Movement Struggles to Unite Under Breadth of Goals Moving Forward

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After another day of protest swept across the state and nation, members of UC Berkeley's still burgeoning student movement found themselves unable to fully define the scope of their movement or how to achieve the numerous goals before them.

Though hundreds of students and activists rallied on Upper Sproul Plaza, marched across the campus and staged a sit-in inside Doe Memorial Library as one body, once they began to discuss in a general assembly where to take the student movement in the future, their enthusiasm - and numbers - slowly dissipated.

With demands ranging from passing the DREAM Act to guaranteeing free child care for workers and student parents, many activists said they felt the breadth of demands made it difficult to unify under a common political goal, while others cited the spectrum of interests as a sign of strength.

Aaron Dankman, a UC Santa Cruz alumnus who participated in the sit-in, said he was concerned how the general assembly meeting was handled. Instead of voting on proposals, he said the student protesters needed to first define their political goal.

"It's important for students to think about the issues behind these proposals - politically and structurally," he said. "It's good to have forums and protests, but the student movement needs to define the political trajectory of their movement."

Others said the diversity of the body of protesters was in every respect a strength. The demands brought various groups under the same roof, including students, graduate student instructors, union workers and campus staff. UC Berkeley senior Jonathan Nunez said that without encompassing the various groups, the movement could not expand.

"Our goal is ultimately free education for all," he said. "We can't do it without (different groups)."

As the two-hour general assembly meeting proceeded, protesters began to drift out of the North Reading Room in the library where the sit-in was held. What started as a sit-in nearly 600 people strong at 1 p.m. dwindled to around 30 students by the fifth hour.

Others said given the constantly changing student population, the movement would always be rebuilding itself. Jason Schultz, who works at the library and is a member of the Student Worker Action Team, said this was a "problematic dynamic" for the student movement.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Ricardo Gomez said that like all movements, the ongoing student struggle has its ups and downs.

"Movements are always on the edge of collapse," he said after the assembly. "It is only in hindsight that they are viewed as linear."

By the meeting's end, activists had decided to hold another day of action on Nov. 1 and attempt to shut down the November meeting of the UC Board of Regents. Before those two actions, activists plan to bang pots and pans together outside Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's campus home on Oct. 14, followed by a pillow fight the next day.

Some activists remained unconvinced of the protests' success, saying they hoped the movement would show more leadership and direction when they next met.

"If it isn't going to happen at Berkeley, it's not going to happen anywhere else," said junior Nate Smith. "And it's looking pretty weak right now."


Contact Javier Panzar and James Zhao at [email protected]

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