Hundreds protest outside UC regents meeting, 13 arrested

Hundreds of University of California students and faculty gathered outside the UC Regents meeting Wednesday morning to protest proposed student fee increases and changes to employee retirement benefits.

The meeting is taking place at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus. Picket lines formed in various parts of the campus Wednesday morning, with students and faculty chanting, “UC me? UC worker poverty. UC me? UC student poverty.”

Thirteen protesters have been arrested, UCSF police Lt. L. Laughlin said.

A number of protesters clashed with police in several confrontations, including one in which officers pepper-sprayed the demonstrators.

Inside the meeting, several students from UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz and UCLA spoke during the public comment period about how fee hikes are impacting their campuses.

“Our campus is experiencing increases in unexpected ways — for example, student shoplifting so people can have food to go to school,” said Jasmine Hill, undergraduate student body president at UCLA.

UC President Mark Yudof has proposed raising fees by 8 percent for the 2011-12 academic year, which means undergraduate fees would increase to $11,124 per year.

He has also proposed that the university provide grants for undergraduates with household incomes of less than $120,000 to cover the fee increase for one year.

Yudof said fee increases are necessary to keep the universities running.

“We have $340 million of hardcore costs,” he said at Wednesday morning’s meeting. “You just can’t dance around them.”

Some students who spoke at the meeting said the proposed fee hike could force them to drop out of school.

Yudof said he couldn’t understand students dropping out over the increase, which regents will vote on Thursday.

“Anyone dropping out who is making less than $120,000 must be dropping out for other reasons,” he said.

More faculty and staff outside the meeting protested the regents’ discussion of pension plan cuts.

“They’re putting workers into abject poverty,” said Paul Haller, a building manager at UC Berkeley. “I’ve worked here for 27 years, and back then I didn’t think about retirement, but now it’s a lot more important.”

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