Dylan Kupsh

Dylan Kupsh is currently enrolled in a graduate program focusing on
Computer Science at UCLA. During COLA, he was in his 3rd undergraduate
year where he was a double major in Computer Science and Sociology.
During his time at COLA, he helped lead many graduate students in
creating events for COLA. He was one of the individuals who devised
the Ortega strike: All Smiles, No Swipes that fed thousands of
students by encouraging students to walk into Ortega and eat.


My name’s Danyela Ornelas. I’m currently interviewing Dylan Kupsh regarding his role in the COLA. So what year and major were you when you first joined COLA?

COLA was my third year. I was a computer science and sociology major.


Did anyone introduce you to COLA?

Not really. I was really involved in the union prior to that and so I was like up to date. And so, you know, everyone, right when I started, it was all of us sort of making it happen.

Yeah, I think that was really difficult to just plan as you go on.

Yeah. It was scary, too, because I was a union officer at the time and I kept getting emails from people in the union saying, don’t say anything about COLA, don’t do anything about COLA.

I know that’s been really scary, especially when harsh punishments were being given to UCSC COLA organizations as well.

But I remember we first started in the fall of that year and it was more like UCSC rebelling against the union. And then it kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it like, dwarfs everything else.

Okay. So I know you mentioned that you were also part of the union, but was there anything else that caused you to join the organization and what exactly was your role in this?

Yeah. So as a little background, I was in USLAC, which is the undergrad student labor organization, and then I was also in Students for Justice in Palestine and UAW 2865. And so I was doing a lot of the organizing work on campus with the union UAW. I did a lot with AFSCME Strikes in the past. A lot of my role was trying to constantly expand COLA and also helping out a lot with logistics and planning and relaying what I learned from the AFSCME strikes to COLA– what we’ve learned was successful and what was less successful and also trying not to repeat mistakes that others made.

Yeah. What was the most significant protest to you?

For me, the most significant one was the Blackout day.

Oh, that’s right.

You know, like the days before I was like, oh, this might not be that big. We’ve only been getting like 200 people up the picket line. But then the day of, there were so many people. I think we made a smart decision and we went through the library which made the line go on for like 5 minutes. So there was a constant stream of people marching for COLA. And it was like, Wow, we really did that.

That’s incredible. That’s so inspiring. I understand that your Cheadle hall strike was a tad controversial but regardless it was pretty major.

Yeah. The second part of the Cheadle Hall strike was more impromptu.

Are there any current plans for COLA to bring more awareness to this organization?

I mean, we never really got the goal that we wanted, which is COLA. We were not pushing strong enough, I think. And then the other thing is just that it takes a lot of effort to get to the university and to strike. And I think we would have gotten it like if we were able to get like one or two more quarters. I think that it would have just continued to grow a lot. To the point where we were like Santa Cruz and actually shutting down the campus where people can’t get in and stuff. But I still want that goal.

Yeah, that’s a very important goal. Would you say a factor in not achieving a COLA was due to possibly the pandemic?

Oh, it was totally the pandemic. 100% the pandemic. I think it’s different when you’re at your own campus, like when we’re at Santa Barbara and we can talk to everyone. And everyone at Santa Barbara was on a very similar page about COLA and, or most of the people I talked to. But then when we get into these union conversations, it’s like a bunch of infighting and it’s exhausting. And it’s like people on my campus were wanting to do this and then saying, “Oh, you have to do something else”. And people here weren’t very receptive to that. Yeah, but I do think the pandemic played the biggest role though. Yeah.

Yeah, I remember I was a freshman when this happened, so I remember it being a huge explosive thing and then by spring quarter it just disappeared. I couldn’t believe the university is really failing their own TAs, their own students despite their goal of education.

It was close, I think. I think it’s harder to strike online, but I think we got really close to being able to do it again. But yeah, that was how it ended.

So how do you feel as one of the COLA representatives about the current housing crisis going on at UCSB and in Isla Vista?

Inevitable. I think it’s like the university’s own problem where instead of actually doing their job and building housing and actually trying to host students, they put all of their money in some millionaire to try to fix all their problems, which will probably never come to
fruition.

Yeah. Funny enough, my, my follow up question was going to be, what is what are your personal thoughts on Munger Hall?

Yeah. Yeah, it’s kind of funny because Santa Barbara really needs housing and there’s so many places to build housing. And they haven’t been building housing for like so many years. And then they get this Munger Hall proposal, which is some billionaire (woooo) and then the other proposal that they keep spouting– the Ocean Road one– I remember it receiving a lot of criticism because it was going to cut down the eucalyptus trees and the tunnel. They were going to take out the tunnel. They’re really trying hard not to build housing.

Oh, it’s absolutely crazy. If there is one thing you could change about COLA what would it be?

I mean, not to have the pandemic, I think, would be the biggest one, but outside our control. You know, personally, I think I should have been like start more active from the beginning. But yeah, I don’t know really what to change about the overall movement. I guess there’s a lot of things I think should have played differently around internal racism. And I think there is a lot of interpersonal conflict toward the end that I wish would have changed.

Do you have any final words you’d like to say regarding COLA or to the university?

I don’t think it’s going away. I think it’s going to be continued in a year or in a few years. I think that at some point everyone’s going to say we’re fed up with being so ridiculously underpaid for the work that people do at the university itself. And I think when it comes back, it’s going to be stronger because it’s not just going to be mainly grad students. I think it’s going to be more demanding. I think the university has done a pretty poor job treating workers during the pandemic and after the pandemic. I think every single worker has been basically screwed over by the university, besides, like top professors and administrators. So I think it’s going to get worse.

Does it make you upset as a graduate of UCSB, as an alumni, that there’s still no significant change?

Yeah, well, I’m at another UC, so I’m getting the same problems.

Oh, no.

Now I’m a grad student and I have to live with this poor wage.

And a quick follow-up question. I would love to hear more about the Ortega: All Smiles No Swipes event.

Yeah, yeah. We heard that they did like eight of these at Santa Cruz. And there was someone from Santa Cruz who came down to Santa Barbara for a day. And they told us, you have to do this. And then on the other side, I was friends with AFSCME. The people who worked in the Dining Commons, their organizer, and he was also telling me about other campuses and the mistakes that they made with this. I think it went horribly wrong at Berkeley. So we got together with a group– there was like 30 of us or something– and we spent a whole day planning this out piece by piece. I guess I was the one who led a lot of it because I was the only undergrad that really knew the dining commons. And we did it before with AFSCME where we would go into the dining commons and do protests inside. It’s just a lot different when you’re letting people in for free. But it was really crazy how… I guess I was surprised at how simple it was. We just like went in at the start of the dining period, instantly like take over– the management or whatever was stunned. They didn’t hear anything about it and… I was expecting them to pull food and stop service, but they kept serving. And then lines start pummeling. There were a few people that we
assigned to do, like, social media stuff, and they did an excellent job. And we did a good thing. We were constantly talking to the workers behind the counter. And it was weird too, that the police response at Santa Barbara was different where they only sent an undercover cop who was really easy to spot and like, didn’t do anything.

Really. I didn’t know that.

Yeah. They had, like, a plainclothes cop that they sent and it was kind of funny because it looked like she was trying to dress up, like, as a college student. But you could tell a mile what she was. And yeah, I think it was like one of the best actions because it’s not only like helping food security, which was like a tenet of COLA with housing security, but it also had a direct financial impact on the university where if we kept doing that, you know, it has a big demand. And we were very close to doing it again. It’s just the pandemic.

If I may ask, what dining commons would you have chosen next, or would you have stuck with Ortega?

So we chose Ortega because it’s the easiest to take over. There’s one entrance and by the time you’re inside Ortega, they can’t lock you out. The problem with a lot of dining commons is they just close the door when you’re trying to get in, so you have to shimmy your way in. At DLG there’s that little turntable and they block you from entering.

Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

It’s a lot more complicated. And then Carrillo has the long walkways where they see you for 20 seconds as you’re walking down and then you can never get people to Portola. I think we would have done Carrillo because I think we could have gotten away with it. I think, you know, be cautious of like logistics and stuff. But like, Ortega was just the easiest
one, and that’s why we did it first.

Yeah, that makes sense. I understand Ortega got to the point where it reached capacity very quickly. And from what I remember, there were the managers who were kind of complaining about students taking out food. And I understand COLA, you guys were encouraging them to do so.

Yeah, it was really funny, our interactions with the managers. Like the first thing we did is we went to the managers and we were like, everyone needs to be free today. And they’re like, Wait, wait, wait, we have to approve this. We have to go through our chain of command. And we’re like, you don’t understand. You’re not in charge today. We’re in charge. And it was really funny how quickly they realized what was happening. You know, they had
that one person by the thing like counting capacity. I honestly didn’t think it would ever reach capacity. I thought they would just take away food and it would be good for like 30 minutes or whatever. I did not expect to stay the whole dining period too. And it was also cool seeing people take out food. We brought paper plates because we didn’t want to put extra work on the workers here. So we’ll bring our own paper plates and trash bags and stuff. And the managers during the service kept telling us, “Don’t use those plates, don’t use those plates.” And I was like, “Really? You want to put more work on yourselves
here”, you know? And then at the end, we helped them clean up everything. All of us vacuumed the whole place, cleaned up the tables and everything. I think one of them was like, this is the cleanest Ortega has been while. But yeah, no, it was weird.

I assume you also maybe have spoken to some student workers and chefs. What did they say about COLA? And also about the event?

Yeah. So as I mentioned, a big concern of mine was the workers. I heard at Berkeley, they got really scared because of the way that the COLA people did that action. And so the whole time we, we assigned one person to basically be talking to the workers. And I think the problem that we realized after was that they really only talked to the workers
that you can see because like in Ortega, they hide all the workers in the kitchen or whatever. Yeah. And I think a big problem that we had was a lot of the chefs and stuff, they eat leftovers and there weren’t any leftovers. We ran out of food. And so it was
kind of funny because after we did the event, we’re like, you know, maybe next time we have to order catering even though we’re taking over dining commons, we have to order catering for the workers. And we were actually serious. But I think that was a problem for the student workers, I think. There were mixed reactions where some were like– I remember seeing Reddit– and they’re like, please don’t come to our dining common again. Like, we’re overworked. We kept trying to interact with the workers there when we were taking it over. But I guess they don’t really want to say that it’s causing them more work, which is understandable.

I would like to say that that event was the most positively representative for the students. I would just hear students go on and on about your organization because of this very event. You guys got a huge positive reception because of it.

Yeah, it was a really fun action to do. It was one of the most fun. And it was actually, like, really chill. I didn’t expect it to be that chill because we were taking thousands of dollars of food.

They must been so surprised, especially since you mentioned that other UCs have tried and they faced difficulties doing so.

Santa Cruz like did it eight times and so they were experienced. Berkeley I think the problem was that the grad students that planned it didn’t go to the dining commons and so they didn’t know. And they also didn’t really think about the workers inside. At UCLA, it was all undergrads that planned it, so they did good. And yeah, I guess it was trying to make sure that we’re anticipating the people inside. But yeah, it was cool. We were very close to not doing it.

Really, why?

People felt uneasy. Because it’s a really high-stakes action where it’s hard to protect the safety of everyone doing it. And it’s much different because it’s not your safety personally. It’s the people you’re letting into the dining commons. We’re not the ones that are eating the food. Like, I think most of the people in COLA, like the ones who planned it, didn’t really eat. We were letting everyone else eat. And so it’s like a different level of safety where you can never really anticipate what the police response or whatever will be. There was also like, is this too much? And we all tried to come to a consensus with everyone beforehand. And there were a few people who were, like, ambivalent about it. But I think afterward everyone was like, Yeah, that was a big success. Glad we did.

It was a huge success. I know you mentioned that one of the flaws of other dining commons strikes was the fact that there was not enough support. Help from
undergraduates. So would you say that alongside graduate students, undergraduates also played a huge role?

I mean, there wouldn’t be COLA without undergrads. There’s a lot of people on campus that I think are making that mistake, like a lot of worker organizations that are ignoring undergrads. But I think it was quite clear that wouldn’t happen without undergrads. You know, the marches were amplified. The amount of people who are actually quote-unquote on strike was dwarfed by the number of undergrads. The dining common action was me and a few other undergrads. I don’t think it would have happened without us because a lot of grad students just didn’t know the dining commons. It was kind of funny because when you’re first planning this action, we did a whole walk-through of it when the dining commons was closed and no one was there. And we literally rehearsed everything to a
tee and when we were trying to find the building all the grad students were like, “Where is Ortega? I’ve never heard of Ortega before.”

And I thought that was funny because I’d been here for three years. How do you not know where Ortega is or this other dining commons? And they’re like, It’s right next to the GSA lounge. But yeah, I think undergrads played a huge deal, especially at the beginning, too, like the Cheadle Hall sit-in. A lot of grad students brought their sections, and I think that’s what made the difference for the Cheadle Hall thing. And why it was so successful at the beginning was because there were like ten of us sitting in the office and then like one person brought a group of 30 people and did section right in the hallway or whatever. And I think that made it really, really effective.

And besides undergraduate support, what was the faculty reception like?

I think faculty support was it was really good at Santa Cruz. It was instrumental at Santa Cruz. It helped a lot of the wild cats get their jobs back. I was in a lot of those meetings and about them getting their jobs back and realized the arguments that we were making as a union relied upon faculty support and it worked. They got their jobs back. But at Santa Barbara, I personally wasn’t involved in the faculty thing because I think faculty are really hard at Santa Barbara to organize in terms of like who to contact and their position on campus. I think the people who did it did a good job. There were like 30 or 40 professors and they did their own march one day and I thought it was really cool. The faculty in the history department were the main ones pushing forward the faculty for COLA. I don’t envy people who had the role of getting faculty on board.

Were you ever afraid that what happened UCSC to graduate students would happen to UCSB? Was there a threat of losing your job?

I guess talking to a lot of UCSC people, I don’t think they lost pay over that. They lost pay in the intermediate time when they were off their jobs. I think the point about the job loss is that we had a union, we had good appointment section rights and I think most people weren’t concerned about being fired. It was there, but it was also not the biggest concern. I wasn’t nervous about people being fired. I think if they fired them, it would have made COLA ten times bigger. And they didn’t fire them. I guess I wasn’t nervous about them trying to. I imagine if the grading strike went on for a very long time, they would have made an attempt. But from my position, the university didn’t care about the teaching strike. They only cared about them doing the grading strike.

