UC students plan walkouts as tuition hike looms

Students at UC campuses plan walkouts at noon to protest proposed tuition hikes, organizers say

Students on campuses across the UC system plan to stage "walkouts" Monday at noon to protest proposed tuition hikes, organizers said.

In Berkeley, where the protests began last week with the occupation of Wheeler Hall, students plan to skip classes and march through the streets. Students at UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis are also planning walkouts Monday, Berkman said.

Beyond that, the details get vague, especially with the holidays approaching. The status of protests at Southern California schools such as UCLA was not immediately clear.

"Thanksgiving does not mean our movement is over," said Hannah Berkman, a UC Berkeley sophomore from West L.A. and a spokeswoman for the protesters. "But we don’t know exactly what we’re going to do yet."

The tuition hikes -- 5% a year over the next five years -- could raise costs next school year to as much as $12,804, not including room and board. By the 2019-20 school year, those costs could be as high as $15,564 if state funding does not increase more than anticipated. 

Berkeley protesters plan to walk past local high schools to highlight the effect such a hike would have on future students.

"This might stop many of them from even applying to Berkeley because it'll be so expensive," Berkman said

The protests began after UC regents voted to raise tuition unless more money is provided by the state. About 100 students were camped out in the lobby of Wheeler Hall at the height of the occupation, but that number had dwindled to about 20 or 30 by Sunday morning, said university spokesman Dan Mogulof.

The affair has been relatively low key, according to Mogulof, with the protesters making good on their promise not to interfere with students who would prefer to attend classes.

"It's actually kind of fun, we’re all there together, it’s like a big slumber party," Berkman said. "People are making art, writing songs, all that."

After spending a couple of nights in a sleeping bag on the floor of Wheeler, which has been the site of a number of student protests over the years, Berkman said she returned to her apartment Saturday night.  "I just needed to sleep at home for once."

More militant rhetoric appears on a protest website, the Open UC, including a message from students at UC Santa Cruz vowing to take action there if "the guard dogs of the regents" at Berkeley attempt to "repress, brutalize, evict or disrupt the collective occupation at Wheeler Hall." The post does not describe what the threatened action would be.

"We understand that many, maybe most of the students, are concerned about what the future looks like in terms of finances," Mogulof said, "but I don’t think that kind of rhetoric is common and I think it’s going to get less common."

The tuition hikes would affect only students from outside the state and those from California households earning more than $150,000 per year, Mogulof said.

Twitter: @jackdolanLAT

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