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

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.


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.


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.


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


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/

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. 


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/

In the Wake of the IV Tragedy: 2014-2019

 By Aidan Locke & McKay Kinsey

May 2, 2014

Responding to concerned members of the community, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies conducted a welfare check on a twenty-two-year-old UCSB student, who would later become the perpetrator of the IV Tragedy. The deputies did not search his apartment, stating that he appeared “harmless.”

May 23, 2014

Twenty-one days later the perpetrator wounded fourteen and killed six: George Chen (Chinese: 陳喬治; pinyin: Chén Qiáozhì), 19; Chengyuan “James” Hong (Chinese: 洪晟元; pinyin: Hóng Chéngyuán), 20; and Weihan “David” Wang (Chinese: 王偉漢; pinyin: Wáng Wěihàn), 20; Katherine Breann Cooper, 22; Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20; and Veronika Elizabeth Weiss, 19. He used legally purchased weapons and his car, in which he eventually committed suicide. 

May 24, 2014

The Isla Vista community held a Candlelight Vigil in Storke Plaza, facilitated by Associated Students and the UCSB administration. Thousands attended the event in remembrance of the victims. The assembly moved through Isla Vista, following the perpetrator’s path. Many affected by the tragedy gave speeches, including one victim’s father, the Chancellor of UC Santa Barbara, Henry T. Yang, and community members. Countless speakers expressed their frustration with the lack of gun reform and preventive measures that could have helped prevent the killings.

The Daily Nexus

May 27, 2014

UCSB held a memorial service was held in Harder Stadium that was attended by over 20,000 people mourning and remembering the victims. Speakers shared stories and memories of the victims, and encouraged members of the audience to reach out to politicians with the phrase “Not One More”, in order to assist in promoting stricter gun control.

May 28, 2014

The UCSB Surf Team organized a memorial “Paddle-Out” attended by over 1,000 people in order to remember the victims. One of the organizers stated that the turnout was much bigger than anticipated, and that it was a “testament to the strength and resilience of the community”.

The Daily Nexus

May 18, 2015

Two fathers of victims of the tragedy spoke at an event called “Turning Tragedy into Activism: Why We Got Involved in the Gun Safety Movement” to share their opinions on gun rights. They both advocated for more gun control, but not a complete ban on guns. 

May 23, 2015

UCSB held a candlelight vigil on the anniversary of the tragedy. Chancellor Yang and several family members of the victims spoke in remembrance of those who lost their lives one year prior.

The Daily Nexus

November 8, 2016

Isla Vista voted to enact the Community Services District (CSD), giving the community more power to change and improve itself, although it was not given its own revenue (through a tax) until two years later. 

May 23, 2017

Three years after the shooting, US Congressman Salud Carbajal introduced the “Gun Violence Restraining Order Act,” which would give everyday citizens more power in stopping violent events in the future. It lets anyone file concerns about people they are worried are trying to buy or use guns. Once reported, the police would then investigate them. In certain cases, it would grant the police the power to temporarily confiscate a person’s gun(s), which would aid in stopping access to guns by potential perpetrators. The goal of this act is to prevent shootings by restricting access to guns, and allowing the community to help stop these tragedies by reporting those who they think may be a threat to themselves or others.

January 1, 2019

Assembly Bill 1968 is introduced in California which bans anyone convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors and those who have been housed in a mental institution for over a year from ever owning a firearm. Secondly, the bill mandates at least eight hours of firearm safety training for anyone attempting to acquire a concealed carry permit. Third, it gives police officers the power to verbally request gun restraining orders when there is not enough time for a formal, written request.  Finally, it forces all California Law Enforcement agencies to file information on stolen/lost firearms. A majority of these new laws assist in the prevention of tragedies similar to the Isla Vista Tragedy. While this bill was not enacted as a direct result of the Tragedy, the laws it puts forth aid in the prevention of events such as those experienced in Isla Vista on May 23, 2014, from ever happening again.

Works Cited

Timeline: Growth and change in the aftermath of the Isla Vista shooting: The Daily Nexus. The Daily Nexus | The University of California, Santa Barbara’s independent, student-run newspaper. (2017, May 23). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://dailynexus.com/2017-05-23/timeline-growth-and-change-in-the-aftermath-of-the-isla-vista-shooting/ 

I.V. community remembers fellow students: The Daily Nexus. The Daily Nexus | The University of California, Santa Barbara’s independent, student-run newspaper. (2014, May 30). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://dailynexus.com/2014-05-28/i-v-community-remembers-fellow-students/ 

Thousands attend paddle-out: The daily nexus. The Daily Nexus | The University of California, Santa Barbara’s independent, student-run newspaper. (2015, May 24). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://dailynexus.com/2014-05-29/thousands-attend-paddle-out/ 

Rep. Carbajal introduces bicameral legislation to reduce gun violence. U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal. (2017, May 23). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://carbajal.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=108 

Noozhawk. (n.d.). After decades of effort, Isla Vista votes for self-governance. Noozhawk.com Santa Barbara & Goleta Local News. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.noozhawk.com/article/election_isla_vista_csd_utility_user_tax 

Fathers speak on gun safety, Control: The Daily Nexus. The Daily Nexus | The University of California, Santa Barbara’s independent, student-run newspaper. (2015, May 19). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://dailynexus.com/2015-05-19/fathers-speak-on-gun-safety-control/ 

One year later: Candlelit Vigil and March remembers students lost: The Daily Nexus. The Daily Nexus | The University of California, Santa Barbara’s independent, student-run newspaper. (2015, May 26). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://dailynexus.com/2015-05-24/one-year-later-students-remembered-in-candlelit-vigil-and-march/ 

We remember them: Honoring the unlucky bright minds of our youth: The Daily Nexus. The Daily Nexus | The University of California, Santa Barbara’s independent, student-run newspaper. (2020, July 24). Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://dailynexus.com/2015-06-30/we-remember-them-honoring-the-unlucky-bright-minds-of-our-youth/ 

Bradner, E., & Agiesta, J. (2017, October 2). Americans want strict gun laws after mass shootings. then their interest fades. | CNN politics. CNN. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/politics/gun-control-polling-las-vegas-shooting/index.html 

Dr. Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval

“My name is Ralph Armbruster Sandoval. I’m a professor in the Department of Chicano and Chicano Studies, and I’m also the chair of the department.”

So it’s my understanding that the Department of Black and Chicano Chicana
Chicanx Studies departments blossomed because of student activism. And I just wanted to ask you why you think that the method that they used added to the weight of the cause. Like, for example, the hunger strikes. Why do you think that method was strategic in this case?

