA rocked THE RIO with candid assessments of personal struggles that revealed just what a disembodied doll she once was. "You don't need to be perfect, you need to be complete," said Fonda, a conclusion she reached at 62. Now based in Georgia, Fonda dismissed Bush's "red state, blue state" political map. "I think we're all purple," said Fonda, who also wasn't afraid, thank God, to reclaim Jesus from the grasping embrace of women-hating fundamentalists. Want to know more? Read her book.

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From the April 27-May 4, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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