Hundreds of students from all over the state convened at the University of California, Santa Barbara from Friday, May 2, until Sunday, May 4, for Spring Convergence, held by the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC). In several sessions aimed at promoting environmental coalitions, topics such as corporatization of the UCs, sweatshops, and ecopoetics were discussed among students.
This event gathered students from UCs such as Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, as well as students from California State Universities and Community Colleges. According to CSSC, the students attended workshops that relate to “the three branches of sustainability; economics, equity, and ecology.”
Associated Students Humyn Rights Board (HRB) discussed issues of corporatization, such as tuition being increased and used to build a hotel off campus, or tuition money being used to run nuclear facilities.
HRB Chair Anisha Ahuja said that UC is part of the management team that runs two California nuclear facilities—Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“So it’s just like a nice way to be like ‘Oh, wow, this is really f*cked up all our money is going to building nuclear weapons and I can’t get a seat in my class,'” said Ahuja, a third-year political science and feminist studies double major.
In response to how it can afford a hotel, UCLA claimed that “the project will not utilize any tuition revenues or state funding.” However, Rob Hayes, a reporter for ABC7, wrote that reactions among students are mixed; some like the convenience that a hotel can provide, while others are concerned that this hotel might actually take away dwindling education money.
“We’re all really pissed about it because it’s this multi-million dollar fancy hotel they’re doing conferences at,” a UCLA graduate student said. “What are we raising our tuition so that you can pay for this crap?”
During another workshop session, members of the UCSB chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) gave a presentation about employers that pay workers very little compared to the living wage. According to first-year biopsychology major Erin Purvis, a member of USAS, a Bangladesh factory worker makes about 21 cents an hour.
In addition, these workers are forced to work in very dangerous conditions. For example, these USAS members cited the Rana Plaza collapse, in which over 1,000 workers died in Bangladesh last year.
According to these USAS members, most of the clothing people buy comes from sweatshops. There is only one “picture perfect” example in the garment industry, according to USAS member and second-year psychology major Min Choi, and that is Alta Gracia, which is not a sweatshop.
“But freedom is not a trade, and I am not a commodity,” a UCLA third-year geography and environmental studies major said during a spoken word portion of the event. “I have the sovereign rights to my body and there are not permits for offshore drilling, nor will abide by the rules of a past. I have broken these shackles and I am free of that past.”