Ok, so you’re asking me about the origins of the department or the hunger
strike specifically? Because there’s two different things there.

The Hunger strikes specifically.

Okay, the hunger strike was in a way, let’s see it was twenty-five years after
the department was first established. And if you want me to speak more slowly or something like that, I can.

No worries.

I know you’re recording it, but still. So twenty five years after, you know, it’s
almost like a whole generation had passed. So the people from the 60s and 70s who protested and demonstrated and did all they could to establish a department, they had “moved on”. But the students of that era still had ties to the alumni from that and the people that created that, were affiliated with Mecha and then Mecha at UCSB had its own unique kind of organizing context so Mecha became known as El Congreso in 1975 and so they had ties with those alumni and those alumni didn’t just kind of fly off, if you will, and didn’t maintain ties with the current students and students wanted to maintain ties with them as well. So but 25 years later, at the beginning, the department, for instance, only had three faculty members and 25 years later, they still had three not the same three. But in other words, they hadn’t really expanded and they had a feeling the students of the 90s, that the university had kind of tokenized them, meaning that they had created a place to kind of quiet them down, but they really didn’t offer them any substantial change. So it was just kind of a what they call it, like a co-opted device, like something to kind of quiet down. I often say that if a baby’s crying, of course you’re going to give the baby something that they would want, you know, like a pacifier. And so truly, they like, pacify restive masses. Sometimes you can ignore them. Sometimes you can mock them. This is what Gandhi said. It wasn’t me. You can mock them. You can ignore them. And sometimes, you know, push comes to shove. You might have to give them something to pacify them to kind of quiet them down. The other thing you could do, of course, is, you know, repress them. You could arrest them. You could do mean things to them. But you know, if you try out all those things you could pacify them, which the system did in 1970.

But by the 1990s, they were saying, listen, we’re not really going to take these pacification efforts any longer. And so we want to do something substantive. And initially, they tried to do everything that you can think of, meaning going to other professors, going to university officials, you know, in other words, engaging in talk and conversation and trying to compromise and whatnot. And none of it really was successful. Cesar Chavez, of course, who had regularly relied on hunger strikes many times throughout his life. Taught a class here in 1991 in IV theater; it’s the only time he ever taught a stand-alone class. The quarter-long class was like a three-hour class. I think it was, yeah, like it was called farm labor organizing in California or in the United States or something like that. And yeah, so the students, some took that class, some in or had been farmworkers themselves, if not their families and parents and stuff. So they understood that struggle very intimately, very personally. It was like a real thing for them and they respected, admired him, and that was like his weapon of choice, if you will, right, the hunger strike.

So, so lots of things like it all kind of added up to they tried to do the regular thing, which is talk to the powers that be. They ignored them. They were really angry about what was going on, not only here in California, I mean, started at UCSB, but throughout California and the whole United States. It was just everything was going in the wrong direction. And the way that I interpreted in the book that I wrote about the strike was that they had to do something significant, something spectacular because they were being ignored. And so I kind of interpreted the hunger strike as a scream as a plea for attention. And so when they got out onto the administration building Cheadle Hall, they just camped themselves out there, you know, and it was really hard to ignore that. You can imagine a group of students all Latino, you know, Latinx. I mean, they weren’t using that terminology. Two of the students, by the way, were of Guatemalan ancestry, so they’re Central American and the other seven were Mexican and Chicano. And you know, they just said, ‘you can’t ignore us anymore. You guys were right here. We’re like starving right in front of you. And if you don’t do something about it, we’re going to continue to atrophy. Our bodies are going to decline and we could even die. Do you really want that to happen?’ So it’s kind of like playing, as we used to say. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And that’s what they did.

Well, there’s two questions like why did they do it? And maybe like, why did it work? But I think that’s why they did it. It’s because they didn’t know what else to do, and they knew that Chavez had used it to bring about positive change. And Chavez died, by the way, in ninety-three in April of ninety-three. And the UCSB strike was basically a year, 13 months after his death. And prior to the UCSB students’ hunger strike and UCLA students had done the same thing in May of ’93. So only in other words, only a month after Chavez had died. And so it was kind of like this moment, a moment that was happening. Seeing that Chavez had done that, you know, you have like a toolkit on it sounds kind of random. He had a tool belt on and you had your hammers and wrenches or whatever. What could you pull out from your toolkit that you would use? Yeah. And it was a strike. They tried everything else. It was like, OK, they use everyone’s going to use a bad word. What else do we have here that we could use you guys? We use that one. We use this one. We use that one. What did this other guy do? And it wasn’t I don’t think that directly in terms of like kind of copying or emulating him, but everybody knew that he had regularly gone on hunger strikes before. And in fact, that when he passed away, he was on a fast not really a strike because he was called to testify in a case that would have potentially bankrupted the union. So it was pretty grave stakes. And he was sixty-six and was already getting kind of old and already went on a number of hunger strikes and his body just gave out anyways. Sorry. I don’t know if that answers your question.

No that was a great answer. Thank you so much. So what made you want to get
involved in this department specifically?

Oh, good question. I have a PhD in sociology, and sociology is an odd field in
a way that it’s rooted really in social justice to a degree, but it’s a very. It’s a very diverse field, so not everybody in the field is committed to that kind of project, from my perspective. So I think there have been all kinds of people that have been, you know, radicals and even revolutionaries or people committed to radical social change. But that hasn’t been the main current in the field. You know, sometimes you have to fight people to get to embrace that perspective. Whereas since you kind of Chicana studies, Chicano studies, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about that from the very get-go. So it’s more openly acknowledged and recognized. And even though there may be other kinds of differences and kind of internal fights and things of that nature, you know, hopefully, you’re all playing on the same field. So I guess, you know, I liked being in that environment where I didn’t have to like consistently prove myself and try to convince people like what I was doing that the world was messed up and that The reason why we’re here is to do something about that is to turn the world upside down. I think sociology, again, there’s a major strain of thought that believes that and encourages students and faculty and others to get engaged
in those activities. But coming out of UC Riverside, UC Riverside, where I got my Ph.D. in sociology, that wasn’t a conducive environment to practice that kind of sociology. Everybody was telling me not to do that. So when I got here, I was like, it was a breath of fresh air, like, you could truly be yourself.

That’s a nice feeling.

