2009 California college tuition hike protests

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2009 California college tuition hike protests
Date24 September 2009 (2009-09-24)
31 December 2009 (2009-12-31)
Police response

The 2009 California university college tuition hike protests were a series of protests held on college campuses in the University of California system and elsewhere in California in September through December 2009. Protests were mostly made up of students, although faculty, school employees and others joined in the protests as well. They were protesting against a 32% rise in tuition costs which was approved by the University of California Board of Regents.[1] Protesters were also demonstrating against pay cuts and other cutbacks for the university system. The protests have been described as a precursor to the Occupy movement.[2][3]


Beginning in 2008, the state of California was dealing with a major budget deficit. The response was major spending cuts for its state institutions.[4] The University of California school system was also dealing with large budget deficits. In an effort to curb its deficits, the University of California Board of Regents decided to pass a tuition hike for all 10 universities in the system, as did the California State University Trustees for all 23 universities in their system. The Regents and University of California President Mark G. Yudof decided to increase tuition by 32%, which would push the annual costs above $10,000 for the first time ever.[1] Yudof's response to the tuition increase was "When you have no money, you have no money" and said that it was an "unfortunate" consequence of the budget deficit.[1]

A major cause of the university system's budget deficit was due to a lack of state support going to higher education. University officials said the tuition increases were needed as they have already done all they could with spending cuts.[5] In the protests, students would point this out by showing that "California No. 1 in Prison Spending," yet only "#48 in Education."[1] The tuition hike is a two-step increase with the first hike set to go into effect at the beginning of 2010 and the second for the fall semester of 2010.[6] When the Regents voted to pass the tuition hike on November 18, 2009 many students as well as professors and university faculty broke out in protests.[7] The protests have been compared to similar protests which occurred in the 1960s at California universities.[8]


Demonstrations were held in September and October 2009 to protests state cuts and layoffs at university campuses in California. Major protests held on September 24 and October 15 were against staff cuts, layoffs and student tuition and fee hikes.[9][10][11]

Major protests against the tuition hikes broke out on November 18, 2009 after the Regents' vote and continued in the following days. Students held sit-down strikes, blocking cars from entering the universities. Students also hijacked several university buildings, locking themselves inside.[12] Major protests broke out at UC Berkeley following the announcement of the tuition hikes in September 2009. In a series of actions on November 18–20, the UC Berkeley administration was seriously challenged by a series of militant actions on every major UC campus. On November 20 at UC Berkeley, 43 students locked themselves inside Wheeler Hall and held the building for 12 hours while thousands gathered outside for support and militant push-back against scores of riot police called in from several counties. One faculty member at UC Berkeley (Integrative Biology Professor Robert Dudley) was arrested while observing the protests. At UC Santa Cruz, over 100 students participated in a sit-in at the campus' Kerr Hall.[5] They occupied the building for an entire three days before surrendering to police. No arrests were made.[13][14] Demonstrators occupied an administration building at San Francisco State University for over 23 hours and led to clashes with police until they were eventually forced out.[15] Although many professors remained complicit, some participated in the protests as well by not teaching in the days following the vote to raise tuition. Many professors and graduate students continued to teach classes but incorporated short "teach-ins" in the 5–10 minutes at the end of class, to highlight the proposed (and since then, enacted) tuition increases. Teach-ins often contrasted the cost to attend UC compared to comparable private institutions like MIT and Harvard, as well as the salaries of top administrators (Mark Yudof compared to Susan Hockfeld and Lawrence Summers).

At UC Davis, 51 students and 1 faculty member were arrested at the main administration building. In December 2009 at UC Berkeley, hundreds of students re-took Wheeler hall for a week to hold open workshops, classes, and teach-ins. The series of events, known as "Live Week," forged an open-access model of education run horizontally and self-governed by the community of students, faculty, and workers.[16] On December 11, 2009, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and the UC Berkeley administration used the information it obtained about a concert by Boots Riley organized by students and community as a pretext to clear the building. 66 students were arrested at 4 am without dispersal order and taken to Santa Rita Jail. The legitimacy of all these actions is seriously contested in a number of lawsuits against the administrations.