And I feel like UCSB was relatively silent about talking to the school as a whole regarding COLA. How do you feel about that? There were no major messages from Chancellor Yang.

Yeah, I wasn’t surprised. That’s the way that Yang did it in the past. He’s the type of person who won’t say anything publicly. He’ll do it all privately. There were three AFSCME strikes and UCSB never gave a single comment about any of the three AFSCME strikes. And I was like, you know, this is their game plan. I think the administration in the back of their offices was scared to help. Like when we did the sit-in, it was funny because we were in Chancellor Yang’s office and we see one of the workers in the office point out that they got a report from UCOP on COLA. We could see them photocopying it in their printer room and they
whisked it off to another room right away to try to hide it from us. But I thought that was really funny. I think there was there was this fear from the university about if they said anything about COLA, then they would get a union lawsuit like what happened at Santa Cruz with the housing thing. I think they did try to meet with us and I think we did have one meeting with them. The Vice-Chancellor, David Marshall or whatever, had a printout of every COLA story on Instagram. Like he had a folder and he literally printed out every single folder on Instagram. And I thought that was like, yeah, they’re definitely stalking us.

Would you feel that COLA would have grown a little bit larger had the university made any public statements? I understand there was fear of lawsuits, but how do you feel about that?

Yeah. If they tried to fire anyone. I think there’s nothing that you can do to grow it more than doing something like that. I think it would have grown more if they said something.

And how do you feel about any negativity towards COLA? I remember looking up news articles about your events and there were many negative comments regarding COLA, calling the organization is kind of a waste of time.


I mean, we got what we accomplished or we got a big movement. I think there were some comments about like the Cheadle Hall lock-out thing that we did that I think were fair. It didn’t go to plan that day. I think that a lot of staff were incensed about the way that we handled a lot of the walkouts. But I think ultimately all the comments that were negative were outdone by a lot. And I would constantly be looking up on like the Daily Nexus and stuff and seeing what people were saying to see if there were any worthwhile criticisms. I think self-criticism is really important and mistakes that we weren’t thinking of that we made. And, you know, I think a lot of them were just like rich alumni saying something about like back in my day or whatever, and it’s ridiculous. But they got kind of outsized by everyone else.

Oh, for sure. I can wholeheartedly say as a current undergrad that the undergraduate is in full support of what COLA had done.

I think undergrad demands were largely left out of COLA. My interpretation of COLA is it’s kind of vague on like what the demand is. I think there was an attempt to really deliberately include more and more undergrads. I think most undergrad positions are way worse than what grad students face. And I think that it’s not as public and I do think it was constantly left out. A bit too much in my opinion. Yeah.

And then I guess the other side of it is the union dynamic. I think a lot of the statewide union leadership really sold out. And it was weird because like at LA, they did a whole thing like, please don’t go on strike. Please don’t go on strike. They’re like, begging us and it’s like, why? Why are they so scared? You know, a bunch of people are getting together, why are you trying to stop that? Internally, I think that was extremely present with a lot of the organizers. Me and Sheila were the two UAW people at UCSB the whole time, and I became the chair of the UAW at UCSB right when the pandemic hit. And it’s like we’re both facing this incredible pressure from not just the university, but UAW itself and UAW trying to cover itself. And I thought that was sort of antithetical to what we were trying to build. I don’t think a lot of people in UAW have really reflected on what they did during that time. And I hope they do. And I hope a lot of people learn from what COLA created, how effective graduate labor is in the university because there’s a lot of people that say you can’t strike unless you get so many people in this department to say, like, I’m not working. But COLA… there wasn’t. I think there were a lot of people, but it wasn’t like half of all TAs were doing this, but like 20 or 30% of all grades were withheld at Santa Cruz.

And that was more than 80% of students or something. It’s like a huge amount of students like were like, “where is my grade? Where’s my grade?” And I think it shows how integral graduate labor is to the university and how easy it is to shut down the university if you just don’t grade for like a quarter the whole university falls apart. And I think that’s kind of a lesson to show how neoliberal the university is, where it relies upon not the actual teaching, where they, they don’t really care as much about the teaching, but the grades. But it’s also, I think, instrumental for the future in trying to get a COLA contract or cops off campus, that you really don’t need 100% of people. You need a really committed group of rank and file people, and they can make a huge impact on the university. And I think it’s understated how much it affected them. And I guess while I’m on that note, I think it also revealed how incompetent a lot of university staff are. And, you know, I went to the lawsuit meeting every single question, the Santa Cruz labor relations person was like, yeah, after COLA, I finally read the UAW bylaws and I’m like– it’s your job! You’re getting paid 100K and you haven’t read the bylaws of the union that you’re supposed to be interacting with.

And it’s how reactive they are. I dealt with the Santa Barbara people for two or three years and they don’t prepare for meetings until like 10 minutes before. A lot of people are
trying to say the university is smart. The university is really playing this strategically. They’re thinking through all of their decisions. They have a ton of time. They’re going through ten chains of lawyers. When I really think the university always waits until the last possible second and they’re not as prepared as a lot of people think they are. I could see during bargaining the UCOP people don’t prepare for meetings, really. They just seem a little overworked, but who cares? Because they’re paid too much. But they’re like preparing like 5 minutes before these meetings and the only time that they actually prepared was during COLA when they were like oh, shoot, we actually have a huge problem where our university is getting shut down. And I think a lot of people still are thinking the university is really, really smart and strategic and stuff. And I don’t think that’s true. I guess that’s my opinion.

Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I understand that university disorganization is honestly a problem. You guys practically went to every meeting. You guys devised a very reasonable list of demands for the university. For them to just kind of glance at it seems kind of insulting.

Yeah, it feels like the university is constantly on PR watch where they’re just doing stuff according to their own interests or whatever. And then finally, when something goes bad, they try to overcorrect. Like, with this Munger Hall, it seemed like for years they were basically like stalling it out, like not doing much. And then, like, right once the stories hit, they’re in full damage control mode. And I don’t think it was strategic. It’s just being lazy.

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you again so much for your time. I really do appreciate it.


Interviewed by: Danyela Ornelas

Janna Haider

Janna Haider is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the History
Department here at UCSB, researching South Asian immigrants to the
United States in the early 20th century. When COLA started, she was in
her first year of the Ph.D. program and became one of the people who
would report back to the History department about updates regarding
COLA after general body meetings.


So hello, my name is Danyela Nayelli Ornelas. I am part of the Living History Project and I’m currently with Janna Haider to interview her about her connection to COLA. All right. So thank you so much for joining me. I really do appreciate it.

Thank you for having me.

Yeah, thank you. What year were you and what major were you studying when you first joined COLA?

It was my first year of the PhD program in history here. Yeah, I was a small baby. Yeah. So I was very new to campus when it started.

Wow. Were you nervous like it was your first year in your PhD program? Were you nervous to just join like a huge organization that was about ensuring that TAs get the appropriate pay to live in Santa Barbara, essentially?

No. I mean, I was nervous because it was you know, it was a major action. But before I started a Ph.D. at Santa Barbara, I did a master’s at the University of Washington in Seattle. And while I was there, the TAs organized under a different UAW local went on strike. And that was the movement that I was part of. And I also like do have a background in like community organizing. I’ve been in a lot of community organizing spaces before coming here, so it was different but not new, I think was kind of the way that I felt about it.

Yes. You had at least had some background where you felt somewhat prepared, but I understand that you felt somewhat nervous because you just kind of like lunge yourself into this organization when you first started your Ph.D. program, which I imagine
has been wonderful but also crazy at the same time.


Very, very that. Yeah.

So who introduced you to COLA?


At the time I was a member of the Asian and Pacific Islander Grad Student Alliance and now like now three years later, I’m the president of API GSA. But, but at the time I was a member and at the time Vice President Naomi, and I’m going to leave her last name out, she was in the same department as one of the people who was most central to organizing COLA on this campus. And Naomi brought that organizer to one of our general body meetings to explain to us what was going on, because we didn’t know. We didn’t know what was going on. This was before the firings at Santa Cruz. I don’t remember exactly how long before, but this person who, based on their identity categories, was not a member of the Pacific Islanders Grad Student Alliance, came and talked to us a little bit about what was going on and then left. And then as an organization still in our meeting space, we kind of closed the door and try to figure out just like what the hell is going on.

And there was a moment that I really remember. This was before the strike vote was called also because there was a moment where somebody floated the possibility like, oh, are we going to go on strike? And then Naomi said, “oh, we’re not there yet.” And then Dana, who at the time was our president, said, “you say that we’re not there yet, but this morning there wasn’t a picket at Storke Tower, and now there’s a picket at Storke Tower. So like, we don’t know how quickly this is moving.” That was kind of like my first understanding of what was going on. And after that is when I started going to organizing meetings.

Okay. You did mention that you were a part of a few organizations even back in Washington. COLA was not your first experience in this situation. So I wanted to ask what caused you to join the organization?

I was poor and I wanted a raise.

Oh, I hear that.

Like, that was kind of it. And it’s like. It wasn’t my first community organizing thing, so I felt like I kind of knew what to do and what the space would be like. So, yeah. Yeah.

Okay. And what was your role?

I wasn’t in what I would call, like, a leadership position, I guess. But I did kind of become in a leadership position in my own department, which is history. It was me and two other women
of color who were the most central to the organizing in our department after a while. It was a lot of going to general assemblies and then reporting back to the department for a while.

Yeah. So basically you and two other people who remain anonymous were essentially like the speaking heads for COLA for the history department.

Mm hmm. Yeah.

And what was that like? Was the department excited for this organization? Were they a little nervous?

No. This is a department that, like, specifically knows a lot about labor history. Like most of the UAW-2865 head stewards in the past few years have been out of the history department. At some point, there were conversations like “you got to get your department strike ready.” They’re here, like, tell us what to do next sort of thing. Like this was a department that was very ready, ready to go, like from the jump.

Oh, that’s phenomenal to hear, especially as a history major myself. I respect that a lot. Thank you. And did you participate in all the protests? I know you mentioned that they began a few pickets here and there. So I imagine you were in at the very, very beginning. But did you participate in the other events going on?


Yeah, it was. So not all of my memories of the COLA movement are necessarily positive because there were a lot of really white spaces where whiteness kind of became the default action and the first kind of moment that we as a department came to understand that that was what was about to happen was the night that the strike vote was called, we were all in this conference room in the history department, zooming in to the General Assembly. That was happening, I believe, in the GSA lounge when the vote was taken and as a department. And so the way the ballot was set up was there were three options of actions to take. Option one was to immediately suspend classes, go on a wildcat strike, do a full work stoppage and option two was just a grade strike. To continue working through the end of the quarter but promise not to submit grades, and then option three was to do nothing. As a department, we had come together because we knew that those were going to be the options on the ballot. So as a department, we had all agreed and we are the largest department in the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, so we have a high concentration of graduate students. We had agreed that we were going to rank grade strike first, work stoppage second, and doing nothing third. And so we all got out our little phones and voted on the little Google form.

So what happened was that the grade strike was by far the most popular option, and then the people in the General Assembly space called a full strike anyway. And it was this very, like, this is illegal. Like, we are in breach of our contract right now. And also because it was an illegal strike international students who participated could be subject to deportation. Undocumented students who participated could be subject to deportation. Any of us could be fired at any time, including parents with young children, of which we have a couple in our department. And it was this moment of like, wait, that’s literally not what the numbers are telling you to do, and you’re doing it anyway. And it turned out to be the first in a series
of situations in which white people would do the things that they felt safe doing, which often was not the thing that anybody else would feel safe doing. So it wasn’t this moment of a victory. It was this moment of dread. Like what have we gotten ourselves into? Sort of thing. So I wasn’t TAing that year because it was my first year, but I was doing a supplemental readership for a professor who at the time was my advisor and I was doing the grading for this upper-division class. It was me and another grad student doing all the grading for this upper-division class– the professor wasn’t doing any of the gradings and we said that we were going to grade strike.

We didn’t have the ability to cancel class as graders, but we were out at the picket a lot and I don’t think any history TAs canceled sections except for on very specific days like the day of the march. But I don’t think anyone did a full work stoppage because it wasn’t what we had voted for. It wasn’t what the majority had voted for. And then a bunch of people from the history department kept going to these organizing meetings and being like, for the love of God, what is the plan? And the response that we would get from mostly white people was the plan is to get a COLA by spring quarter. It was winter quarter at the time. And it’s like that is not a plan. That is a goal. It’s not a plan. And it became very, very frustrating. It became exhausting. To those of us who know a thing or two about labor history, like in this department, on this floor, we knew that this was not going to work. But like, as I said in several meetings at the time, my mother didn’t raise a bitch. And if this is what we’re doing, then it’s what we’re doing. And we got to figure out a way to make it work.

Yeah. That must have been completely frustrating. I can’t imagine what the department was thinking at the time, especially when you guys filled out a Google form that said “We’re going to go do this.” And then everyone was like, “No, that’s a good plan. But no…” I remember I was a freshman when this occurred, so I remember strikes, and pickets were the most vocal around the latter half of fall quarter going into winter. As you said, that’s when the grade strike was like somewhat in the works because I remember a few classes that had TAs withholding grades. I can’t necessarily remember if my own TAs were withholding grades, but I would like to say maybe a few professors were in solidarity with you guys. And while they didn’t necessarily take away grades, they did provide forms saying like, please be educated on what they’re doing. It’s very important.

Yeah. Yeah. Most of our faculty in this department, were actually very cool about it because a lot of these faculty or labor historians, where it became difficult was the two largest cohorts in the history department ever are the 17 series of the US History Series and then the 2 series, which is the World History Series. That winter quarter both of the professors of 17B and then whatever 2 class was running really, really wanted all of their TAs to be on the same page and in the 17B TA cohort there was one in particular who really wasn’t, and this guy was the fucking worst. He’s a former cop, he’s former military. He was just is a dick in general, and he was the holdout– like he was the one who didn’t want to go on strike. So it became a very tense situation in that space because the faculty didn’t know what to do and because we didn’t know what to do in a lot of ways. And so it became after a while, it started to feel like we were putting on a really good front like that the strike was going to be successful, that we were going to get our COLA or whatever, whatever. But like all of that was like we were faking all of that. Like, that’s not how anybody felt internally.

