UC Regents Public Comment Reveals Discontent Across Student and Worker Groups


The second day of the University of California Board Regents Meeting opened with a Public Comment session in which students and workers from various UCs made impassioned statements regarding worker and undocumented student rights, among other issues.

Recently, one of the most prominent issues has been the appointment of UC President Janet Napolitano, who was received with mixed feelings due to her past as Secretary of Homeland Security. Many speakers expressed their discontent with this decision.

“[Napolitano] has no legitimacy leading the largest institution of public higher education in the world, a place for democracy, critical thinking, and academic integrity,” said UC Berkeley student David Douglas, a national organizer of BAMN. “It is an insult that this board would appoint a top cop to lead an institution dedicated to celebrating diversity, integration, affirmative action, immigrant rights.”

BAMN, which stands for “Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary,” is a nationwide organization focused on democracy and equality that has already held protests against Napolitano and had multiple speakers at the meeting.

“As a mass deporter, you have deported over two million undocumented immigrants in this community,” said Justin Cheung, an organizer with BAMN. “Your appointment is an insult and a disrespect to the entire immigrant’s community. Under your leadership, there will be no way for us to achieve all of these progressive values for the UC.”

Cheung, who primarily spoke about Napolitano, also mentioned his solidarity with workers who are going on strike on Wednesday, Nov. 20. According to a press release by AFSCME 3299, service and patient care workers, joined by others, will be forming picket lines at all five UC Medical Centers and 10 UC Campuses to speak up about unsatisfactory patient and worker conditions in the Medical Centers.

“Understand that our strike on Nov. 20 is not about pay checks and pensions, and that’s why so many of us … are all standing up,” said Tim Thrush, a diagnostics stenographer at the UCSF Medical Center. “This is about something more fundamental. It’s about our right to have a voice and a workplace free of outright bullying.”

This is the second strike in six months that has been organized by AFSCME 3299 regarding patient and worker conditions.

“Last month we were hopeful when President Napolitano assured us that the university would start to take negotiations seriously,” said Kathryn Lybarger, a lead gardener at UC Berkeley and the president of AFSCME Local 3299. “Sadly, the university remains tone-deaf at the bargaining table to our top concern, which is safety, and continues to try to intimidate our members in the workplaces when they speak up for safety.”

AFSCME 3299 is hoping the strike will draw more attention to their problem and cause the change they need.

“There’s an incredible disconnect…that your patients can no longer afford, that we who deliver the frontline patient care suffer the consequences of,” said Lybarger. “That’s why we are speaking up, and we will not stop speaking up until we see a change at the university. There was a time when the UC didn’t fear dialogue and dissent, and honored the act of speaking up. It’s part of what made this institution great and I am wondering today how we get back to that point.”

Public Comment ended with a crowd chanting “Whose University? Our University” as they exited the conference room.