CALPIRG strips to expose issues with cuts

Photo: CALPIRG students protested budget cuts by appearing naked behind signs.
Tony Zhou/Photo
CALPIRG students protested budget cuts by appearing naked behind signs.

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Appearing naked behind poster board signs, members of UC Berkeley's CALPIRG chapter drew attention during Cal Day Saturday as they encouraged people to call Gov. Jerry Brown, hoping to raise awareness of state budget cuts to higher education.

In response to Brown's $1.4 billion in cuts to higher education, the members of CALPIRG - part of a statewide student interest group - stood on Upper Sproul Plaza in varying amounts clothing, covered by signs reading "I sold my clothes to pay off my student loans" and "You can't strip us of our education" as they handed out fliers, causing several people to watch and take pictures.

The group chose Cal Day - UC Berkeley's campus-wide open house for prospective students and their families - not only because of the large number of people who would see their message, but also because future college students will be affected by the budget cuts, according to freshman Devonte Jackson, intern for CALPIRG's Affordable Education campaign.

"It's a really important day to do this because there's going to be a lot of prospective Cal students here," Jackson said. "They're going to be facing the same challenges if not at a greater magnitude than we are with the budget cuts. This is a prime time to spread awareness of the budget issues we're facing right now."

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof declined to comment on the demonstration.

Most passersby said they thought the demonstration was an effective way to grab people's attention, including Marisa French, a visiting high school sophomore from Brentwood, Calif.

"I'm still in high school, and I don't even go here," she said. "I don't know how I'll afford it, and it sucks. And it's a public school - it's not even Stanford."

UC Berkeley sophomore Kiley Morris, CALPIRG Berkeley's Affordable Education subcoordinator, said she was surprised by the positive reactions from parents. Morris said the demonstrators asked people to call state officials on the spot, and they made a couple hundred calls during the day.

"It does make a difference," she said. "When you add all the calls up, (state legislators) do notice."

However, although Morris said the group mainly received positive feedback, some people expressed disapproval of the group's tactics.

"I'm not against it, I'm just saying some people may be against it," said senior Michael Johnson after receiving a flier. "It may be perceived as a cheap or underhanded way to bring attention to a cause - exploiting sexuality."

Overall, CALPIRG members said they were happy with how the day went and the attention they received.

"It's a really, really scary thing that right now, we're facing $1.4 billion cuts to higher education," said sophomore Jesse Yeh, vice chair of CALPIRG Berkeley. "We feel like actively stripping is one of the ways we can demonstrate how they are stripping our rights to education."


Mary Susman covers Berkeley communities .

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