Wow. That’s really interesting to hear. I always imagine COLA to be more organized from what I understood from my previous interviews. There was some tension, but I had no idea it ran that deeply.

Yeah. So the last General Assembly meeting that we had before the pandemic was in the San Clemente Hall grad student living community center. So there’s a clause in the TA contract and this is very standard in all labor contracts that says the management of the university cannot negotiate with anybody but the union, and the union cannot negotiate with anybody other than management. And this is very, very common in union negotiated contracts. It’s very common language, but the thing is, since this was a wildcat strike, the union was not involved. The union would be subject to lawsuits by the university if the union got involved. And in fact, there were a couple of lawsuits. The school administration
wanted to deal with somebody, like they just wanted to deal with somebody. So who they wound up dealing with was grad students in various elected positions on campus, like the GSA president was involved, like stuff like that. So then what happened was that those grad student in those elected positions. If the agenda of this meeting had been set up differently, none of what happened next would have happened.

The first question that they asked the body to consider was, do you approve of us as the people that the campus level administration wants to deal with. Do you approve of us to go deal with them? And then the second question was, what do you think we should talk about with them? And if they had reversed those none of this would have happened because it was the first item. “Do you approve” got voted down because nobody knew what they were going to say once they were in there because of the way the meeting was organized. So it got voted down. And then after that, the GSA president at the time, Cierra Sorin, took everything very, very personally. She just ended the meeting in a fit of tears, so we didn’t even get to the next stage. My goodness. Yeah. And that was like fucking 2 hours. It was, it was exhausting.

And then. So, like, we didn’t even get to “what do we even say to administration?” And by then it very much felt for those of us in the history department, that we were better organized than whatever central COLA leadership there was at the time because
this department will not let you graduate with a PhD unless you know how a goddamn union works. It’s just a thing that happens to everybody. I study immigration law, and it’s still a thing that I have to know about because everybody teaches to it. So we had a couple of department level meetings which were like, okay, well, if the University of California Office of the President, with whom we actually have our contracts, is not going to negotiate with us and the campus is not empowered to give us raises, then what are we asking for? As a department we came to the decision that the thing that we have the most power to push for and the thing that the campus level administration has the most power to grant is that they expand graduate student housing.

Right now the deal with San Clemente is that rent is capped at way lower than market value, but the tradeoff is they kick you out after two years. That’s for San Clemente. For family student housing it’s different. They get way longer leases because the University of California being responsible for evicting grad students and their young children is not a good look. But single grad students, whatever, evict them, who cares? So the thing that we were going to ask for was more San Clemente style housing. We had just started organizing other departments to make that ask with us when the statewide stay at home order was issued. And I’ve never been part of a wildcat strike in a global pandemic before. I don’t think anybody had. So there was a solid two weeks where nobody knew what was happening. And also like I think it was week nine when the stay at home order was issued. It was week nine or ten of winter quarter.

It was. From what I remember, it happened in spring. It was like, you know, when they were giving ordinances saying like, oh, we’re going to have an extra two weeks for spring break while we figure out what’s happening.

Yeah. From what I can remember, the stay at home order was issued while classes were still in session, but like, barely. While they were still in session, winter quarter. And so we were one of the last U.C. campuses to shut down. I think Berkeley shut down first because the Bay Area got hit hard really early by COVID and then LA. So we could kind of see other campuses shutting down. We knew it was coming. So the history department came together and we were like we can’t grade strike if there’s a global pandemic. This is not a thing that like these kids like– they might die. Their parents might die, like we might die, like we can’t. This is not the circumstances under which we can withhold grades ethically. We have an obligation to our students. So as a department, we came together. We wrote two statements. One was a public facing statement that we were going to issue to the rest of COLA, and the other was a template letter that every TA was going to send to their students. It was all the same language. It was very unified. And then over the next couple of days before the statewide order hit, we as a department, we got so much shit from other departments. Like we got called scabs. We got called strikebreakers. And it’s like. Nobody knows what the ethical thing to do is under a global pandemic. We had never been in one before. But the ethical thing did not seem to be to continue to give the undergrads a climate of uncertainty. Like that seemed like the wrong thing to do.

Now your hands are basically tied. It’s unprecedented. Like we’ve never, as you said, we never experienced this global pandemic.

Yeah. And then we know that in other departments, the faculty turn to the grad students. Like, “History is like releasing grades– What’s wrong with you?” sort of thing. Which we weren’t proud of and we didn’t do it to put pressure on other departments. But that’s what happened anyway, because again, we’re the largest department in the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts. And I think by the end of winter quarter, maybe 50 TAs across campus withheld grades. So then there was spring break into spring quarter. Just a lot of a lot of Zoom meetings, the possibilities of a digital picket. This is very naive, but I do remember that the idea was floated that when we reopen in-person in fall quarter, we would just open the quarter with a campus-wide shutdown. Then we did the entire next year on Zoom, so that didn’t happen. It was like being on a train and the train is going super fast, but the track is being laid just barely in front of the train. Like you don’t know where you’re going until you get there sort. I don’t know if this is similar to other stories that you’ve heard about COLA, but the way that I remember it is that it was deeply chaotic and deeply racist.

Oh, I did not hear that whatsoever. Yeah, I’m completely interested. One of my questions was how would you describe COLA?

There were some really uplifting and powerful moments. I’m not going to say that it wasn’t. I’m a historian. So in the 2018 round of contract negotiations for UAW 2865. The
bargaining team… did a lot of things wrong. So our contract always expires June 30th, which means that the timing is always awkward because bargaining has to open by March 1st. Because the idea is that you reach a contract before the contract expires so you can just renew the contract. So that didn’t happen. They didn’t reach an agreement by June 30th. No one expected them to. And then they went into summer, which is always difficult from an organizing perspective. Like that summer between expiration and coming back with no contract because no one’s there. Buying is very low. And what happened was during that summer, the bargaining team traded away a provision that would have severely cut the funding for UCPD in exchange for truly the most bitch ass bullshit raise package. It was a 3% rate, like we got a 3% raise every year. Like, fuck you. That’s not cost of inflation. I wasn’t there at the time. This was a year before I got there, but they made that deal during the summer when no one was there to see it happen. It was not a transparent process. So what happens is that the two bargaining teams, management and labor reached what’s called a tentative agreement on the contract. And then the contract goes out to the members and the workers vote on it.

The UAW bylaws say that 51% of workers can approve a contract. The problem is that the UAW bylaws were written imagining… UAW stands for United Auto Workers. That’s who we’re unionized under. So the bylaws were written imagining like one factory as a
local. So all of the workers are talking to each other. They’re all very much on the same page. So achieving 51% is not not hard to do. 51% in either direction, either to approve or to fail a contract. All nine undergraduate serving campuses at the University of California are under the same local, which means that 51% of 19,000 people who live in different places and experience different material circumstances. A 3% raise goes further in Merced than it does in LA. Like those are the people who have to approve a contract. And what happened was that Santa Cruz, which has one of the highest cost of living areas, almost nobody on that campus voted in favor of that contract because a 3% raise would do nothing to help them keep their housing, but the contract passed with a 51% majority. Actually, it passed 52 to 48, which is not good. This is the back story since everyone at Santa Cruz was really disenfranchised with a 2018 contract. That’s why they were the first campus to go on wildcat strike because they were the ones who needed a raise the most. It started out with systemic inequity across U.S. campuses, and that, too, was how it ended.

You did mention there were some significant events that happened, some influential experiences that you faced. Would you mind talking about them, like the most significant that you that you found in COLA despite it being rather chaotic.

The 1,000 person march was very cool to be a part of and it was very cool to see. A lot of our faculty were out there with us, which was really great. I saw a couple of my undergrad students out there. And it was really meaningful. But even then, the cracks were starting to show because the march made its way towards Henley Gate. And there were cops. I remember at the time, I was walking next to one of my friends who was an international student, and he immediately saw the cops and he was like, I need to leave because if I’m arrested, I will be deported. I don’t know that the march organizers had thought of international and undocumented students, both the kind of risk that they would be at and like U.S. Citizens who were parents. We don’t know if they had been told that there were going to be cops, that there was a risk of arrest and they might not have had any plans for child care or the ability to afford child care, which is why we were on goddamn strike. And again, I had been in spaces like that before. So there very much was like me being like, “Hello, white friends, you need to stand in between us and these cops like now.” And they did it. Like, this is not a department of assholes, but while it was a very meaningful moment, it also wasn’t perfect.

Yeah. I remember. I went to a few strikes because I actually had a friend who was part of COLA. I remember joining in that march. So you did mention your undergraduates and how proud you were. Would you mind talking about the undergraduate support? How important was it for COLA to have undergraduate support?

Very much so because a lot of the rhetoric that the university was pushing at us was, how can you do this to the undergrads? Like, how can you make the undergrads feel so unsafe? How can you punish the undergrads? Whatever, whatever. So it was very cool to see like a lot of the undergrads be like “Fuck you I think that they should get a raise and I don’t want my grades actually.” And I just think this happens a lot in higher education labor organizing. The undergrads get infantilized in a lot of ways as if you’re not adults with brains. And also just like the purpose of strikes is to be disruptive. That’s what they’re for. Like, that’s the point.

So just an extra perk for undergraduates to be a little bit more disruptive.

Yeah.

But I assure you, as an undergraduate, as a history major, I feel strongly that I can speak for all the undergraduates that we were in full support of COLA. We understand the importance and it just insulting to hear that that is what the university said. You guys had a reasonable list of demands and very little was met.

And it’s weird now because, like, as a person on the 2865 bargaining team, we’re staring down contract expiration. We’ve got six more weeks under the current contract and it is… It is time to talk about strike readiness and there’s a lot of people who feel like what they were doing and what they wanted to do got cut short before it could reach its full potential. But there’s also a lot of people who genuinely feel deeply, deeply hurt by the way COLA was organized. Yesterday I was talking to a grad rep from a department that I’m trying to organize a town hall with so we can talk about strike readiness and she was like nobody told us that the wildcat strike was illegal because the department in question has a high percentage of international students. Like nobody told us that this was illegal. And they got this very scary letter from the graduate division basically being like, hey, you’re all subject to deportation, by the way, if you do this. So that department, given its demographics, like folded immediately, like stop participating, which was fair. And the way that like white people in central organizing spaces gave them shit was like horrifying to hear about. And so then like in this conversation that I had with this person, I had to be like, okay, so that’s why that was illegal and this wouldn’t be. Workers would be protected if we strike under a contract vote– like that’s very different. But like people were terrorized by the administration and they were guilted over feeling that terror by a lot of white organizers in the COLA space, many of whom then got their asses elected to UAW leadership positions. So now there’s a decent chunk of people who don’t trust the union.

This sounds very frustrating and terrible. The whole point of being a representative is ensuring that you’re the voice for all people. You’re listening intently.

Yeah, I ran for this bargaining team position very much out of spite, and then I got it out of spite. I’m seeing my role here to make sure things are done differently this time, because we have a lot of people who are very justifiably upset, but we also have had a lot of leadership turnover in the last two years. And it’s like, what can we do better now?

So yeah. Thank you so much for that. I imagine it’s not an easy job whatsoever.

It’s not. My sentiment is a minority one on this campus, but it’s not a minority sentiment on the bargaining team overall. The bargaining team is comprised of 18 people because it’s two reps from every undergrad serving campus. It’s a very commonly felt sentiment within the group of people that are actually writing the new contract.

And you mentioned there may be a town hall meeting somewhat soon to talk about strike readiness. Do you feel that COLA will finally rise up once again? Or at least will there be some awareness of this organization?

Yeah, I do. Like the material conditions are worse. Cost of living is worse. We went through a whole pandemic with no increase to our health care. Like, in fact, the dental clinic is being shut down as of June 30th.

I remember that. Like the vision care.

Yeah. And so stuff like that is worse now. And I do think that. Honestly a response that we’ve been getting a lot because we’ve done some like softball events as a union this year, like an April Fools Day party to congratulate the chancellors on their raises and like they’re very poorly attended events, honestly. And the response that we’re getting from people is like, “Call me when you go on strike.” Like, “We’re ready. Just let us know.” So I think yeah, I think it’s coming back and hopefully we can do it better this time.

I hope so too. I almost forgot about the Chancellors’ raise.

Yeah, it wasn’t a uniform raise. Like they all got different amounts again. I don’t know if he got the biggest one, like the biggest one in dollars or the biggest one in percent. But it was one of them. He got a 23% raise. Yeah. So he’s over half a million dollars now.

Oh, goodness. That is. I don’t know how to feel about that.

Yeah.

Oh, my goodness. And speaking of Chancellor Yang, he is a relatively– from what I’ve seen as an undergraduate– a relatively silent person. He likes to do things in private. So how do you feel about his silence? And also the school’s silence to COLA in a public
setting because there’s no messages, no emails, none. Nothing to inform people.


It’s kind of not worth getting upset over. Like we know who this man is. He’s been in that job for, like, 30 years, like, literally longer than I’ve been alive. There’s a pretty common understanding that the person who actually has power on this campus is David Marshall, the executive vice chancellor, but also our job is not to convince them of anything. Our job is to make their lives so uncomfortable that they have to change their behavior. That’s a tactical thing. You know, like, the only way to make your lives uncomfortable is to get as many grad students as possible to understand that there is collective power to be had. And when that collective power is organized well and deployed well, strikes work. There’s a reason that the United States government has spent the last 80 years trying to strip labor unions of of their rights and of their power. It’s because they work. As long as we can remind people of that, I think we’ll be okay.

So how did you feel about the the other events going on? You said the 1,000 person march was was your most significant to you. How did you feel about say the Ortega
All Smiles No Swipes event.


That was great. Give people free food, that should absolutely happen. It’s also an indicator that like the reason that union strikes work where wildcat strikes don’t in a lot of ways is that unions sympathy strike with each other. So like the union that protects janitorial and kitchen and other sectors, that union on this campus is AFSCME. So AFSCME let All
Smiles, No Swipes happen because AFSCME was willing to support the wildcat strike because they were they were the ones who run that and other unions, like other workers, are only legally protected in doing those sympathy actions if the striking parties are
union organized. Sympathy strikes are legal. Anything else is just not doing your job. So like. The UAW absolutely has its problems, but also we’re all safer when we strike under union purview.

