Love the Ones You’re With

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press February 10, 2011

Polyamory, or relationships with multiple consenting partners, attracts a high profile 

Love the Ones You’re With

Republished with permission

Dawn Davidson doesn’t live her life by Disney standards.

When you have more than one Prince Charming, fairy-tale clichés go out the window.

“In our culture, the only acceptable, long-term relationship style is monogamy,” said Davidson, a relationship coach and veteran in the polyamory community. “We’re taught that literally from childhood. What happens when the prince rescues the princess? They ride off into the sunset, and they live happily ever after. Just the two of them. Except she leaves behind her seven vertically-challenged, very hard-working housemates.”

Davidson laughs at this allusion and continues, “That seems like it might be kind of a light example, but it’s just the beginning.”

Davidson is one of the estimated half a million Americans who identify as polyamorous, meaning they carry on romantic relationships with two or more individuals simultaneously. As of 2005, there were an estimated 2,000 poly people residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. In Santa Cruz alone, 238 people participate in an online group that meets regularly to discuss polyamory.

In recent years these numbers have received significant media attention — notably, Newsweek described polyamory as “the next sexual revolution.” Poly books such as “The Ethical Slut,” by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, have achieved mainstream success, bringing new faces to poly community groups in large cities throughout the country. As polls show younger generations growing more accepting of all lifestyles and non-hetero-normative relationships are in and out of federal courtrooms, polyamory is becoming more high-profile.

The poly community has received some negative attention. Conservative groups like Focus on the Family have publicly denounced polyamory as immoral, and a threat to the current federal marriage laws. A pamphlet released by the Family Research Council describes a polyamorous home as “a frat house with revolving doors.”

“This nebulous, free-for-all model of the family looms ahead for our society unless a bulwark is created in the form of a constitutional amendment protecting marriage,” according to the pamphlet.

Davidson said people in polyamorous relationships have similar motivations as those in monogamous ones, and they face similar challenges, just in greater numbers. As the number of members within a relationship increases, so does the potential for common dating and familial problems.

“Socially, it’s very similar,” she said. “We still have to negotiate around who gets to see whom, Thanksgiving and Christmas, ‘Are we driving to so-and-so’s this year? Are we getting together, and is there a big enough place to hold us all?’ It’s not an uncommon discussion. It’s just in a very different context.”

Many conservative groups wouldn’t agree with Davidson. Publications on the Family Research Council website warn that “the rising polyamorous culture is out to get your children.” Stigmas like this drive many poly people to keep their relationships relatively private.

Santa Cruz County resident Steve Jones* said he is openly polyamorous around his friends, but he chose to remain anonymous in this story to avoid becoming the subject of “malicious gossip.”

“If I’m close enough to people to talk about dating, then they probably know,” he said. “If we just have a business relationship and don’t talk about personal stuff, then I’m not going to talk about that any more than anything else that’s personal.”

The roots of polyamory, originally referred to as “responsible” or “ethical” non-monogamy, can be traced back to the 19th century. The term was not used with its contemporary meaning until 1990 and was not included in the Oxford English Dictionary until 2009. In the early ’90s, prominent figures in several poly communities used the Internet, which was still in its infancy, to organize networks of poly people and create resources for people interested in consensual non-monogamy.

Though Davidson has been in polyamorous relationships for more than 30 years, she “didn’t have a name to put on it” until the mid ’90s, she said. Since then, she has married, had children and become a prominent figure in the Bay Area polyamory community. Davidson also teaches classes for the local poly community at Pure Pleasure, an adult store located in downtown Santa Cruz.

Polyamorous relationships are not unlike monogamous ones, Davidson said.

“A lot of families are doing polyamory-style relating,” she said. “We just call it divorce and remarriage. There are a lot of people who have two moms and two dads.”

As the number of people in the relationship increases, so does the potential for common dating and familial problems, Davidson said.

“We tend to have more relationships, so the opportunity for all kinds of feelings comes up more in terms of sheer numbers,” Davidson said.

Jealousy is a common concern of people outside the community. But the issue is less common than many think, she said.

“I would actually say that the context of monogamy tends to generate some really strong jealousy behaviors,” Davidson said. “Again, it’s condoned and even supported by our culture — ‘A real man will protect his woman’ kind of thing, and it gets into that patriarchal property kind of stuff. Or conversely, you’ll hear about women using jealousy to get their man to pay more attention to them. It’s my take on it that at least the ideals of the polyamorous community, based on openness and honesty, everybody really has to be on board with what’s going on.”

Having multiple partners is common among people who identify as monogamous as well. “Open relationships” and “friends with benefits” arrangements remain common, as does infidelity. A recent study at Oregon State University of 434 young heterosexual couples found that, even among those with an explicit agreement to be monogamous, almost 30 percent had broken the agreement, with at least one partner having had sex outside the relationship.