It is. You didn’t have to be serving another master, if you will. I did apply to
come to the job here in the sociology department at UCSB, and I really respect this department here. I didn’t get that job. I got the job and Chicano studies well. But the reason why I applied for it is the reason why I just gave you. Um, but there wasn’t a PHD program in Chicano studies, back way back when, back in the day, and the hunger strike produced that program here. Oh, in the first place.

That’s really impressive

Yeah. So that’s what I mean by earlier is that I don’t know if you’ve got a chance to look at my book. It’s no big deal if you have it. They had like six demands, and one of the demands was getting more faculty. Another demand was to get like grapes off campus as there was another grape boycott that Chavez was engineering and they had a whole bunch of demands. But one of the other demands I think is important is was the Ph.D. program. There wasn’t one here at UCSB and there wasn’t one, frankly, in the entire nation, if not world at that time. So the first one ever created was here and it came out of the strike in 1994. So now people are getting pieces in Chicano studies, which is good.

That’s awesome.

Yeah, but it’s also, you know, if you look at it the other way, it’s like, really, is that what it took? People had to like, threaten to die to kind of get something like that. It’s really sad too. It is. Right?

Yeah. Yeah. That was one of the reasons that that question came to mind because it was such an extreme measure that they had to take in order to feel heard. So I thought that that was like an important part of the history.

I mean like theoretically. And if you think about it in an abstract way, like I used to when I was doing the research, I still do sometimes. I remember the cell phone commercials where people are talking on the phone and because especially now with Zoom and stuff, people say, “I can’t hear you,” or people say, “can you hear me now?”


So that could be like a metaphor for, you know, like, let’s say people are out
here demonstrating and they had a bullhorn and they were passing out leaflets and whatnot. People would ignore them, wouldn’t they? Some of us would listen and hear. But the thing is, we do not want to be ignored. We want to be heard. Can you hear me kind of like the phone? It’s like, Yeah, but in a way, the hunger striker just sits there, just sits there. But it’s like they’re shouting. But it’s because they use their words and their words didn’t have any impact. So they’re kind of like, done talking and they’re done eating. And as they say, like, if you didn’t listen to me before, maybe you can hear me now. Yeah, it’s kind of a very unique strategy. But some people oppose it, too. They imposed it back then because they felt that if it didn’t work like I said the toolkit thing, they had nothing else in their toolkit, nothing else in their arsenal, nothing else on there. Sounds macho to say, nothing in their holster. If you shoot that bullet, so to speak and it doesn’t work, then what the heck are you going to do? That’s another issue.

Yeah. So why do you think it was important that this happened, like during that specific time period, you kind of answered that with like it being right after Chavez’s death? But why do you think that this place specifically during that time? Like why UCSB?

Well, I mean, the other thing in California was Proposition 187. I cannot stress how important that was. So Proposition 187 would have basically, like criminalized all people who are undocumented in California and anybody that was going to school k through 12 as well as college, but mostly through K through 12 who was undocumented, would have like obligated the teachers to like, inform the INS because we had the I.N.S. at that time, not ICE Immigration and Naturalization Service. It would have turned them into like Border Patrol agents. So if there’s a kid in their class that they knew there was undocumented, they had to turn them in, right? So basically, they wanted to kick undocumented kids out of school. And anybody that was undocumented too that went to like the emergency room or to seek medical attention would be denied access to health care. So it was a demonization. I mean, we’ve seen it, you know, a lot of people think, Oh, California is real chill today in terms of our race relations and whatnot, and we’re very democratic and we’re blue and Yippee, so to speak. You know, California has not always been like that. And in the nineties, because we had a recession and because we had a really right-wing governor named Pete Wilson rallied behind this Prop 187. So we heard the steady drumbeat of every day that the reason why California was in, you know, not doing well, people are unemployed. Same things that you hear today high rates of crime, high rates of smog, anything that they could blame on somebody who was frankly Mexican. But Latino as well. Anybody who was brown was like a villain, the enemy. And so and I think that trickled down to UCSB and to other campuses because they were saying, like, I mean, basically they were saying, Get out, we don’t want you here. You know, they felt that education and health care were like a magnet that was drawing immigrants to come from Latin America, from Mexico here, so they could take advantage of the system. Right? That’s what the narrative was. 


And so, you know, if the campus wasn’t hospitable to Latinos, then UCSB was saying, get out, too. You know, like, we’re not going to provide you guys with a decent department. We’re not going to provide for you. We’re going to sell grapes on campus. The other thing they were doing was INS raids, which UCSB wasn’t in charge of. The Federal government was. of like Latino families in IV. So they wanted to create a community center, right? And a lot of people that work here and there still to this day are Latino, right, in terms of groundskeepers, janitors, all that kind of stuff. But they lived in IV and they weren’t providing any services to them. So they wanted to tear down building 406 too back during that time period. This is what we’re looking at in front of us. That should have been built in the 1990s. 


But the reason why it wasn’t is because they went on a hunger strike because the original blueprint was to expand that way. So if you go around this building, you know you’ve been building 406. El Centro was slated for demolition. So they saved it. You know, so that place has always been like a home away from home for Latino students, right? So they were just like, Hey, the 187 thing that’s happening statewide is kind of happening here too, because, in a way, they’re not making this like a welcoming environment for us. And they’re telling us to get the hell out. So, so you know, so that’s on the one hand. But they had specific grievances like the department wasn’t growing. Oh, they also were pissed that only 10 percent of our students at that time were Latino. You know, back in the day, they only had one percent 1970, and then it inched up to 10. We’re like, Well, I think in the 90s, maybe a third of California today, you know, Latinos are a majority. And so you. But back then it was like, Hey, thirty-five percent of our state is Latino, and only 10 percent of our students are like Raza. We use that term in that era. So we’re like, What the heck are you guys? What the heck? That’s not really right.

And their big thing was in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County, the tri-county, central coast. There were all these Latino students that we could be attracting to come here to recruit them, but they weren’t doing anything to do that, you know? So we’re like, What the heck is going on here? So that’s why they created even a college day back in 1991. That’s where I came from was to like, bust these kids from these local schools to like, get them in like, Hey, this is what higher education is all about. You don’t have to come here. You go to Cal State, you go to community college. But we want to encourage you guys to come here. Yeah. So that’s one of the reasons why they did that as well.

