Learning is a low priority Thursday on UC campuses across the state as tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff skip class and hit the quads with a political purpose.
A strike and walkout was called at all 10 of the California campuses in protest of how the university's Board of Regents has responded to the state's budget mess. They chose today to coincide with the start of classes on many of the campuses.
Picket lines have been forming since before sunrise on many campus construction sites. A group gathered at UC Berkeley quietly marched in a circle, carrying signs that say "We Are UC" and "Chop off the Top."
The protests peak was high noon. That's when thousands participated in a statewide effort to let school officials and lawmakers alike know students and staff are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore.
Organizers say the board is using the state budget crisis to create a false crisis on campus, leaving students and staff feeling the pain.
"It's the layoffs. It's the furloughs.It's the fee hikes. It's the lack of transparency. It's the lack of shared governance," Tanya Smith, president of the Berkeley chapter University Professional and Technical Employees-Communication Workers of America union Local 9119, said.
In July, the Board of Regents approved furlough plan, which cuts wages. That has employees in a huff.
The students are mad because fees could be going up by another $2,500 over the next year.
Last week's UC Regents board meeting at the Mission Bay campus came to an abrupt and noisy end when protesters began hollering "Whose university? Our university!" The crowd then began chanting "Lay off Yudof!" All while UC President Mark Yudof sat at a table about 50-feet away.
Yudof says the students ought to be angry, but says everyone's anger should be squarely pointed in the direction of Sacramento because lawmakers are the ones who cut the funding.
It's also the first day of classes at UC San Diego but some students, teachers and faculty members aren't teaching or learning either as they joined the walk-out.
"I don't think that's the answer. I think we need to look where the waste is and trim that out," UCSD Student Brad Litwin said.
"It's like a family here and what they're doing to people is just not right," protestor Anthony Adame said.
"What really hurts us the most is we came here because we love working here and they're destroying this place," Union President Jelger Kalmijn said.
UC officials say the cuts are painful but necessary because the university system is facing an unprecedented financial crisis.
"We're trying to be even handed and to get through the crisis without permanent damage to the University," UCSD Sr. Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Paul Drake said.
"I think that if we had more transparency in our budget and if we had a real empirical evaluation and a reassessment of our priorities that we could solve these problems with minimal impact to the students and faculty," Litwin said.
The protests and strikes will only be Thursday, the first day of class on most of the campuses, but Tanya Smith, president of the UPTE-CWA Berkeley chapter, said they will likely be used "as a springboard for more things."