Walkouts are taking place on several University of California campuses as a protest toward recent tuition hikes.
Rallies and marches were planned for UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. Students walked out of their classes simultaneously at noon on Monday and marched downtown.
"No hikes, no fees! Education must be free!" hundreds of students chanted as they marched through the Memorial Union and into downtown Davis.
In a 14-7 vote last week, the UC Board of Regents agreed to increase tuition by as much as 5% for each of the next five years, for a total of almost 28%, unless more money is brought in by the state.
The hikes are considered to be a first move on the part of the university system prior to the start of budget negotiations with lawmakers and Governor Jerry Brown. Brown opposes the increase and is asking the system to look for ways to cut costs instead.
Last week saw students, as many as 150 at a time, camping out at Berkeley's Wheeler Hall. A similar scene is going on at UC Davis, where students are camping out at Olson Hall, preparing for more demonstrations, speeches and strategies.
Many of the students said they are scared that the tuition hikes are going to continue until they can no longer afford to attend the school. Others look at the move as an ongoing privatization of the university system and the rising salaries of the top administrators.
"Most of us come from middle-class families. It's financially hard as middle-class students. I've taken out $3,000 in loans, and my family is surviving on rice and beans back home," Manabat said. "Education I can take to my grave, and they want to take that away from me? I ask, âWhat can I do for my university?' But I want to know what my university can do for me."
UC officials responded to the protests by insisting that the increase was needed in order to expand access throughout the state. However, they also are asking Governor Brown for an increase in funding.
The tuition increase would make it possible to increase the capacity on campuses across the state. UC officials plan on accepting 5,000 more students on each campus within the next five years.
"We have the same objectives (as students): to maintain the quality of a UC education and maintain access. We're hopeful that in negotiations with the governor and Legislature, we can find a way to increase funding to the UC, so there's no need for a tuition increase," said spokesman Steve Montiel.
Police had only planned to get involved if there wash significant property damage or violence. So far, the protests have been spirited but peaceful.