University of California Students Oppose Tuition Hike, 2009


Students wanted to protest against a 32% rise in tuition costs and other university system rollbacks.

Time period

September 24, 2009 to December 14, 2009


United States

Location City/State/Province


Location Description

State Universities all over California
Jump to case narrative


Students, group called Reclaim UC


Faculty, Staff

External allies

Faculty, Staff, Labor/Trade Unions

Involvement of social elites

Not known


University of California Board of Regents

Nonviolent responses of opponent

None known

Campaigner violence

No known campaigner violence

Repressive Violence

Use of police force, including university police, local county sheriffs, and California Highway Patrol. Batons, rubber bullets and pepper spray were used.


Economic Justice



Group characterization

University of California students
staff and faculty

Groups in 1st Segment


Groups in 5th Segment

Trade unions (enter/exit)
labor unions (enter/exit)

Segment Length

15 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

0 out of 6 points


0.5 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

3.5 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

In the fall of 2009, the University of California Board of Regents met at UCLA to discuss and vote for a tuition hike necessary for them to deal with shrinking budget and spending cuts across the board. The Universities’ budget deficits were associated with those troubling the state of California. The proposed increase in tuition of 32% would force annual tuition costs above $10,000 for the first time in history.
On September 24, more than 5000 students demonstrated outside Sproul Hall at Berkeley, wearing red armbands. At UC Santa Cruz, students occupied the Graduate Student Commons for a week starting on September 24. On October 29, protesters held a study-in at UC Berkeley anthropology library for 24 hours. On October 15, students occupied the Humanities Buildings at UC Santa Cruz, leading to two arrests. On October 21, CSU Fresno students held a sit-in. On November 13, UC Santa Cruz students held a study-in at the Science and Engineering Library for almost 23 hours.  On November 18, the UC Board of Regents met to vote on the tuition hike.  Hundreds of students traveled to UCLA to demonstrate during the meeting, chanting slogans and beating drums outside the building. Fourteen demonstrators, including twelve students, were arrested for disrupting the Regents’ meeting by staging a civil disobedience action inside the committee meeting and singing We Shall Overcome. Police declared the assembly unlawful and used tasers and other forms of violence such as batons on several students. About 40 demonstrators locked themselves inside Campbell Hall for the night, renaming it Carter-Huggins Hall, while others put up tents on campus, creating a tent city of over a hundred students. Over the next two days, additional hundreds of trade unionists and students from other UC campuses traveled to UCLA to join in protest, resulting in a group of about 2000 protesters. These protesters organized workshops to discuss the struggle for public education, including the issues of privatization of K-12 education and the budgeting problems community colleges face. Slam poets and improv rappers voiced their protests, connecting the UC budget crisis with the economic crisis hitting the US. This collection of protests was called Crisis Fest: A political gathering and protest event to kick off the following days of protest.
Meanwhile at UC Santa Cruz on November 18, students occupied the Kresge Town Hall to create an organizing space against budget cuts. On November 19, they occupied the main administrative building, Kerr Hall, for four days until November 22. Students at UC Davis, UCD and CSU Fresno also held protests and sit-ins during the November 18-22 period. On November 23, about 150 students held a sit-in at the UC president’s office asking to speak with Mark Yudof, the president.
On November 20, 43 students locked themselves inside Wheeler Hall for twelve hours. Meanwhile, police used repressive violence against a demonstration of thousands of allies and supporters outside using batons and rubber bullets, seriously injuring some. 
On December 7, a student group called Reclaim UC organized an open university Live Week at Wheeler Hall of UC Berkeley. Their stated goal was as follows:
Starting Monday, December 7 on the steps of Wheeler Hall at 2:30 p.m., we will transform Wheeler Hall into a 24-hour open university. We will open the space for anyone in the community to come and go as they please, to organize study sessions, teach-ins, concerts, forums, club meetings, dance parties, and anything else our creative minds dream up. 
Live Week is a time for us to open this university to all people and to all forms of expression and education. Our university is not only a space for hard work and practicality; it is a place for fun, fulfillment, and happiness. Our university is not only a space for people of privilege; it is a place for all of the community: young and old, rich and poor, majority and minority, teacher and student, on-campus and off-campus. Our university is not only a space to learn from books and lectures; it is a place to learn from each other’s experiences and expressions, and to create new knowledge and build a new future. 
This university is yours! We shift competition to cooperation. We replace stress and anxiety with compassion and joy. We transform the traditional balance of power of this institution to create an education that includes the interests, concerns, and passions of all of us, and embodies the true ideal of democracy. 
It’s time to reinvent public education together, So come one, come all to your university!
Police came into Wheeler Hall while students were holding a sleep-in on the second night and arrested 66 students.
Several professors and graduate student teaching assistants helped to promote the students’ cause by adding short “teach-ins” during classes. These explained the tuition increases and the wide-ranging effect they would have, and compared UC tuition and administrator salaries to those of comparable private institutions. Some professors even went so far as to boycott teaching for several days after the vote to raise tuition was passed, and some were arrested merely for observing the demonstrations. In December 2009, these teach ins were repeated at “Live Week”, aimed at promoting an “open-access model of education run horizontally and self-governed by the community of students, faculty, and workers.”
Other allies included trade and labor unions that were protesting the UC administration regarding proposed pay cuts. These unions financed the busing of students from other UC campuses to UCLA, where the Regents’ meetings were held.
The UC administration’s response to the student and faculty demonstrations was marked by the use of police and other violence. Although the protesters were not armed or violent, the university police, local county sheriffs, California Highway Patrol and state police used violence, intimidation, and suppression of free speech to contain the protesters.
At UC Davis, one faculty member, along with more than fifty students, was arrested. Many other arrests throughout the state were made during these several months, including several faculty members.
Although the protests did not result in any concrete gains, the California student protests have inspired students in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and as far as Canada, Germany and Austria who are also facing tuition hikes and budget cuts.


The University of California students were influenced by the 1960s Berkeley Free Speech Movement


Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Elaine Wangsawidjaja, 20/09/2013