Body in Park Was Del Oro Grad, 21

Originally published August 27, 2009 in print and online at The Auburn Journal and The Loomis News

Cause of death yet to be determined

Friends and family of 21-year-old Alyse Rachelle Conk, whose body was found on Wednesday morning in Loomis Basin Community Park, remember her happiness as infectious.

“When she was happy she was amazing,” said Terra Dawson, a close friend of Conk’s since the two were 14. “She loved to be goofy, and I loved that about her. She was just so fun to be around.”

Conk’s body was found by a 16-year-old boy in the Loomis Basin Community Park at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday. According to a Sheriff’s Department news release she appeared to have been camping by the creek.

No foul play is suspected in her death, according to Dena Erwin, spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Friends say she had been out of contact with them for several months, and were unaware that she had been camping in the park.

Acquaintances and friends contacted by the Journal were unwilling to speculate as to why Conk appeared to be camping in the park. It is as yet unknown whether drugs or alcohol played a role in her death. An autopsy was scheduled as of press time…

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Some Fire Victims Critical During Community Meeting

Originally published in print and online at The Auburn Journal with the headline “Residents Vent Frustrations at Fire Follow-Up Meet”

Officials explain response to 49 Fire, services available to residents

Emotions ran high Tuesday night at an informational meeting for Auburn residents and other victims of the 49 Fire.

Representatives from the numerous agencies involved in fighting the fire and dealing with the aftermath were on hand to inform the community about how the fire started, how the different agencies responded, and what is being done to help victims return to a normal lifestyle.

Many members of the audience had lost their homes in the fire, and were given an chance to ask questions and voice their opinions.

Connie Krishner, whose house burned down in the fire on Sunday, was critical of Cal Fire’s actions in responding to the initial 911 calls, and was dissatisfied with the agency’s attempts to answer her questions at the meeting. She said Brad Harris, the Cal Fire’s representative, did not provide an adequate explanation.

“I did not feel … that they responded quick enough, and also they didn’t respond with enough engines,” she said. “When I asked him when the second engine arrived he said ‘about the same time.’ What does he mean ‘about?’ He didn’t say what time it arrived…”

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Students Storm Sac

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press March 4, 2010

Hundreds of demonstrators on the north steps of the Capitol building echoed a response to this galvanizing inquiry: “We’re fired up!”

As the 66th California State Assembly speaker was sworn into office on Monday, student protesters literally made their voices heard in the halls of the state Capitol.

“While we appointed a new assembly speaker we could hear you,” California Labor Federation secretary and treasurer Arch Palaski told City on a Hill Press in reference to the demonstrators. “Your voice is being heard.”

Monday, March 1 was Lobby Day at the Capitol, where chancellors and students advocated for higher education. This day kicked off a week of action in defense of public education, and was a precursor to a statewide strike on Thursday, March 4.

The March for Higher Education on Thursday is a “K through Ph.D.” action that will include University of California students as well as all members of the California education system…

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Graffiti Writer Threatens Violence

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press January 11, 2011

Message discovered in campus bathroom sparks investigation

Graffiti threatening violence, found in a campus bathroom, has prompted an investigation by the UC Santa Cruz administration and police. The graffiti was discovered in early December, before students left for winter break.

Administrators issued an email advisory to the campus community Jan. 11 alerting students and faculty of the discovery of the graffiti, and asking them to be alert for suspicious behavior. Recipients were warned that the message threatened violence on Jan. 18. Exact details were not included.

UCSC director of public information Jim Burns said the administration has no plans to release further details.

Sam*, a UCSC student who lives on campus, was informed about the graffiti by a UCSC staff member on Jan. 6. Though he was asked not to share the details of the threat, Sam has since told “quite a few people,” he said.

Burns confirmed that “members of the campus’ senior leadership team were among the people informed,” before the e-mail advisory was sent out.

In an interview conducted prior to the release of the official alert, Sam said that though he understands the university’s position, he was concerned for students’ safety. He decided to alert his peers of the threat as they had not yet been informed by the university.

“I don’t want to interfere with any investigation, but this is too important,” Sam said. “Of course, it is in the administration’s best interest [not to tell], but I don’t think the university’s best interest and the students’ best interest align in this case. I think the best thing is to tell people.”