And slowly but surely, you know, today we’re a society. You know, like 30 percent of our students are Latino, something like that. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine percent. But it was all because of what they did. So one of their demands was to increase funding for EOP and for other recruiting and retention efforts. One thing to bring a Latino student on campus, another thing to retain them, to get them to finish their degrees right? So they had like a really, I think, wide encompassing agenda, you know, from the department to students they didn’t talk about like CAPS. Unfortunately, the CAPS is, you know, the mental health thing. That’s a whole nother story But anyways, they I think that for what they were doing in that era, they were like thinking so far ahead, like, we’ve got to keep it central. We need a community center for like youth and Isla Vista, and we need to stop the I.N.S. raids all these kinds of things. So they put all that on the table. And I think one of the students told me that we were at war. It seemed like there was a war going on, and if it was that serious, then it merited a serious response like the hunger strike. 

And you kind of already answered this, but what has brought. Like what specifically brought you to UCSB and how has your experience been so far? Have you encountered any challenges?

 I mean, what specifically brought me to UCSB? I mean, when you get a Ph.D., you know, you have to eventually go on the job market and you have to like, seek out a job. You’re not going to be unemployed with a Ph.D., although it happens. So I applied to lots of different places and I was lucky enough to get interviews and job offers even. But UCSB was hard to turn down because of the history, right? I knew the history that was here and that was engaging and like, attractive to me. So. What was the other part of the question?’

 How has your experience been so far here?

Yeah, that’s a very tricky question. Yeah, no. People ask that like, what’s been your experience? I mean, I think my experience has been like mixed, mixed in a good way. The thing that’s been saving grace for me is that when I first got here, actually, the students in Congresso interviewed me at building 406, and they asked me what I knew about the hunger strike. And my honest answer was I didn’t know much about that. What I was really interested in as a graduate student, what I wrote my dissertation on was the Anti Sweatshop Movement. And I was an activist. I was an organizer. I got interested in what was happening in Central America, even though I’m not Central American, in the 80s. And I was involved in labor unions and that kind of stuff. And so, unfortunately, the hunger strike here didn’t leave any impact on me in my twenties, if you will. So I felt really stupid, actually when they said that. What’s your take on it? I don’t think they said that. They just said, you know, what do you think about the hunger strike. And I was like, Oh God. But I couldn’t really lie to them. Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me. That was unethical. But I got the job, and I think the students knew that I was probably going to be in solidarity with them in terms of my politics and organizing and activism. And so and the strike had just happened four years prior, so I was hired in ’98 and the strike was in ’94. And I would’ve never been hired had it not been for the strike, never been hired because one of the demands was to increase the number of faculty in the department from, say, like three. I still love it. They said they wanted fifteen. 

How many did they get after that? 

Well, so it went up to like eight, but two other professors were hired the same year I was. So I think in nineteen ’88 when that year started, it was like seven. So they got like a compromise. Actually, they were very smart. Sometimes you’re like, oh, that’s really dumb. Why did you ask for fifteen? That’s just like crazy talk. You know, you ask for the moon. You always ask for the most you can get, hoping that they will actually give it to you, right? Yeah. So they asked for fifteen and they got eight. It’s a lot better than three.

Okay, so anyway, so I got, you know, when I was here, some of the students from that era were still here. Some were like super seniors; some were active in the area, working at UCSB, working in the community. And they’re like, Yeah, Ralph, you know, you should write something about the hunger strike. And I said, you know, I totally would be open to that. I support what you guys did back then, but I’m working on this other thing right now in my book on the sweatshop movement. That’s my primary passion right now, and maybe I’ll get to it. So in 2009, I finally started doing it in earnest, you know, and it took a long time for the book to come to fruition and get published.

But during that time period, this whole time period and even up until today, the best part of my experience to answer your question has been working with students in Congreso and in other organizations, not just them. But I have a very special place in my heart for them, for what they did. And not only in that era, but even before that, because they put their bodies on the line, they sacrificed themselves for our department and for a better world. So meeting them has totally turned and changed my life upside down. It gives me a reason to like, live basically. Yeah, to be in a community with other people that kind of share the same values that I do. So that’s been the best part of working here all that time. And yeah, I’ve gotten roughed up here and there like anybody would in a predominantly white institution and all that kind of stuff. But I survived. You know, I survived and the thing that made it survivable, that’s a word is being in a community again with other people that care, and it’s not just them, it’s other faculty, it’s other people that work on campus in EOP and CAPS and all these other places that you continue finding people that share your values here, your commitment. And so even if we get messed with, I’ll clean that up for you. Even if you get messed with, there’s another word I could use. You can still just talk behind the scenes and go, wasn’t that really messed up that they did that? Yeah, that was messed up and start like, you know, talking like that. And then after you kind of process that you say, Well, what are we going to do about that, you guys? Well, what can we learn from our past? Oh, they did the hunger strike back in the day. I think we could do that. I don’t know. Maybe not. That hunger strike seems kind of rash right now, but maybe we could do this. Maybe we could do that. Not only can we learn from Chicano students, but what about Black students? What about Asian-American students? What about queer students? What about undocumented students? Because once you start digging into this campus, you could see that we really have this rich tradition of activism and organizing, and it’s inspiring. And you know that you kind of students are part of that.

It’s really amazing. I’ve been finding that a lot in the living history project. I didn’t even realize that it was such a huge part of our campus.

Yeah. Yeah. I know it’s not like they put that as one of their calling cards.

No, and they should.

Well, I think I share your perspective, but you know, so you know, North Hall is right up there, right? You see that. And you know, the pictures are up there for the takeover in 1968. Have you seen that?

I don’t think I have. 

Ok, we need to go up there. You want to go up there? … So just take it in for a second. This is October of 1968. [black and white photos on the wall under North Hall]


Twelve Black students, some of these folks, it’s really interesting in terms of gender. This is the only one of a Black woman there was. I know there were others, but I’m glad that they did this anyway. They took over this side of the building. This is like a locked unit. Back in the day. This was known as the computer center. Ok, so they took over. They had a long list of demands. They were also not listened to and the – ‘can you hear me now?’ So they decided to take over this building and they said,’ Listen, you guys, if you don’t give us our demands, we’re going to destroy all your records.’All the university’s records, all destroyed. So, you know, again, can you hear me now that got their attention? Here’s the newspaper, back in the day it wasn’t the daily nexus. This is all on the Living History Project too, but it’s one thing to see it there and another thing. So a couple of little stories like this.

