KCSB Oral History

Featuring Ashley Rusch, Lekha Sapers, Lisa Osborne, and Ted Coe


How did you get involved with KCSB?

ASHELEY RUSCH: My name is Ashley Rusch. I am the internal news director with KCSB, pronouns she/her. I’m a fourth-year communication major with a minor in professional writing and journalism, and I got involved with KCSB as a very timid sophomore. I was always interested in journalism, but I spent a year at the Daily Nexus doing print journalism, and I wanted to broaden my horizons a little bit into broadcast. And so I came over to KCSB, where I reported on a couple stories here and there before COVID hit, and then was encouraged by our lovely news and public affairs director Lisa to apply for the news director position. And I’ve been here ever since.


Lehka Sapers: Hi, I’m Lehka. I am a second-year film and Global Studies major and I’m also minoring in Earth Science. I am the station’s archives coordinator as of right now, and I got involved with KCSB at the beginning of my freshman year. When I started programming, I had a hip hop show called Coast to Coast, which I did online because of COVID, and then I got more involved as the year progressed and I finally got onto campus, and now I’m here on Excom and I’m really excited to spend another two years on Excom.


Lisa Osborne: I’m Lisa Osborne. I’m the news and public affairs director, so I’m a career staff person at KCSB. So as Ted and I came to KCSB because I just happened to meet one of KCSB’s music hosts, and then I found out there was a job opening here, so I applied.
But I spent most of my 20-plus career in broadcasting, anchoring news at radio stations in Los Angeles and hosting music shows for a national radio network.


Ted Coe: I’mTed Coe, Staff Advisor. I started at KCSB in October of 2000 as an employee. My job back then was administrative assistant, but largely in charge of the annual fund drive and administrative operations, and that role has changed over the years somewhat, expanded. I had been on KCSB as a guest when I was in grad school during the 1990s, and I was a listener too. But I was involved in a TA union, the UAW affiliated teaching assistants union and doing organizing for that. And KCSB provided a forum for us to discuss our issues and the struggle we were facing with the university, not recognizing our rights as employees and that kind of thing. And so on shows like No Alibis, which is still around with Elizabeth Robinson, so just making sure we can get our story out and help build the movement. I was also a fan of the music culture of the station as a listener and had friends who were involved at the station. And I applied when I was kind of trying to find new work while still in grad school, and my dissertation was on the punk subculture and the English department here, but I worked at a record store and knew people at the station and when a job opened up and I was kind of needing supplemental work along with my schooling, that administrative assistant job, I thought it was a good kind of opportunity. And here I am over 20 years later still working at KCSB.


That’s a really fun insight into KCSB. What are your sort of day-to-day and overarching responsibilities and how they fit into how KCSB functions as a whole?


Ashley Rusch: So my role typically consists of working with my fellow news director and Lisa or news public affairs director to produce twice weekly newscasts on KCSB FM 91.9 and lead and train a team of volunteer reporters who are all very lovely people, ranging from all four years of UCSB students to community members that have been with us over many years. And then a very large part of my job consists of putting out the COVID 19 newsletter, which is sent out to the entire student body, which I’m sure we will touch on a little bit more. But that’s become a very large part of my job since the pandemic began. Other than that, just reporting on issues that pertain to local Santa Barbara news COVID news, UCSB related topics, and just constantly expanding my coverage and working with our reporters to do that as well.


Lehka Sapers: Like I said before, I’m the archives coordinator and my responsibility really is to preserve the station’s history dating back to its inception around 1961. So that role entails the digitization of many discs and all of the other archive mediums that we do have. We have sent discs to special collections in the library so that we can get those digitized. My job is also to spearhead the grant process, and we just finished, I believe, $1,300 worth of digitization through special collections, which I’m really, really stoked about. It’s also my job to interview alumni, get information from them, and to just honor the station’s history and how storied and incredible it really is. I also do the Pacifica Radio Archives that air from 4 to 5 every day.


Lisa Osborne: And I support Ashley and Daniel, our other news director, in the way that they work with reporters, and I will also work with reporters just depending upon our schedules, because we have a pretty good sized team of reporters, maybe 15 people now, I guess, both
community members and students. So Ashley and Daniel and I will figure out how we want to do training for the reporters and come up with story ideas to pitch the reporters. I also get involved in different meetings on campus, especially relating to Isla Vista community, not only campus, but community meetings too, so I’m part of the Isla Vista Community Network monthly lunch meeting. And because we have a show called Inside Isla Vista that’s about Isla Vista, so it’s a once-a-week, 28 minute program that has different hosts and then we talk about Isla Vista. So just kind of when I’m out in the community meeting with different people who have a stake in Isla Vista, they’ll find out about KCSB so we can produce public service announcements for nonprofits or events. So sometimes since I’ve been here for six years, people have gotten to know me so they’ll ask us to do a public service announcement. But even more recently, through our COVID newsletter, which started daily right when we were in the thick of the pandemic at the beginning, now we seem to get requests from all over campus, like administrators.

People want to get a survey out, they want something. So we’re kind of getting to be known for our COVID newsletter for being able to have the eyeballs of students and to be able to help publicize events. So it’s not just myself through different meetings, meeting people, but it’s our actual newsletter and Ashley and Dan, and Ashley and Aubrey, who was our other news director before that, really, really have become known. So because we’re an educational station, we don’t take any paid advertising. So we all of the commercials that we run are free for public events that are worthy, if it’s a nonprofit, we’re happy to help people out. And then another part of my job is compiling the report for the FCC Quarterly. So, we have to write about how the ways in which KCSB is serving our local community so we put together a report and then it gets filed on the FCC’s website. So, when our license is up for renewal, if anyone ever challenges us, we have documentation of all the ways in which we’re supporting the community, and that’s through the local news coverage that we do and the public service announcements that we do, and also through our other programs.


Ted Coe: I do a lot– supervise our student employment and there’s 18 student workers who are just under half time, run all of our departments and I provide coaching to them and other volunteers. I work on special projects, help with kind of support for financial affairs at the station, like our fundraising kind of deposits and the like. And right now I’m working on the 60th anniversary reunion planning and event organizing. I kind of act as a P.R. public relations point person for alumni and the greater community. So help focus on events and our relationships with outside entities like promoters, artists, and that sort of thing, but kind of broker that with the student employees and help them develop relationships with venues and promoters and that sort of thing. We do a lot of media literacy.


I find it so interesting how diverse the programming of KCSB is and how we’ve only scratched the surface. There’s radio programming and there’s newsletters and archives and just goes all the way down. It’s amazing.

Lisa Osborne: But something that’s different about KCSB is that we are we have programmers that are very engaged and we have like how many–over 100 programmers– whereas a lot of other college stations like are kind of going dormant. The students aren’t interested in it. So we’re different from most college radio stations and that there’s a lot of interest in KCSB, a lot of interest in being involved in KCSB. And also it’s multigenerational since we have volunteers and students.


Wow. That is really cool. You can definitely tell how the amount of effort and dedication there is in KCSB programming. Diving into more recent history and talking about KCSB– how have you seen the KCSB change since you’ve been involved?


Ashley Rusch: I think I have kind of an interesting perspective on this because I joined KCSB right when everything started changing, and I have that experience of what it was previously and how the newsroom functioned in person. The kind of stories that we covered and then shifting into the pandemic and how that dramatically changed a lot of our
programming and everything. But since I joined, I got this position in June 2020, so that was kind of right in the thick of the pandemic. And pretty soon after that, the news department, which was functioning remotely pretty well during that time, we were able to sustain our reporters and everything. We decided to utilize a project that Lisa had already been working on, which was putting out daily COVID updates for our programmers. And we decided to expand that and reach out to the entire campus community with that information. We found that there was a lot of updates coming from the university, coming from the Chancellor, but a lot of students were really confused and didn’t know what to do with that information. They had the ability to look at public health websites, dashboards, and things like that, but we really wanted to provide that in an aggregate news format for them to just kind of skim through and see and trust that they were going to get the most up to date information.

So our news team during that summer and then really amping up in the fall, decided to put out a three times a week full student-bodywide newsletter, which featured the latest information, testing resources, later becoming vaccine resources, and just any current
updates that we could provide for students. And I really think that that helped establish KCSB News and give us kind of a name for ourselves during that time. It was also something personally that made me feel like I was able to kind of give back to my community and keep me going during a time that was riddled with a lot of uncertainty. And it was really confusing for a lot of us, but just having the consistency of putting out that newsletter was really advantageous, I think, for our news department, for the traction that we got and also just for the campus community and letting, you know, a lot of freshmen that were coming in for the very first time online, they knew that we were there for them providing this resource. We tried to make those intros as friendly as possible, myself and
Aubrey, the previous news director at the time. And as Lisa mentioned earlier, the newsletter really has since transformed into kind of like a community spot where we can promote events and local organizations.

We’ve put out some really important information there that has been picked up by other news outlets. At one point, I believe someon on Reddit said, like, we were giving out better information than the university was, which was kind of cool, just, you know, establishing that camaraderie, kind of like a special perspective. As a student journalist, I always thought like, what would I want to know as someone that’s reading the news? What am I curious about and I really applied that perspective in our newsletter coverage, so I would say that’s how KCSB news has changed since then. And obviously, a lot of our coverage has centered around COVID 19. We’ve spoken to a lot of experts over time, but also just in general KCSB has really gotten more flexible and been able to roll with the punches. We, you know, we never stopped running. We kept going. We went to pre-recorded. We stayed on 24/7, which was a really big task to tackle as a campus radio station. But I’m really proud of all the efforts that all of our programmers and executive committee have done to keep us sustained.


Lehka Sapers: Like Ashley was saying, I think that programming has gone through a very large transition over the course of COVID 19. I was not here at the onset of the pandemic, but I came in towards the tail end of it, and I got a lot of the online programming. I did a lot of my shows from virtual DJ, from my house or from my apartment, which was a little bit frustrating that I couldn’t get into the station but come spring 2021, I came into the station for the first time. I saw my office, I saw the music library, and I was like, Wow, this place is
really incredible. And now around winter 2022, I know our program director and our assistant program director are working towards reintegration. I’m not sure if their goal is total reintegration, but I know that as of now there’s a very good portion of programmers who are in-person following the pandemic, which is huge. And also I know that K-JUICE are training program for novice programmers is becoming a lot more intimate and there’s going to be a lot more one on one attention to make sure that they know exactly what to do when they get in person in studio.

Ted Coe: Well, the station is grown in terms of the number of students and staff. News and public affairs director was introduced during my tenure, and it started with a large grant from the Sarah Miller McCune Foundation that supports a lot of media initiatives. Then it
became a career staff position, and that’s allowed us to grow our news department in a lot of ways. We added a second news director, we’ve added a librarian position, a business coordinator position, and a digital media coordinator position also. We’ve experimented over those years and doing events that are maybe a little more niche than program board. Hosting concerts in our courtyard was kind of an innovation and we experimented with a lot of things like film presentations and lectures. When opportunities arise, we might agree to try things we’re not used to doing, but we always try to make them work and sync with the broadcast mission of the station, which is our primary function. So like some of those courtyard concerts, a number of them were broadcast live. A couple of years ago, we were voted best radio station in Santa Barbara by the Santa Barbara Independent which was really exciting and kind of speaks to our impact in the community.

We’ve built up a lot of partnerships with units and departments on campus and faculty and like really expanded our multimedia imprint. It’s important to see KCSB as a multimedia entity, I think, and that’s evolved and changed over time so that people have more of an outlet for the written word in multiple formats on our website and zines and through social media and the like. Then the whole thing with just having remote broadcasters during the pandemic that we had to really pivot and we were well equipped to. A few other stations relied on alumni to help kind of flesh out a 24/7 schedule. And we still have a lot of these programmers who are doing music and cultural arts shows and other kinds of content who are still with us. That’s built some engagement with our community and really helped us stay fresh at a time when sister stations were having a run a lot of archived material and weren’t being as current or keeping people as up to date on what’s going on in their community.

That’s so important, especially during the time when we were all so isolated. It was nice to feel up to date and connected with the UCSB community.


Lisa Osborne: A couple of things that started since I got here was our Inside Isla Vista show, And then and then once a year we offer course credit to students who want to report for KCSB News or sports. They can earn course credit winter quarter in exchange for reporting for us.


Let’s pivot to talking about more of the historical side of KCSB. I’m interested in hearing about its establishment: why was it that moment and why was it those people?


