Fearing potentially violent disruptions, University of California regents on Monday canceled a meeting scheduled for this week in San Francisco, while UC and Cal State students prepared for demonstrations Tuesday at campuses across the state.
The UC board had planned to hold its regular bi-monthly meeting Wednesday and Thursday at UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus but postponed the session after what officials termed credible threats.
University police had received reports that "rogue elements intent on violence and confrontation with UC public safety officers" were planning to join otherwise peaceful protests at the meeting, according to a statement by regents Chairwoman Sherry Lansing, Vice Chairman Bruce Varner and UC President Mark G. Yudof. "Ensuring public safety must be a top priority."
A new date and location for the meeting have not been set. Students leaders said the postponement will stifle an opportunity to voice discontent with state budget cuts that have resulted in spiraling tuition at UC and Cal State.
"We have to be reminded that the vast majority, if not all, the UC protesters do it in a nonviolent way and do not provoke the police," said Alfredo Mireles Jr., who is the student regent and a graduate student at UC San Francisco. "Students need to be heard. It is frustrating that they are not going to be."
The actions come as students and faculty are increasing pressure on university leaders to stop fee hikes, class cuts and layoffs.
Student organizers, who had planned to bus in more than 1,000 students from around the state to attend the UC meeting, are regrouping. "We've been planning for the regents' meeting for months and invested thousands of dollars," said Jennifer Tucker, a UC Berkeley graduate student and protest organizer. "It's a blatant attempt to defer the meeting to a time and place they think will be less contentious."
Protest groups such as ReFund California, Occupy Cal and the growing Occupy Cal State movement have recently begun to focus their complaints on regents and trustees who sit on the boards of corporations they accuse of playing a role in the state and nation's financial crisis.
Last week, attempts at UC Berkeley to set up an Occupy encampment led to dozens of arrests and several injuries. In response to what critics characterized as heavy-handed police reaction, more demonstrations were planned Tuesday on the Berkeley campus, with organizers calling on students to walk out of classes and march on banks in downtown Berkeley. They will also try to reestablish an Occupy encampment, which university officials have said they will not allow.
Demonstrations are also planned Tuesday and Wednesday at Cal State campuses in L.A., Fullerton, Northridge, Dominguez Hills, San Bernardino and elsewhere in solidarity with the Berkeley events and to protest proposed tuition hikes and what activists say are excessive executive salaries.
Fullerton students said they are planning a peaceful protest and will occupy the campus quad until demands are met to improve the quality of their education.
"The biggest thing we're fighting for is to democratize the Board of Trustees," said Cameron Mahdad, 20, an organizer with the group Students for Quality Education. "They are making decisions about tuition hikes and who's getting paid and who's not, and we don't feel they really represent the interests of the students."
Meanwhile, Cal State officials said a meeting of the Board of Trustees scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Long Beach will proceed but with increased security. Trustees are scheduled to vote on a proposal to increase annual tuition by 9% next fall, unless the state boosts funding for the university.
Chancellor Charles Reed said security will also be boosted Thursday at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses, where faculty are staging a one-day strike to protest a salary dispute.
"We hope that we don't attract outside groups," Reed said during a press briefing Monday. "This doesn't have anything to do with what the Occupy groups are protesting about, but we will have extra security measures."