He said a university staff member informed him about the threat and included details not disclosed in the advisory e-mail. Sam said, in the message, discovered in a men’s bathroom on the first floor of the Social Sciences 2 building, the individual threatened to harm a finite number of students before hurting themselves.

Burns and executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway declined to comment on specific details of the message beyond what was included in the advisory e-mail.

The graffiti message was removed shortly after its discovery. Jim Durning, supervisor of the UCSC Paint/Sign Shop, said that after threatening graffiti is reported, protocol requires police officers take a picture of the message and members of Durning’s staff are called in to remove it. Durning confirmed that a member of his staff did paint over the message after they were called to do so.

When it was discovered, certain aspects of the message were detailed enough to warrant the administration’s concern, Galloway said.

“The information we had, had enough specificity in it that we were concerned and thought we should take it seriously,” Galloway said. “That doesn’t mean that it is a legitimate threat — it could be a number of things. But we felt we had to treat it as if it was a serious concern. So we’ve been trying to … reach out to find out who this individual will be and if we can offer some help, offer some intervention.”

UCSC interim police chief Ava Snyder said that an investigation has been ongoing since the graffiti was discovered by a student Dec. 2. Though the FBI was contacted for consultation, it is not investigating the incident.

While the UCSC Police Department’s plans for next Tuesday cannot be revealed, Snyder said that supporting law enforcement agencies have been notified in case assistance is needed.

As of press time, the administration has no plans to close campus on Jan. 18, said Jim Burns, UCSC’s director of public information.

“We are planning for campus to be open,” he said.

Though the graffiti was discovered in early December, the administration did not send out an advisory until Jan. 11. Galloway said that in withholding the information, the administration hoped to avoid causing unwarranted panic.

“Obviously, the ideal for us would have been to have found the person already and not have to worry about exposing people to the stress of hearing this on our campus,” she said. “But we haven’t been able to do that, so we felt we really had an obligation to the campus community to let them know … that something could happen. And they should be prepared.”

Published online at

Student Services Restricted

Published online at City on a Hill Press January 26, 2010

Hahn Student Services building is put on “restricted access” in anticipation of student protest

Administrators restricted access to Hahn Student Services on Tuesday afternoon in anticipation of a student protest. As a result students waited in line at the door hoping to change their classes on the last day of the add/drop period.

Occupy California, the student group that occupied Kerr Hall in November, advertised a planned “Anti-Repression Gathering and March” to take place on Jan. 26 in Quarry Plaza. Fliers were posted on campus advertising the event, demanding charges against students arrested in recent protests against the fee hikes be dropped.

In preparation for the student action, Vice Chancellor David Kliger made a preemptive decision to lock the doors of Hahn Student Services, allowing students in individually with a staff escort, said Building Coordinator Ellen Ziff.

“Our doors are locked because of the planned protest today,” Ziff said. “It’s unfortunate, but we have to take reasonable precautions when we hear there might be a problem…”

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Student Regents Oppose Regents Meeting Cancellation

Published online at City on a Hill Press November 15, 2011

Student Regent Alfredo Mireles and Student Regent-Designate Jonathan Stein have publicly opposed the UC Board of Regents’ Nov. 14 decision to cancel the board’s upcoming meeting due to concerns about public safety.

In a press release from the University of California Office of the President yesterday, board Chair Sherry Lansing, board vice chair Bruce Varner and UC President Mark Yudof announced the cancellation, citing concerns raised by information presented by UC law enforcement officials. The Nov. 16 meeting will be rescheduled “for another time and, possibly, an alternate venue,” according to the release.

Thousands Continue to Fight Budget Cuts

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press April 22, 2010

A diverse coalition of people walked the final mile of a 365-mile march in protest of state budget cuts to education on Wednesday, April 21.

Protesters filled three city blocks on their way to the Capitol.

Rain beat down on the group as they gathered in a Sacramento park before it became a drizzle.

The 48-day march, dubbed The March for California’s Future, began with five “core” walkers. A San Diego community college professor, a Los Angeles probation officer, a Watsonville teacher, a Marina del Ray substitute teacher, and a retired Los Angeles teacher began to walk in Bakersfield, with the ultimate goal of rallying on the steps of the Capitol.