Ted Coe: It started in the dorms in 1961, ’62, and it was called Radio Navajo after the name of the hall in Anacapa. There was a student who had ties to radio and his family. FM was kind of like a new medium in a lot of ways and so they started a carrier current station with a little low power kind of set up but it was a wide kind of broad interest, from what I’ve heard and learned. It wasn’t just kind of the nerdy people who like to play with transistors and that kind of thing. That was the time when social media didn’t exist in the way we’ve come to become used to. By the time it started being heard across campus and then increased its reach, students would kind of communicate with each other by reaching out to the radio station and making dedications and getting messages relayed. There was a kind of interactivity there. But the Kennedy assassination happened in 1963 and other stations were emerging. We were the first in the U.C., probably because Santa Barbara seemed like a safe bet for this kind of forum, as opposed to the Bay Area where activism had already had an impact even before the free speech movement. So the students at different
campuses were starting these stations and they started communicating really early in the mid-sixties. The U.C. radio network established communication across different campuses. And that has grown over the years that we’re affiliated with UCRN and with other community radio and grassroots radio associations. But the Kennedy assassination was in 1963 and I think maybe changed people’s consciousness a little bit about the role of radio and the lives of the community it’s part of. Then between the mid-sixties and seventies, the radio station really had a significant impact in terms of reporting on covering the takeover of North Hall in 1968 and race issues on campus. The bank burning also is an important symbol, we even have a small imprint Bank Burner Records, where we put out a couple of vinyl recordings using that label. KCSB was there too. It let people know about what was
going on in the community and how police were being heavy-handed and the drug war was really intense and the war in Vietnam. And then 1970 was when the events in Isla Vista exploded, but the station was blamed for just reporting on stuff and perceived as
kind of stage managing activities in the streets. Street fighting and that kind of thing. But we’ve always been covering important events in the community, affecting students.

The growth of Isla Vista has been through self-sustaining organizations like the Food Cooperative and the clinics and that kind of thing. It’s a piece of what the radio station was about and discussing. Further afield, I think the newsroom has been substantial– the
folks from the late sixties had bigger newsrooms than professional stations. Covering the Diablo Canyon story that was like further up the coast but had implications for all of the Central Coast because of the fault line. In the late sixties, Storke Tower was commissioned as a student media center, and the station built a transmitter up on broadcast peak in the Santa Ynez Mountain Range. The station was there when there was all of these things that happen in our community, like the birth of Earth Day, the plan de Santa Barbara, El Congreso, and the rise of the Chicano power movement. Then there was a collective called Radio Chicano in the seventies and eighties. SB has been kind of like a lightning rod and a sounding board for what’s going on on-campus and in our greater community. Being on the mountain like that raised our broadcast range significantly. Where you had like maybe a low power FM kind of impact, all of a sudden it’s reaching the tri counties and south San Luis Obispo County and down to around Camarillo.


Lisa Osborne: Here’s some stories from 1970, the Bank of America burning. There’s about an hour and a half an hour and 47 minutes worth of audio from KCSB that we ran this there where the bank burned. And you’ll actually hear some reporters went out on the street with
their recorder. The cops are busting into their apartment at one part and they’re pulling them out of the apartment. And because the cops were illegally entering people’s apartments at the time, the sheriff wound up going on trial. You’ll be shocked at the police
coverage and the police presence that was in Isla Vista.


Lehka Sapers: If we’re talking about UCSB’s anti-establishment history and the culture that they just put out into IV, we could talk a little bit about the Honey Hearings and how that kind of sparked KCSB presence in Isla Vista as a force of news and not just a force of radio. Those hearings were allegations of police brutality from a man named Joel Honey. He was accused of flying over Isla Vista and dropping tear gas canisters into the neighborhoods. I’m not entirely sure if this was true or not, but the coverage of that and the bank burnings,
as well as KCSB being shut down was really the onset of the news department, and not just a station that was that was opposed to playing rock and roll because it was seen as offensive. A station that stuck just to AM radio waves and broadcasted 50 feet away
from Anacapa Lawn. So that was a really big turning point in the station’s history, I think.


Lisa Osborne: At the time they had a lot of reporters actually, and they would have to call in from the payphones. They would actually be running to the payphone to call in their stories. They’d be watching what was going on in Isla Vista and go to the payphone.


Ted Coe: There’s an alum, Ann McCreary, who has good stories. Her ex husband, who’s now passed on was chief engineer and he started while he was a student. They had basically set up a reporting station in Isla Vista and borrowed phone lines from local businesses because stuff was happening in the streets. They just had to be really creative with creating lines and networking from out in the streets, out in the larger community.


That is that an incredible amount of resourcefulness on behalf of reporters from KCSB. That absolutely goes to show the necessity also of student reporting and reporting outside of the established news sources.


Lehka Sapers: I think it’s interesting that you say that, too, because although the reporting itself was out of the mainstream establishments, KCSB was becoming more and more established on campus as an on-campus presence as they moved from Anacapa to San Miguel to Storke Tower. I know that they also spent a little bit of time in the UCen as well, but they’re really just a means of communication and they wanted to reach as many people as possible. So I think that they moved to Storke Tower in an effort to search for better
coverage, better antenna, better tower, better AM service at that time to promote their 24 hour operation schedule as well as get an increase in budget. That movement prompted both the transition of a better radio station as well and later on, the transition to becoming an FM radio station on FM air.

Ted Coe: They were growing. What they had in the UCen was much smaller than what we have. At certain points, especially during non-Covid times, you might hear a live band performing in Studio A or activities around the station and that wouldn’t have been possible in the space they had in the UCen. The Storke building was funded by donations from the Storke family and in honor of Thomas. In 2019, the Student Media Resource Building celebrated its 50-year anniversary. They had to work with administration and they created a coalition of campus officials and students, largely driven by students. They got support from career personnel and administration faculty.

We talked about KCSB as an agent of change and that’s really come through in a lot of these examples. What role do you think that KCSB plays on the UCSB campus?

Ashley Rusch: Yeah. I think just right off the bat, we’ve definitely mentioned this already, but what immediately comes to mind is community building. I think both within my experience and I’m sure anyone that’s been involved in KCSB in whatever capacity can attest that this is kind of our little home on campus. I’ve met my best friends here and really, really grown here in so many different ways. Coming in as someone interested in journalism, it’s really allowed me to grow in that way in the news department, but also really develop the leadership skill set and managerial skill set and all these other things that I think I didn’t expect to get from KCSB. And I think that’s really important. Just seeing how much people care about the station that have already graduated or gone elsewhere, I know Ted already mentioned this, but the fact that alumni all came back during COVID to keep the station up and running, it just shows that it’s like this giant group project that everyone’s working to sustain. We’re having our 60th anniversary coming up pretty soon as well on
April 30th. So that’s going to be really exciting and we’re really excited to see all of the alumni come back and just get together for this mutual, shared love of the station. Community building is really, really important. And we’ve tried to sustain that too, through the news department and have shown our entire student body that we have their backs and we want to provide them the most up to date information in a comprehensible way, especially in light of the university not always meeting that standard for information that we
would like to put out. I’m really grateful for the community that we’ve been able to build and continue to build a KCSB.


Lehka Sapers: I think on the campus in particular, we are a source of information for them. We propagate communication, I think, especially with the COVID newsletter that was super important. I feel as though that KCSB News gives the public a lot more information than the administration does, which I think is super awesome. And in terms of media and our media content, I think that it’s an impact that we have on more than just the campus, because we broadcast a very, very long radius as of now. That means that obviously a lot of people are listening to what we have to say which I think is super cool. We do have a region wide impact and I’d be excited to see how far that that does expand.


Lisa Osborne: I would say that KCSB offers a meeting place in space for different kinds of students to come together, because I feel like our group, our executive committee, is very welcoming to that, to all kinds of students from all kinds of backgrounds. It also gives the opportunity for students to have a voice and have a leadership opportunity since it is a student-led station. We make efforts to in our news department, and we can even grow more in being inclusive when it comes to getting the word out about our volunteer opportunities and stuff.


Ted Coe: I like that example. It’s a community center, physically and in reality. I remember a book from grad school called Imagined Communities. That kind of image always stayed with me because that’s what defines a community. So our alumni were part of that.
We could have some continuity. The listenership is worldwide in some ways and we’ve had alums who wanted to be part of this and were engaged and willing to give up their time as volunteers. We redefined how we might think of community in terms of Santa Barbara County and UCSB. It’s physical, it’s in-person, but it’s also virtual. That impact has changed, people’s listening habits have changed, the way they discover new content has changed. We do have on-demand platforms, we use SoundCloud for news and public affairs in some ways. We have an archive playing on-demand platform for the radio station and we provide playlists and all of those multimedia kind of ways we communicate that’s allowed us to stay relevant.

I don’t listen to as many podcasts, but I was noticing an ad on Spotify yesterday where it’s like you can listen to music playlists with a podcast and people commenting on the material that’s being played. And I was like, oh, so they’re still trying to figure out how to do
what radio does. There’s nothing like doing a deep dive and getting behind the music. Radio talks about things that are going on in your community, gives historical context, and talks about things that are under discussed or underreported or controversial. That’s the role we play too.

Thank you all so much! If there’s anything else you wish we talked about or anything else you’d like to add please do.


Ted Coe
: There was a mid 1980s controversy over some music that got played on the air and the FCC tried to enforce rules around what’s called obscenity and art. That’s just one story. The background with Sean Hannity or like all the famous alums.


Lisa Osborne: Did we even talk about the Sean Hannity part? He got kicked off the air here. He had a radio show here and he engaged in hate speech. He got kicked off the air and then he went and got publicity after getting kicked off the air. And then that’s what landed him his first paying gig radio show


Ted Coe: He was really incendiary and very homophobic and he was using panic around the AIDS epidemic to demonize the LGBTQ community. It created controversy and then the way it was handled gave him an opportunity to position himself like he was being canceled or like he was a martyr. And that kind of gave him the national spotlight.

El Centro Timeline

El Centro, also known formally as El Centro Arnulfo Casillas, has acted as a glue for Latinx students since its establishment in the late 1960s. This sacred place has comforted and cultivated generations of scholars, but through this process has also faced trials and tribulations. Below is a timeline delineating the journey of resilience and compassion that both El Centro and its students have embarked on together.


October 1969

IMAGE CREDITS: El Plan de Santa Bárbara/October 1969

The publication of El Plan de Santa Bárbara by the Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education was the direct result of the meeting between professors and students at the Francisco Torres Residential Hall in April 1969. This plan outlines the implementation of Chicano Studies programs throughout California as well as a community space for Chican@ students to be made available on campus. The goals of this plan were to make higher education more accessible and less alienating to Chican@ students. 

[Logan, Jim. (April 12, 2018). A Legacy of Community, Pride. THE CURRENT. RETRIEVED FROM https://www.news.ucsb.edu/2018/018900/legacy-community-pride]

Fall 1970

IMAGE CREDITS: Roger Hagie and Steve Riede/EL GAUCHO/October 15, 1968

The establishment of the Chicana/o Studies department stemmed from the North Hall building occupation in 1978 and the El Plan de Santa Bárbara Conference in 1969. The El Centro building housed the first Chicana/o Studies department in the entire University of California system, providing a community space for students.

[RETRIEVED FROM https://www.chicst.ucsb.edu/]

Autumn of 1975

Building 406 was named after Arnulfo Casillos, (1948-1992), a professor and activist. His legacy was used as a testimony of resilience and kindness that was utilized as a center for the intentions and regards for El Centro for Latinx students. 

[RETRIEVED FROM https://www.chicst.ucsb.edu/] 

August 7, 2013

IMAGE CREDITS: Gloria Campos/Daily Nexus/August 07,  2013

El Centro becomes a target of bigotry by being vandalized with the phrase “Deportation = Justice; Deport Illegals NOW,” on its entrance doors. This blatant attack impacts undocumented students and resource such as UCSB I.D.E.A.S that is affiliated with El Centro alike.

[Staff Report. (August 7, 2013). Vandalism Attacks Undocumented UCSB Students. THE DAILY NEXUS. RETRIEVED FROM  https://dailynexus.com/2013-08-07/vandalism-attacks-undocumeneted -ucsb-students/]

May 23, 2016

IMAGE CREDITS: Nicholas Bogel Burroughs/Daily Nexus/May 23, 2016

Student Advocacy group, VOCEROS, met with UCSB Administration with a list  of more than 30 demands made for the retention and well-being of Latinx students. The meeting was held in El Centro and emphasized the importance and maintenance of El Centro.

[Bogel-Burroughs, Nicholas.(August 7, 2013). UCSB Open to Latino Students’ Demands. THE DAILY NEXUS. RETRIEVED FROM https://dailynexus.com/2016-05-23/ucsb-open-to-latino-students -demands/]

January 13, 2017

IMAGE CREDITS: Jose Arturo-Ochoa/Daily Nexus/January 13, 2017

Negligence From UCSB Administrators in the upkeep of El Centro resulted in students and organizations needing to evacuate the  building in 45 days. Students came to a consensus that El Centro was  integral enough to their college experience that it was “worth getting hurt over.”