Also for in terms of faculty, I understand professors played a role. Would you say you
guys get any support from faculty?


At the beginning. And then when it became clear that we didn’t really know what to tell them because we didn’t really know what we were doing, that support kind of started waning. I said earlier that history grad students would show up places and be like, “What is the plan?” And the answer would be, “the plan is to get a COLA”. And it’s like, I can’t take that back to my professor whose support I’m asking for like. But we, in this department in particular, we had a very young member of faculty who I won’t name– He was the most junior faculty in the 2020 school year. He had been a labor organizer in his own graduate student union. So he very much was like this is the thing that you could try doing, and then he would like leave the room. So the expanded grad student housing thing was actually his idea.

Oh, that’s interesting. So I want to ask you about what you would change about COLA.
Anything in particular that you felt didn’t work as efficiently?


I would have loved to see on the Santa Barbara campus the sort of efficiency that the Santa Cruz grad students had. Like every single thing that happened at Santa Cruz was coordinated and planned ahead of time and had broad reaching consensus. Like,
I would have loved that. And that’s what we’re trying to do now. Like, that’s the goal.

So yeah, would you say there was just too much conflict to really create a sense of unity in COLA?

Yeah. And I think it’s and this is always a thing in social movements like. Activism spaces are not immune from social power dynamics that exist in the society that creates them. It’s why you see so much like misogyny in the Black Panthers. This is just a thing that happens. White people in COLA spaces didn’t want to take criticism, from my recollection. They didn’t want to understand why some of the actions they were taking were more dangerous
for some people than others. And that is definitely something we’re going to have to deal with this time around.

Would you say like you guys are hopefully going to focus more on ensuring the safety for international students?

Yeah, that is a thing that I have made my problem. Like I told you, I ran for the bargaining team out of spite. That’s one of the things that I’m that I’m going to insist on. And it honestly shouldn’t be that hard because there’s a lot of members of the bargaining team who are themselves international students.

Yeah, I can’t imagine how how frightening it was for them to want to fight for what’s right, But also there’s this looming fear of I could literally be kicked out right now.

Yeah. And that’s like, it’s one thing for it to be the international students who are safe to say “I’m not a US citizen.”The undocumented grad students is a whole different thing because they can’t even say that. They’re feeling vulnerable.

Yeah. I’m glad for when COLA does rise up again. Like you at least know what didn’t work last time. What you can focus more on now are your strengths because overall support from all graduate students is ideal, especially for those who, as you said, may not feel comfortable to mention their statuses.

Yeah. So having having a movement with varying levels of participation is not a thing that really existed during COLA, but we’re going to build out this time. So help me God.

Wonderful. I hope so too, goodness. I hope so, too. Especially now, considering you’re still in your PhD program, you’ve seen there’s no real change despite all this work you’ve put in.

Yeah.

That must be incredibly frustrating.


I mean, onto the next, you know, that’s all there is.


So I wanted to ask someone who is part of COLA, how do you feel about the current housing crisis going on in UCSB and Isla Vista?

Bad. I just. It sucks because this cohort was touted as the most diverse class to ever be accepted to the University of California. Two things: by accepting a class of that size without building up the housing infrastructure, the university has created a narrative that, by seeking diversity, it’s disenfranchising people for housing. And the fact that that’s happening on the backs of students of color is terrible. The other thing is that the increased student body size led to an increase in funding and also membership for the UCPD when it’s a class with more people of color than we’ve ever had before. Like. Bad. And there just
doesn’t seem to be a plan to build more housing that’s, like, fit for human habitation. Like, there’s been no ground broken anywhere. There’s been no negotiation with the like four landlords that control everything in Isla Vista. There’s no foresight. When Alameda County sued U.C. Berkeley, a lot of us here were like “do us next.” Like, that would be super funny. It hasn’t happened yet. I can’t imagine it’s not in the works somewhere. But like this is unsustainable and it’s happening specifically on the backs of like brown kids, which is terrible.

Yeah it is. I imagine considering COLA was all about cost of living, it must seem extraordinarily frustrating that… Here we are in a housing crisis. Nothing is being done. Rent is higher.

Yeah, my rent is 43% of my income.

Oh, my gosh. Thank you for sharing that with me. So just one last question. Any final words or any topics you would like to say regarding COLA or to the university itself?

Not really anything to the university because I mean, again, like labor organizer, one of the initial founders of the UAW said that the point of labor organizing is forcing management to say yes when they want to say no, and they will not be persuaded into that. So the goal is not to persuade them. The goal is to make them uncomfortable. And we’re coming.

Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you for continuing to speak out and help people listen to the people of color, especially for those who are undocumented and who are international students.

Thank you. I’m trying.

Interviewed by: Danyela Ornelas

UC Lecturer Strike at UCSB, 2021

By Jenna Norwood

2021

On November 17th, 2021, the lecturers of the University of California called for a state-wide two-day strike on all UC Campuses to protest unfair labor rights against lecturers who work for the UC system. Across all Universities of California, there are about 6,500 employed lecturers who teach twenty percent of classes, who claim they do not make fair pay for the number of hours and work put into their jobs. With the threat of the strike, lecturers were fighting for a thirty percent salary increase over five years, promises of job stability, clearer outlines of workloads, and annual costs of living adjustments. However, the strike did not end up taking place because the University of California decided to accept the terms of the UC-AFT lecturer union. 

At UCSB, both tenured professors and lecturers were planning on canceling classes in support of the strike. Many lecturers and professors spoke about the strike to their students in class, encouraging them to support the strike and canceling class. On November 18th, an in-person strike at Stroke Tower was planned for students and faculty to attend. Outside Storke Tower, there was to be a presence of people all day long. There were also marches planned to take place with faculty and students in front of the library and across campus. A solidarity pledge was also sent around to students to sign and share to pledge support to lecturers and fight back against unfair labor practices. Attendance was expected to be high, as many students rallied in support of the lectures. 

Below is a flier posted on campus created by UC-AFT:

As bargaining between the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) and the University of California went late into the night, many students and faculty expected the strike to continue as planned for the next two days. To everyone’s surprise, a tentative resolution was reached by both sides in the early hours of the morning.

The resolution included more job stability and protection for lecturers to make advancements in their careers, raise the salary floor, add annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) for each year of the contract, improve how workload standards are defined, and offer four weeks of fully paid family leave, among other things. 

As most classes were already canceled and most UCSB students were going to join the strike on both days that it was planned, a celebration in front of Stroke Tower took place instead. It was filled with happy people across the board, as most lecturers were thrilled about the new contract and the future of their careers, and students were happy for their lecturers who have provided them a wealth of knowledge during their years here at UCSB. 

In an email sent to his students after the strike was canceled, lecturer Chase Hobbs-Morgan stated “Sometimes simply the promise of striking is enough to pressure employers to negotiate. Importantly, this works better when the workers are members of a union, and it works even better when members of the community such as you all as students step in to support.” Hobbs-Morgan was also a leader in planning the strike and coordinated between students and faculty, which took over two years of organizing, students writing letters in support, members of the community speaking up, journalists writing articles, and many other avenues of support for the UC to extend the contract. Lecturers were very thankful to students of UCSB for speaking out on the behalf of lecturers and pleading support to the strike.


Works Cited

https://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2021/11/resolution-reached-for-lecturers-strike https://ap.ucsb.edu/news.and.announcements/memos/?11.16.2021.Update.on.Lecturer.Bargai ning 

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-11-17/uc-lecturer-strike-averted-tentative-agr eement-reached 

https://www.cityonahillpress.com/2021/05/10/uc-aft-reaches-strike-pledge-goal-during-may day-rally/

Representative Salud Carbajal

What changes in gun policy were brought about as a result of the Isla Vista massacre in 2014?

Well, I think you saw a lot of red flags– Red flag legislation that came about in the state of California and passed. And since then, it’s been, I think, proven effective. There’s many instances that have been documented throughout the state of California where firearms– at least 21 cases, if not more, from one study that was done– were temporarily taken away from individuals who found themselves in crisis and a danger to themselves or others. So that was an important piece of legislation that came about as a result of the tragedy and the senseless violence that was perpetuated in Isla Vista in 2014. Since then, I think that you’ve also seen in Congress a stop and go, regrettably, or a go and stop in actions taken in trying to move forward with legislation that addresses gun safety. I say go and stop and stop and go because the House of Representatives has passed numerous pieces of legislation: HRA, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, as well as CDC and NIH funding for gun violence research. But, regrettably, that legislation has not moved forward in the Senate.

There’s a filibuster that requires 60 votes for legislation to move forward. And even though there’s a slight majority of Democrats in the Senate to overcome, the filibuster is still challenging. And quite frankly, the Republican Party has been beholden and joined at the hip with the NRA. And as a result, we haven’t had the composition of the Senate, as we’ve had in the House, to be able to move forward with legislation that addresses gun safety laws. I also have emulated to a great extent the red flag bill of California at the federal level and have moved forward the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act in collaboration with the other chamber in the Senate, with Senator Feinstein in the Senate and myself in the House, that would provide grants to state and local governments who have an interest in implementing extreme risk border protection laws or red flag bills or red flag laws throughout their jurisdictions. These grants would provide them funding for training or policy development so that we could see more red flag bills and laws enacted throughout the country.

Because the red flag laws or bills that have already been passed, those have shown to be effective.

Rep. Salud Carbajal: Yes, they have. Yes, they have. Look, there is no one law. That is going to be the panacea to addressing the totality of gun violence in our country. But the propensity of a number of laws will no doubt increase gun safety and protect our communities from senseless gun violence in our schools and in our societies, so it’s really important. You know, sometimes individuals like to highlight where that law went to work here or that law, isn’t it? But it’s not one law, it’s the totality of laws. That’s why the more laws that we can pass and our common-sense gun safety laws, the better. For example, we ought to re-enact the assault weapons ban that expired, and there is legislation to move that forward again and a number of other pieces of legislation.

Yeah. Great. Let’s see. Do you think that the 2014 tragedy is still affecting your decisions in the government, and what you are putting forward?

Rep. Salud Carbajal: Absolutely. For me, like I said, I continue to re-introduce, as I have done this Congress, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act with Senator Feinstein in Congress, her bill in the Senate and my bill in the House of Representatives this week. We continue to see tragedies throughout the country where the four red flag bills still have a significant impact when they are in place and in places where they don’t where they would have made a difference. So I am no doubt committed to continuing to do that, to continuing to look at other legislation that would continue to grow our gun safety laws throughout our country. And again, in an effort to reduce senseless, senseless gun violence throughout our country, in the schools and in our communities. I also had a sister when I was a little boy that took her life with my father’s revolver and more than half of the gun violence in our country is results from acts of suicide. So in my own family, I’ve had two instances of suicide. And I think it’s imperative to also remind ourselves that this isn’t just gun violence perpetuated by perpetrators, but also individuals who find themselves in crisis and depressed or in a position where they are. They aim to harm themselves, not just others. And these laws, these extreme risk protection order act laws and red flag bills, they go a long way because they would allow family members and local law enforcement and the courts to provide due process to individuals and evaluate if they are a danger to themselves or others. If so they may temporarily, let me underscore that temporarily, take guns away from those individuals and not allow them to also temporarily purchase other guns. So those types of bills are extremely important.

Yeah. And so before the 2014 massacre, about three weeks before, police responding to some concerned community members did a welfare check on Elliott Rogers. And so do you think that the red flag law could have prevented what happened if they were already in place back then?

I believe so. And I think the law enforcement themselves have opined that that could have been helpful. So absolutely. Yes.

Then our next question is what work still needs to be done as far as legislation goes to avoid events like this happening in the future.

And at the federal level, we need to pass my bill, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, and it also need to pass other laws that continue to, in its totality, bring about safety in our communities and our country, in communities across the country. We need to pass the assault weapons ban that expired, and there is legislation being proposed to do that. But we need to also move forward with more research in NIH and CDC that would enable us to better understand this kind of violence and violence epidemic. We need to address bump starts through legislation and straw purchases as well as ghost guns. We need to do a lot that will bring about a safer country and safer communities.

I had one more question. So as a direct result of the shooting, like right after it, was there more input from the community either about gun control directly after the shooting?

Yes, there was. But let me expand on that. Every time we have a tragedy, and tragedies are happening almost daily– we’ve had hundreds of incidences and we have hundreds of instances every year of gun violence. Not only individuals taking their own lives, but perpetrators. Gun violence in our communities across the country, not just those that get the headlines, but usually those that get the headlines, no doubt create a conversation and increase outrage wanting Congress and legislative bodies throughout the country to pass gun safety laws. There’s a lot of legislation that’s proposed. And after a few weeks, it goes by the wayside. It’s been tragic that that’s happened. It’s a real tragedy that mostly after a tragic, senseless gun violence episode is when there is the highest interest in moving gun safety laws forward. Then that dissipates with time between these high profile, tragic events. And again, not to sound partisan, but overwhelmingly, I think Democrats have responded with legislation, passing legislation of different types. It’s been the party on the other side, the Republican Party, that’s beholden to the NRA and hasn’t really moved forward or collaborated with Democrats to move forward gun safety laws. That’s the reality. And if it wasn’t for the filibuster, we would have more than 50 laws in place. We pass all the laws we can in the House, but in the Senate, that’s where they go to die, regrettably, because we don’t have enough members of the other side of the aisle. And that’s a tragedy.

Are there any further comments that you would like us to include on our project?

We cannot stop advocating overwhelmingly. Poll after poll. Study after study demonstrates that over 70%, over 70%, sometimes 80% of the American people want these gun safety laws passed. So why haven’t been able to do that? And again, I think Democrats have been vigilant and advocates for these laws. We haven’t been able to do so because the environment hasn’t been such in Congress to have the number of votes that are needed to move these types of laws forward. Until the country elects a preponderance of individuals who believe in moving forward gun safety laws, we’re going to struggle to keep these issues alive and to move these laws over the finish line. But as a Democrat, I will tell you, I am proud to be a Democrat. I am proud to be a proponent of sensible gun laws. And I will continue to do so, because unless we do that, we, our communities will not be as safe as they can be by passing more of these important gun safety laws.