“I am marching because I believe the only hope for education is for us to get out in the streets and educate people about how we fund public education in California,” said Jenn Laskin. She has taught for 11 years at Renaissance Continuation High School in Watsonville, and was among the group of core walkers…

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Q&A: UC President Mark Yudof

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press March 4, 2010

UC President Mark Yudof sat down with student media representatives from UCs Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Merced, Davis, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The topics of conversation ranged from student demonstrations to financial aid to the recent racist incidents at UC campuses.

Republished with permission

Republished with permission

City on a Hill Press: You increased the threshold for the Blue and Gold Plan, which now waives education and registration fees for students whose families earn less than $70,000 per year. How will you inform high school students of this so that they aren’t deterred from applying to the UC because of cost?

Mark Yudof: We have been communicating directly with the parents, we have met with the guidance counselors, [and] we have produced materials on the Blue and Gold Program. If I had my way, the window would be much higher and we’re looking at [whether] we should increase it to $80,000 and so forth. …

We have to obey the state and federal rules on awarding financial aid, and if we award more than what they determine is your level of need, they subtract it out someplace else in the process. So we need to make sure students actually come out ahead in this process. … It’s absolutely almost a moral issue that if you’re below $70,000 we need to help you, but there are significant financial issues for families above that, who are not poor but not rich in the sense that they can just sit down, write a check and not think about it…

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UC Targets ‘Sustainable’ Spending

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press May 20, 2010

The pessimism of members of the UC community during the public comment period was juxtaposed by UC President Mark Yudof’s promise of a brighter future for the UC in the opening remarks at the latest regents meeting.

Yudof call the cuts that the UC system endured this year “unsustainable,” indicating a more promising budget for this 2010-2011.

“Even in tough times, the state needs to have a priority,” Yudof said. “We’ve been in crisis mode for the last couple of years, and some desperate and temporary measures were taken, almost none of which, in my heart of hearts, I feel good about … now we’re at the point where we must look over the horizon for longer-term, sustainable ways of operating…”

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UC Board of Regents Votes for Further Fee Increases

Published online at City on a Hill Press July 14, 2011

Increase will bring undergraduate tuition to $11,220 beginning fall 2011

UCSA President Claudia Magaña addressing the UC Board of Regents

The UC Board of Regents voted today to approve a 9.6 percent increase in systemwide fees, bringing  annual undergraduate tuition to $11,220. This increase follows the 8 percent fee hike passed by the board in November, and is the second such increase in less than a year.

The UC Board of Regents convening at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay Conference Center. The Board raised tuition by 9.6% in Thursday’s vote, bringing it to roughly double the amount in fall 2005.

The fee hike will affect undergraduate and graduate students, beginning fall 2011.

Raised tuition comes in response to the $650 million state cut funding for UC last month, reducing total state support for the university by more than $880 million, and leaving the UC with a $1 billion budget shortfall, according to Nathan Brostrom, the UC system’s executive vice president for business operations.

The board voted 14-4 for the increase. Regents Eddie Island, Student Regent Alfredo Mireles Jr., George Marcus and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom were opposed. Newsom urged the regents to send a message to lawmakers by refusing to raise tuition.

Claudia Magaña, a UCSC third-year and president of the UC Students Association, addresses the Board of Regents on Wednesday. In her address she urged the regents to absorb the state budget cuts through means other than tuition increases.

Regent Bonnie Reiss said she would vote for the hike “with sadness and disgust…”

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UCSC Alum Named to Board of Regents

Published online at City on a Hill Press December 13, 2011

Cowell grad Kenneth Feingold appointed for a two-year term

UCSC alumnus Kenneth Feingold has been appointed for a two-year term to the UC Board of Regents, Chancellor Blumenthal announced today in an email to the campus community.

The Santa Monica-based lawyer and 1971 Cowell graduate will serve first as an alumni regent designate beginning July 1, 2012, followed by a 12-month term as a full, voting member of the board.

Feingold will be the first UC Santa Cruz graduate to serve on the board in seven years.