[Yelimeli, Supriya . (January 13, 2017). Students Told to Evacuate El Centro Annex Before Possible Demolition. THE DAILY NEXUS. RETRIEVED FROM https://dailynexus.com/2017-01-13/students-told-to-evacuate-el-centro-annex-before-possible-demolition/]

2019

El Centro implemented the idea of a community garden that is located in Lower Westside Santa Barbara, and the Somos Semillas Food Sovereignty Project was established. This was an effort to cultivate community and sovereignty in regard to food education. [RETRIEVED FROM https://sites.google.com/view/elcentrosb/somos-semillas-garden?authuser=0]


By: Adriana Rodriguez and Veronica Huerta, First-Generation Latinx Undergraduates

Daraka Larimore-Hall

May 7th, 2020


Daraka Larimore-Hall was active in the UAW Local 2865 for over 10 years.  He first got involved through the sociology department and became the head steward for the Santa Barbara campus, then the campus unit chair.  He was then elected to the executive board of the UAW and briefly served as the UAW president before being voted out in an internal election.  Though he continued his membership with the UAW, his leadership role within the organization ended in 2011 following the overwhelming election of AWDU members into power.  In this interview, he sheds light on his interest in the UAW, his perspective of the organization, and his experience during the internal election process.  Larimore-Hall was interviewed by Frances Woo via Zoom.

Transcript

Ok. And then so to start off, I was just curious what initially drew you to the grad student movement.

Well, I’m very pro union in terms of my politics. And so as soon as I became a grad student, it’s clear soon as I was on campus site and sought the union out and joined and wanted to know how I can get involved, ’cause I think it’s politically and practically a really important thing to join and get involved with your union, whatever the workplace is.

Were you aware of them as an undergraduate student?

Yeah. I mean, I didn’t do my undergrad at UCSB.  I did it in Chicago, but, you know, the. But I was around in. So I grew up in Santa Barbara. I used to work for DSA along many, many years ago for the Democratic Socialist Movement. And so back in the late 90s, early 2000s, when the strikes and fights for recognition for the union’s recognition were happening, I happened to be back in the Santa Barbara and talked with some of the media. So I’d been aware of the struggle. It certainly was like a thing that was written about in progressive magazines and newspapers and so forth. So it’s something I’d been following and supportive of. And so I was excited to be able to be involved with it after it was established when I actually got to grad school.

Ok. What kind of progressive magazines and newspapers was it like, campus specifically? Or just like Santa Barbara in general?

No, neither. I mean, because it was a nationwide phenomenon, right, of this category of workers starting to organize again, I should say, in the 90s, because I don’t know how much of this you’ve been uncovered in your research, but, you know, there was there’ve been different waves of graduate student organizing going back to the, to the 30s at Berkeley.

Mm hmm.

So back then, the CIO days. And then another wave, like in the 60s, and at one point, there was a local union representing graduate employees. But just at Berkeley. So it was a long, it was a long struggle that a bunch of different steps to it and the kind of, like, big event, at least for the UC, right, was that recognition in 2000, or around 2000. And that’s where the union they, this was the largest group of academic student employees now represented by a union. It was you know, it’s the UC, the flagship public university system in the country, so it’s a really big deal. But it had been a long time coming, and so generations of graduate student employees had, and I still see this come up in left circles where people are like, oh, yeah, I was fighting that back when I was in graduate school in the 70s, but yeah, so. So I was aware of it. And so, you know, you could read about it in the Nation and in These Times. So certainly if you did like, less Lexis Nexis search that you can get a lot of stuff. And then there’s one of the organizers, UAW organizers when I was there, Ricardo Ochoa, who’s now a labor attorney. He, he wrote a piece for like the Public Employee, Public Employment Law Journal for California. And a very like a very academic law journal, I think it was. But he wrote a piece that’s like a whole chronological history of organizing at the UC that will give you a timeframe of like when the first locals were organized, when, when the affiliate-, exactly when the affiliation with the UAW happened, because I’m a little shaky on the dates. But all of that is obviously very accessible. And that’ll give a little bit of a counterbalance to like the academic articles that the dissident groups in the union have published over the years. Sullivan published in Santa Barbara. There was a people at Santa Cruz. And so forth.

And are those publications…So how exactly do those publications differ from Ricardo’s?

Oh, no, it’s just, it’s more so, like mand-, as you were alert-, alluding to, right, there’s always been like different philosophical strains in union, and like, one of the things that’s been a hallmark of the, like, self, self-proclaimed leftist radicals in the union is that, you know, they like to write academic theoretical articles about the union. So there’s like a paper trail of like that kind of thinking in the union, critical of the UAW, critical of collective bargaining, critical of, you know, mainstream political work, all of that. So, so there’s just been a bunch of those articles written in academic journals or left publications like, political publications; far fewer things published from the more, you say, institutional factions in the union. Because personally, I was, when I was a union leader, I was always very careful with what I would say about the union or write about the union. And I certainly wouldn’t didn’t even though I had my own critiques and my own thoughts, like my instinct or my my feeling was that that was best. Like talked about within the union. Let’s talk about it, work it out, you know, deal with it. Not like I’m gonna write an academic article and seem really smart about sh**ting on my own union. So that was always like a cultural difference between the two tendencies.

Yeah. Yeah. I’ll definitely look into that paper trail, because that’d be really a great resource to have.

Yeah, it’ll be good for underpinning if you do other interviews and stuff like underpinning things with the facts. Yeah. And let me know you can keep me up on Facebook Messenger. Whatever. Let me know if you’re having trouble finding them. I’ll help you find them. They’re all, they’re all going to be easy for you to track down with with your library access.

Okay. Yeah. Perfect. Thank you. And so can you just tell me a little bit more about, like, what your role was within the UAW, and like how long you served?

Sure. So I was active for over 10 years. So it was like, pretty much my entire grad school time, which was, you know, little on the long side, not unrelated to me spending a lot of time on the union and other and other political things. But yeah. So I got involved my first year in the sociology department and became a head steward for the campus. And then I was the campus unit chair, so like the lead steward on the campus, then was elected, some to the, to the like, the state board, executive board, and eventually was vice president, and then very briefly served as president before, like we were all wiped out in an election, like all of my generation of leaders in a really gross, like contentious election that taught me a lot about like some of the bad tendencies on the political left.

Yeah. Yeah. So that was another thing I was going to ask about, like the rift between like and I think it was USEG and AWDU, are there political caucuses that I can across. Yeah. So what was that kind of like, election process for you from your side of things?

Yeah. Well, I mean, so there had been pretty much the whole time that I was involved, there had been a kind of, like I said, a kind of informal political division that people, it wasn’t like hard factions, but at certain times it would kind of solidify into factions over particular issues, but it would flare up over a lot of symbolic stuff as well as programmatic things. But I’d say that the core difference was the, the institutional side or my faction or what we eventually called ourselves, USEG, though that was just really for that election. You know, we were very focused on the nuts and bolts of power in regards to the university. So very focused on staying at majority membership, which, for this bargaining unit, right, which has tremendous turnover just by nature of the work, was constant work. I mean, it was like as an officer, I was expected as a statewide officer, I was expected to spend over 20 hours a week on the ground signing up new members. And so when we would recruit new vol-, like new activists, we’d be like, OK, yeah, you want to talk politics and talk about the labor movement and how it’s going to change society. That’s awesome. But we also have to go and go to the chemistry department and physics department and earth sciences and chemistry and talk to people who are not radical about why they should join the union.  And that was hard, exhausting work. And on the other hand, you had people who were like, I want to be in the union movement because I’m a socialist and I’m a radical and f*** capitalism and I get to be in the trade union, which is awe-, great, like that’s fantastic. That’s why a graduate student from sociology or English or something might – and not to stereotype there were radicals in sciences, too, but fewer of them – but anyway, that’s a motivation they had for coming into the movement. But like there was, there was, there were real bureaucratic realities about how power relation works between teaching assistants and the university. And we just really emphasized that. So there would be flare ups about contract negotiations where, for example, they would always want to just like, come up with the perfect contract. Hold out for the most perfect language in the contract, and our thing would be more…let’s, let’s really concentrate on the things that are about union security and dispute mechanisms and grievance handling procedures, stuff that seems boring and bureaucratic. Because if you’re actively out in the departments, talking to the workers and filing those grievances, that’s how you build up a case in the next round of negotiations to like win more rights, or win more benefits, right, you can come in and say, now, we want really strict regulations on workload because, look, for the last two years of our contract, we filed 400 workload violation grievances, right. So it was like, always like our way of going about things was like building systematically and very much about “stay at majority”, and so forth. The other thing that we concentrated a lot on, my, my generation in the union, was always looking for new groups of workers to organize, so never being satisfied with like “OK, we’ve got the grad students”. We were always out looking to expand. So I was an active, like an organizer’s, temporary organizer on the campaign to organize the postdocs at the UC, which was successful. So we, we, and then like people that were a little bit before my time in the union, had done all the heavy lifting for organizing the union for, for teaching assistants at the CSUs, which was huge. So here we were like doubling and tripling the number of academic student workers organized. So we weren’t, it wasn’t our biggest priority to like have the kinds of like meetings and program that a radical sociologists would be the most interested in week to week. And like, if I had it to do over and looking back, we should have just should have been more flexible about this, given people. Let people start their committee on radical transformation of consciousness. Fine. You know, like one big fight we had internally was, I was, the you know, the left always really wanted a newsletter.  They wanted to write articles and it’s the left, they liked to think and blah, blah, blah.  So and like our reps are organizing reps from UAW were like very against that. They’re like “it’s a giant time sink; it’s not organizing anybody new; it’s not realigning power with university. It’s just like people spouting off”. But I saw that it was just like a really important thing to certain kinds of activists and they really wanted like a newsletter for people to read in their department. I mean, there were reasons for it. They wanted it. And it just seemed to me like an easy compromise to make, but we didn’t, and that became another like line in the sand that was like, “they won’t even let us have a newsletter”, and so forth. So this, it kind of came to a head in the contract negotiations. It was like the last set of contract negotiations in my tenure. We, and that was like we really definitely had like two blocks on the bargaining team and we –

What do you mean by blocks? Sorry.

Two factions, two groups, like these debates and these arguments that had been more informal and like I said, people kind of moving back and forth. As we started the bargaining process, they, people kind of chose sides. And, and so basically, we we we we came up with a contract or like we agreed to a draft contract to the university.  It was, in our mind, a very good contract, especially for, it was in the middle of the recession. Every other union in every other union in the UC system had given concessions of some kind. We had no concessions. We had wage increases. We had increases in rights. We had a family benefit, like a paid family leave and paid child care benefits for the first time ever in anybody’s contract like this. So we were really excited about it. But the radical side was like, we should have stayed out, gone on strike, gotten more, gotten an even more perfect contract. And we were like, this is a great contract for us to build on. It’s only two years. Let’s like file a ton of grievances, get to 70 percent membership, scare the f*** out of the university, and then we can, like, go at it again. But so they they actually started, this is was the birth of AWDU as a statewide thing, was to start a campaign to vote down the proposed contract. And so we really, so it was like the two factions went head to head in the election of whether to ratify this draft contract. And we won; the, the contract was ratified. But that, like, solidified AWDU as a group. So they started more and more campaigning. Then, the next year, Occupy happens, the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy L.A., Occupy campuses, occupy everything. And there was this huge, sort of swelling on campus of activism aimed at, you know, the budget cuts and fee increases and was very radical and, and then Occupy was happening and people were like coming up with these theories that if we Sit-In in this park for years, we’ll win, we’ll beat capitalism or something. And there was also this real ethos in Occupy that it was like, and this is like typical of what happens in the second term of a moderate Democrat president, right, is that the left is like, f***, we put up with all these compromises and sh** like f*** this, you know, f*** the Democrats. So so the AWDU campaigned on like, they get, like we could get better contracts by, like, being more militant and going on strike. This leadership works with the Democratic Party. And look, the President Daraka, he’s even an officer in the Democratic Party. That’s horrible. Like the Democratic Party hates workers, Occupy, militancy, blah, blah. And they just like went around, told everybody this. We were just so unprepared for, like, their use of social media, their, and really unprepared for, like, their dirtbag tactics. Like we didn’t expect them to do certain things that they did, like follow us around, our people around holding signs with completely made up salaries on them, saying that we made a hundred thousand dollars a year, ninety thousand dollars a year working for the union, and we were bureaucrats and all the sh**. I mean, like following us around with us, we were like, we are your fellow f***ing grad student – like why are you doing this? This is gr-, so and part of it was that a bunch of, not a bunch, but a few of the leaders of AWDU had gone into graduate school from the labor movement where they had been involved in some of the most vicious internal union versus union battles in the health care sector. So NUHW versus UHW. And that those battles were like, just vicious. I mean, they, doxing, name calling, calling management on each other, like just every dirty, dirty business fighting over who was going to control these contracts in the health care sector. So so, you know, these people had, like, learned how to do intra, like, intra-union battles that way. So they started Web sites where they were like photo shopping, our faces onto like Ho Chi Minh and Stalin and sh** and just gross, very personal attacks. And it won, and I learned, you know, like going up to UC Davis, where I’d spent a lot of time as a vice president of the union, going up there, filing lots of grievances, worked really hard on this grievance in the Spanish department where we won like every T.A. in the Spanish department thousands of dollars because there had been a systematic like breaking of the rules, and we went all the way to arbitration and it was like, I was a graduate student flying up to Davis, going through arbitration to win my fellow workers this money and all this stuff. And then I was going up there during the campaign and the and it was just like, the Spanish department all voted against us because they had a leader in, there was like a AWDU person there who went around with just the easiest narrative to say – “You know, how unions are corrupt and they always just support the Democrats. Well, we want a different kind of union. We want to be militant and radical and be like occupy and get rid of those bureaucrats.” People will like sure. Bam. It was like playing into all the anti-union stereotypes that there are out there in the general public and everything. It was really soul crushing. And it took me quite a while to recover from it, like sort of emotionally and psychologically. I mean, the upside personally was like, then I was out of the union and so I just went, concentrated on my my dissertation and actually finished it and graduated. So that was good, but it really sucked. I mean, it really was like, man, we are on the same side. We might have some differences in strategy and so forth that you just you took it to eleven, for no reason.