There was a group that was like a multiracial radical organization of the United Front that involved white, Black, Chicano students. So these were students in UMAS, which is the group that preceded Mecha the United Mexican American students and first, you know, Chicano Power or Black Power, but they’re in solidarity too. And one thing that was really amazing to me that’s always discussed is so these folks, I think they probably I’m not sure how well-planned they are. Sometimes when you’re an activist, you do things, but in the seat of your pants, you to spontaneous. Yes. So you take over a building like they did, and I’m not sure if they had brought food in and whatnot. So somebody said, Hey, guys, you’re probably getting hungry up there as they’re negotiating because eventually, obviously, they got the university’s attention. They came over to start negotiating and somebody said, you guys must be hungry, so they pass them on grapes. The grape boycott was going on at the time, United Farmworkers, right? And they threw down the grapes. They’re saying, ‘we’re not eating these grapes’. 


Ain’t that a great story?

Yeah, that’s an amazing story.

 It still sends chills up my spine. You can see the newspaper covered that. This is at Berkeley, it was in the air, everybody knew because the boycott started in 1965 and it was in its third year so, I love this, I mean the whole thing is just really striking. But the fact that Black students initially organized and they asked for a Black Studies department and out of the Black Studies department came our department. So like, especially when Black Lives Matter was really hitting and it’s been going on for a while, but after George Floyd was killed there was all these demonstrations, we had to like as a department say like our department came out of this Black Struggle because there’s this anti-blackness in our community and we need to recognize the fact that these people did all these things, not for us, but they opened up space, not only opened up space for us but you know for other marginalized groups and communities, right. For example, look right over here I wanna show you this other thing up here, so anyway check this out…years ago, read that thing [plaque on the entrance of North Hall] So this is what existed prior to that [installation of pictures under North Hall bridge] The BSU, they organized back in 2012 and they had a whole list of demands, some of the demands went back to 1968 and they were in touch with Alumni, that’s what I mean by the Congreso people, so this first thing is like twisted, cause it says that UCSB was committed to diversity [laughs], so they were like ticked about this side, it was small, it wasn’t right, and, yes, and it makes it look like the administration was nice.

And like it was their idea. 

Exactly, so one of the things [on the list of demands] was like, listen, this is dumb, we want to have this thing that’s really on display. That’s kinda hard to see, like you would never really see that [the plaque], so do you want to see the one they created for the hunger strike? 

Of course

This is where they went on strike and they camped out here on the lawn [in front of Cheadle Hall]. Yeah, what do you think? [points to nothing – no marker indicating that the strike happened]


It’s not there.

Why not?

That’s my point…we need to take our cues and learn from Black students because the way they got something– they demanded and the system listened to them. They asked for CAPS, better cops in IV, and all that kind of stuff, they asked for so many great things in 2012 and they got some of it. You ask for a lot hoping that you’re gonna get some of it, but here there’s not a single marker to mark anything, the 1970s, 1990s, any of the eras, and I’m grateful that the Living History Project is trying to archive stuff and make things available because not a lot of that stuff is found on campus. We talk about like decolonizing space– you know this building is named after Cheadle, so Vernon Cheadle was a UCSB Chancellor from 1961-1978 and Chancellor Yang took over in 1994 and is still here today, he’s almost going on 30 years, but did you know that there’s only been one or two buildings named after people of color on this campus? And one of them is that little tiny building, Building 406, but they wanted to tear it down. But, anyway, when you’re walking around, not you just personally but anybody again on the visitor thing [prospective student tours], you know what they usually say “let’s go to the 8th floor of the library” which is really cool because you can see the Channel Islands and it’s a beautiful view, but maybe they should teach them a little bit more.

Over in IV, one student was killed because there was a riot in IV after the bank burned down and the national guard came in and they shot to disperse the crowd and a student was killed over there. There’s a little tiny marker, to mark that, and actually, that student was really pro-establishment, really pro United States, and he just happened to be accidentally shot and killed, but one visitor guide years ago when I was eating lunch over there said “Uh and this is where a student was killed years ago, but you might wanna ask your parents about that because I don’t know anything about the war.” 

Oh my God.

I was like please make it stop. It was just so clueless….Do you have any more questions?

So where does our Chicano Studies department stand today and do you think that the changes that have been made are reflective of where we stand today as a community and what does the future of the department look like? 

Well I think like we were just saying, the Chicano Studies department came out of the movement and really referred to people that have Mexican ancestry, people say that the word Chicano refers to someone that has Mexican ancestry. I mean I think that’s the kind of simple definition, but also it’s greater than that, meaning that somebody has a political commitment to, from my perspective, bring about radical social change. It’s not just an ethnic marker, it symbolizes, if not obligates, I think one to do something to enact some kind of social change, now how somebody does that is open-ended, but the fact of the matter is the Chicano population or the Latino population or the Hispanic population embodies more than just people of Mexican origin. There’s people from Central America, South America, from the Caribbean, indigenous people, there’s people who are AfroLatino, I mean it’s a very diverse and rich community.

Even within Mexico, even that is multilingual, multiracial, all this kind of stuff, so I think that that’s pressing on the department to acknowledge that reality and so it’s not only just about that, also about queer issues as well– you know recognizing the fact that there’s a lot of fluidity there, a lot of gender fluidity, but also just in terms of that kind of spectrum of sexualities. The question of sexuality, the question of indigeneity, the question of Central Americans, like I think that those things from my perspective the department is engaging with but we haven’t really dealt with them as strongly as we maybe could have. Other departments, like the Chicano Studies department at UCLA, changed its name to Chicano Studies and Central American Studies, CSUN has an independent department called Central American Studies. We’re different, I mean we live here in SB, our Central American population is not as extensive as it is in San Fernando Valley and LA proper, but you know I think we could be doing more and perhaps we’ll keep on moving in that direction. We hired a new professor that hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of or take classes with, he’s Central American, Guatemalan, his name is Giovanni Batz, so I think we’re moving in the right direction but it just takes time and sometimes what facilitates that is a push from students. It always has been, right? I’m not saying that that’s what’s necessary or what has to happen. Again students shouldn’t have to take desperate measures to do things, they should be done for them already, but we need to recognize that the world is changing, frankly, and we need to keep up with those changes as best we can. 

Thank you and what do you see for the future of the department?

I think the terminology would not just be about words, it would be about a commitment. So, if we say that were this Central American Studies or Indigenous Studies, that implies that we would be working to uproot systems of injustice, race, class, gender, sexuality, colonialism, imperialism. It would be more explicit, again, in trying to turn the world upside down, so I think that’s what our mission is and I think that’s what we’re doing, but I also think that it could be more explicit, so that’s what I hope we do in the future: make known our values and our commitments, that everybody knows where we’re coming from, from the very start. 

How does it feel to be a part of and a leader of such an incredible legacy of these students?

