* College students join Occupy movement on campus
* Huge tuition debt loads specific student issue
By Noel Randewich
DAVIS, Calif (Reuters) - Violent confrontations
between police and protesters at two University of California
campuses have drawn a new cadre of students into the Occupy
Wall Street movement and unleashed what some historians call
the biggest surge in campus activism since the 1960s.
While Occupy Wall Street protesters have a broad set of
grievances that include income inequality and perceived
corporate greed, many students have more specific concerns:
soaring tuition, campus budget cuts, and fear of heavy student
loan debt and lack of job opportunities upon graduation.
Student protests related to these issues have broken out
sporadically on U.S. college campuses over the past few years,
but the Occupy protests - and the police response to them -
have swelled the ranks of campus activists in recent weeks.
A crowd of about 2,000 students, professors and parents
held a rally at UC Davis Monday and called for university
Chancellor Linda Katehi to resign after police last week
pepper-sprayed students sitting passively on the campus quad.
Video of an officer spraying an orange-colored pepper spray
directly into the faces of cross-legged students circulated
heavily on television and the Internet, prompting outrage as
well as a wave of cartoon parodies.
"We didn't really know what it was until we actually were
here on the quad (quadrangle) seeing fellow students getting
maced," said John Caccamo, an 18-year-old biology student at UC
Davis. The campus, near Sacramento, is not known as a hotbed of
"This is the first time in the 11 years I've been here that
students have said - 'Wait a minute, I need to wake up to where
I am and what's going on,"' UC Davis art professor Robin Hill
told Reuters at the Davis rally.
At UC Berkeley, a cradle of 1960s student activism,
students and faculty members were hit with nightsticks earlier
this month when campus police moved to break up an Occupy
The president of the 10-campus UC system, Mark G. Yudof,
said he was "appalled" by the Berkeley and Davis incidents and
has hired William J. Bratton, former police chief of New York
and later Los Angeles, to lead an investigation.
The uptick in student activism has coincided with the
efforts by authorities in many cities to shut down Occupy
encampments. College campuses are increasingly a focal point of
the movement in California and elsewhere.
In New York, protesters at Baruch College who were
demonstrating against tuition increases scuffled with police
earlier this week, leading to a dozen arrests.
At UC Davis, an encampment of some 100 tents has sprung up
since Monday's rally. Encampments are also in place at UC
Berkeley and other California campuses.
New York University historian Robert Cohen said the Occupy
movement on California campuses is accelerating quickly
compared with the student movement of the 1960s.
"If you date things from the Port Huron Statement and the
summer of '62, it wasn't really until the fall of '64 that
there was a mass student movement on campus," he said. The Port
Huron Statement was the manifesto of the Students for a
Democratic Society, one of the key groups of the 1960s New Left
movement in the United States.
The 1960s and early 1970s were a time of great social
unrest as college students rallied against the Vietnam war and
in support of minority and women's rights.
Angus Johnston, a historian at City University of New York,
said, "What we have had up until now is something very similar
to the early 1960s, where you had not a huge number of
activists but a committed core who were working really hard but
weren't getting huge amount of traction from media or fellow
California students have regularly protested tuition hikes
since the economy slumped three years ago. Tuition for in-state
students in the ten campuses of the University of California
reached $12,192 this year, up from $2,274 two decades ago.
At the 23 campuses of the California State University
system, which is increasingly plagued by overcrowding, tuition
this year is $5,472, up from $1,572 as recently as 2002-2003.
In part because of the tuition hikes, a growing number of
students now face large student loan debts, with two-thirds of
2010 graduating seniors nationally in debt an average of
$25,250, according to the Institute for College Access and
Success. That is up 5 percent from the year before.
Some earlier California demonstrations over tuition
resulted in serious scuffles with police that included use of
pepper spray and Tasers. One woman had reconstructive surgery
after a UC Berkeley police officer hit her with a nightstick.
But those incidents received far less attention than those
recently associated with the Occupy movement.
"When a cop pepper-sprays a student, everyone can sort of
imagine their children, or their nieces or nephews, their
friends who are students," said Kyle Arnone, a 26-year old
teaching assistant at the University of California's Los
"It's harder for the public to stigmatize student
protesters as being a bunch of hippie, unemployed people that
are difficult to relate to."
(Additional reporting by Laird Harrison in Berkeley and
Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Paul
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.