Yeah. Yeah, wow, I didn’t, yeah, I didn’t know how deep seated like the rift really was. But yeah, it must have been like a lot to go through.

It was among the elites, among us, the, among the leadership. It was really, really deep seeded, I think, among the membership. It wasn’t so much lamented. The membership was like… You know, I mean, one thing I learned in organizing in academia, right, is like the sociology of the department is so important. And there are certain people, graduate students in any department who are seen as leaders and other people who are not seen as leaders and kind of not respected, and so if one of the respected graduate students is like the union is good, it’s very helpful. Lots of people sign up. They’ll be like, this is a normal thing. This is what you do. If that person is like we do things differently in our department and we don’t need the union or the union’s not radical enough or whatever, that just like that becomes the conventional wisdom.

So would you say that like because there are so many different directions within the elites, it kind of like, pulled a lot of grad students in different directions?

Well, for sure. I mean, I think what happens afterwards and you can talk to people get their side of it, but from some sort of outside and talking to people who are still on staff, like what happened was the union became a radical activist left organization very quickly. So like right away, they started this thing of becoming pro BDS…right, and so and they took that vote to the membership. So the membership voted on whether to endorse BDS And you had all of these Jewish graduate students or other graduate students who were, you know, with particular ties to or sentiments about Israel being like, why is my union taking up this issue, like I’m for my union, I want better wages and working conditions in my, but like, why are we talking about Israel Palestine? So a bunch of people left the union because it won, of course, because the turnout was highest in the radical departments. And so, you know, the union became, so the union for teaching assistants and readers and tutors at UC, you know, gave its thumbs up to BDS, lost a bunch of members; Palestine didn’t get free. I mean, it was just, so so there was, things like that. And then it was just was like, “we’re radical; we’re left; we’re” so forth. So membership just went down. They stopped, the, like treadmill, tough program of organizing that we had just. That was brutal. I, and we probably could have done a better job of kind of working with, like working people into it, but like, but membership went into the toilet. And so then they had that like a long contract fight, like went to impasse, stayed out, went on strike, got a good a good contract as far as the contract itself. But they’ve gone so long without a contract that the wage increases that they got for the contract actually were less than what they lost by working with without the contract. So. But you really got the point that it wasn’t about that. It was about, we want to be in a union that’s on strike and that is militant. It’s like, for some people that’s awesome, and that’s what they want out of their union. But for most of the membership, you have to convince them to join the union because they’ve grown up in a viciously anti-union culture in the United States. And so getting that pr-, I would rather have 80 percent of the graduate students or teaching assistants, I should say, because it’s also undergraduates, readers, tutors…I’d rather have 80 percent membership of the people that the union represents than have 30 percent membership of the most militant, coolest, most down Marxists, bad asses. And that was to me what the, the split came down to. And so, so membership has been in the, in the f***ing garbage can for years now. And I think that my sense is that the newest group of statewide leaders have recognized that, or are trying to turn it around. I’ve had a couple of conversations with a couple of them. They seem like they’re trying to get things going. But there’s there’s like this, by the way, to sound like old guy talking to a young activist. This is like an iron law on the left, I think right, is like splits. So AWDU split, right? And there was like people that… So right away after they took power, they purged some people. And then there were splits. And so there’s like no AWDU any more, I don’t think there’s a new thing. But anyway, it’s like inevitable, of course, because once you, once you when your politics become how, how do we be the most radical and most left, like that is a unwinnable game. Someone can always be more radical. So the, yeah, it was, my understanding is that in terms of power, visa v. the university, the union went downhill and that was, that was our number one priority.

When things started kind of, like breaking up and like splitting up within the party, was there, because I know that a lot of their tactics were like spreading all these rumors and like information about members like elite members in the UAW. So was there ever like an effort on that side of things to try to explain kind of the process, or like the reasoning behind everything? Or like transparency?

Yeah, we, we f***ed up on that. I mean, that was like, we learned  too late the power of the email and social media, not that we didn’t know those things, but in terms of this election. We really thought that our very old fashioned, which I think in general is the best way to build that union, of going face to face, talking to people, was the most important-, was like the thing. So we just did a program of just having people out talking to people while they were just spamming and putting up, and like doing these blogs, like sh**ty attacking us blogs and so forth. And you just and we were like, that’s all lies. We don’t even, we’re not going to respond; we’re certainly not going to hit back. The other thing was that this was like a political question about constituencies. Their base constituencies were the social sciences and humanities in Northern California and the Northern California campuses and a little bit in some of the Southern California campuses. So at our bases of support, we’re like more in Southern California and like the not social science departments. But those members were not, they didn’t give a f*** about this internal thing, right, I mean, like, that was the thing was our base was not engaged and we didn’t do a good job of like we should have just gotten dirty and scared them. We should have played the other side honestly, gone to the, gone to the, to our base of members have been like these people, you will be asked to vote on BDS, if they win. They will turn the union into an activist, a small elite activist group, not a trade union. We should just f***ing hit them hard on that. We were way too like we’re just going to run on our record. You know, really trying to cover our left flank by talking about our our progressive politics, our radical politics. It didn’t work at all like, it was, maybe it was unwinnable because of the whole Occupy feeling. But we definitely did not run the campaign that we needed too. Looking back.

Yeah, I mean, it’s understandable too, considering how unprecedented it was.

Exactly. I mean, it was kind of like dealing with Trump. But, you know, we didn’t I mean, Hillary Clinton campaign was garbage. And I think she should, you know, like, hold her head in shame for the rest of your life because of that, but at the same time, nobody had a playbook for how to beat a Donald Trump. How do you, when somebody is just like, I’m just going to double down on being a dirtbag?

Yeah. Yeah.  And also, I just want to go back a little bit, too, in terms of my contract negotiations. So from like another interviewee’s perspective, they said that the UAW had like this saying that “Our power is at its greatest the day before the contract expires”. Can you explain a little bit more about what exactly that statement means?

That’s definitely a, was a tactical difference, and like a legitimate tactical difference of opinion, but yes. So the people who trained us, who had come out of the original fight, the original recognition fight, so, so this was another thing that was really annoying is that we’d actually built a culture in the academic student employees on the West Coast of taking people that came up in the rank and file and, and hire, and getting them hired as UAW international staff. So we were like running, so we all knew each other; we, we’d come out of the same kind of work. We had a similar kind of perspective, and so that’s why when, you know, when they were organizing in Washington, at University of Washington, we sent people up there to help them organize. They sent people down to help us organize CSU. We all worked together to organize the postdocs. We started to organize postdocs up in Washington, too. It was like, and it was very much like a program, a project of being like, if we build enough of these kinds of locals, we could take over the UAW region for the actual, for the whole UAW. And like build, and then even not be just organizing academic student employees. Let’s get in there and start organizing in aerospace and manufacturing and all the areas that the UAW like naturally represents but haven’t been organized. So but like, we weren’t gonna self marginalize within the UAW. And this is union politics 101. If you’ve got a plan in the union, you don’t go to the leaders and say, our plan is to keep building power and get rid of you and change the union. That’s stupid. You put a target on your back, they take you out or marginalize you. So we weren’t like publicizing on our website, “join us. We’re going to change the UAW; we’re, we’re like in conflict with the bad forces in the UAW”. That, that would’ve been stupid. So but like the our, the dissidents, the AWDU types, you know, they were like reading labor notes and all these books critical of the UAW leadership and thought the UAW leadership were all garbage. So they’re like, we should say that as a local. And so because we wouldn’t say that then they were just like, you’re just like them, we’re like this, that’s that’s little kid politics to be like, just say your piece. Like, look, strategic politics is, you know, build, build your, build your, your, your forces till you can win. Anyway, but that comes down, that, that plays down to how the international union was portrayed in our faction fight. So, yes, our international reps are the people who worked for the International Union, for UAW, but who worked to service our local had come out of this, they were former graduate students who’d come out of this struggle, who were big in the, the recognition fight, the original strikes, all of that, so, and what they had learned from being trained as a UAW organizer and negotiator is the UAW’s a playbook for negotiation, and it very much is, is on, is two things. One is, you know, really use the contract expiration date as, for leverage. And be like, and like build, build up so that you have a really credible strike threat, and the university knows you could do a really big strike and really hurt them, all the way up to that point, and then get the best deal you can at that point. And part of that is like building up, so second big thing, and this is a very public sector thing. This wouldn’t have, this wouldn’t work for GM, but for the public sector in California, it works that, that we were filing grievances, un-, unfair labor practice grievances all during the negotiating period to, because that’s the only legal way that you can go on strike while the contract is still in effect. So we, it’s like, you played soccer? 

Mm hm.

So, you know, how, like in good, aggressive, fast paced soccer offense, right? You, you want to, you just like really keeping the ball on the other side, on your opponent’s side as much as possible. And you move your halfbacks up and you move your fullbacks up, right, to keep it on the other side. And part of that is like, so you have scoring opportunities, but part of it is, what happens when the other team makes a fast break. They’re very likely to get offsides and then stop the game, right. So it’s a, it’s a catching them off offsides strategy. So we would do all these things to catch the university in breaking bargaining laws so we could file unfair labor practice grievances and then we could strike legally. And that was like, again, to show the force. So, yes, it was all like, build up the strike threat. Get the best deal that they can. And their argument, their philosophy was let the contract expire. Take a really long time. Build up a strike. Go on strike for a really long time. Get a bigger, get better contract and, and I just don’t think that’s true. I think it’s, that, that there’s a lot of wisdom in the idea that, like, the thing about a strike is its threat and that once you actually do it, you’ve sort of played those cards. The university knows how much real support the strike has, and then you’re in an attrition game. And, you know, like, it’s not that hard to break a strike by people who make very little money, whose supervisors decide over their entire academic future, who, you know, all those reasons, it’s, it’s pretty easy to get people to cross the picket line, unfortunately. So, so that was, yeah, that’s a tactical difference, but they made it sound as if there’s like a call from Detroit, from the head office to our bargaining leaders being like, you have to bargain this way, you know? And that wasn’t the case. Then the other like, hundred pound gorilla in the room right now, you know, from where we sit today is that the leaders of the UAW for our region, like so the people that I had to deal with in the International, like literally those people are going to jail right now.

Oh, for what?