Well, it’s a little daunting because you have like some pressure on your shoulders to keep that going. But again it’s also, I feel reassured that others– I’m following what they did and hopefully I continue on that legacy, continue building on it as best as I can and it’s not just, it’s not my doing, it’s the faculty’s doing as well as the students and the people that have made their little contribution, your ‘granito de arena’ (little grain of sand), everybody put forth their ‘granito’ to the Chicano Studies project and it’s just my turn, I guess, to be the leader for this moment. Somebody else will take my place, and hopefully they’ll build on it, expand it, change it, do whatever they wanna do with it, but it won’t just be them by themselves, they’ll be in connection with their colleagues, and the community in general. Well, it was really nice meeting you and I hope that was okay like going through all that. 

Of course, it was great, thank you so much.

Yeah, go through El Centro again because you’ll go through it with a different perspective now. It didn’t look like that, the students saved it because they were gonna destroy it because it had earthquake damage, so they saved it once with the hunger strike, and then the second time the University pumped a lot of money into it, like a million dollars, it looks nice now. Before, you would step in it and the floor was cracking, it was falling apart, people were sleeping in there, it was kind of a nightmare but you could do some little research on that.

By: Mina Matta

CIA Officer-In-Residence Program, 1987-

By Gabriel Macias


During the summer of 1987, the CIA arranged the appointment of senior officer George A. Chritton Jr. to the UCSB Political Science Department faculty as a lecturer.  This was part of their new Officer-in-Residence Program, which launched in 1985 as an attempt to, “nurtur[e] relations between intelligence and academia” (Hedley 2008).  For the 87-88 academic year, the agency managed to place senior officers at six U.S. universities, all with faculty status.

Agent Chritton’s appointment had been approved by Professor Dean Mann who, until the start of Fall ‘87, had been the Political Science Department chair. In a letter to Mann dated June 3rd, 1987 from Stanley Moskowitz, the chair of the CIA Training Selection Board at the time, Moskowitz nominated Chritton for the position.  He laid out the agency’s goals for the program and explained that the Agency would fund Chritton’s salary. He stated  the program, “will demonstrate the quality of CIA people…strengthen [the agency’s] professional ties to a fertile and indispensable source of ideas and technical expertise…[and] enhance CIA’s recruiting efforts.”

 To the surprise of both the CIA and UCSB administration, Chritton’s appointment was quickly met with controversy.  UCSB was the first campus where the Officer-In-Residence proved controversial according to Bill Devine, the CIA Public Affairs Officer at the time (Elzer 1987).

It was not until the first Academic Senate meeting of the school year when Chritton’s appointment was made public.  Senate Chair A.E. Keir Nash expressed his concern over the appointment and the irregular hiring process leading the Political Science department to vote on the issue (Moss 1987). On the 28th of October, they voted to demote Chritton’s position to Visiting Fellow, which would prevent him from teaching; however, this vote was only considered advisory to the Cheadle Hall administrators, who ultimately held the hiring authority (Elzer 1987).

The same night as the faculty vote, a bill authored by Dan Zumwinkle passed 14 to 1 by AS Legislative Council.  It called for “faculty, administration, and students to revoke the appointment of CIA agent George A. Chritton Jr. to the UCSB faculty and to take steps to ensure that this incredible situation does not happen again” (Zumwinkle 1987). The bill was presented to the then Chancellor, Barbara Uehling, on the 29th.  It expressed concerns over the implications of the university being affiliated with “such a nefarious organization” (Zumwinkle 1987).  Their main grievances were the morally questionable actions of the CIA, their recruitment on campus, the irregular hiring process, and concerns over the integrity of academic freedom. The bill deadline to dismiss Chritton from any position he may hold at UCSB was set to be November 4th.

On the day following the deadline, AS Student Lobby and Leg Council held a rally urging Chancellor Uehling to dismiss Chritton. The rally was held at noon in front of Cheadle Hall and attracted an estimated 600 people. Rally organizers had arranged for “John Stockwell, the highest-ranking former CIA official to speak out publicly against the agency,” though he was unable to make it due to a flight cancellation (Collins & Elzer 1987).  Following the rally, 150 students occupied the Chancellor’s empty office, stressing that a CIA affiliated faculty member would corrupt the ideals of the university and the school would be “pledged to disinformation”(Collins & Elzer 1987). “If we allow this person to retain an official position within the University of California faculty, then we’re setting a precedent that says it’s okay for members of covert organizations to teach in universities.  Anyone who is interested in preserving the ideals of this university has to oppose this all the way,” explained Todd Gooch, one of the rally organizers (Collins & Elzer 1987). Uehling returned later that day escorted by university police and let  protestors know that Chritton’s appointment was still under review. The students remained inside until Cheadle Hall closed for regular business, at which  point, police began arresting students for trespassing. 38 students were arrested and 35 of those were booked into Santa Barbara County Jail for a day.

(Daily Nexus and its Antecedents > Daily Nexus, Nov 6, 1987 > Page 1)
(Daily Nexus and its Antecedents > Daily Nexus, November 5, 1987 > Page 3)

Though the anti-CIA sentiment was strongly felt on campus, many wrote to the Nexus voicing their support of Chritton.  The overwhelming defense employed free speech. “I am not defending the CIA as an organization, however, I am defending the rights of individuals…do you not think that you are being just a little selfish by not letting somebody express their view?”, read one Letter to the Editor by Lawrence Leak.  Another letter by Gregory Apt expressed a similar concern over freedom of speech.  “I can only hope that the Academic Senate gets off their fascist, censoring butts and… allow this person to speak here.” 

Two days after Leg Council’s deadline, the day following the rally, the Chancellor announced her decision to keep Chritton as a Visiting Fellow for one year with the possibility of a year extension.  Chritton addressed the public for the first time saying, “The principle of the First Amendment has been upheld. My hope now would be that the volume of the rhetoric is lowered and the quality is raised,” (Elzer 1987).  The Chancellor also cited free speech to defend her decision, stressing that what was of utmost importance was “freedom of speech and the capacity of a university to provide for the expression of a broad range of ideas” (Elzer 1987).  The opposition viewed this decision as “blatant disrespect of student and faculty opinion,” Rob Christiansen told the Nexus (Elzer 1987)

The opposition insisted that Chritton’s appointment was more than just a symbolic gesture to preserve free speech and would legitimize the actions of the agency, as said in Elijah Lovejoy’s Letter to the Editor

To support the CIA is to support destabilization tactics and murder, just so that big American corporations can keep you supplied with your conformist bourgeois life, I refuse to admit that the CIA has any legitimacy whatsoever and am appalled at the thought of having those spooks on Campus.