Thank you so much. Thank you for the work you’ve done to help mitigate tragedies like this in the future. And we appreciate you taking time out of your day to meet with us in this interview. Yeah.

Thank you for your attention to these important issues. Yeah, of course. And again, when we talk about gun control throw the word safety in that.

Yeah, we will definitely include that.

Because I think I think gun control, the other side who don’t believe in gun safety laws immediately go to the Second Amendment. And we always have to tell people this is not about the Second Amendment. This isn’t about doing away with people’s ability and right to own guns. This is about safety measures. You know, safety locks, safety for the safety procedures and measures that, again, not one law but multiple laws make our community safer. This is not about anybody’s Second Amendment. Thank you so much.


Interviewed by: McKay Kinsey and Aidan Locke

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.

UCSB COLA Timeline: 2019-2021

By Arianna Sanchez & Danyela Ornelas

In late 2019, UC Santa Cruz went on strike in order to obtain higher wages, or a Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA). The goal of this strike was to aid graduate students in receiving a liveable wage that would reflect the cost of housing near campus. This came to a total of $1,412 based on their formula that had variables consisting of: rent for a 3 bedroom apartment split in three, pre-tax income, and monthly cost of living adjustment. Many sister UCs followed suit in support of UCSC. UCSB used social media and staged daily protests to demonstrate their support for UC Santa Cruz. These protests began early in the morning at 8:00 AM at Storke Tower until early evening at 5:00 PM, eventually leading to a grading strike in March 2020, where TAs refused to grade the work of their students in order to force negotiations with the UC Office of the President. Here are the major events that solidified the cause of COLA.

December 9, 2019: Beginning of Strike

Organizing emerged gradually on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The Graduate Student Association (GSA) and UAW 2865 had banded together to call for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) from the UCSC administration. To no avail and no negotiation to be seen, resorted to the full-on strike that called for administration attention and gained a noticeable following of Graduate and undergraduate students alike. 

The demands were as followed:

  1. Out of rent burden
  2. Without raising tuition or fees
  3. With a guarantee of non-retaliation

Soon other UCs joined the cause of UC Santa Cruz. UC Santa Barbara follows similar tactics as done by UC Santa Cruz, not limited to strikes, marches, sit-ins, and even grade withholding. The message was the same for all UCs who participated: administration must develop a suitable plan that will aid their students to have a substantial wage for a proper living situation. 

January 23, 2020: Connection to UCSB

A call to action as UCSB became the second UC to join the COLA cause, ultimately fighting for a better wage for TAs who struggle against the rising rent from Goleta and Santa Barbara County. While this was not a formal announcement of striking, it became the ripple that would inevitably lead to a full-on strike and marches. 

Soon other UCs followed suit, many providing numerous support for COLA and creating their own small organizations that would reach locally to the other Graduate students who also work as TAs but still struggle to make ends meet. 

Sicheng Wang, Photograph of a rally of groups; graduate, undergraduate, and faculty in front of UCSB Library, Daily Nexus, 23 February, 2020

February 23-24, 2020: Cheadle Hall Strike

A prominent point for COLA in terms of UCSB as it was this day that the Graduate students had declared they would begin a full-on strike on February 27th. In this protest they decided to take over Cheadle Hall, quite literally staying within the building, and only left at midnight on February 21. The purpose of this action was to gain the attention of Chancellor Yang so that he may address the situation and hopefully provide a solution. 

By then UCSC had declared their TAs were going on a full grading strike. UCSB had begun a noon rally in front of the library, with numerous attendants all calling for the attention of Chancellor Yang and President Napolitano to address the situation and to be empathetic toward their Graduate students who do so much for all of the UCs across the state. The only person to make a comment was Chancellor Yang to notify The Daily Nexus that meetings would begin soon. As for President Napolitano of the UCs, she remained silent on the matter.

February 27, 2020: UCSB COLA Wildcat Strike

UCSB4COLA organization went into full swing, where a multitude of Graduate Students and Staff joined together to strike against the low wages and minimum support offered by the University despite the rising cost of rent and the housing crisis. There was an overwhelming amount of support at the Wildcat Strike on February 27, about 300 showed up for the second day of the rally. Lasting from the early morning at 8 AM, into the evening hours of 5 PM the strikers went on rallying from the Storke Tower Lawn then onto the Arbor, Mosher Alumni House, and circled the Library on the way back to Storke Lawn. By the end of the rally, COLA had over 1,000 supporters on their side.

The creators and heads of UCSB4COLA found this support to be very profound, wanting to keep the momentum going and using it as a motivator to keep going for the cause, hoping for more involvement by the student body. Not only did they have support from students, but faculty, and even local politicians, some of who mentioned taking the cause to our state’s capital, Sacramento.

March 5, 2021: Black Out Protest

On March 5 COLA set out on yet another protest, this one being a ‘black out’ protest, where all participants were encouraged to wear black, as they wanted to make a comment on the University of California’s motto – “Let there be light”. Standing in solidarity with the recent graduate students who had been fired at UCSC for withholding grades as a part of their protest, they began early on that Thursday at 7:30 AM in front of Cheadle Hall. Blocking all four entrances and chanting, some got into verbal altercations with UCSB staff who did not support the cause. 

UCPD became involved after administration employees were prevented from entering the building, so protesters moved into the halls and floors of the building and continued to chant. After a de-escalation between an advisor and protestors, there was a rally at Storke Tower once again. Many speakers from different unions spoke at the rally, and there were about 3,000 people in attendance. Those of who marched to Henley Gate at 1 PM, chanting about both COLA efforts and the distaste of cops’ presence on campus.

March 6, 2020: Gaucho Bucks Cop-Out

After days of protest, rallies, and strikes, the University finally made an announcement of acknowledgment, providing a hopeful solution to the demands of the COLA movement. The university made it clear that they wanted to award the wage increase and cost of living adjustment demands. The only issue? It was to be paid in Gaucho Bucks, the increase being $1,807.51, announced by Janet Napolitano herself. 

Though this seemed to be a step in the right direction, it was not quite what COLA graduate students wanted for themselves. Gaucho Bucks are very limited in where you can use them, such as the Bookstore, Arbor, Ortega Dining Campus, and other campus exclusive facilities. What Gaucho Bucks definitely did not help with was rent, one of the bigger and broader issues and concerns of graduate students.

March 9, 2020: “All Smiles, No Swipes” 

One of the focuses of COLA was to promote acceptable living conditions for graduate and undergraduate students to thrive in. A clear crisis plaguing students of any campus is food insecurity, where not every student under the supervision of the school has a reliable source of food. As a result, COLA organizers decided to take over Ortega Dining Commons on campus on March 3rd, 2019, where they promoted their “All Smiles, No Swipes” event. On this day, COLA organizers had allowed students, regardless of whether they held a meal plan or not, to enjoy a meal for free at this dining commons. 

There was no indication that the UC system wanted to stop this event. During the situation, authorities were called but nothing was done to take COLA protestors off the premises. There were a few altercations between staff and students trying to take out food, but under the protection of COLA organizers, many students took out meals. The goal was to have the student body side with the COLA movement and based on generally positive comments, it worked. 

Sanya Kamidi , Photograph of COLA Protestors speaking to students during ‘All Smiles, No Swipes’ event Daily Nexus, 9 March, 2020

April 10, 2020: UC Santa Cruz Submits Grades

Weeks into the spring quarter and after students had been subjected to learning from home because of COVID-19, the UCSC graduate students who had begun the COLA protests, submitted grades for both fall and winter. The reason? After May 1, these absent grades would change to ‘Pass’ for students, and no letter grade would be given. This could have caused a number of issues for undergrads and the UC administration shifted this burden off of themselves and onto the students. 

Many UCSC graduate students were fired for withholding grades, and because of these eventual submissions, they were up for possible reinstatement, meaning there was no guarantee. At this point, UCSB was the only campus in the UC system that still had not put in grades. Because they had to submit grades, UCSC began putting their efforts into pushing for help in Unfair Labor Practice charges with hopeful backing from UAW. Ultimately, what they wanted was protection from their strikes as grad students. The UAW focused on getting signatures to move forward with the charges, which was harder due to the momentum lost with the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating in-person interaction. 

April 10, 2020: COVID/End of Boycott 

Ultimately what put a halt to this organization and the remainder of the COLA movement, was the COVID-19 pandemic. UCSB4COLA is still alive and well online on Twitter and Instagram, focusing mainly on the housing crises and upsets happening on campus and within Isla Vista. 

September 30, 2021: Housing Crisis 

Despite a slow start to the rebuilding of COLA, the cause to promote substantial living wages remains strong especially now with countless students facing the idea of not having reliable housing. A mixture of the pandemic and the influx of admitted students has shone a light on the housing crisis. Some students were even offered hotel contracts for Fall Quarter 2021, as all the housing contracts had already been sent out. A gathering at Storke Tower led to a march to Cheadle Hall to voice their concerns and complaints to the administration for not paying closer attention to this dilemma that could have been easily avoided and solved in a more suitable solution. 

References

pay us more ucsc – UC grad student workers fighting for a cost of living adjustment, https://payusmoreucsc.com/. Accessed 12 March 2022.

Bemis, Henri. “Graduate Student COLA To Be Paid in Gaucho Bucks.” The Daily Nexus, 6 March 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-03-06/graduate-student-cola-to-be-paid-in-gaucho-bucks/. 

Kamidi, Sanya, and Jackson Guilfoil. “UCSB Grad Students Hold Demonstration in Solidarity with UC Santa Cruz Over Cost-of-Living Adjustment.” The Daily Nexus, 23 January 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-01-23/ucsb-grad-students-hold-demonstration-in-solidarity-with-uc-santa-cruz-over-cost-of-living-adjustment/. 

Rivera, Arturo Martinez, and Holly Rusch. ““Without graduate student labor, there is no light”: UCSB 4 COLA Rallies as Part of UC-Wide Black-Out Strike.” The Daily Nexus, 6 March 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-03-06/without-graduate-student-labor-there-is-no-light-ucsb-4-cola-rallies-as-part-of-uc-wide-black-out-strike/#search. 

Rusch, Holly. ““All Smiles, No Swipes”: COLA Protestors Organize Lunchtime “Liberation” for Ortega Dining Commons.” The Daily Nexus, 9 March 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-03-09/all-smiles-no-swipes-cola-protestors-organize-lunchtime-liberation-for-ortega-dining-commons/. 

Rusch, Holly. “Students, Faculty, Community Members Organize Protest Over Housing Crisis.” The Daily Nexus, 30 September 2021, https://dailynexus.com/2021-09-30/students-faculty-community-members-organize-protest-over-housing-crisis/. 

Swartz, Katherine. “Two Days In, UCSB COLA Wildcat Strike Draws Close to 2,000 Supporters.” The Daily Nexus, 28 February 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-02-28/two-days-in-ucsb-cola-wildcat-strike-draws-close-to-2000-supporters/. 

Swartz, Katherine. “UC Santa Cruz COLA Strikers To Submit Withheld Fall and Winter Grades.” The Daily Nexus, 29 April 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-04-29/uc-santa-cruz-cola-strikers-to-submit-withheld-fall-and-winter-grades/.

Swartz, Katherine, and Sanya Kamidi. “Graduate Students Occupy Cheadle Hall Until Midnight, Rally for COLA and University Support of UCSC Strikers.” The Daily Nexus, 23 February 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-02-23/graduate-students-occupy-cheadle-hall-until-midnight-rally-for-cola-and-university-support-of-ucsc-strikers/. 

“UCSB #copsoffcampus (@ucsb4cola) • Instagram photos and videos.” Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/ucsb4cola/

John Foran

This interview questions John Foran on the aims, objectives, and obstacles in the Eco Vista project, a project working towards transitioning Isla Vista into an ecologically homeostatic community. The interview was a group one, conducted by Alex Proksch, Natalie Chen and Bianca Costa.


Okay, why do you want to establish the Eco Vista community?

Yeah, sure. The goal of Eco Vista is rather, uh, ambitious. When we started out five years ago, we put it as turning Isla Vista into Eco Vista in this decade, the 2020s along the lines of something like an eco-village or which has no strict definition. Lately, we are aligning ourselves with what’s called Just Transition and Green New Deal work among activists in their communities. All over, just transition is another word for making the transition transformation of a community. Uh, so that it’s ecologically, uh, in line with what the climate science tells us is required, um, with respect to everything and energy transportation, um, and land use. Um, and just the just part is that this has to be based on the principles of environmental justice, which means that in the community, the, uh, we, we want to have the leadership and participation of, uh, those residents who are most affected by social injustice of all kinds, actually, whether it be economic, whether it be due to the environmental, the impact that’s happening around the world and so forth. 

So what we’re talking about is a full system. Systemic alternative is the lingo and sociology that I work with and a green new deal. Of course, uh, there are many versions of the green new deal, but it’s a, um, ambitious and progressive, uh, it’s a name for a proposed legislation at the national level to achieve some of these goals. And that of course, was performed by Alexandria, Ocasio, Cortez, and Marky and the Senate. Um, and it, you know, Bernie Sanders had a very elaborated, greener deal, uh, with numbers and, uh, like 50 pages of, you know, the details when he was running for president and all over the country, communities are trying to generate a local green new deal. So, uh, we’re involved in a project for a local green new deal that we are launching as a kind of wide consultation with the residents, all the residents we can reach in AR Vista to see what they identify as the problems for their lives, living in Arla Vista and what they would like to see instead, and what their ideas are about the future and their wellbeing. 

So, um, all of those things are part of the goal, the ambitious goal of in a reasonable least short period of time, a handful of years putting is Vista on track to become, uh, a community that is again, ecologically based, um, where everybody is, uh, receives the, has their needs met to some to degree that’s possible. Um, there’s a vision that there would be all kinds of jobs here that would be good for the environment, of course, and, uh, good for folks who are looking for jobs. So it’s some asset undertaking and it has to be done in consultation with the whole community. And EVI is a very small organization, relatively speaking with limited capacity. Um, and it has to be done through Alliance with existing community organizations of which there are many who trend in the same direction. So we are embarking on that process literally in the spring quarter. 

