Tensions have flared at the University of California Davis and other campuses after police used pepper spray on passive protesters at a UC Davis campus rally on Nov. 18. Students there and elsewhere in California say they'll continue protesting, branching out from the larger Occupy movement to address specific student concerns, like rising tuition and burgeoning student debt.
Jennifer Medina, L.A. correspondent for The New York Times, told KPCC's Madeleine Brand that while Occupy protesters and students have joined forces in California, whether movements in other states follow suit remains to be seen. She said that banding with students on UC campuses has given California Occupiers a focus.
"People have criticized the Occupy protesters – 'Oh, you don’t know what your message is,'" Medina said Tuesday. "But here, they seem to have quite a clear message."
According to Medina, tuition has almost doubled at the University of California. "And at the same time, they're cutting resources," she added. "They cut student centers and extra help, and the class sizes get bigger and there are fewer classes. Students certainly feel they have a lot to complain about."
President of the UC Mark Yudof and UC chancellors have publicly announced that they sympathize. For years they have said they disagree with the cuts and requested that Sacramento lawmakers stop reducing the university's budget. However, Medina said she isn't sure how effective protesting at the campuses will be.
"One top administrator said to me yesterday, 'Well look, does it have more of an effect what they're doing now, versus if they went to Sacramento and marched in mass there?'" she said. "I'm not willing to say that."
Medina said students want to create a protest at the Board of Regents meeting scheduled for Monday, and administrators neither know what to expect or how to handle the situation.
"They certainly don't want the negative attention that the incident at Davis and one last week at Berkeley brought to them. But at the same time, I don't think they have a clear sense if they don't want the tents to stay there forever, or [if they should] just have [students] sort of protest free-for-all on campus."
In Los Angeles, the mayor has offered a deal to the Occupy protesters camped out in front of City Hall: pack up your tents, and we'll give you office space for a dollar a year and farmland. The Occupiers have yet to decide if they'll accept the offer. The offer intended to bring about a peaceful end to the two-month demonstrations is a markedly different strategy than the ones other cities and campuses have used.
Jennifer Medina California correspondent for The New York Times.