Prop. 209 Foes Seize Building at UC Riverside


In the latest in a series of protests on college campuses after the passage of Proposition 209, about two dozen students took over UC Riverside's administration building Monday, chaining the doors from the inside and interrupting university business for six hours.

Twenty students were arrested on suspicion of trespassing and failure to disperse and were released within hours, officials said.

Student organizers said the peaceful demonstration, like several throughout the state since voters approved the controversial ballot initiative, sought to call attention to the opportunities that will be eliminated now that race and gender preferences have been banned.

"I've made it through [UC], but I have little brothers and sisters that could be denied access," said Zarina Zanipatini, 21, a senior who is a sociology and ethnic studies major. A Latina, Zanipatini said she was protesting on behalf of "a lot of our kids who are waiting for their chances."

John Yasmer, the president of the Riverside chapter of UC Students Assn., served as a mediator between protesters and the administration.

"We work hard here to maintain diversity--not just with race and gender but with ideas," he said. "And it's hard to do that in a homogeneous culture."

The Riverside protest came just days after students at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and San Francisco State rallied against the measure's passage. At each school, administrators have attempted to defuse the tensions by addressing students' concerns, but many protesters have still been arrested.

At Berkeley, 500 students gathered on the Sproul Hall steps on the evening after the Nov. 5 election, said Jesus Mena, a campus spokesman. Later that night, 28 students seized the Campanile clock tower, a few chaining themselves inside, while 60 students camped outside.

The next morning, police used bolt cutters to remove the students, citing and releasing 23 of them for trespassing, Mena said.

Mena said students demanded that Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien pledge not to comply with Proposition 209, but he told them that he had to obey the law. Tien did, however, agree to schedule a town hall meeting to discuss how the university will be affected.

The same day, about 300 students at UC Santa Cruz formed a picket line around the Student Services Building, effectively closing the financial aid and registrar's office. There were no arrests.

In consultation with Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood, the Santa Cruz students and the administration agreed on a seven-point plan for how the campus would attempt to maintain a diverse faculty and student body, spokeswoman Elizabeth Irwin said.

Irwin said the plan included a commitment of funding to enhance student involvement in recruitment and an agreement from the faculty to consider the inclusion of cultural issues in the classroom. Greenwood pledged to appoint a new "post-Prop.-209 commission to look at ways within the law to continue to ensure diversity," Irwin said.

Last Thursday at San Francisco State, about 100 students rallied on campus and briefly blocked 19th Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares nearby. Spokesman Ted DeAdwyler said there were no arrests.

At UC Riverside on Monday, students presented Chancellor Raymond Orbach with 14 demands. Among other things, they asked him to take a public stance in writing on Proposition 209 and called for a "sensitizing campaign" to inform students, faculty and staff about the issues raised by the ballot measure.

Orbach met with the protesters for nearly an hour, said university spokesman Jack Chappel, and informed them that some of their concerns were being addressed.

"It wasn't the case of anyone bowing to their demands," Chappel said. "Much of it stemmed from students not knowing what we already had in progress."

The arrests occurred after the protesters refused to open the building by the chancellor's deadline.

"When I talked to the chancellor, he said something about us polarizing the students," said Leo Hernandez, a senior who took part in the protest but was not arrested. "But what about how this is polarizing our state?"

Times staff writer Amy Wallace reported from Los Angeles while correspondent Diana Marcum reported from Riverside.

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