While some might assume polyamory and cheating are the same, members of the poly community are quick to differentiate between the two.

Polyamorous relationships usually include primary and secondary partners. Primary partners often function in a spousal role, and there is less expectation for serious commitment and partnership in secondary relationships.

“A lot of men cheat — and a lot of women do too — but they sneak around, and that’s not what polyamory is all about,” said Santa Cruz County resident and polyamorist Pat Smith*. “If you really want somebody in your life, you need to work it out with your primary partner. Quite honestly, if you look at the original tenants of polyamory, the primary partner gets a veto. If this doesn’t work for them or they’re threatened in any way, you shouldn’t go there. They have to accept what’s going on. If they don’t … it’s considered cheating, to me.”

The differences between what some poly people see as undefined polyamory in monogamous relationships and open polyamory in multi-person partnerships can come down to semantics.

“There are a lot of cases where two people, often close friends, have mutual attraction but don’t act on it because of their agreement of monogamy with their primary relationship,” Larry Colen, a Santa Cruz County resident and long-time polyamorist, said in an e-mail. “These people are often lovers in everything but the sexual consummation. Since polyamory is, in theory, more about the emotional attachment rather than the physical expression, one could argue that these are, in reality, polyamorous relationships.”

Davidson says mainstream reluctance to accept polyamory is because of societal pressure.

“A lot of people just don’t realize it could be called that,” she said. “We have a really strong monogamous cultural assumption.”

While many people interested in polyamory seek out local and online groups, Jones guesses there are many more people who are not active in the community. These unaccounted-for polyamorists may fly under the official radar simply because they do not consider their relationships polyamorous.

“I know a lot of people of a younger generation who just don’t identify it as polyamory,” Davidson said. “But if you ask them if they are monogamous, they’d say no. They might call it responsible non-monogamy. They might call it open relationships … One group I used to know used to say their relationships are ‘in the flow.’”


Republished with permission

People within the community say the term “polyamory” encompasses many different approaches to non-monogamy.

“In the poly community you’ll find everything from people having a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ arrangement, where it is OK to have other relationships as long as you don’t talk about it,” Jones said. “That’s on one extreme. The other extreme would be a group marriage, where you have people living together and pooling their resources and doing all of the things that a family does together.”

Jones and his wife are friendly with each other’s partners and discuss their relationships, he said, but their relationships are separate. They only have two people in their marriage, he said.

While every relationship is unique, the poly community has terminology to distinguish between the more common types of polyamorous relationships. Relationships can be primary, secondary and casual. A primary relationship is mostly comparable to a traditional monogamous relationship and may be prioritized over secondary relationships.

“Often, people will only have one primary relationship, and that person takes priority,” Colen said. “A secondary relationship is very important to the person but usually not the person you live with. A long-term mistress could be a classic example of a secondary relationship.”

Smith and her husband have been in polyamorous relationships since they moved to California more than 30 years ago. Both had been previously married, and monogamy had not worked, she said. After listening to a lecture by polyamorist author Deborah Anapol, Smith and her husband began to consider multiple partners.

“We kind of looked at each other and thought, ‘That might work,’” she said. “It wasn’t about sleeping around — it was about needing more in a relationship. Not everybody can give everybody everything. And we had tried to work within the paradigm we were raised to acknowledge, [and] it wasn’t working.”

Smith is open about her relationships to her friends and family, and while she has received much support, she acknowledges that her traditionally-minded relatives do not understand her lifestyle.

“My sister is still married to the first man she ever went to bed with, and she doesn’t want to castigate me, but I’m sure she thinks I’m awful,” she said with a laugh. “They sort of consider me the batty aunt.”

Though polyamory may not be mainstream, the community is not small.

Pure Pleasure co-owner Janis Baldwin said Davidson’s classes have met a need for many Santa Cruzans, who used to drive to San Francisco for poly classes and resources.

“No one was teaching classes like that,” Smith said of Davidson’s poly workshops. “The last class was standing-room only.”

Davidson teaches Polamory 101, which is intended to be an introduction to polyamory. Participants learn definitions and terminology, and discuss basic issues that do and do not work in polyamorous relationships, like the importance of time management and how to deal with jealousy.

Amy Baldwin, who owns the store with her mother, said there is “definitely” a large poly community in Santa Cruz that utilizes this resource.

“Some people come who have been in poly relationships for years, and others are just dabbling in [polyamory],” Amy said. “Everyone leaves with something different.”

One of the most important things to take away from investigating polyamory, Davidson said, is that love is the same, regardless of how many people are involved.

“Honestly, poly relationships are just relationships,” she said. “We just have more of them.”