What do you feel is the most pressing environmental justice project for Eco Vista? 

Yeah. So hopefully these all have some bearing on environmental justice and foundations in it. Um, the most salient projects of eco Vista so far, certainly one would be the food forest in a sterile park. Um, that’s been created in the past year by a small group of very dedicated people working also with the Isla Vista recreation and park district, which has sort of jurisdiction over all the parks. Um, that’s the most visible project and it’s, it’s small. Everything we do has to sort of be within our means. Um, but the, the hope is that it becomes a model for other projects or that it’s a project that can continue to grow over time. Um, the community plan is the name for the, uh, process. That’s about to start consulting as many individuals and organizations as we can to create a document that is sort of a, a report of what the community wants and you know, what the problems are and how the community wants to solve it. 

So that’s not something visible to the eye yet, but that’s gonna be a major campaign involving a lot of people. We hope volunteers can do it. Uh, we’re using something called the house party model for that, which is simply, uh, sitting down with your neighbors in a small group or your friends as few as three or five people. And going through this conversation about, you know, what are the obstacles to living here? What are the challenges to living here? What could be done about them and doing many of those house parties will eventually generate hopefully hundreds of, uh, people’s inputs into what they’d like to see here. So that will all get put together in a report somehow, um, that will serve as the basis for, you know, some kind of visionary, holistic, transformational, um, a number of projects that will come out of that. 

So we’re kind of on one year to do that process. And then if it succeeds after that, a whole number of actual projects on the ground will come out of that depending on what people want and what they can do. So I would say the food forest, uh, is a modest, but real step toward, uh, dealing with some of the, um, food, um, in the direction of food sovereignty in food self-sufficiency. Um, and the community plan is a sort of comprehensive bottom-up, uh, process to, to have a, a detailed vision of how to bring about this big transformation. Um, those are two very important projects that are going on. The third is, uh, we just recently opened a community. Well, we haven’t even launched it to the public yet, a community center, um, a physical space, uh, on par road that we hope to open to the public in April as a, uh, community center, a place for organizations to host events, a place for, um, evenings, uh, of culture, whether it’s open mics or music or any other number of things that people will bring to it.

Um, and a physical place where people can sit and be with each other during the day, hopefully over a coffee. It’s actually in the space of the former coffee collaborative, which was a, a well-loved institution in IBM, uh, the whole community and followed by campus point, which operated there as a cafe for two years or a year before the pandemic shut everything down in that space. That’s been emptied, uh, for a while. So we’re jumping in and trying to use that as a space, again, to do outreach to the community, to, uh, be of service to the community, um, and to build a kind of denser network of people who are basically aligned with these values. I would say those are the three big projects. I can also name the E Vista club. That’s a, uh, launch to be happening. Hasn’t happened yet, but there’s planning for, uh, the club to be an organized student group on campus, which will kind of involve students in a, um, in a way where there might be resources and they can organize their events through that. 

And as you know, Natalie, uh, the Zen is a publication. Um, I guess our website is a kind of major project too, because on the website, you can find information about all, most of these projects, you can find issues of the Zen called the radical C at the end about roots. Um, and we even have a so-called E eco vistas climate justice press, which publishes free books, including fiction analysis of, uh, the problems that we face and some possible solutions and poetry, and even a children’s, those can be found on our website in that space. So I’d say that’s like five things maybe. 

How do you think about grass-root environmental, uh, organizations will impact the public perceptions and participation on environmental justice? 

So how do, um, environmental justice and social justice organizations, how might they make an impact? How are they making an impact? Uh, yeah. How do they reach out within the community to raise awareness? Um, well, by doing some of these things, that’s how E ego Vista is thinking about it. And there are many we’ve discovered and what most people know if they scratch the surfaces. There’s a, a rich network of community organizations, including, you know, official governmental elected bodies, like this community service district and the rec park district, including, uh, organizations that serve young people, um, Ivy youth project, the St. George project, um, uh, know bombs, which is trying to offer free meals, uh, nutritious meals to the community on a regular basis. Um, that list goes on and on. So all of these organizations sort of are throwing their best ideas around all of this. 

Um, there’s like no one model or a way to do it. Uh, and I think it has to be a network, a coalition of forces to, to do it all. Um, so that part’s important and yeah. How do you raise awareness if that was the question you have to work at it, um, and we’re doing it along with other organizations. The best we can. The idea though, is that this will grow, become more visible and more vibrant and more attractive to people to participate in all of this. And, um, we’ll get to the point where big changes can be affected. Somehow. I don’t have a roadmap, nobody has a roadmap for that. Nobody’s in control of that process. And that’s why it’s interesting, cuz we’re gonna learn from each other by doing things together. 

In your opinion, what is something you feel we would need to pay extra attention to and something that might slip to the rug if we didn’t know, and how to incorporate those into our social enterprise.

Course. Um, the food issue is probably, you know, right up there as the leading issue in a community like is Vista the, the sort of obvious number one is the housing crisis. Um, and that affects food security too, because if you’re spending all your money to have a place, you have less money for everything else and food is the next priority. And maybe it’s the first priority. In fact, some people can’t afford housing because they have to devote limited resources just to food. So there’s obviously a problem and you probably know that there have been studies of food insecurity across the UC and shocking number of UC undergraduates. Um, we don’t have, uh, food security. Um, you should look for those. So you got the problem for sure. And hopefully you’re talking, you have a very specific idea, a new kind of social, socially responsible startup to address, to offer free food. 

That’s awesome. That’s like what could do better and to have that in the community and to have that at scale, um, the people that are doing that with a different model is food, not bombs first and foremost. Um, and they have the perhaps, I mean, it sounds to me like you’re gonna need a tremendous amount of capital, uh, to do anything, to make this work, not to do anything. So that’s the first obstacle I foresee for you. And that’s a common obstacle, all groups trying to do good work in a community. Um, these wonderful ideas are there, but realizing them is a challenge that is beyond the obvious means that we start with, so you have to do some fundraising, you have to find the, you know, sort of chicken and egg, um, the project, if you set it up, will the funding you need to do what you want to do in is Vista. 

So you’re gonna need partners, maybe existing, you know, social entrepreneurs, um, to pitch this too. And so one way to make it work for you is to go into the community, the broader community of Santa Barbara, which Ivy is part of and, um, take a look at organizations that Hey, you could be interested in the idea. And then beyond that, you know, look for, uh, foundations and sources of funding, where you could propose this to. So you might have the workings of a kind of, um, funding, uh, proposal. And we have some experience in that world, not a lot of success, but we’re kind of ourselves at the point where we are trying to raise funds for, to pay organizers really, rather than all this voluntary work that people have put in their heart and soul into. Um, and also a model where, uh, people who became active in Eco Vista, the vast majority from have been young people who will graduate either from city college or, uh, UCSB and move on is for people that, you know, get the, the bug to stay in the unity and try to realize this, any of these projects for them to have an opportunity to afford to do that. 

That’s where we get into how interconnected everything is. A circular economy is the idea that, um, somehow we can generate, create work with others to start up, um, enterprises for organizers and activists to do the good work and get the compensation they would need to live in the community and other chicken in problem. So, um, and then the other, uh, obvious solution is to just grow the food yourself, which is a great solution. Uh, you have to take that to a lot of scale. There’s, you know, there’s always been a vision that in Isla Vista, there could be more gardens, public gardens, private gardens, um, free gardens, and UCSB is involved in doing some of that work. So the greenhouse garden project is kind of asked, uh, little farm of small plots, uh, beyond the stadium. Um, that too, I would, uh, say, look in at UCSB the resources were around food and student, um, internship paid internships because in the office of sustainability, there are some great people like Katie Maynard, um, who work specifically to find funded internships and who is, uh, direct, involved the number of those projects to do with food. 

So hopefully, you know, about Katie, if not, I can introduce you, um, and Mo Lovegreen, who is sort of on the, uh, facility side of making Eco Vistas, more carbon-neutral around sustainability in this traditional sense. Um, so what it is is you have to map, or you could map this mosaic of, of partners and resources. And in that way, you don’t have to do this on your own with no resources cuz you can’t. So the step you’re taking is the first big step, which is to come up, as you say, with an idea that works and then, um, and making that idea a reality in all these other ways, by collaborating, by sharing what you have to share, um, by learning the lay of the land, literally. Um, so yeah, there’s a tremendous interest among students and in eco Vista as well to, to actually grow food, to have gardens, um, and we need creative ideas so that there are more gardens and more opportunities to do that.

Um, and like everything else, the, the beauty of it is not only the outcome of having food, but it’s all the skills that people acquire along the way and all the relationships that are built because those ultimately become the basis for scaling things, um, doing the same in other communities, if you leave on the Vista and graduate and so forth. And E ECOS has kind of looked at it that way, you know, the availability of students who are passionate about this, we are lucky to have, um, but they are passing through in two years, three years. And what you have to do is turn that into a plus, you know, and by doing things that teach skills and inspire people, and there’s a learning process that everybody will take with them and fan out all over. That’s taking things to scale as well. And that’s, we need to do these, not just things, not just in our Vista of, but everywhere. And so the good news is that there are networks on so many of these issues all across, at any level, the county, uh, the central coast, California, nationally, globally, um, to engage with and learn from and do things together with. So I don’t know if that’s, that’s sort of a loose kind of strategic vision, that’s all over the place. So a few tips learned by trial and much error so far on this journey. 

 I also was wondering, um, you know, this has been in the process for five years, have you guys gotten funding? And right now, what requires funding and what can be achieved without money currently?

Exactly. So for four of those five years, we wrote no grant proposals other than getting small amounts of money, uh, from office undergraduate research to do projects, which were all called EVI. Um, but there was no other funding available. And so it was very DIY, very volunteer centered, you know, put in what you’re able to, nobody could be required to do things that would jeopardize, you know, their time or their success in school or, you know, so we just kind of loosely made things up as we went. And that’s the website you see is largely the result of those three, four years of work. There’s one document called the holy catalog under the climate justice press, which brings together a lot of writing that was done in that early period, um, of all kinds. And I would recommend that as a kind of something we did with no budget. 

Um, and it’s only in the past year, literally since the beginning, January of 2021, that we decided to make a concerted effort to understand how to raise funds, to identify the foundations, to apply to and to do that. And so last year we made a number of applications to fund the community plan, um, to get that off the ground and to pay a small number of people for part-time work on that, to launch it, not having had success so far. Um, we’re launching it anyway. Um, but we continue to look for funds because the principle is as articulated. If the ideal is when you’re able to support yourself doing this good work. Um, so we’re taking baby steps in that direction. I would say if you add up all the grant proposals we did last year for that, you know, I am speaking together about many, many, uh, opportunities. 

If we had got them, we’d have well over a hundred thousand dollars, which could, you know, keep a lot of people working on this until it ended in the report we’re trying to do. And, um, in the process, you know, we made relationships with foundations. We learned, I don’t know, we learned about what a grant proposal has to look like. We got feedback from, uh, certain of the organizations that liked what we did, but didn’t think we were able to do it, um, or didn’t have the resources or the plan wasn’t really there. So that’s all helped us both on doing that, that the community plan, which will begin as beginning literally now, and, um, making better fundraising proposals until eventually we have success. And that’s the hope. Um, so it’s a shoestring operation, um, that has survived because of people’s passion and what they’re gonna do on a volunteer basis. 

And, uh, we know that to make it solid and self-generating, and regenerative is an important word, um, in this work that many organizations draw on, um, we have to find a funding model. So the collab is a bet that we can do things in that activity that raise enough money to pay the rent for it, to pay the people working there and to create a beautiful space, uh, to benefit the community. And it is by no means certain that that’s going to become possible after a certain initial effort. In this crucial we’re in, we’ve done three, two months and we hope to launch next month and then we’ll see how that goes. I don’t know if that’s much of an answer. I can’t even remember the question.

I’m curious about your personal views about what the central obstacles are to achieving this transition in regards to both culture and material structures that exist in Isla Vista in regards to say, UCSB  and the state. And generally, I mean, there’s so much infighting on the left, what might be called identity politics. And you touched on funding and like the struggles that, um, have come from that aspect, but how do you see that relating to the cultural dynamics at play in Isla Vista?

Sure. Okay. It’s a huge question, you know, pointing to the issues involved in thinking about it. Um, first off there is, there’s no answer. We don’t know what’s going to happen during this process. And the crises that we face are on an existential level that are making life worse by the day for more and more people. And that is intertwined, of course, right? The climate crisis is kind of the timeline that we have to make things happen by. And we have to do this in, in an economic circumstance that just generates inequality. We have to do it in the existing parameters of racism and patriarchy in the society. And these are global problems. Um, we have to do it in conditions of a pandemic. Um, we have to do it in, uh, what I call cultures of violence, which permeate communities and families, but really go all the way to the geopolitical level as we’ve seen. 

Um, so it seems what I’ve learned from 10 years and, you know, as a participant, uh, and observer of the global climate justice network of movements, we call it the global kind justice movement, but it’s not a movement. It’s a network of any movements, um, is that you have to build, you have to build a dense, you know, community dense, meaning more people participating, uh, more people collaborating and the, uh, trade-off is, you know, people…tend to be committed to their way of doing things. So you have to find people that are open to that collaboration across all kinds of, of differences, of strategy, of issue, of, um, you know, purpose. Um, and that’s true right down to the local level. So it’s important to the way I’ve always thought about E ECOS is that it is open to every community member potentially asking for a future that has aligned with what we call our values and our mission statement. 

Um, and it’s an open invitation. Uh, these things don’t grow by themselves, especially if you’re starting small. Um, you both understand the necessity for working with others and the value of that. Um, even if you lack the capacity to do everything that you would like to do, I don’t think we have a strategic plan that puts all that together. We are sort of by experience, trying to figure out ways to do that. And the trend, I think for E eco Vista is that it is grown in different ways. It’s not just in numbers or visible projects, but it has deep, we have deepened our understanding of, of this work. And yet we’re still very much at the beginning of it or the, you know, trying to get to the middle. And I think some of the things I’ve been talking about are the ways to do that. 