 Others ridiculed the Chancellor for employing the free speech defense, like Brian Haley in the Nexus:

I know that I speak for all members of this campus community who have yet risen through the ranks of either the university or the CIA to the lofty positions of faculty when I thank the good chancellor for clarifying that freedom of speech is a right which I have not yet earned.

The opposition maintained that the appointment had nothing to do with free speech but everything to do with academic freedom; they insisted that an “agency of disinformation has no place in an institution dedicated to the truth” (Liles 1987).  On November 16th, approximately 75 students delivered a coffin to the office of the Chancellor  as a representation of the death of academic freedom.  “We’re here to present the first of many casualties to result from the appointment of senior CIA Officer George A. Chritton to the UCSB political science department,” Jamie Acton told the Nexus during the protest (Sullivan 1987)

(Daily Nexus and its Antecedents > Daily Nexus, Nov 17, 1987 > Page 1)

Some even criticized the academic freedom defense for looking past the CIA’s moral transgressions. Sandy Liles wrote in the Nexus

What I find repellent is the element of self-righteous indignation: bad enough that the CIA should carry out torture, assassinations, and destabilization; God forbid they should invade our guiltless bastion of free thought. 

In response to Professor Robinson’s question, “How can a university, a place of free inquiry, coexist with a government or any other institution which operates under secrecy?”, the opposition  held a five-hour “Teach-in” exploring the relationship between universities and the U.S. government. “It was pointed out to us that if we just focused on the CIA…we’re missing a much broader picture, a much larger vision of the federal government in general and their involvement in the university,” Jaime Acton, Student Lobby Annex Director, told the Nexus (Sullivan 1988).  One pamphlet for the event read, “UCSB is abundant with examples of academic orientation toward the interests of the military-industrial complex,” (Moss 1988).  The Teach-in was organized by the Student Lobby for the Academic Freedom Defense Project, which raised money for the legal defense for the students arrested back in November, though the proceedings eventually ended in a mistrial.  The event was held on Jan 28th, 1988, hosting several speakers including UCSB professors and ex-CIA agent Vern Lyon, who spoke about his involvement with spying on university campuses.

(Daily Nexus and its Antecedents > Daily Nexus, Jan 29, 1988 > Page 1)

On May 3rd, 1988, the Political Science faculty voted not to reappoint Chritton due to lack of qualifications (Whalen 1988).  Patrick Whalen’s Daily Nexus article announcing the decision read:

The decision ends nearly six months of unrest among UCSB students, faculty and staff who were outraged when they learned last October that a CIA agent was teaching on campus. Chritton, 55, will leave the university by June 30, when his current appointment is scheduled to end.

(Daily Nexus and its Antecedents > Daily Nexus, May 9, 1988 > Page 6)

Faculty Club Bombing, 1969

By Yiyang Zhao

April 16th, 1969

“At 6:23 a.m. on April 11th, 1969, a homemade bomb exploded in the Faculty Club. Caretaker Dover O. Sharpe was examining the cardboard box in which the bomb was concealed when it detonated. The explosion knocked him back about 15 feet across the patio of the Club and fatally injured him. According to the official report of UCSB, Sharp suffered ‘burns of 70 percent of his body, compound fracture of a leg, mutilated hand, an injured eye, and multiple shrapnel wounds.’”

 (Report On Bombing At UCSB Faculty Club, University Archives Vernon Cheadle April 1969, Box 8. University of California, Santa Barbara, Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor’s Records, UArch 17. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.) 

Dover O. Sharpe passed away 2 days later at Goleta Valley Community Hospital after having managed to crawl to a pool about 50 feet away and being rescued by students living in San Rafael Hall.  He was survived by, “three sisters, three brothers, one son, three daughters, and six grandchildren”, as reported in El Gaucho.

Equally striking was the fact that the bomb was fairly sophisticated.  In an El Gaucho article, Fire Chief Arthur T. McGarry stated that the bomb consisted of,  “a half gallon wine jug filled with a volatile liquid, such as gasoline, a timing device, a battery, and a piece of six inch pipe packed with an explosive compound.”  Apparently, the bomb was made to kill instead of making an alarm. 

Although no one was eventually arrested, speculations on the bomber’s motive abounded.  When testifying before Congress, Captain Joel Honey of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department conjectured that it had something to do with the Club’s exclusion of students: “there had been a radical element which had denounced the Faculty Club as a closed club that would not allow the admission of students without the express invitation of a faculty member.”  When reflecting on the event in 1991, Sociology professor, Harvey Molotch, believed that “there was logic behind the events that occurred in the 1960s and ’70s…stopping the Vietnam War and other issues of the day.”  For Molotch, the bombing was one instance.  Another hypothesis was furthered by Physics professor, Robert Schrieffer.  He was convinced that the bomb was intended to assassinate Professor Freeman Dyson, a visiting Princeton University physics professor residing in the Club at the time.  According to Schrieffer, Dyson’s study in nuclear weapons made him the target. 

It is impossible to tell which theory is correct, but there is little doubt it was political action.  As Malcolm Gault-Williams, author of Don’t bank on Amerika, pointed out that the bombing “came at a time of rising student activism at UCSB.”  Indeed, it was within the life span of the New Free University (NFU). The NFU was established on February 17th by the United Front (UF), constituted by the Black Student Union (BSU), United Mexican-American Students (UMAS) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They had peacefully occupied, or “liberated”, the UCen since then. They attempted to educate themselves on courses not accessible through the curriculum, ranging from Black Literature to Philosophical and Environmental Revolution.

(NFU—SBEC Schedule of Classes Friday, University Archives Vernon Cheadle April 1969, Box 8. University of California, Santa Barbara, Office of the Chancellor, Chancellor’s Records, UArch 17. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.) 

An El Gaucho article on the NFU reads that, “[the] UCen is now more populated them it ever was; over 90 classes have now been scheduled.  Even Vice Chancellor Goodspeed is teaching one.”  This was reported on the April 11th issue, the same day of the bombing. 