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This Year in Santa Cruz News

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press June 3, 2010

Smoking Ban

On Sept. 8, the Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously to pass a public smoking ban, which prohibited smoking on Pacific Avenue, Beach Street, and West Cliff Drive, as well as within 25 feet of any door or window of city buildings open to the public. The ban went into effect on Oct. 20, and after a one-month grace period, anyone caught smoking in restricted areas was presented with a $25 citation. Two months later, the city of Santa Cruz got a “D” for the year of 2009 from the American Lung Association for overall efforts to control tobacco…

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This Week In News: UCSC Faces $31 Million Cut

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press Feb. 10, 2011

The university will need to cut $19 million from the current 2011–2012 budget, executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway announced in an e-mail to the campus community on Feb. 7.

The University of California will face a $500 million budget cut under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget. Galloway estimates UC Santa Cruz’s share will be about 6 percent, or
$31 million.

UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis will all contend with larger cuts. UCLA faces the largest shortfall, at $99 million, with UC Berkeley and UC Davis close behind at roughly $80 and $70 million, respectively.

Last year, the university made permanent cuts rather than relying on temporary funds, which decreased the actual shortfall UCSC will face to $19 million.

“The [$31 million] cut is roughly equivalent to cutting the entire division of physical sciences,” Galloway said.

Though no specific program cuts have been made, preliminary cuts have been assigned by division. The academic divisions face 6 percent cuts, and all other units have been asked to make 16 percent reductions.

These numbers may change, pending the outcome of Brown’s proposal to extend current personal income and sales taxes for five years. If the measure does not make it on the ballot or is not passed by voters, Galloway said, the UC will face larger cuts…

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Student Government Ready to Put Goals into Action

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press Oct. 14, 2010

Guide to this year’s officers of Student Union Assembly

While most students were moving in and attending day keggers during welcome week, Natan Tietz was recruiting students for the SUA. His mission: filling all of the SUA committee positions on campus.

“There are all these committees that students can serve on to create change,” Tietz said. “But they have never all been filled. Often they are vacant because no one knows about them. I am going to work hard on this all year so that crucial decisions that are made on this campus have input from student voice…”

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Chancellor Addresses UC’s Future with Student Media

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press Oct. 14, 2010

Republished with permission

City on a Hill Press: What went into the decision to appoint Allison Galloway as our new EVC?

Blumenthal: I really feel very, very lucky, because at the same time last year that we were doing our EVC search, several other campuses were doing EVC searches as well. Some of them were unable to complete their EVC search and make an appointment. I had four outstanding finalist candidates, any of whom could’ve stepped into that position. But in choosing Allison, I was motivated by the fact that she is very committed to the campus. She understands the campus well, and she really has demonstrated her ability to administer programs … I think Allison brings the whole package, and because we worked together in a variety of different capacities over the years I thought that we would work well. And lastly Allison isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m wrong…

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Today’s Special: SC Coffee Houses

Published in print and online in City on a Hill Press’ summer magazine, Primer

Every good college student knows that a coffee shop serves up more than just coffee. A good coffee house is a place to study, to spend long hours reading, and to hang out with friends. When your roommate has driven you just crazy enough that you have to get out of the dorm, or you’re going on your 23rd hour in the library, the local coffee joint can provide a nice change of pace and a much-needed caffeine boost. We’ve got the goods on where to go in Santa Cruz to find delicious and affordable coffee, a great atmosphere and most importantly, free Wi-Fi…

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Fifty Arrested Downtown on Halloween

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press November 3, 2011

SCPD reports 75 percent increase over last year’s call volume

Republished with permission

Fifty total arrests were made in downtown Santa Cruz on Halloween night, and 49 triple fine municipal code violations were given. Of the arrests, 34 were for public intoxication or otherwise alcohol-related.

To discourage public disruption during the unofficial Pacific Avenue Halloween parade, the Santa Cruz Police Department announced on Oct. 26 the downtown area had been deemed a safety enhancement zone for designated Municipal Code violations. The fine for possession of an open alcohol container was $480, and a ticket for urinating in public $576.

“The focus is on ensuring a safe event,” said SCPD spokesman Zach Friend. “Over the last few years we’ve averaged 25,000 people downtown in the late evening, approximately half of the city population in one square mile. Historically we’ve had acts of gang violence and a number of alcohol-fueled incidents, from fights to vandalism to DUIs. We want to find a balance for people coming downtown where they can have a good time but respect the law…”

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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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Allison Galloway Appointed Executive Vice Chancellor

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press September 30, 2010

Chancellor George Blumenthal appointed Allison Galloway to the position of executive vice chancellor (CP/EVC) Sept. 16. Galloway enters the position at a fiscally challenging time for UC Santa Cruz.

Blumenthal selected Galloway and she was subsequently approved by the UC Regents. Galloway succeeds David Kliger, who stepped down after a five-year term as CP/EVC. He has returned to his former position as chemistry and biochemistry professor.

