This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Students, union members rally on campus over higher education cuts

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Students, faculty and union members concerned about fee hikes and declines in education spending gathered in Bruin Plaza on the UCLA campus for about an hour on Thursday as part of a nationwide day of rallies over higher education funding. Campus officials estimated 200 to 300 people took part.
 
The Bruin Plaza rally broke up by 1 p.m., after speakers criticized budget cuts and racially charged incidents at other UC campuses. Many of the participants then walked to Murphy Hall and presented a list of demands to a representative of Chancellor Gene Block. The demands flyer called for lower student fees, changes in admission policies and the reversal of employee furloughs and layoffs.
 
About 200 students, some playing drums and chanting, remained outside the chancellor's office in Murphy Hall for part of the afternoon, UCLA police said. Some students were receiving updates on rallies at other California campuses.
 
After 5 p.m., a separate rally of union members and students in Bruin Plaza moved to Murphy Hall and was blocked from entering by UC police officers. The new arrivals were kept out to allow the safe and orderly exit of employees, police said. The building closed at 6 p.m., and after the police declared an unlawful assembly at 6:30 p.m., the remaining 40 or so students inside left without incident.
 
Among the day's rally organizers were UCLA students and faculty, as well as labor unions representing lecturers and various staff employees. They have voiced concern about the effect of student fee increases, furloughs and layoffs on the campus and throughout the University of California system, among other issues. UC and campus officials say the steps were necessary to maintain academic quality in the face of an unprecedented reduction in state support, which left UCLA with a 2009–10 budget deficit of approximately $131 million.
 
Students, teachers, labor unions and others have planned a day of activities at university, college and K–12 campuses across the state and at major public spaces and government buildings, including Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles and the San Francisco Civic Center. Their unifying issue is that the state budget crisis is threatening the quality of public education. Some students also are expected to voice concerns about diversity and tolerance issues on UC campuses.
 
At UCLA, officials are conducting a comprehensive review of academic programs and campus operations to make them more consistent with new funding realities. While the huge loss of state funding presents unavoidable consequences, campus leaders say their decisions are guided by the overarching goals of preserving academic quality as well as student opportunity and diversity. A major advocacy effort to generate additional state support also is underway.
 
Multiple campus units are involved in planning for the expected March 4 activities. Among them are the student affairs office, the events office, the fire marshal and the police department. Campus police are working with the Los Angeles Police Department on managing activities that may flow off campus.
 
As a public university, UCLA's long-standing practice is to protect both public safety and free speech. The campus strives to promote open dialogue and debate by creating an environment where divergent viewpoints can be shared amid civility and respect.
 
In the unlikely event of multiple absences or other disruptions to classes, UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh has advised instructors leading those classes to choose how best to respond.
 
Journalists covering the March 4 activities are encouraged to contact the UCLA Office of Media Relations & Public Outreach at 310-825-2585.
 
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