“I am honored to have been chosen to serve as a Regent by the UCSC Alumni Association Council,” Feingold is quoted in the release. “This is a difficult time for the State of California and the University of California. I pledge to work as an alumni regent to keep our institution strong and responsive to the needs of the students, the faculty and our state…”

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Yudof Announces Investigation of UCPD Action

Breaking news story published online at City on a Hill Press November 22, 2011

Independent consultants will examine Nov. 18 pepper-spraying of UC Davis protesters, UCPD protocol

UC President Mark Yudof announced today an independent consulting company will undertake a “fact-finding” investigation of the pepper-spraying of UC Davis students on Nov. 18, and of UCPD protocol regarding campus protests.

Footage of students being pepper sprayed by UC Police Department (UCPD) officers as they sit with arms linked on the campus quad at a UC Davis protest has garnered national attention. The attention has brought the UC Police Department (UCPD) under severe scrutiny.

In a release from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), Yudof said the announcement came in response to a request from UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi that the UC president conduct a thorough review of the event. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, has also requested an independent investigation of the event…

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Protesters Take to the Streets on March 4

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press March 11, 2010

Thousands gathered at the Capitol, on campuses and in the streets — more specifically the freeways — across the state last Thursday. Students, parents, educators and administrators from K-12 public schools, California community colleges, California State University (CSU) campuses and the University of California united to protest cuts to California public education.

UC Berkeley students Meegan Brooks, a fourth-year political science major and Eden Amans, a first-year English major, said they made the trip from their campus to the Capitol to join the group of 2,000 advocating for public education alongside the California Faculty Association.

“We’re really just showing support,” Amans said. “That’s what’s really going to get the most attention — the fact that all of us are here from all over and we’re all united in this one cause.”

The actions at the Capitol and on individual campuses garnered the attention of national media like “Saturday Night Live,” the San Francisco Chronicle, and CNN.

UC Davis specifically was criticized for extreme actions taken by protesters on campus. An estimated 300 protesters attempted to march onto Interstate 80 after gathering on the UC Davis campus. More than 120 campus, city, county and highway patrol law enforcement officers resorted to the use of force in an attempt to halt the crowd’s progress onto the highway. Officers wielded batons and fired pepper balls at the advancing crowd. They arrested one student.

On campus, protesters pulled fire alarms, disrupting classes and library patrons.

Julia Ann Easley, senior public information representative for the UCD News Service, said March 4’s events were extraordinary for the Davis campus.

“For the most part, our campus protesters are peaceful and law-abiding,” she said.

Easley, who has served on the UCD campus for more than 12 years, said the administration’s primary concern on March 4 was student and community safety.

“It’s the first time I’ve known students to try to lock up the interstate,” she said. “It made my heart sink out of the danger.”

Although rumors of violence and disruptive behavior at UC Santa Cruz circulated on Thursday, it has been determined that the protest was nonviolent, and reports by the administration of destructive behavior were misinformed. The rear windshield of a single car was broken when the vehicle attempted to forcibly cross the picket line, and, contrary to initial reports from the UCSC administration, thus far no police reports have been filed indicating the use or presence of weapons at the demonstration.

In Sacramento, representatives from the California Faculty Association and members of the legislature and state Senate addressed the crowd on the north steps of the Capitol building. Assemblyman Alberto Torrico was one of several politicians to speak at the podium, but he was the only one scheduled to do so.

Torrico focused on promoting Assembly Bill 656, an oil severance tax that would fund public education. Torrico, who authored this bill, is an advocate for higher education.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg also spoke, and applauded the protesters’ actions as a means of protecting California’s economic future.

“If we are going to create jobs, if we’re going to improve our economy, if we’re going to have a better budget, the last thing in the world to do is to cut public education,” he said.

Reid Milburn, president and regional senator representing Sacramento for the Student Senate of California Community Colleges (SSCCC), also addressed the crowd at the Capitol. Reid and members of the SSCCC are organizing a second march on the Capitol for March 22, and expect around 8,000 participants from across the state.

“I highly encourage any and all UC students — and any students or educational supporters from across the state — to join us,” she said in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press. “It is about time students stood up and helped California understand that the first priority in a fiscal crisis such as the recession should be to educate its people.”

Steinberg encouraged students on March 4 to continue their involvement in actions like the March 22 rally.

“You have already made a huge difference,” he said. “You have already changed the debate, but there is a long way to go. Let this be the beginning, and let this — once again, because of your activism, your advocacy, your stubborn unwillingness to take no for an answer — let this be the year that we begin restoring the California dream of public education.”