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UC protesters take message to ledge of campus building

In what is becoming an annual ritual at UC Berkeley, protesters locked arms and precariously planted themselves on a fourth floor ledge of the school’s Wheeler Hall protesting against cuts to public education and increases to college tuition.

The protest ended peacefully and without any injuries late Thursday evening after university officials and the group agreed to end the occupation of the building after more than 6 hours on the roof.

The attention-grabbing demonstration cancelled afternoon classes in the busy campus building where 17 protesters were arrested by University of California Police the day before.

By late afternoon, UC Police arrested one protester from the Wheeler Hall roof and were negotiating with six other protesters who locked arms using cardboard tubing and unfurled a large red banner that read “Our University, Stop the Cuts” off the building’s ledge.

The protesters began their occupation of the 4th floor of the Hall at 2 p.m. when nine protesters climbed through a classroom window to the ledge, according to UC Berkeley officials. Police arrested one protester after he climbed back into the classroom.

UC Berkeley officials said 26 classes were cancelled after the Chancellor decided to evacuate the building for safety precautions shortly before 4 p.m. The university said 27 other student groups had meetings that were scheduled to take place inside Wheeler Hall cancelled.

The university estimated that a crowd of more than 300 people gathered in front of Wheeler Hall observing the remaining protesters on the ledge of the building.

UC Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly at 6:30 p.m. clearing the way for arrests. A large contingent of police wearing riot gear was monitoring the demonstration from around the building.

The demonstration ended when protesters and UC administration officials agreed on a truce that ended the occupation of the building at 8:30 p.m., according to a protester. Part of the conditions of the truce were reportedly the dismissal of previous protesting charges levied by the university against some of the demonstrators who participated in the latest act.

The protests are organized by student groups decrying the continual increase of tuition and deep cuts to funding for the University of California system. The UC system has raised tuition by more than 33 percent in the past three years and implemented a number of money-saving cuts to help solve a multi-million dollar deficit.

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  • MKR said:

    This is NOT the way to protest. Not only does it cost the state money to send out police/firetrucks in these situations, but it is also costing our fellow students the money that we PAID to be in the classes that we weren’t able to attend in Wheeler Hall this afternoon. What do they actually expect to achieve by standing on a roof top? Sorry kids, but Jerry Brown can’t hear you from up there. How about some productive protesting for a change. March to City Hall, or write a letter. Don’t just make your fellow students look bad and give Berkeley students a bad name.

  • MM said:

    Well put MKR. I couldn’t help but wonder how much money was being wasted just on helicopter gas.

  • Cal Grad said:

    Not bright at all. Are these kids students or are they simply thrill seeking idiots loitering around campus? If they are students, I am astonished they were smart enough to be admitted to Cal.

  • Milan Moravec said:

    UC Berkeley spend thrift Chancellor Birgeneau has no idea how to save $ for students. UC Berkeley–one of the top universities in the nation, home to some of the finest professors, graduating some of the brightest students–can’t figure out how to save money. No joke. UC Berkeley spent $3 million plus expenses to hire an out-of-state auditing firm to help them find ways to reduce spending.
    According to the Contra Costa Times, October 10, 2009, “When UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) was confronted with the $150 million challenge, he gave the matter deep thought, turned his focus eastward to the Boston-based consulting firm Bain & Co. and agreed to pay a $3 million budget (actual cost $7.2 million and growing) over the next two years for someone else to solve the problem.
    “We [the Times] never attended business school, but we’re pretty sure that one of the definitions of financial crisis is spending $3 million on consultants to tell you how to get by with $150 million less than you thought you had.”
    The rationale for hiring the consulting firm given by Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary: “I understand at one level, … if you don’t have enough money, why are you spending money on external consultants? Most people who are closer to it say it’s more sophisticated than that.
    “If we spend $1.5 million this year and $1.5 million out of savings next year and we’re successful in delivering tens of millions of dollars in savings every year, I think that’s the goal against which we should be judged.”
    Incredible! Millions of dollars could have been saved just by using the expertise on UC campuses. The system has, for example, multiple senior administrators with Ph.D.s who are getting nice paychecks for their expertise, the Budget Office staff gets paid to solve budget problems, and the renowned Haas School of Business has a world class lineup of business experts and graduate programs in financial engineering, global management, accounting, financing, and operations management.
    Moreover, the funds used to pay the high cost of hiring outside consultants could have been used to make up for state budget cuts, student fee increases, furloughs and layoffs.
    But, according to Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary, “The reason for not relying on internal experts is that self-diagnosis is not always impartial.”
    If this is the reasoning by UC Berkeley decision makers, it is no wonder they are in a fiscal crisis. If the university system can’t trust its internal audits, maybe it is time for outside auditors to make all the university’s financial decisions. Those decisions might be based on more practical thinking than those made by the current university leadership.