The, um, working with other organizations and working within the community for the community, um, that’s the model I see. Um, and there you deal with all kinds of inequalities, all kinds of, you know, adversaries, actually the, the landlords U C S B itself, the county, um, and then the systems. So, uh, there’s no guarantee, there’s no guarantee in, in terms of confronting the climate crisis, you just have to, uh, wake up to it, uh, examine yourself and what you think you can do. And in the process learn by doing, and working with others. It’s very general, but that’s a kind of, that’s kind of the, uh, the frame I take, you know, to activism. And I think there’s a spiritual dimension to it too. I think you have to be kind of, you don’t have to be, but it helps if, you know, things align if the way you do things aligns with, you know, your deepest, most positive understanding of, uh, some, some weighty, uh, matters also with no answers. 

Like, you know, how do we relate to nature as part of nature, that’s screwing with nature. Uh, how do we get out of that? Um, what are the ways to, to think about doing that? Because we’ve dug a hole so deep that, um, we better find some ways to do things better than we’ve done in the past. Who is that? We, I mean, I, I think starting locally is, is good because you actually have to work with other people to see what can be done and you see, you know, how that works and doesn’t work, but also networking with others and realizing that nobody’s alone in this, no community is alone. Um, that there’s plenty of like-minded communities doing amazing things. There’s, as we say, a blurry versus systemic alternatives already in motion, there’s a dense network of social justice organizations and climate justice movements doing this work. 

Um, so maybe, you know, maybe the pandemic and the technology that’s allowing us to meet over zoom. I really doubt it because we’ve scheduled a meeting on campus with however many we started with, um, to do this. I don’t have time to do that myself. So we’re doing it in my office hours. Uh, and we’re lucky no one has come so up to Sophia. Who’s coming back in a minute. So obviously Alex this is a conversation we can continue to have happy to do that and happy to, you know, make the connections, any of you want to other, uh, people working in eco Vista, uh, or who are more directly working on the food question than I am. Um, and working with others and so forth and so on. 

I really appreciate it, this was all effectively a conversation starter which has provided a lot of content that is a guiding force of some kind for moving forward beyond just academic projects. So, thanks. 

Yeah. Nobody can, you know, be content with work anymore if it’s not out in the world in a non-academic setting.

By: Alex Proksch

El Centro Timeline: 1969-2019

By Adriana Rodriguez & Veronica Huerta, First-Generation Latinx Undergraduates

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]


YDSA COVID Organizing, 2022

Taylor Clark, interviewed by Jenna Norwood

The interviewer met with YDSA co-chair Taylor Clark to discuss the demonstration concerning the influx of COVID money received by UCSB. Clark details his involvement in YDSA, as well as how the chapter found out about the money, steps they took to contact the administration, and how they planned the march to chancellor Yang’s house to demand answers. 

Just to explain a little background about what I’m researching for my project. So last year, UCSB received an influx of COVID money from the government in 2020. I believe it was around twenty-two million dollars and the funds seem to be unaccounted for and the university was just not being transparent about where the money was going, what it was doing, and it led to a lot of confusion and then anger among the students. So today I’m here interviewing Taylor Clark, a member of YDSA just to ask him a few questions about the march that was led to demand checks for the students from the COVID relief funds. So can you just tell me a little bit about your involvement In YDSA and the position you hold, and just a little bit of how you got to be so active in this organization? 

So I am YDSA’s co-chair that essentially makes me- It’s similar to a co-president situation, but well, we kind of think of it as like a facilitator in chief. So my role is really to facilitate the priorities we decide on as a chapter. And to the best of my ability to make sure those things are effectively carried out, whatever they may be, at least in theory. Well, what was the rest of your question? 

Just like your involvement and how you got to be so active, like how you got introduced to it?

Yeah. So our chapter of YDSA got started from the UCSB chapter of Students for Bernie in the 2020 presidential campaign after the election. We essentially want to continue organizing and looking for ways to do that, and we felt that the young Democratic Socialists of America best suited our chapters, values and the sort of political project we are pursuing. So in the wake of Bernie’s loss in the election, we essentially voted to transition and become a YDSA chapter. When I was at the time, I was one of the people who was really pushing us to become a YDSA chapter because I didn’t want to, you know, throw in the towel after the campaign. But yeah, I suppose that’s kind of the abridged version of how I got involved in YDSA, after I was what’s called a campus core leader in the Bernie campaign, which is essentially someone who got some training from the campaign itself to then go and organize students, And then after serving as a campus core leader, I ran for co-chair and We wrote a constitution for ourselves as a YDSA chapter, and I got elected as I got like two, two and a half years ago. Something like that weirdly enough. And yeah, just been organizing with YDSA ever since.

Yeah, that’s super great! So I know the way that YDSA is organized is that they bring up a certain topic that people want to discuss, so regarding the COVID money, how did the YDSA chapter find out about the money given to UCSB? And what were the initial steps into digging deeper on what the money was going to be used for or what you guys thought would be the right way for UCSB to use the money? 

Yeah, for sure. So from my memory, it was one of our chapter members at the time whose name is Patrick, Patrick Fairbanks. He essentially, I forgot exactly what sort of turned him onto it, how we found out about it. But some way or another, he sort of discovered that the university had received a lot of money from the federal government in the CARES package, and that for whatever reason, a lot of this money wasn’t being spent. And at first, our approach really was to just figure out what was going on there and why it looked, from our perspective, why the university was just sitting on over $10 million in COVID relief funds? So yeah, yeah, I still have no idea what ended up happening to that money, funny enough. 

Really? That’s Interesting!

Yeah, It’s an interesting follow-up project, like research projects on what exactly it all got spent on, but we haven’t had at the time to do it. Anyway, so yeah, one of our chapter members, Patrick Fairbanks, who later became the chapter secretary for some time, essentially kind of discovered that a lot of the money the university got from the COVID relief fund had not been spent, and we initially started trying to have a conversation with the university. I believe we talked to a few vice-chancellors and other university representatives to essentially just figure out where the money was supposed to go. And the university’s response, in so many words, was essentially that they felt that they needed to save the money because they were running a deficit and, you know, the kind of tagline the catchphrase that, that administration uses whenever they have to justify this sort of thing is, oh, budget cuts. We’re not getting as much money as we used to from the state, etc. So when we brought it up to the vice-chancellor, she essentially said the reason the money hasn’t been spent is because we need to use that money to cover the University’s deficits related to COVID. The ironic thing is that, like she cited budget deficits and decreased state funding as the reason for me to retain the money, but that year, the university had actually received significantly more money from the state than had in previous years. I think to the tune of like sixty million dollars more. 

Oh wow. 

Yeah, a fairly significant sum. So the university actually receives a lot more money from the federal government from federal and state government than the vice-chancellor was essentially kind of implying and didn’t really make sense to say that they needed to hold on to all of that COVID relief money because they’re just this boost in funding from the state for that year.

Especially to say that, you know, that this money was given for COVID relief, but then they’re using it for a deficit, which is for two different purposes. So I could see how people would react with confusion and anger towards that. 

Yeah, absolutely. That’s when we discovered that that was really what the confusion started to turn anger for, I think understandable reasons. And so at that point, we started pivoting towards, well, thinking about the things that would be a lot more useful that that money could be used for. And kind of the immediate thing that came to mind, especially with the relief, like the stimulus checks that were going out at that time was just something that made the most sense. I think that was also something that Patrick initially came up with back in the day. And so we did some simple math and worked out that the amount of money that they were sitting on could be sent to students and about like nine hundred dollars even checks and would effectively use up a lot of the money, but leave a little bit leftover for, like important sanitation work, which the university said that they needed some of the money for, I believe. And from there, we went on to eventually organize a march around it, we talked and unanimously passed a resolution sort of endorsing the idea. And eventually, the university didn’t really give ground, and once summer hit, we kind of lost steam. It was very hard to sort of keep this energy after that. But yeah.

So do you remember anything, based on the research that I did, it seemed like there was a series of emails that were sent between members of YDSA and staff of UCSB. Like, if you don’t remember, it’s perfectly fine, but do you remember the tone of the emails? And if they seemed kind of receptive to the cause of anywhere or where they just kind of more like dismissive of what you guys were trying to do? 

So, yeah, first they were essentially, the first round of emails were essentially sympathetic and saying, “yeah, we understand these are hard times with university needs some money”, and then I personally was not really the person writing emails or sending them, well, I’m not even sure I read them all. It was mostly handled by our secretary at the time. But my understanding from what I remember is that at first university kind of expressed sympathy but then the problem didn’t go away. There was some frustration with that. 

Yeah, yeah. And then from there it seemed like you guys kind of started planning the march after you calculated the numbers. Do you remember the reaction from the staff to the march taking place? Were they dismissive again? Or were they kind of sympathetic to the march taking place? Also, did you have to ask permission? That was the question I wanted to ask. 

Oh no. YDSA historically does not really ask for permission to do these things.

I think, yeah, that’s what I figured.

Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of what my pride points for our chapter is. We just do what we feel like we need to do. Anyway, So I’m sure that, you know, the feelings of staff were not monolithic, and I’m sure some would probably be a lot more sympathetic to the idea than others. The only interaction we had with staff, during and after the march was the vice-chancellor, I think it was the vice-chancellor or someone from an administration, not the person previously. But some folks from administration essentially monitored the march and that was, it was explained to me that that was their substitute for having like a police presence, which is obviously preferable to have a few staff people there instead of police to protest. Yeah. Um, and I expect the folks we talked to then were pretty sympathetic, I don’t think they spoke for the university in any official capacity. I think they were just expressing personal sympathies. And we did try to schedule some follow-up meetings with the university after the march. Again, there were lots of emails that I don’t really remember, but my understanding was that we got kind of stonewalled and I think the university got essentially tired of meeting with us because but they essentially just wanted to say, “We’re holding on to this money for these deficit problems”, and they weren’t. You know, they want to make us happy, but they didn’t want to change their position on the issue. 

Yeah, exactly, yeah. And that’s obviously very frustrating from a student standpoint, knowing that there’s this large sum of money, especially in our position, knowing that we are students and that we need help more than ever, especially because of COVID. So I could see where the frustration would lie on the student side, but for the purpose of the transcription. If you could just go through like the day of the march from what you remember, like kind of the series of events, how people were feeling during the march, like how just the vibe, the overall vibe of the march, just for the purpose of the transcription so people can know what the day kind of felt like. 

 For sure. For sure. So. Marches always have a sort of anxiety leading up to them, at least for the people organizing them, because, you know, you always have this impression that no one’s going to show up. So I think that I remember most from the beginning of the day. It’s like this kind of nervous excitement. We had gotten sort of all the materials together, and I tend to be kind of an early bird. So I was the first person at the site like an hour early or something waiting for other folks to come back. And we started in front of the UCen, and, you know, at first, it’s kind of a trickle of people. We had some music going, and I think some signs and we also had a lot of paraphernalia that say, we had like flags and banners and all sorts of things, which was a lot of fun. Anyway, It’s kind of starts to trickle, a couple of people start coming kind of get set up and then once it’s like ten minutes past the time you say everyone’s supposed to be, that’s when folks actually get there. We got a group of, I think, 40 to 50 people together. And yeah, from there, it was kind of just a matter of you know, again, the chanting and stuff starts to happen. 

And you went to Chancellor Yang’s house correct? Yeah, yeah. Based on the research I did, it didn’t seem like he was home or anything like that.

 It did not seem like that. I’m actually curious where he was at the time.

Yeah, that’s a good question.

Yeah, I wonder if I see he was at like off-campus house or something

I’m sure he was somewhere, and then there was also a letter that he sent, correct? He sent out a letter saying, this is why the checks are not coming. Or maybe it wasn’t him specifically, but I remember getting something in my USCB email.

Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t remember that too concretely. Unfortunately, I think from what I remember, which may very well be wrong because it has been a little while. Yeah, but I think they alluded to it kind of in a larger email as well.

Yeah, yeah. I think that’s what I’m referring to. Yeah, yeah. I remember it was kind of a big deal like a lot of people were talking about it, even my friends who weren’t YDSA and I was kind of like telling them about what was happening and they were like, hh yeah, I heard about that. So I mean, it reached pretty far across campus, which is really cool. Yeah. So I guess we still don’t have a definitive answer about where the money went and maybe like, maybe I can even do a project and research that for the Living History Project, for the thing that I’m doing. But I just felt like this was a huge piece of student activism that absolutely needed to be documented. And I think the Living History Project, which is what I’m a part of, would be the perfect way just to document this to people can or future students or students now can go back and read it and kind of just like, see the university and how they handled the situation and then versus how the students handled the situation. So I just wanted to thank you so much for doing this interview. It was really helpful. And yeah, like I said earlier, once it’s already transcribed, posted to the website and whatnot, I will send you the link and then everyone In YDSA can read it as well. Yeah, thank you so much. 

Cool. All right. Wow. Sounds good. 

Yeah, thank you again for doing this, I really appreciate it.

Sure. Have a good night!

Thank you. You too!


Interviewed by: Jenna Norwood

Kavitha Iyengar

May 14th, 2020


Kavitha Lyengar is the current statewide president of the UAW and resides on the Executive Board with nine other people.  She first took on leadership roles in the UAW in 2016 after several years of union membership. She ran for local campus leadership and then statewide leadership.  In this interview, she describes what drew her to get involved, the inner workings of the UAW, and the union’s challenges and goals moving forward.  She was interviewed by Frances Woo via Zoom.

Transcript

So to start off, can you give a brief description about your position at the UAW?

Yeah, I am the statewide union president, so that means that I serve on an executive board with nine other people who were elected by members across the state. And I’m a grad student and a GSI at UC Berkeley.

Ok. So what made you first want to get involved with the UAW?

Yeah. So I got involved in 2016 when I felt like the left needed to build a lot more power to fight the forces against us. So that’s what made me get first involved. I was in my like second or third year of bad school by then.

When you say, like the forces against you, are you talking about, like, just the UC overall?

Yeah, the UC overall. But I think more importantly, in 2016, I was looking at kind of big right wing attacks on issues I care about, immigrants rights, women’s rights, economic inequality…seemed like it was going to vastly expand. And I think for us to kind of fight back against those conservative forces we need to have strong progressive institutions on the left that bring people together and to which we can have kind of real power. And so I yeah, that’s what made me first get involved, is that being involved in your union, I think is one of the most important things you can do to have kind of shared and big power.

When you first joined, were you like one of the general members of the organization?