In a 2015 article, David Minier, who served as district attorney in Santa Barbara County at the time of the bombing, asserted that “[there] was no outrage,” after the tragic incident; however, it is, if anything, a false claim. “What the hell kind of campus do we have?” a following El Gaucho editorial questioned with apparent anger.  In a letter entitled, “Pandora’s Box Opens”, Alana Kathleen Brown, a Graduate English student, stated that, “I doubt that the bomb was intended to kill anybody, but whoever did it is now a murderer.”  “This is our school,” junior Bill James declared.  “Thus we are victims of the senseless bombing as well as Mr. Sharp.”  Not only did students condemn this tragedy in words, but also in action.  About 150 students led by student James Marino rallied on April 14th at the UCen in protest of the bombing.  Earl MacMillan of the BSU stated that the BSU “ deplores all acts of violence.”  Greg Knell, speaking for SDS, uttered that, “we should be condemning the violence of our society … we should be condemning all violence.”

In his 1991 reflection, sociology Professor Harvey Molotch remarked that “the death of Dover Sharp was one of the low moments of the anti-war movement in the 1960’s,” and a “disappointment to the majority of the left.”  Indeed, the left took a big hit because of this tragedy, although “[everyone] from the Young Americans for Freedom, the Associated Students, the Black Student Union and the Students for a Democratic Society voiced their opposition to it,” If we believe Geoffrey Wallace, who was himself a student at the time, those radical associations were much discredited among students.  Michael M. Engler, a Junior Political Science student apparently blamed the SDS for violence and declared that “I would like [the] SDS and its mickey-mouse crew of amateur revolutionaries and stormtroopers to tell the rest of the student body exactly what kinds of violence and terrorism it favors, and exactly which of us are not ‘innocent’ men.”  Another Political Science Junior Doug Pittman certainly felt the same and wrote satirically that “[specific] violence is wonderful to the SDS I take it, since only random’ violence is condemned. That certainly makes the rest of us feel safe and secure, now doesn’t it?”  As a result, the NFU, which was maintained by the left, lost its supporters. Two weeks after the bombing, NFU abandoned the UCen.  Their statement reads that “[our] support has fallen. We hope that through our dissolution, the students here at UCSB will realize that the problems we have attempted to correct require support.” Yet no support came back, nor did the NFU.  There were many reasons, and the bombing unfavoring activists was certainly one of them. 

Nowadays, we are living in a world hardly insulated from violence. At the same time as I am researching this article, violence is spotted around the globe, so far as in Asia and South America, and so near as Santa Clarita, California. These instances keep reminding us that history matters and still haunts us, or, as Karl Marx famously framed, “weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”.  What’s the lesson then? The answer is that violence cannot further the pursuit of political demand, no matter how justifiable and legitimate; rather, it could do only harm to the cause since it inevitably alienates bystanders and even some supporters. We all want to make our world better, but violence is by no means the way to achieve it.

Take Back the Night, 1978-

By Sophia Chupein


The 1970s were filled with monumental changes for women’s rights in the United States, and much of this history can be traced through our very own UCSB community. The first Take Back the Night protest in the US likely took place in San Francisco in 1978, which catalyzed an eruption of marches across the states. Take Back the Night (TBTN) organizations and movements serve to raise awareness of domestic, sexual, and relationship violence, topics that continue to be ignored and undermined to this day.  In 1979, UCSB held its first TBTN protest in response to both the national movement and local hostility. This TBTN student organization continues to thrive, bringing awareness to a topic still ignored to this day.

TBTN organizations across the nation formed during a time of hostile national debates over the necessity for equal rights. The debate around the passing of the Equal Right Amendment not only fueled antagonism between women and men but within the feminist movement itself. Those who supported the passing of the ERA, such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), saw it as a vital step towards eliminating gender-based discrimination. Others saw it as both regressive for women’s rights and the beginning of the complete destruction of traditional American society.

[“Women’s Right Resolution Halted”, Women, Box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara community was facing hostility on a local level as well. The Isla Vista Women’s Center, hoping to provide refuge for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, initially struggled to assert its presence in the community and receive financial support.

[“Women’s Center seeks funds to continue”, Women, Box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[“New Location Forcing Center to Close Women’s Crash Pad”, Women, box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[“Need for Tougher Sentencing Told by ‘Battered Wives’ Author”, Women, box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[“Task Force Member Indicates Need for Emergency Shelters for ‘Battered Women’”, Women, box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Take Back the Night protests were also fueled by the efforts of the Santa Barbara chapter of NOW, which formed in solidarity with the Women’s Center

[“NOW Aims at Womens Issues”, Women, box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

The first Take Back the Night protests at UCSB had to face issues with the police Santa Barbara Police Department, who were initially not willing to close State Street for the march because of the extra police they would have to station. While they eventually came to an agreement (see “Santa Barbara Women March Tomorrow – No fear of attack”), this was not the only compromise the organizers had to make. As with many Take Back the Night protests across the country, men had been asked to walk behind the marchers, both as a symbolic gesture and as a form of protection. Jennifer Freed, co-coordinator of 1983 protest, called it a “poor compromise to have men back up the march and walk behind”, but that was a compromise that had to be made “until there is total freedom and equality for everyone”.

[“Santa Barbara Women March Tomorrow – No Fear of Attack”, Women, box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[“Local Marchers Light the Night”, Women, box 58]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 41. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

As women’s rights organizations have gained momentum over the past forty years, so has UCSB’s Take Back the Night organization. The co-chair of UCSB’s Take Back the Night sees the organization as vital, since “we are the people who make the changes on campus, and we can’t wait for other people to make the changes”. Not only has the organization increased in membership and support, but is continuing to strive for diverse and intersectional perspectives. The co-chair accounts how “especially this year, I think we’ve become more inclusive, because I know TBTN traditionally was about women, but now we’re really acknowledging that it can really happen to any gender, anybody, any race” The organization hosts an annual spring rally and meetings throughout the quarter that provide a safe space for people to talk about their experiences and listen to others.
Our community is still struggling to adequately address sexual, relationship, and domestic violence. One in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there, and UCSB is no exception. Both listening and speaking up are vital to promoting equality, and UCSB’s Take Back the Night is continuing to do just that.

Works Cited

TBTN Co-Chair. 2019, February 27th. Personal interview

UCSB Special Collections

Photo Gallery

[Support Group Comic, Students, box 12]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students Records. SBHC Mss 44. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[Materials provided by TBTN Co-Chair]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[Materials provided by TBTN Co-Chair]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[Materials provided by TBTN Co-chair]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.
[Materials provided by tbtn co-chair]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.
[Materials provided by tbtn co-chair]. University of California, Santa Barbara, Associated Students. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Hunger Strikes, 1994

By Mara Stojanovic

April-May 1994

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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



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


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

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


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


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

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