Like, like f***ing the most egregious, like just corruption, greed, stealing from the union, like, the guy who was the deputy regional director. So, you know, UAW has these regions that are very powerful in the union, like in terms of the structure. So like the guy who was the number two guy in that region when I was active eventually became president of the UAW, which when I saw that happen, I was like, that’s not good, because it’s like the you know, it’s like the D-team, you know like, it wasn’t the B-team or the C-team of the leadership. It was like, oh, my God. So, yeah, Gary Jones. So he’s going to jail, and the thing was like, we knew they were terrible. We knew they were awful, and we never, but we also knew that the way the labor movement worked was you, if you have a fight, you have to g-, you have to win, or you die. It’s Game of Thrones, basically. So, so we just sort of like, you know, go along to get along, didn’t do them any favors or anything, but like, didn’t challenge them. So, but like, it wasn’t that hard if you were an AWDU activist to, like, see who these people were, see that we weren’t fighting them. Find pictures of us together at conferences and be like, look, they’re all the same. So they were able to paint us as, like an, like an example of bad, corrupt union leadership when it, when the fact was, like we were very aware of what was going on and how terrible they were and wanted to get rid of them, but we knew that to, you don’t get rid of them with a blog post. So that was the difference.

And also, I know you touched on this a little bit earlier, so when you were coming up in the organization, you kind of mentioned how there were like trainings with the people involved? So can you explain a little bit more about that process, and like the overall culture of people, like before AWDU and all that?

Right. So our culture was that we, if you were an officer of any kind, so a steward, the head steward, campus unit chair or secretary or whatever, or on the executive board, so a statewide officer that you were expected to go out and sign up members for hours a week. And it was like, you had, if you were paid, if you were in one of the paid positions, then it was like 60 percent of your time. If you were unpaid, it was still like our, our kind of like goal was like if you were a steward, you do six hours a week. If you were head steward you’d do ten hours, maybe a little off on those numbers, but there was, you know, that was the goal and the expectation. And that’s a lot. And it’s totally hard work. It’s not fun. It’s not like sitting in a meeting of people who all already agree. It’s having to have frustrating conversations with people making dumb reasons for not joining the union and, and having to like, play along, not just beat them in the argument because if you don’t get their card, you don’t get them to join if you just beat them in the argument. That’s, you know, it’s just like electoral organizing, lots of different kinds of organizing where, like you can, you can prove that the other person is wrong, but you didn’t get them to come over and vote for your guy, so it didn’t, it’s just waste time. So, anyway, so the culture was like, in that sense, kind of militaristic with a very clear hierarchy and a very clear set of responsibilities, and I think that was, it was the problem. I think the culture was too militaristic, but it came out of, it was developed by people who had come out of this existential fight for recognition. They knew what the university was capable of. They knew that the university was capable of, like manipulating GSA, or grad, or like dissident groups in the union and so forth to destroy our bargaining power. So it was a kind of tough, very tough minded approach, but anyway, but the culture was like, if you just, if you wanted to be a, get involved in the union, like, then, a more experienced organizer would meet up with you and go around with you in your department or somewhere and sign up members, and that was your first introduction. It was not a meeting. It was not like a PowerPoint about the labor movement. It was like, let’s go sign up people for the union. So, and then it was like, the trainings that we would have would be about how to better sign people up or how to do this, how to, and then, of course, like all the, and then grievance handling was a really big deal. So, you know, it’s, the union is responsible for representing anyone in the bargaining unit, so even nonmembers. You don’t have to be a member representing them in any kind of dispute with their supervisors. So that was a big part of who was handling grievances. And then we saw grievances, as, you know, not like a bureaucratic silly thing, but it’s like a, like a place where militancy and organizing could happen, because ult-, so here is another division that I found really interesting that would come up all the time, was like, and when it came to grievances, in a, in any grievance procedure, the grievance, the person making filing a grievance has to put their name on it, has to file it, has to be there. The union is just a platform, like it provides somebody there with you to give you advice, to speak on your behalf. It helps you fill out the paperwork, all of that. But like the worker has to stand up for themselves. And they always, the other AWDU always wanted to put things in the contract that would like not require a grievant to do that. So they’d be fixed, sort of magically and bureaucratically, that someone could go and say, “I have a workload problem”, and not have to confront their f****ing professor or supervisor. And it would just be fixed by the union behind the scenes, and that’s, what? You’re the militant radicals, but you want to protect people from having to, like, look their boss in the eye and saying there’s problem? Like, what is this? And it was really clear to us that it was like, these are all people who are best friends with their Marxist scholar advisors, and like, they don’t want to have to have those uncomfortable conversations, you know, and like whereas, like our rank and file, our, like the bulk of our members, were like, not the academic rock stars that were like kissing everybody’s ass. So our view was much more that they were workers. And in this scenario, they’re workers talking to their boss as equals. It’s not personal. It’s not because they hate their boss. It’s not an emotional thing. It’s just, there’s a violation of the contract and we’re going to fix it. So, so gri-, so training people to go out and aggressively find grievances, talk to people, ask people the right kinds of questions to find out if there is a grievance, and also convince people to take the action and file the grievance. That was a big part of the skill set that we tried to get our leaders.

Mm hmm. Would you say there was a lot of, like, mentorship, like when you would have, like an experienced person going around with an inexperienced person?

Yeah, it was pretty, it was programs. I mean, it was like, an intentional thing. People would be assigned to work with new people.

Did you see, like, a breakdown in this, like, sort of community structure once like people started, like, getting solidified in their own factions?

Well, yeah. I mean, basically from the contract, you know, the big fight that we had over ratifying the contract, to the leadership elections where we got smoked, like that period of time, we didn’t, the program was done because everything was factional. So everything we did, they were counter organizing. Everything was like, you know, it was all through that prism. It sucked. So from, basically our, that old really like organizing focused, professionalized, militarized kind of, discipline was already breaking down and it was just becoming a big, just the internal fight. And then by the time, like I remember talking to people like a year or two after, and it was like, even some ba-, like, people hadn’t heard of our database. And I was like, well, it’s in the database, right? And they’re like database, what? And I’m like, don’t you have it on your walk sheets? And they’re like, what are walk sheets? So, we spent a bunch of resources creating this database and of course, fighting with the university to get the membership, you know, correctly and in the right format, get the list of workers, but basically, we have this database so that, you know, every quarter, the list of workers pops into our database, it matches up the people that are already members, highlights the people that are not, and then, there’s a, you know, all these interfaces for organizers to go and find information about where those workers are, where their offices, or their office hours, if they have them, when their section times are, put it in there, and then you could print out a list for your day. And it was like, you know, Frances Woo is holding office hours at, you know, in the grad tower at 10:00 a.m., and then Daraka gets, finishes his section, his discussion section in music at blah, blah. And so you’re, you just go down and have those conversations and talk to those people, right, so it was like, and then put in what the response was and everything so that your supervisor in the union, like your head, your lead, could look at that and see how you do, but that, so it was disciplined. There was accountability. You could be fired if you weren’t doing it right. All of those things. AWDU people wanted none of that kind of sh**, like any kind of like oversight and discipline was, you know, bureaucratic and reactionary and authoritarian. And I don’t think they used that database ever. They really went to a model of, it was like, have department meetings, get meetings together, meetings, meetings, meetings in departments, have people sit and talk. And it was like, yeah. One of the things I’ve learned in the left is there’s too many f****ing meetings and we fetishize them.

And so after the AWDU elections happened, how long do you stay on with the UAW? Were you still a part of-

Oh, no. I was out. I mean, my, I was, yeah. I mean, I, I paid my dues. I was a member, but until I finished, until I graduated, but the, but in terms of leadership, I didn’t have any position.

Did you see any. I mean, besides them, like not using the database and like not having the same sort of like organized, like going out and talking to the people and things like that, did you see them implement any new kind of like guidelines for members or like what was, what did they do sort of as they took over, aside from just like-

What I saw, yeah, the things I saw were, so there was the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sactions) thing. There was the creation of a bunch of committees like the Social Justice Committee or like anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-oppression, that’s what they called, anti-oppression committee, yeah, a lot of committees, which is fine. And again, I, I’m self-critical looking back that we didn’t provide nearly enough space for people to do just kind of creative political things, and we made that too much of a zero sum with the organization. We should have said, yes, go do those things, but you have to work. So that was a mistake. And then, but, but it seemed like it just was all that, was just all meetings, issues not related to bargaining. And then the other thing that they did right was, which was good, like in the next bargaining camp-, campaign with the next contract negotiations, right, they really emphasized like trans rights and bathroom access, justice and things like that. And that is, the way that they emphasized it in the bargaining campaign was different than we would have for sure because we wouldn’t have, yeah, it was weird how they kind of signaled to the university that that was the number one priority when the university wasn’t really that opposed to it. So it was, I, the way they leveraged it seemed, seemed like it was very much about the internal politics of wanting to signal that certain issues were important to the union, but that was more about their own internal audience.

Interesting. OK. So I think those are a majority of my questions. What, in your opinion, was the strongest action taken by the UAW in the fight for grad students’ rights overall?

Well, I mean, I really feel like the most fundamental victory is just the existence of the union itself, and the fact that there’s some, something intervened to, to make rational and legal and, and visible, like, this power relationship between academic student employees and the university. And if you, I mean I think the, just you just talk to anybody who was in graduate school before unionization and, or talk to people that are in graduate school in unio-, in places without a union, you just, you know, the, the, the abuse is incredible. And the, you know, go get my dry cleaning, you know, go-, they become like little peons and serfs for their, their professor masters, and that’s like not right. So just being able to bargain over working conditions, being able to talk about working conditions as working conditions and not just the lumps you take to become an academic and the dues you take to be a good scholar, but you’d say, like no, this is exploitation. You’re exploiting my labor and treating it terribly. So just that fundamental change in the relationship, I think is the most important thing.

Yeah, changing the narrative, yeah.

Yeah.

And also, what is your opinion on the current COLA movements that are happening right now?

You know, I don’t have a strong opinion about it. It’s it’s confusing and concerning to me in that, like, it seems like another wave, like the current leadership is being flanked by the left and attacked. And so, you know, my immediate-, having my trauma and my experience, my immediate sympathy is with the leadership of the union. Like, I don’t, I just don’t understand. I’ve been meaning to, like, talk to people that are closer to it and get a…but here’s what I think is weird. I think that it’s weird that the smallest campus took unilateral action and was like negotiating on its own, which like totally undermines all the other campuses. I think that doing it outside of the union process instead of, hey, let’s build for a COLA for everyone in the next round of negotiations is pretty telling, and a problem. Also, I don’t think those people should be fired, obviously, and also I think that people should get raises. I mean, it’s like absurd. I know full, you know, very well how low the wages are. But, like, I-, why not go, like, build the union and do it through the union? This, like the, the instinct, and the fact that it came from Santa Cruz, which has always had this toxic leftish, leftier than thou culture, like, made me skeptical. But again, I’m, I haven’t drilled down. I could be totally off base.

Yeah. And I was also wondering if you had any access to the previous UAW contracts, like the-

Well, that’s a good question. I mean, there do you, are they not on the web? Well, I guess they wouldn’t put the old ones on the website.

Yeah. It’s only the twenty eighteen to twenty twenty two up there right now.

Have you asked the union?

Yeah, and, well one of them-, they put me in contact with you, and then several other people- 

Who at the union put you put you in contact with me?

I think it was ** Yeah. He just let me know that you would have a lot more information like-

I don’t think I know that person. But anyway.

But the other people that I’ve contacted, only a couple of gotten back to me and they said that they don’t have access, or like they can’t locate all the old ones.

So the people that you should talk to to try to locate them, I mean, they’re definitely at the, the statewide office, like, for sure. So you could be a little more aggressive with them and just be like, hey, I’m just looking for old copies. I’ll reimburse you for, for postage or whatever. I just want old copies of the contract. They have them. They’re in a drawer there, a hundred percent. So, and then, why don’t you call…He will be very careful with what he says to you because he’s international staff. I’ll give you his email address so. So I think it’s ** He’s an international rep. And he knows where everything’s buried. Mm hmm. But like I said, you probably won’t want to talk on the record about his thoughts about these things. But if you have factual things, I’d like the contract. When was the first contract ratified? When did the U. All of those things we’ll be happy to answer and and point you in the right direction so you can tell him that I recommended him.

OK.

But all those things are public. So the contract is a public document because we’re public employees. You know, as part of the bargaining process, in fact, like there’s this thing you have to go through. It’s like a ceremony of sunshining, where like both sides have to come with their their proposals to a public place and sit there. So any member of the public can come and look at them because it’s tax dollars. It’s a public agency. So like they have the right to know. It’s weird, but you have, they, they shouldn’t be able to block you from it.

Ok. Perfect. So those were all of my questions. Was there anything else you’d like to add to the interview?

No. They were really good questions and sounds like you’re off to a good start in terms of piecing together the timeline. I’ll talk to a couple other people. I mean, I don’t know what your methodology is for finding interviews. If you’re using, like a snowball method and you want recommendations for me. I’m happy to talk to people and find out if it’s OK to share their contact with you and share it if you want.

Yeah, definitely. That be great.

OK, yeah. Because I’m still friends with a whole bunch of my cohort, of people, both from Santa Barbara and statewide.