Yeah. So, yeah, I joined my first day of grad school. I joined my union, but I wasn’t super involved or going to union meetings until,yeah, my second or third year. And then I, yeah, I started going to union membership meetings and then organizing committee meetings, and then I ran for local campus leadership before I ran for statewide leadership.

How do you feel like the overall, like, vibe of the community in terms of like being in meetings, like the people involved were?

Were? Yeah. So, I mean, right after the Trump election, a ton of people went to union meetings because we’re all, I think, looking for ways that we could come together and have kind of a way to collectivize our efforts. And since then, the unions kind of really grown over the last, now about four years, I can’t believe it’s 2020. Over the last four years, union membership has grown; a lot more stewards and leaders are involved in the union. And I think there’s a real sense among grad workers that when we come together, we can transform our working conditions. And I think we see a lot of that happening right now. We’ve seen that happen over the past few months. I think it’s a real testament to regrowing a union.

Yeah, definitely. So how do you kind of describe the UAW leadership crowd prior to, like you moving up in the ranks?

Yeah, I mean, I think there’s kind of lots of different philosophies for how graduate student unions should work and be run. I experienced a union that’s member-, that’s, that’s membership, whose membership declined for about a decade and who kind of levels of engagement were pretty low in my experience. And so, yeah, I feel like over the last few years, kind of everyone involved in the union has been really dedicated to rebuilding it and really building it up into a strong fighting union.

Yeah, definitely. Were there any changes that you like want to implement moving into your position as president?

Yeah, I mean, it’s really important to me that, like everyone knows they have a union and that they should be a part of it. And that being a part of it means not only kind of signing a membership card, that that’s a really important way for us to have collective power, but it means that there is like someone on the shop floor who identifies as a union leader, someone who is constantly talking with their friends about the union and is making sure that their friends are participating in union actions and efforts and kind of building that structure is kind of been on the top of my list of the most important things we can do, because, you know, to have a really strong and effective strike threat that can win the things we need, like an end to nonresident supplemental tuition, housing stipends, free public transit, which I think we need as part of a green new deal and abolishment of the title nine system as it currently exists. All these kind of really big, bold demands is going to take everyone coming together. And I think that takes building really serious and sustaining structures. So that’s kind of been one of my major priorities, is making sure we can build those structures. It’s also really important to me to get more international students involved in the union. It’s such a huge group of workers, are folks who come from abroad and face all kinds of discriminations in terms of visa, all kinds of discrimination in terms of tuition, like extra tuitions that folks have to pay simply based off of where they’re born. And I think it’s really important in order to fight those issues, to have lots of international students involved in the union to take those issues on. So those two have been really, those two issues have really been at the top of my mind, in addition to, I think, the third big one has been making sure that we have a real political presence in Sacramento. As you know, a public sector union, our boss’s boss’s boss is the governor of the state of California. And so it’s very, very important, particularly looking at COVID right now, that we have a strong coalition with other unions, both to fight on the shop floor, fight against the boss, but also to come together to make sure that the impacts of COVID aren’t on the backs of workers. And so making sure as a piece of that we have a plan in Sacramento to move bills effectively is very, very important.

And what would you say are some of the biggest struggles that you face trying to like get people together and organize?

I mean, I think the biggest hurdle has been just the fact that there was kind of years without structures in the union that really touched everyone’s lives. And so I think just like moving from a place where someone, like doesn’t know about the union hasn’t heard about it, no one and none of their friends know about it and none of their friends have known about it for years, has really kind of built a culture where people really don’t think of it as kind of the air they breathe or something that really matters in a daily material way. And so I think is one of the biggest obstacles is kind of rebuilding from a place of not knowing. Because I think a lot of us come to organizing because it’s, you know, part of the air we breathe for whatever reason. That’s because of the way we were raised or our ideological predilections. But it’s like something that we just think of as a common sense. And I think building that for people in places where it hasn’t been for years is really, has been quite a challenge. And then I think, you know, the other big challenge is that the University of California doesn’t want to treat us the way we deserve. Right. Like that is the other major, major, major challenge is the boss. The question is like, how do you transform the conditions of power to make the, cause the boss to care?

So right now, what are the kind of best methods are you using to kind of like, re-engage people and like we stimulate their culture of caring about the union and knowing about the organization?

Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a variety of tactics we take. I mean, running campaigns about issues that people care about I think is super, super important. And I mean, people are diverse. People care about a lot of different things. So I think it matters quite a bit to have campaigns running on housing stipends and housing issues. I mean, that’s a shared issue that clearly runs across the grad student workforce. But I also have a, we have a committee addressing issues of sexual violence and sexual harassment at the university. We have an international students committee that’s really working on these visa issues I was talking about, um, working on having kind of projects and programs that are really addressing all of those issues I think is really important so we have a way of talking to our co-workers that’s really grounded in something that folks care about. And then, you know, like raising the visibility of the union is always very, very important. And so making sure people kind of know it and see it, but I think kind of at root, the most important thing is identifying people who folks have relationships with because it’s all based on real relationships. That’s what organizing is, and so making sure that there are people who people have real relationships with, who identify and care about the union and identifying those people through kind of different issue campaigns and bringing folks into our kind of broader plan to win, I think is the whole game.

And how have you kind of seen the member engagement increase or just overall shift as your time as president?

Yeah, I mean, I think we’ve seen member engagement increase in a lot of ways. I think we’ve seen at least like and my experience at Berkeley is the most kind of specific, but I mean, over the past few years, I’ve seen more members involved and engaging in union democracy than I have in years. And, you know, we’ve seen member engagement increase in votes and in elections in the union. We’ve seen membership engagement increase in terms of like departmental engagement. We have people who identify as the union in their department and talk with their co-workers who come to union meetings regularly. And I mean, I think the kind of whole COLA movement, while really, you know, the union didn’t, um, organize the wildcat parts of it, I think is really a testament to grad workers coming together and kind of realizing our place as workers in the university and I don’t think that happens without a strong union existing and without kind of a presence of a union that helps people to think through our relationship with the employer as workers, not just as students.

Yeah, definitely, um, and so, yeah, can you give a little more in-depth information on, like, how the union is kind of working through both like the COLA movement and also COVID?

Yeah, yeah, totally. So our union has, the university filed legal charges against the union for supposedly organizing the wildcat strikes. And we have filed legal charges against them for failing to bargain with the union over cost of living issues and for unlawfully disciplining folks at Santa Cruz who were on a wildcat strike. So, you know, our union has fought for decades on cost of living issues. This is, you know, one of the reasons our union was founded in the 90s was because we hadn’t seen wage increases in years. Past living issues have been, you know, a big issue from the very, very beginning of our union. And just, you know, during our last round of bargaining, we tried to bargain over housing stipends and the university said housing stipends are student issue, not a worker issue. And that’s been really core to our nig problem in our union for a long time, is that the university likes to treat as students, not as workers. That’s how the university is justifying giving folks housing stipends at other campuses. They’re saying, oh, these, we did this for you as a student, not as a worker so we’re not going to do it through the union contract. And I mean, all of us in the union know that it’s better for it to be in a union contract. It meansbyou have rights; it means you have protections; it means that it can’t be unilaterally taken away from you. That’s why we want a union. And so there’s a really big issue with the university’s kind of position on this, that this is, my god it’s dark, that this is just a student issue. And so our kind of relationship with the kind of cost of living issues is, you know, run deep in our unions’ DNA for a long time, and right now is taking the shape of union members organizing around an unfair labor practice strike authorization vote, because given the university’s unlawful behavior, union members can decide to go on strike together. And because of the university’s failure to follow the law to bargain with the union about these cost of living issues rather than unilaterally implementing changes that we have no protections over. That’s something that’s, you know, an ongoing effort. And, you know, the kind of timelines and all the kind of plans around that totally transformed because of COVID. So the COVID-19 pandemic, you know, is bringing forth the worst economic recession I’ve seen in my lifetime. I was here, you know, have like…This is worse than 2008. And it’s, the unemployment rates are worse than the New Deal era, you know, or the Great Depression era. This is like really, really bad. And we’ve been working in coalition with other organizations across the state, across the UC, across the country, to call for no austerity, right, in the face of this crisis. We need to have fully funded public institutions. We need free health care. We need paid leaves. We need housing. We need to cancel rent. We need like, all like, it’s really laying bare all the ways in which our system is brok- is broken already. And it’s, like we need free child care, like all these problems that were like, problems before are just exacerbated now. And so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity this affords us to work together with organizations to get more bud-, bigger budgets from the state and from the federal government, to get more research funding, to tax the wealthy, to redistribute wealth in the state of California so it goes to the people who need it, so it goes to public institutions. And I think that’s really one of the major goals and opportunities we have right now, is to come together across all sectors and identities of the working class to really take on the like, right wing corporate forces that, you know, got me involved in my union in the first place.

Yeah, definitely. And can you tell a little bit more about how, like, communication is going right now, like across other collaborating organizations, but also like within the UAW in terms of like the executive board with the other members? And things like that.

Yeah. Yeah. So I’ll start from the shop floor and move up. So, you know, we have stewards in every department talking with their coworkers all the time about what’s going on. We’ve been having phone banks every day for a variety of reasons, to just like be in touch, check in with how things are going, make sure people are doing well, see if they’re having any workplace issues, and let them know about these broader efforts that we’re engaged in on a variety of levels. There’s also, you know, union meetings that happen on each campus every month, things like monthly membership meetings, committee meetings, et cetera. Our statewide leadership, in addition to our executive board, there are elected leaders from each campus who sit on joint council, that group just met last month or last month to talk about kind of how to orient our organizing efforts amidst COVID and these broader fights we find ourselves in the middle of now. And then we also have e-board that meets monthly to talk through our orientation and how we are collaborating with other organizations. I and a few other e-board members have been really involved in the UC Unions Coalition that meets every week or has been meeting every week now given COVID to talk about our shared orientation around demands of the UC, demands of the state of California, and demands of the federal government. So we’re talking about how to collaborate on federal funding like the Cares Act, but in the next stimulus round, making sure there’s lots of money for universities to get research funding, working with the state budget to make sure that the cuts to UC aren’t as deep as the state want. The latest projections I’ve seen are they’re looking at 10 percent budget cuts to the UC from its usual, from, in terms of its state funding, you know, like only, a vast, vast minority of the UC’s funding, like five to 10 percent comes from the state in the first place, but that’s going to be cut by 10 percent, supposedly. And so figuring out how we, you know, have a joint effort to push back against that, and then also really have a united front before the employer who, you know, historically, last time there was a recession, the cuts came on the workers’ backs, and that’s unacceptable. And that’s not the way we, it should go at all. And so we’ve been coordinating at that level. And then also working through coalitions with community and labor organizations across the state for kind of really bold demands around housing and full employment and health care and making sure that we have a shared strategy around like schools and communities first in the medium term, that we need to have a plan that surround reforming Prop 13 and taxing the wealthy so that we can fund things like our public schools with the moneys they deserve and having plans around the Rental Affordability Act so we can have the rent control we need so that the landlords don’t just get wealthier. So we’ve been talking about collaborating on those efforts and also organizing efforts around kind of shared corporate targets. And then we’re also, you know, in conversation nationally with academic worker unions across higher education institutions in the UAW, because the UAW represents eighty thousand academic workers across the nation. And then in conversation with workers who aren’t necessarily just academic workers, but other higher education workers at different universities about how we can have a national strategy around fighting austerity. But like that, all of that stuff only matters if the people at the gr-, on the like shop floor are participating and engaged in it, so that’s why it’s really important that we are building those structures I was talking about and having conversations with people every day to get people engaged in this fight. And so we’re currently talking about launching a big petition around not only our cost of living issues, but what it would take to have a really kind of just recovery and that that would include addressing our cost of living issues, making sure people aren’t laid off, making sure international workers don’t face xenophobia that is unmerited.

In terms of resources, how is it like organizing like these different levels of, like collaborations and organizing with, within the UAW, and also like all these outside organizations as well?

What do you mean by resources? Like how do we, like, divide energy between all of this stuff? Because like. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Right. Like the questions, like priorities and time and how we can do all these things.

Yeah.

I mean, like I said, the most important stuff is the shop floor organizing and so that’s where I think most people spend their time and effort. And there is a, kind of, smaller group of us between the executive board and the joint council who are part of these more like statewide national conversations and finding ways for our union to usefully plug in. But really, all that stuff is only meaningful if union members are really engaged and involved. So that’s where the vast majority difference time is being spent.

Yeah, definitely. Um, yeah. Well, those are all of my questions. Do you have any questions for me?

No, no, not at all. Yeah, I. Well, I guess like. So what else are you. Yeah. What are the other kind of moving parts for your like trying to do a deep dive on the history of grad student organizing?  So the way we were kind of like structuring it is we basically are going to like old newspaper articles and we also got access to the old UAW contracts so that we can kind of like point out like what advances that grad’s in organizing has made in terms of like contractual efforts and also interviewing, like old UAW members or grad students for their perspectives on, like, the fight. And also just like the inner workings of the UAW. So seeing how it’s like progressed at the years and like, well, parts of it kind of worked. What did it do that the overall, like, presentation of the information that we find is like a mix of providing a blueprint for future leaders, but also like recognizing that, like we have done all this work already, especially because organizing is definitely hard work and it’s super easy to get discouraged. But especially because, like for students that only go to school for like four years, it’s really hard to see like a super tangible change within that amount of time. So, yeah, just kind of like showing students that, like, it can be done. Like this is how much this is how far we’ve come. There’s so, so much more that we have to do. But we can get there, you know. Yeah. Have you been really good article that I like to show people? The history of our union is that S.F. Gate article about our recognition strike when we first formed our union. Six thousand out of nine thousand teachers going on strike together to win our right to unionize. And I find that to be a really kind of useful historical perspective on kind of like that type of power we have to build to really like the University of California.

Yeah, I’ll double check it out. Yeah. Yeah.  Well, thank you so much for meeting with me. And I if you like, I can send you an email and the articles up so you can check it out. Also, are you okay with being quoted in some parts of the article?

Yeah, yeah. That would be totally great. OK, perfect. Well, I hope you have a great day. Thank you. Meeting with me. Absolutely. Wants to be nice. Thank you. Bye bye.