The UC administration responded with overwhelming police force to protests—police in riot gear from the university police departments, local county sheriff's offices, California Highway patrol and state police were regularly called out during campus protests.[17] As protests persisted, the administration escalated police violence, intimidation, and suppression of free speech, exposing the structural role of police and state violence in the privatization of public services.

On November 20, thousands of protesters gathered around Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley in support of 43 students, who occupied the building and successfully shut down the operations of the University for the day. While the occupiers were defending the space from the inside, police unleashed unwarranted violence on students on the outside. They used batons and rubber bullets, injuring the unarmed bodies of hundreds of peaceful protesters and sending some to the emergency room with broken bones.[citation needed]

At the annual Regents' meeting on November 17 the next year at UCSF, the Regents voted another 8% increase while hundreds of police in riot gear used tear gas and batons to fend off protesters from disrupting the meeting. In a particularly heated moment, UCSF Police Officer Jared Kemper drew his gun in front of dozens of students, threatening to shoot at them.[citation needed]

More than 700 students and several faculty members were arrested across campuses between late 2009 and the middle of 2011.[citation needed]

National Day of Action 2010[edit]

The campaign inspired a call for a nationwide day of action against tuition increases and budget cuts on March 4, 2010. Dozens of actions took place around the country, most of which were peaceful, although some were violent.[18][19] The largest actions took place in California, notably several large un-permitted marches around the San Francisco Bay Area that tied up traffic and sometimes led to conflict with police. The largest act of civil disobedience occurred when hundreds of protesters converged to blockade Interstate Highways 880 and 990 at Oakland during rush hour. 150 protesters were arrested and one was hospitalized.[20] Protesters displayed a banner that read "Occupy everything," while shutting down the roadway for an hour, an action that has been described as a precursor to the Occupy movement.[2]


In the aftermath of the passage of state Proposition 30 in 2012, Governor Jerry Brown urged the trustees of UC and California State University to reconsider any further hikes, and they complied.[21] UC tuition remained frozen for three years afterward.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Tuition Hikes: Protests in California and Elsewhere". Time. November 21, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Occupy Cal Berkeley Protest Draws Thousands, As Two Years Of Occupation Come Home". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  3. ^ "From Master Plan to No Plan: The Slow Death of Public Higher Education". Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  4. ^ "California 'faces budget crisis'". BBC. December 2, 2008. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Protests of tuition increase continue on California campuses". CNN. November 21, 2009. Archived from the original on November 29, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  6. ^ "Students storm UCLA building to protest expected UC system fee increase". LA Times. November 19, 2009. Archived from the original on November 22, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  7. ^ "UC Regents OKs Fee Increase, Students Protest Tuition Hikes (with video)". ABC News KFSN-TV. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  8. ^ "Fee hikes bring student protests back to California universities". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on December 14, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  9. ^ Wollan, Malia; Lewin, Tamar (November 21, 2009). "Students Protest Tuition Increases". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  10. ^ O'Hara, Mary (September 24, 2009). "University of California campuses erupt into protest". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  11. ^ "Potluck becomes protest at UC Santa Cruz; 3 pepper sprayed, 1 arrested". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on November 20, 2009. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  12. ^ "University of California students protest 32 percent tuition increase". CNN. November 20, 2009. Archived from the original on November 30, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  13. ^ "Student occupation at UC Santa Cruz ends". CNN. November 22, 2009. Archived from the original on November 25, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  14. ^ "Student protests continue at California universities". Press TV. Archived from the original on November 24, 2009. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  15. ^ "Protesters cleared out of San Francisco State building, university says". CNN. December 10, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  16. ^ "L.A. Now". The Los Angeles Times. December 11, 2009. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  17. ^ "Police Arrest Occupiers Of Wheeler Hall; 41 Arrested". KTVU. Archived from the original on November 23, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  18. ^ "Rowdy protesters block campuses amid funding rally". Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  19. ^ "March 4 Day Of Action: MAP". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  20. ^ "Oakland: Protesters arrested, traffic flowing again on Interstate 880". Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  21. ^ "Cal State and UC back off tuition hikes after Prop. 30 win". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  22. ^ "Cal State and UC back off tuition hikes after Prop. 30 win". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 10, 2015.

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