Mm hmm. Yeah, that’d be great. Thank you so much.

OK. No problem.

And also, are you OK with going on record with things that were said during the interview?

Everything I said is on the record.

OK. OK. Perfect. All right. Well, have a great rest of your week, and thank you for meeting with me!

My pleasure. Stay safe.

You too.

**Name has been edited out for anonymity

Vietnamese Student Association

1997


UCSB’s Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) formed in 1997 and has remained true to the organization’s core values since.  It was created by and for a different generation trying to escape political turmoil in their home country. They came to America for respite rather than resettlement and held the temporary mindset that they would eventually return back home.   VSA stemmed from this older generation’s need to lift up and support members of their community during this stressful time of assimilation and integration into a different society. They needed to create their own space where they could hold onto their cultural identities during this time of temporary relocation.  These self-made ethnoburbs allowed the Vietnamese American community to connect, share their experiences, and practice their heritage within an organization that encouraged cultural preservation and community support.

Over the years, VSA has stood by their core values of providing a space space for Vietnamese Americans to exist not only within their own group, but among the entirety of UCSB.  Since its inception, VSA has opened itself up to include not just Vietnamese Americans, but Asian Americans as a whole, creating an even wider and stronger sense of cultural community.  Through events such as Vietnamese Culture Night (VCN), Phở King, Vietnamese Outreach Initiative for College Education (V.O.I.C.E), Anh Chi Em (ACE), and more, VSA has created a cultural family within its own organization and provided a platform to showcase Vietnamese culture with the world.  Vietnamese Culture Night, one of the biggest events hosted by VSA, is an annual, student-run production incorporating dance, spoken word, and singing into a cultural script celebrating and informing the audience about Vietnamese history, culture, and identity. This event is a shining example of providing a sense of community within the contributors of this event while sharing Vietnamese culture with the world through these artistic outlets.  Another outreach program created by VSA is their Vietnamese Outreach Initiative for College Education, or V.O.I.C.E. This conference allows low-income, underrepresented high school students from Orange County, California, to experience a weekend in college and encourage them to seek out higher education. Through campus tours, bonding activities, college prep workshops, and other social and informational events, VSA actively encourages students to pursue higher education and provides them with the support system they need to reach those goals.  In addition to these outreach programs, VSA practices Anh Chi Em within the organization, also known as ACE. The ACE program matches up an Em, a little sister or brother, with an Anh, a big brother, or Chi, big sister. The older siblings are veteran members of VSA introducing new members, or little siblings, into the family. These match-ups instill a sense of family and belonging for new members and perpetuate the strong network and support system stemming from VSA’s origin in 1997.

VSA has grown over these past 21 years into a widespread community for not only Vietnamese Americans, but Asian Americans on campus.  They serve as a safe cultural space to validate Asian American experiences and provide a sense of “home away from home”, says Lilyanne Pham, president of VSA. Through outreach programs and showcasing events, VSA has evolved into more than just a student organization, but into a hub of culture, support, connection, and family.  These core values stand at the heart of UCSB’s Vietnamese Student Association and will continue to uphold this sense of community for years to come.


By: Frances Woo

 

 

Pham, Lilyanne. (2018, November 30). Personal interview.

Vietnamese Student Association, UCSB Vietnamese Student Association, Retrieved from https://www.ucsbvsa.com/

 

TA Unionization

1990s


Achieving Unionization 

On June ninth of 1998, UCSB faculty received an email that their TAs, readers, and tutors would take part in a University of California system wide strike the following quarter. The UCSB Association of Student Employees, a graduate student union, had sent the email; while members had formed a state recognized union and had affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW), UC Regents still refused to recognize the collective bargaining rights of its members. But graduate students could no longer tolerate their working conditions; they were undervalued, underpaid, and overworked. So, graduate students across the UC system withdrew what power they had, their labor, in order to force recognition of their union. 

Teaching assistants’ efforts before the 90s to negotiate with the UC were largely unsuccessful because TAs were considered apprentices, not employees. Apprentices, under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) of 1979 are students whose employment is related to their educational goals. This is significant because only employees were permitted to have collective bargaining rights. While graduate students challenged this legislation, the UC system spent millions of dollars in order to have the California Court of Appeals uphold the law. Even without the support of the UC, graduate students at UC Berkeley formed the Association of Graduate Student Employees (AGSE) in 1983. The AGSE later affiliated with the UAW in 1987 in order to expand its economic and organizational resources, and became the AGSE-UAW (the UAW at that point had expanded into nearly every sector of labor). However, it took UCSB until 1994 for graduate students to achieve the necessary 50% AGSE membership to be verified by California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), a government agency that protects government workers’ rights. They quickly followed in UC Berkeley’s footsteps and created their own local chapter of the UAW for financial support and advising. Even with UAW affiliation and recognition by PERB, the UC Regents still refused to recognize the union. Finally, TAs across the UC system went on strike several times during the 1990s to demand that the UC regents recognize their union and give them a contract.

[Graduate Student Bill of Rights 1993, GSA, Box 2] University of California, Santa Barbara, Graduate Student Records. UArch 13. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Achieving Recognition 

1998 – Prepare to Launch

During spring quarter of 1998, graduate students authorized a strike for early December of the following school year. In order to demonstrate strong support, members of the AGSE-UAW campaigned to achieve high member turnout on the strike authorization vote. The union set a quorum to ensure that half of all members must be present for the vote to prove to the UC that it had a wide base of support. Leading members held meetings and conducted phone campaigns in order to encourage fellow graduate students to vote for the strike. In the end, 87% of union members (about 500 out of the 600 members who voted) decided to go on strike in order to force the UC system to recognize their union. Ricardo Ochoa, the President of the AGSE, declared in an email to UC faculty that the union had shown “great restraint” in their previous communications with the UC. The union met with chancellors, launched letter writing campaigns, and instigated two day “rolling strikes” in the 1996-1997 school year instead of a system wide shutdown like the one proposed for 1998. However, the UC refused to take action. 

The Big One

In fall quarter of 1998, graduate students on all eight campuses went on a “walkout” strike during finals week in order to force UC recognition of their union. Undergraduate support for the strike was surprising. In late November, the Daily Nexus issued a staff editorial in support of the strike, deeming it “justifiable” and calling on other undergrads to support the strike. The editorial stated that unionized graduate students would improve undergraduate students’ education by relieving stress for graduates and providing more enthusiastic TAs for sections. 

The following day, the Nexus published two letters calling on students to support the strike. One letter, written by the AGSE-UAW, powerfully stated that when TAs are “overworked,” undergrads are “undertaught,” and touted the strike’s endorsement by Associated Students. The letter concluded by encouraging readers to contact Chancellor Yang and tell him to avoid the strike by immediately recognizing the union. The other letter, written by sociology TA Glyn Hughes reiterated that the strike was for the betterment of both graduate and undergraduates, and encouraged students to contact the UC President, Richard Atkinson. 

Show Time

Beginning December 1, TAs at all UCs went on strike. The strike meant that participating union members would not grade papers or exams, or hold office hours or sections until the strike ended. Grad students picketed peacefully outside Davidson Library in order to draw undergraduate attention who they hoped would support their cause as an appreciation of the work TAs do for undergrads. However, administrators such as Vice Chancellor David Sheldon and many TAs believed the strike was disruptive and damaging to both graduate and undergraduate academics.

An “FAQ” sponsored by the UC in the December 3rd edition of the Daily Nexus offered the UC’s perspective on the issue. The Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division detailed the recently created Task Force on Graduate Student Support and the compensation packages of teaching assistants. The Dean maintained the position that TAs did not qualify as employees and that many of their complaints, such as compensation and workload, were either unjustified or able to be addressed through existing channels such as Graduate Advisors. Graduate student Mary Raven also said she did not support the strike in a letter to the Nexus editor because she also believed that issues could be handled through the chancellor and the Graduate Division.

(Webb, Dec. 1998, Daily Nexus)

After a week of gridlock, State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and Senate President Pro Tem John Burton directed the UC and the UAW into a 45 day “cooling off period,” which began December 7. However, the UAW had not informed strikers that it had met with state legislators or UC representatives, and grad students were surprised to hear that the strike was off. As a result, factions formed within the AGSE-UAW union itself as many grads tried to break from the UAW. Fault lines deepened after members learned they did not have the democratic rights outlined in the UAW constitution until they were recognized by the UC. Therefore, the UAW could control meetings with the UC to negotiate a contract. 

1999

Then, in March, the UC was forced to recognize the collective bargaining rights of graduate students. The need came after the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) reexamined the responsibilities of TAs in the perennial court case Regents of the University of California v. Association of Graduate Student Employees. PERB ruled that graduate students should be considered employees, not apprentices. Because not every graduate student became an educator, their work as TAs was often not related to their educational goals. Therefore, as employees, they were entitled to collective bargaining rights. 

However, the union still had to elect representation. PERB necessitated that each union needed leadership in order to negotiate a contract, but up to that point, leaders had been hand-picked by the UAW. Many TAs felt concerned about the influence of the UAW since the ASGE had affiliated with it and the lack of democracy that had been crucial to the grassroots efforts of the original ASGE. Nevertheless, in June, graduate students elected 184-134 (a low voter turnout), the UAW as their exclusive bargaining agent. The UAW soon held elections for the contract bargaining team: eight graduate students whose most electable qualities were that they were still willing to work with the UAW. However, these members resigned when the UAW moved to represent the whole UC system in contract negotiation and forced UCSB graduates into a “one size fits all” contract for all eight UCs; this included giving up the right to strike. There was no one left to work with the UAW at UCSB, but negotiations still continued without UCSB graduate representation. 

2000

That summer, the UAW combined all UC graduate student unions into Local 2865, which bargained on behalf of all the campuses. The union negotiated the historic first contract for graduate students, although to many it seemed a hollow victory. The contract had failed to secure increased health care benefits and only achieved a nominal pay raise, however, it had managed to secure a victory in binding arbitration and grievance. Additionally, graduate students who were not part of the union still had to pay about $13 per month in dues in order to negotiate and enforce contracts. However, this easy revenue stream also discouraged the UAW from responding to member grievances or from organizing workers. While the union was historic, UCSB graduate students became disillusioned with the UAW, and membership dropped to just 53 card carrying members by the following year. 

Graduate students still feel the effects of the historic contract, especially the clause that forbade strikes. In 2019, graduate students at UC Santa Cruz began a strike which cannot be authorized by the UAW because it breaches the contract. Because of this, UCSC cannot receive legal or financial support from the UAW International, even though the strike has led to the arrest of over a dozen graduate students. However, union membership to the UAW Local 2865 has increased significantly since 2000; today, roughly 60% of TAs at UCSB are members. The local UAW has been critical in networking and rallying support for graduate student issues such as the UC- wide movement for a Cost of Living Adjustment. 


By: Jillian Wertzberger

Works Cited 

[ASE/UAW Authorization Vote, Correspondence 1998-2001, Box 2] University of California, Santa Barbara, Graduate Student Records. UArch 13. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Update on Graduate Strike at UC Berkeley. (1996, November 21). Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/96legacy/agse.htmlold

Our History. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2020, from https://uaw2865.org/about-our-union/our-history/

The Call for Unionization. (1998, November 24). Daily Nexus, p. 6. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/hq37vp893   

TA Strike Helps Undergrads. (1998, November 25). Daily Nexus, p. 4. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/9593tw35m

Hughes, G. (1998, November 25). Help with the Strike. Daily Nexus, p. 4. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/9593tw35m

Webb, K. (1998, December 3). TA Strike to Proceed Until Demands Are Met. Daily Nexus, pp. 1,9.  https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Fletcher, R. (1998, December 3). TAing is Not a Required Position for Grads. Daily Nexus, p. 6. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Raven, M. (1998, December 3). TA Strike Doesn’t Have Full Support. Daily Nexus, p. 7. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division. (1998, December 3). Questions and Answers. Daily Nexus, p. 8. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Shah, A. (1999, January 11). Ruling recognizes collective bargaining rights. Daily Bruin. https://dailybruin.com/1999/01/10/ruling-recognizes-collective-b/

Boyd, K. (1999, March 26). Grad Student Union Finally Busts UC. Science Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/1999/03/grad-student-union-finally-busts-uc

Childress, E. (1999, January 6). TAs Halt Strike Early; Students Given Break. Daily Nexus, pp. 1,8. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/7d278v07q

Sullivan, R. (n.d.). Pyrrhic Victory at UC Santa Barbara: The Struggle for Labor’s New Identity. In Cogs in the Classroom Factory (pp. 91–116). Wesport, Connecticut: Praeger. http://richardsullivan.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Sullivan-2003-Pyrrhic-Victory.pdf

Saltzman, G. M. (2000). Union Organizing and the Law: Part Time Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants. In NEA 2000 Almanac of Higher Education (pp. 43–55). http://www.nea.org/assets/img/PubAlmanac/ALM_00_05.pdf

Public Employment Relations Board, (1995, July 17), UC Regents v. Association of Graduate Students, UAW. https://perb.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/decisionbank/A269H.pdf

Public Employment Relations Board, (1998, December 11), UC Regents v. Association of Graduate Students, UAW.   https://perb.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/decisionbank/1301H.pdf

Douglas-Gabriel, D. (2020, February 14). Graduate Strike at UC Santa Cruz Leads to Arrests. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/02/14/graduate-strike-uc-santa-cruz-leads-arrests/%3foutputType=amp

 

Denise Rinaldi

deniser@ucsb.edu



“My name is Denise Rinaldi, I’ve had several different positions over the last 27 years with UCSB. Currently I am back here as a retiree being rehired as the Assistant Director for Special Projects, but before that for a lot of my career I was the Assistant Director for Human Resources and External Communication.”


