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2 Mar, 2010 21:49

University of California campus erupts in riots

Violence breaks out as students at the flagship school of the University of California protest stiff tuition hikes.

 Students at the University of California’s flagship Berkeley campus took to the streets on Friday night, vandalizing university buildings, burning trash cans and clashing with police in the latest expression of frustration over cuts to the educational budget in California.

In November, the University of California Board of Regents voted to raise tuition by 32 percent. At the same time, professors were asked to take pay cuts or be furloughed, classes were eliminated and class size increased. Protests erupted across the University of California system, particularly at UC Davis and UCLA.

The first tuition hikes took place in January, and since then tensions have been on the rise.

“Nobody planned what happened, but anger erupts when it has been building for so long. That’s what happens,” said Callie Maidhof, a student activist at UC Berkeley. “[The regents] are effectively closing off the campus, making it less accessible, and those already here are getting less out of their education.”

The University of California system, made up of 10 campuses with nearly 160,000 students, has long been the envy of other states. For many years, UC has provided a low-cost, world-class education, and scholars and politicians alike have noted the role of the UC schools in building California’s middle class. In recent years, however, the system has been battered by the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

California, which has the sixth largest economy in the world, has been hard hit by the economic crisis. Rising unemployment has caused a drop in the state’s income tax revenues and lawmakers have been reluctant to raise taxes, leaving the state government with little choice except to make severe budget cuts.

Schools across the state are planning mass protests on March 4 to protest the $17 billion in cuts to education budgets expected over the next two years.