Galloway has previously served in several administration positions at UCSC, including University Extension (UE), a program that required extensive budget restructuring. This year is the first time in over a decade that UE will be filing no deficit…

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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.”

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Chancellor, EVC Defend Decision to Cut American Studies

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press January 13, 2011

Administrators meet with student media for quarterly press conference

Chancellor George Blumenthal and executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway met with student media news organizations at the chancellor’s quarterly press conference Monday. Among other issues, the administrators responded to queries about the governor’s proposed budget and the future of American studies.

City on a Hill Press: How will the potential suspension of American studies affect the chancellor’s vision of a “cross-cultural” campus?

GB: Both American studies and community studies are programs that do have important cross-cultural contributions that they have made. But I still think, that even with the suspension of admission of new undergraduate majors in both cases, there remain programs on this campus that really do provide significant cross-cultural opportunities for students…
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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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The ‘March’ for Higher Education

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press February 25, 2010

On March 1 and 4, members of the University of California community will rally at UC campuses and in Sacramento in an effort to gain support for higher education.

In the first week of what the University of California Student Association (UCSA) has declared “a month of action,” large numbers of students are expected to converge on the state Capitol.

“It’s the same realm of action,” said Victor Sanchez, external vice chair of UC Santa Cruz’s Student Union Assembly (SUA). “There’ll be opportunities on both days for folks to express their voice.”

Sanchez, who also serves as president of the UCSA, said the close proximity of the two events will make them that much more effective in gaining support for higher education. He predicted that this month, named the “March for Higher Education” by the UCSA, will see “continual waves” of student action.

March 1, UC Student Lobby Day, follows a weekend of workshops — beginning on Saturday in Sacramento — designed to teach students to lobby their legislators. The annual UC Student Lobby Conference provides students with opportunities to learn more about effectively lobbying their elected representatives. Attendees from UCSC were chosen by the SUA through an application process.

Lobby Day will begin with a rally at the Capitol. Following the rally, students will put the skills they learned at the conference to use, advocating for higher education.

UCSC spokesperson Jim Burns said in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press that several UC chancellors will join student lobbyists, including UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal.

In response to a request from SUA, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) has agreed to provide up to $2,500 in non-state funds to the campus to go toward the cost of student transportation to the Capitol on March 1, Burns said. The money is part of a $10,000 expenditure that UCOP is making in an effort to help students attend the event.

Lobby Day will be followed by the March 4 Day of Action in defense of public education.

Sanchez said that though there will be a difference in tactics used by protesters on the two days, the geographically broader scope of action on Thursday, March 4 will be the most significant distinction between them.

While actions on March 1 will be centralized in Sacramento, on March 4 protests will take place all over California.

Across the state, high school and college students, teachers and workers will be striking for public education. While many intend to march on Sacramento, student organizations have plans for on-campus activism as well.

“We have 1,700 signatures from students pledging to strike on March 4,” said Mary Virginia Watson, a member of both the Graduate Student Organizing Committee and the March 4 Strike Committee. “We plan to have gatherings at the main and west entrances to shut down campus.”

Watson said her group has and will continue to make a serious effort to warn the community that transportation to and from campus will be hindered by the protest. This preemptive move was made in light of criticism directed toward protesters who blocked campus entrances in last November’s demonstrations against fee increases.

However, Watson said, sending this message to the administration is worth the trouble it might cause people going to and from campus.

“What the government and the UC are trying to do is shut the doors to the campus,” she said. “One day of inconvenience is worth it.”

Watson would like to warn students that though the protesters intend to let certain people through the barricades — like parents with children in on-campus childcare — there is a chance the police will close down streets near campus. She said her group has sent a representative to talk to local law enforcement in hopes that this scenario can be prevented.

Watson advises UCSC students who want to get involved on March 4 not to attend classes, and to ask teaching assistants and professors to cancel classes. She also invites students to attend the gatherings at the main and west entrances of campus. The March 4 Strike Committee will be meeting on Tuesday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. in Kresge 327 to discuss plans for the day of action, and Watson hopes interested students will attend that as well.

In Sacramento, actions will begin with a rally at the Capitol building at 11 a.m.

Protests will include an “Educate the State” rally hosted by California Faculty Association (CFO) representatives from California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). Kevin Wehr, CSUS CFO president and a UCSC alumnus, said protesters will hold mock classes for legislators on the importance of public education to California — complete with a lectern, desks and a chalkboard — on the north steps of the Capitol.

Transportation from UCSC to the Capitol will be available through SAVE the University, a UC Berkeley faculty group. Students can sign up for limited seating at

Wehr said the actions planned for March 4 were designed to send a message to the government about preserving the state’s already limited education funds and to advocate for additional state support.

“Our message is simple,” he said. “We want to demonstrate the importance of public education, K-16, throughout California, and send a message to the legislature to protect and expand education funding: … Hands off that money.”

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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.