When did you first come to UCSB?

Well, I came as a student. I actually transferred here as a student, I started University of Colorado in Boulder for two and a half years and then transferred here and took a year off school to establish residency in California and then many several many years later I came back on staff. I started in a 50% time job down in the main office helping with the legal code in 1990 and legal code at that time was sort of a mess, that this the Senate had computers were still fairly new there we had a little Mac network, but this Senate had written something like a hundred bills what was called Legislative Council then and sometimes I still slipped and call it  Legislative Council had written something like a hundred bills that it was March when I started and not a single one of them had been entered into the legal code and every piece of legal code wasn’t its own separate document. But of course like I say we had those little tiny Mac SEs, these little tiny boxes, you probably have never seen one. It was definitely before your time, computing and networking was all very new. Email didn’t exist at that time so it was, everything was kind of hardwired, but that’s what I started.

What is your favorite aspect of UCSB?

My favorite part of Associated Students is even though I’ve been in a lot of different positions over the years, it’s always new. It’s always interesting. The students always bring fresh ideas or sometimes it’s about the same issues if you go back into the historical files, but they don’t give up. There’s new technology, there’s new things happening in the world and students are always the ones who are on top of that. So one of the things I love about being here is it keeps me in touch with what’s going on in the world and what matters to students and it’s always just new and different.  There’s never a dull moment, so the job itself at Associated Students is always, you can come in and plan your gonna get this done today and something happens and in fact it’s sort of thrown out the window and you’re doing something else, which you know, can be frustrating too I suppose, but it’s really it’s just so it’s flexible it’s a it’s a great environment, we have great colleagues. UCSB in general, I think well one of course it’s a beautiful, beautiful college campus and I’ve seen various college campuses but it is really beautiful. And there is a lot of different stuff going on. There’s a lot of arts offerings, theater offerings, dance offerings… lectures. There’s so much happening on the campus in this beautiful place and Associated Students is part of the Division of Student Affairs and I think Student Affairs is really always tried to find ways within the limitations of their budget and people to really make things work for us to do to help students as much as possible.  And it’s not always perfect, there’s certainly a lot of need out there that’s not met I’m sure, but I think that there is a lot also that is offered and so that really is one of the exciting things I think about this campus. It’s wonderful and my time here in Associated Students I’ve always felt really supported as a staff person, there’s been, I’ve been through about four different executive directors, but the culture for staff has been supportive of that work-life balance and you don’t always find that everywhere. Even though, the campus in other departments and on campus, I think but there has always been support there for people who have different needs and I think what happens too, is in the staff I know for myself because I’ve given so much. I’m willing to do stuff that is outside my working hours or jump in and try to help with different projects. I want to give the best to this department because that it’s a wonderful place to work, I love the students and the department is supportive of me. So I wanted to be around and be supportive too.

 

Elaborate a little bit more, so I understand you recently retired but you worked at UCSB and  have had association with UCSB for about 30 years overall, how was your experience within AS?

I started at AS in 1990 as it was really more of an office assistant position, trying to help straighten out the main office. We were over in the other part of the building at that time, where the food bank is…the upstairs office is there. It was a 50% time position, but it was a career position and I took that position partly because I’m also a ballet teacher and so I was able to have steady income that was an interesting job.  And then go teach ballet everyday and that job grew and I learned and I got a lot of professional development and I went from being down in the main office where you’re really with a lot of students and their government and you’re hearing students talking about the issues and dealing with the legal code and policies and all that. To becoming more of an assistant for this executive director at the time, and then that executive director left. Then and I became more into helping with human resources, so my job really grew and changed over the years, very slowly, but one of the things that’s great about this department is that there’s a lot of professional development. The other thing is, of course though moving in that way, I started off really in there with students all the time and so it was very close to whatever was happening with students and over the years my job shifted, so that I am not as in touch with what’s happening now. I don’t know the students as well, but I’m really impressed with how things continue to grow and how I think the students are on our campus affect student issues a lot and from what I hear, our campus is represented really well at the Regent meetings up in Berkeley or down in wherever they are,  people go and they support it. They fight for the issues and all of that for this stuff. So over 30 years, the campus has grown a lot… a lot of different buildings. one time I drove way over by the dance building and over there, when the first the buildings first went up and I went wait a minute, Where am I? I don’t recognize this part of campus because I hadn’t been there yet and so there’s a lot of parking lots that have been turned into buildings now. A lot of buildings and an increase in student population, which sort of comes with its own problems when the growth happens and infrastructure is not always in place. But wow, it’s that, it’s the same and yet there’s a lot of growth and change. Certain governmental issues remain the same, you know, different election kinds of things,watching the elections over the years has been interesting.


“Is there any message that you’d like to just give to UCSB students or any final remarks?”


I think it’s amazing that you witnessed the growth and to see UCSB change. Over the years, what have you had any experienced or what is your experience with like student activism?

I think the students here today yes are that what are the most active governmental groups in the UC system and I’ve only experienced one Regents meeting here at the campus that were I was really aware of what was going on anyway and so that was very interesting… how there were only a few students let into that and how it was controlled. The Regents controlled the environment, which I can understand on one hand, but also it gives you the feeling is that people who are deeply affected by what they’re talking about couldn’t cut out. But our students and all of the boards and committees we have do so much work on that behalf. I mean, yes there’s the Senate, which used to be Legislative Council and representation on UCSA and USSA, those things I think have been really important. Our campuses always supported them, but the work of boards and committees is huge and I think that when you think what Student Lobby has done and training young people for the future and you think that the number of students that have left here and gone to Washington D.C. and worked there and been part of USSA are part of other lobbying efforts, are part of of US politics, the marches that happen every year, things like Take Back the Night that happens every year and there’s those standard things that have been become traditional voices over the years and then there’s new things. In the last presidential election, the marches that happened were really empowering and I think that was really actually one of the first times I personally went to the marches and the protests and listened to what the students… followed along with that and I found it really empowering. I think our students are very they’re in touch with what’s going on, they research things, they speak up and there’s a history of it on this campus and every time that the students make progress here it reflects out to the other campuses and then to our students… go to Washington, it reflects out. I mean I know there’s students from other campuses everywhere, but I’ve just seen a lot. I’m thinking about Bill in 2006, I forget his last name at the moment, but he was really instrumental in passing the students initiative which was the fee that raised Associated Students’ budget so dramatically and it was a coalition of lots of different departments and Boards and Committees on campus and and that was just one example of what he did and how he was just very instrumental in it. He wasn’t the only one of course about building those coalitions and students do that all the time.  I know he ended up in Washington. So yes we have a history of activism and I think we have a video on it too. When we hire new staff members: Aaron Jones, who used to be our Assistant Director for Community, he would take people on a tour. It wasn’t just a tour of the campus, it was a little tour about AS spaces and what AS has done and AS activism. When students took over Campbell Hall and why those planters are out there…you could get some many people right in front of them. When you go through North Hall,l the information about the Black Studies and that all of that is visually represented there, so things like that are there. I love that Aaron has such a history himself. He as a student, as an activist, and as a support. I’m sure you’ll interview him at some time if you already haven’t. But yeah, when I first arrived, Mike Stowers was President. I think Aaron was shortly after that, not too many years after. So it was it’s kind of fun to see him too and how he grew from a Student President, student here and left right away for a while, did all sorts of remarkable things, came back got a PhD, and was here back as a staff member supporting students for so long. He’s the director of the EOP, so still doing good work for students, but in a different capacity. He’s just a wealth of information.

 

From what I understand, I know you essentially created the Associated Students legal code or took a huge part in it?

Making it cohesive, let’s say.

 

When did the legal code begin, or when did you begin working on it?

The legal code began in early early years when the Association was first created and so I mean, you could go back at history… I know we went did some research all the way back to the 30s and then in the 50s when it became an official university campus and so it’s been there in some form, but when I started, it was the first time it was more than a regular typed form, it was actually on a computer for the first time and the typed forms, like I said it was really kind of a just a series of documents. It wasn’t a code, it was a series of documents and students changed it by a similar process to what we had now, but then, in that document it wasn’t changed and a new document was put in. So when I came along, it was then finally ‘Here’s in the Constitution on the computer’ and that hasn’t changed terribly much, although it is has changed a little and then ‘Here’s all the legal code’ and it wasn’t all everything in its own document, in different sections. So one of the first things I did when I was here was to take all of the legislation.. the hundred bills or more they had written and put them into each, make the changes that they had wanted me to make and then I put the whole legal code into one book, so it became one document. So you can reference it. I mean in part of that it’s just the advent of computers so that you could more easily compile things so students create the legal code, but staff really kind of make sure that everything that is changed by students then gets into that document and maintain that document in the integrity of that document, so that it is an accurate picture of what students have wanted every year and I think I have some documents some of the legal codes going back to like 1987.

 

How did you end up taking up the project of compiling everything in the legal code?

That happened because there were students in the main office and only students. The staff was quite a bit smaller then and so students wrote the legislation that were on Leg council and then left it to students in the main office to try to do something with it and of course students who are working there: schooling is coming first and they are here 10 hours a week maybe. Maybe somebody’s here on Monday for a couple hours and the scheduling… So students have finally decided they did need help with one just even supervising and scheduling and hiring people for the main office… and to shepherd all that and and to keep the lead to maintain the legal code and so I was fortunate enough to get that first job. It was a brand new newly created job to help with that process the first main thing was the legal code and then the students in the main office.  So that I happen to be looking for a part-time job at the time because I was a ballet teacher and who would have known that I’d be here for 30 years and become full-time eventually and all of that so yes it was a need that the students identified and went out and hired. I kept that in my job description for many many years until it was finally turned over to a few other people, but every time that we somebody left that was doing the legal code it would find its way back to me. We’d hire someone I’d be training that person, but Holly’s got it down there, she’s really good.

 

How long did it take to get the legal code to how it is now?

It changes weekly actually, but well I could tell you that when I first started which was the beginning of March and it took me working practically most of my time almost probably fifteen hours a week. It took me till July, that was in 1990, to get it in order and get all those bills in and then there were more being done. Of course I was doing some other things at the time as well, it probably depends on the number of changes that the students make. But I would say weekly, because there’s more to it than just putting the input into the code itself. The student writes a bill and then and it says I want to change this section and then the Senate has to table it and it goes through the internal committee and then the Senate votes on it, so then that person has to make sure they get the right final copy of the bill and it is put into a copy that pasted into a bill form and there’s a log we keep that I started a hundred years ago that they’re still doing, so it’s logged what the bill number was, what the name of it was, who the authors are, it was tabled which date, then passed or not passed, or tabled again and any notes about it, was it amended or was it not, so there’s this log and then you go through the log and you have to pull up each bill and say ok this was passed on this date and it says ‘Changed section four on Student Lobby to these people and you go through and literally make the changes– strike out that person and ideally a bill is written so it just shows strike out, what they want removed, and italics about what they want added, but it’s not always that clear because sometimes they’ll miss something so you do have to look to make sure your language of the bill is matching what’s already in the legal code and then sometimes things happen like in September, Section Ten got amended and that’s been put into the legal code and then come February somebody amends that section again, but they’re using an old version of the legal code. They forget to get the newest version from someone, so then it’s not matching and you have to fare out their intentions or talk to them and make sure that’s what this new bill like, did they mean to take out that section or not or leave out or is it just that they were using the old version? So there’s some detective work there and sometimes it’s not always clear, but it’s getting better and better, especially with technology. They have more things in Google Drive that students can see right in front of them. But it’s not always just that straightforward and then the other thing that the person who’s doing the legal code does is…a student will change a section not realizing that affects another section. Especially there may be something understand in policies and so they not matching and I can’t change the legal code, only the students can.  The job of that person is then to say you’ve got this section you’ve just done, but it’s conflicting with this. This part takes precedent or not, so you might want to consider rewriting this or changing this part, so it doesn’t conflict, so then you go through all of that. Because the legal code, here’s the Constitution: like I said there’s not been very many changes to the Constitution over the years because first, it’s a broad document and secondly, the student population votes on it. So if somebody wants to change that document they have to present it to the student body at elections. Then and it’s not meant to be changed frequently, it’s like the Constitution of the United States, you don’t have to change it every week. But the bylaws are and the standard policies, those can be changed frequently. Those are supposed to be a guideline for this board and committee and how they do it and maybe they’re changing how they’re doing things, so they’re updating it but some of the policies that is housed in Associated Students operates. Here are your policies that you’re going to live by and in the financial policies: how you’re gonna spend money, how you’re going to allocate it, who gets to allocate it, what your process is that you have to go through to request money from something, the rules about ‘you’re not gonna spend that money on alcohol’, and because they are student funds right? You have to be good stewards, students might debate more or more and then there’s laws around certain things, you have to be content-neutral. Students cannot say, ‘Oh I’m gonna fund this person, but not this person because I like that person,’ you have to be equitable and neutral and all of that stuff, so there’s a lot that goes into the policy because this policy that has to fit in with campus policy, which has to fit in with free gentle policy, state law, federal law…

 

Just seeing the legal code, I guess I didn’t think about how much effort and how many people it took to truly develop it how it is now.  

Not too many years ago when Jonathan Abboud was President, they redid the whole thing and that’s when this came about. He reorganized it, well him and the Senate at that time and Jonathan is the one that did a pretty that was a pretty big overhaul of legal code, the biggest one that I’d ever seen in many years. I like this particular graphic because it really shows what they were thinking and how the branches of government fit together and how the boards and committees fits in there, the creation of units, and that units were a new thing and of course there are still some holes in the legal code where they took what existed, put it all in units. I was the advisor of the creative media unit, it was a new thing and so at first it was just in there and then you had to write how’s it going to operate and get that in there and now it’s going and now it’s updated, but there’s probably still a few things in the legal code that never got all of their policies and procedures and stuff in there.

 

At some point, the Living History Project will have to go through this process, once it’s more established.

That’s part of what the internal committee should be doing it also – that’s a huge job, it’s not something that could happen all at once and now that they have Holly, that’s part of what she’ll be doing. As she’s putting things into legal code, she looks at it carefully and she will be the person who has the whole thing with her the most and she’ll be making notes and suggestions to different committees that ‘You might want to update this or…’ and of course the boards and committees, they look at their own parts, but it’s the other policies that somebody has to kind of keep their eye on.

 

I’m aware AS has numerous BCUs, how were they created or how did they start?

I probably can’t tell you the very first creation of it, although you because you can find some of them like Community Affairs Board with different names if you look in the historical archives at Special Projects, there’s stuff way back there and so they grow out of a need. For example, there was three new ones created last year: the Transfer Student one, there’s a Gaucho Health one and I forget the third one, but there were three new groups, so either a student has an interest in a particular area and starts to have a group and they start to meet and then it grows in interest and the students identify a need, like more support for transfer students and so they decide that they want to create a group and meet and see what how can students help other students who are transferring and how can they be involved in the transfer policies of the campus and then that grows and it becomes formalized and so okay now we know if we want to identify goals and what kind of money is that going to take and then you have to go through the AS budget process and get funds allocated and so after that you’ve got funds so now you can do some of these projects and then this students about to graduate so hopefully they pass on all the information to younger students coming up, those students then come into the leadership roles so committee either grows and blossoms because there is interest and and a need or it fades away because there is no longer an interest and a need or it’s being done by someone else. There are various committees over the years, AS Program Board being a really strong committee that’s been around for a long time, so there is Community Affairs Board… there’s probably 20 committees that have been here since I first started and before and then others that have disappeared and new ones started like Creative Media Unit was a new one as well and so that unit is only probably five years old and I could remember well the first year it had one person that wanted to have these goals and the next year we had three or four people and they were trying to make the guidelines for how it would operate and then pretty soon it had a real committee and real weekly meetings and submitting minutes to the Senate and getting a real budget and producing events and having projects and so now it’s thriving because there was a need and there was an interest and they were able to grow it. Hopefully the Living History Project is similar.

 

We are in the process of aiming to be a BCU, but still developing a little bit more. Actually this quarter, starting to get outside interest, more student participation.

We had a project at one time, there was a small staff member group there were three or four of us who went to Special Collections and we looked through all the boxes there. When you start to read some of the issues, you got students are still working on that today: tuition hikes and more fees and the cost of trying to get your degree here, but there’s lots of things like that and then there’s lots of other different things that’s just fascinating and you can learn a lot about what was done before. History is, I’ve always found it fascinating myself. I think the activism part of the Living History Project is really good to capture.

As a closing remark, is there any message that you’d like to just give to UCSB students or any final remarks?

I really think just keeping up the work, keeping up the activism, the voice, because it’s very easy to either get discouraged, especially and I’m discouraged right now in this particular political climate we’re in, but it will roll around. Well it’s discouraging sometimes and you’ve got a lot to do and  there’s so much, but our voices matter and students are the ones that I really admire because I see students really thoughtful about their voices and it’s important and students make the difference. They do make a difference. That’s how a lot of stuff has come up about on campus so I just would say students don’t give it up. Keep going.


Interviewed by: Christine Hoang

Vietnamese Student Association

1997


UCSB’s Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) formed in 1997 and has remained true to the organization’s core values since.  It was created by and for a different generation trying to escape political turmoil in their home country. They came to America for respite rather than resettlement and held the temporary mindset that they would eventually return back home.   VSA stemmed from this older generation’s need to lift up and support members of their community during this stressful time of assimilation and integration into a different society. They needed to create their own space where they could hold onto their cultural identities during this time of temporary relocation.  These self-made ethnoburbs allowed the Vietnamese American community to connect, share their experiences, and practice their heritage within an organization that encouraged cultural preservation and community support.

Over the years, VSA has stood by their core values of providing a space space for Vietnamese Americans to exist not only within their own group, but among the entirety of UCSB.  Since its inception, VSA has opened itself up to include not just Vietnamese Americans, but Asian Americans as a whole, creating an even wider and stronger sense of cultural community.  Through events such as Vietnamese Culture Night (VCN), Phở King, Vietnamese Outreach Initiative for College Education (V.O.I.C.E), Anh Chi Em (ACE), and more, VSA has created a cultural family within its own organization and provided a platform to showcase Vietnamese culture with the world.  Vietnamese Culture Night, one of the biggest events hosted by VSA, is an annual, student-run production incorporating dance, spoken word, and singing into a cultural script celebrating and informing the audience about Vietnamese history, culture, and identity. This event is a shining example of providing a sense of community within the contributors of this event while sharing Vietnamese culture with the world through these artistic outlets.  Another outreach program created by VSA is their Vietnamese Outreach Initiative for College Education, or V.O.I.C.E. This conference allows low-income, underrepresented high school students from Orange County, California, to experience a weekend in college and encourage them to seek out higher education. Through campus tours, bonding activities, college prep workshops, and other social and informational events, VSA actively encourages students to pursue higher education and provides them with the support system they need to reach those goals.  In addition to these outreach programs, VSA practices Anh Chi Em within the organization, also known as ACE. The ACE program matches up an Em, a little sister or brother, with an Anh, a big brother, or Chi, big sister. The older siblings are veteran members of VSA introducing new members, or little siblings, into the family. These match-ups instill a sense of family and belonging for new members and perpetuate the strong network and support system stemming from VSA’s origin in 1997.

VSA has grown over these past 21 years into a widespread community for not only Vietnamese Americans, but Asian Americans on campus.  They serve as a safe cultural space to validate Asian American experiences and provide a sense of “home away from home”, says Lilyanne Pham, president of VSA. Through outreach programs and showcasing events, VSA has evolved into more than just a student organization, but into a hub of culture, support, connection, and family.  These core values stand at the heart of UCSB’s Vietnamese Student Association and will continue to uphold this sense of community for years to come.


By: Frances Woo

Pham, Lilyanne. (2018, November 30). Personal interview.

Vietnamese Student Association, UCSB Vietnamese Student Association, Retrieved from https://www.ucsbvsa.com/

Hunger Strikes

April-May 1994


In 1994, eight students participated in a hunger strike from April 27 to May 5. As members of El Congreso, a Chican@/Latin@ support group and political student organization, these students were striking to bring attention to the university’s repeated dismissal of the needs of Chican@ students. They outlined their demands in a statement titled, “Our Struggle,” announcing their strike as part of an effort to “fight for a better life for students… to help all peoples who are fighting for social justice.” Students called for actions such as the establishment of a Chican@ Studies Ph.D. program, adherence to the United Farm Workers Union grape boycott, and increased recruitment and retention of Chican@ and Latin@ students.

[(El Congreso, 1994, May 3). “Our Struggle.” Daily Nexus, p. 7. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/tx31qj818.]

 

Claudia Leiva, Alma Flores, André Vasquez, Edwin Lopéz, Tino Gutierrez, Gilberto Limón, Heather Gonzalez, Salvador Barajas and Naomi Garcia camped out in front of Cheadle Hall during their strike and together with the rest of El Congreso organized rallies to demonstrate further support and push for a response from the administration. During that time, the students only consumed water. This kind of protest was not a sudden or unprecedented course of action. Students also carried out a hunger strike in 1989, with demands including the implementation of a general education ethnicity requirement. The continuous efforts of Chican@ students to push for reform highlights the difficulty of achieving institutional change.

(“Procession – March – Rally” flyer, Folder 1, Box 1). University of California, Santa Barbara, El Congreso Collection, UArch 104. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

 

[(C-J Conklin, 1994, May 5). “Students, Administrators Still Negotiating.” Daily Nexus, p. 1. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/mp48sf073.]
[(“Viva La Huelga” article, Folder 19, Box 1). University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Ethnic Studies Protests Collection, CEMA 93. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

 

Reactions to the strike among the students were mixed. Some students decried their tactics as extreme and unnecessary in a series of letters to the Daily Nexus, and others published articles such as Kathryn Mulligan’s “We Whites Want Equality and Justice.” These students didn’t see a pressing need for the fulfillment of El Congreso’s demands or understand the frustrations faced by the Chican@ student population, particularly when dealing with the university.

[(Brett Orlanski, 1994, May 4). “To Die For.” Daily Nexus, p. 10. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/k930bz15n.]

(“We Whites Want Equality and Justice” article, Folder 19, Box 1). University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Ethnic Studies Protests Collection. CEMA 93. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

 

Not all of the community reactions were negative. Students also received an outpouring of support from family, faculty, and fellow students. Many students responded in particular to Brett Orlanski’s letter to the editor. One staunch defender called the strike a demonstration of “guts, intent and unbending will.” Others, such as the A.S. Women’s Commission, simply shared their belief that “the issues the students are striking for – fees, EOP, the Chicana/o Studies Dept., the grape boycott and a diversified student body – concern us all.” They recognized the strike as a response to a pattern of neglect and indifference.

 

 

[(1994, May 5). “Striking Distance.” Daily Nexus, p. 5. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/mp48sf073.]

 

After a series of meetings and email exchanges with the administration, the strikers ended their fast on May 5, bringing the length of their strike up to nine days. The administration and students signed a formal agreement delineating the university’s commitment to meeting El Congreso’s demands. Students, parents, and supporters celebrated, viewing the event as a step forward for the Chican@ student community.

[(“Hunger Strike Ends with Agreement And Breaking of Bread” article, Box 1). University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Ethnic Studies Protests Collection. CEMA 93. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

 

[(“Status of Hunger Strike Demands” flyer, Box 1). University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Ethnic Studies Protests Collection. CEMA 93. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

 

A follow-up on the status of those demands, however, showed a lack of progress and lagging implementation of the points formally agreed to by the university. This kind of non-response demonstrates the difficulty of achieving reform at a college campus full of administrative roadblocks. Despite the slow initial progress, the efforts of the strikers and El Congreso paid off. In a fact sheet describing their demands, students said that “these issues are not new. These demands are not new. It has been 25 years and the administration still has not kept its promises or fulfilled its responsibilities to students and the community… we want to see results now, not in another 25 years.” Twenty-five years later, UCSB has a strong Chican@ Studies department and PH.d. program. Students must push continuously for their voices to be heard and valued by the university, and even then progress is often slow and frustrating.  


By: Mara Stojanovic