Posters from protesters' site
Irvine -- When UCI opened in 1965, its main library was named, appropriately enough, Main Library. It was not until 2003 when a Newport-Beach real estate entrepreneur, Jack Langson, gave $5 million to the University of California that it got renamed, of course, after himself, as Jack Langson Library.
The library got itself a needed facelift, new carpeting and more PCs for students to use and comfortable, colorful sofas for them to sit in, and for some to sleep on.
Talking about naming opportunities, Lang Son is of course, the name of a northern province in Vietnam, next to China, so colleagues there often laugh when I say I am from Langson Library.
Fast forward to late November 2009, right after the UC Regents hike "fees" (they can't call it tuition according to the California Higher Education Master Plan) an outrageous 32%. UCI students protesting the fee hikes now plan a "study-in" at Langson Library Friday December 4, 2009, after 5 p.m. closing hours, calling it a form of resistance to the fee hikes. In "liberating Langson," "students, faculty and workers" have also taken the opportunity to rename it, rather creatively one might say, "Langston Hughes Library," after the gay Harlem Renaissance poet and literary master.
Their Facebook page on "liberating" the library already has over a 1,000 listed as potentially attending the study-in.
Their manifesto, addressed to UCI's librarians and library staff, declares:
"As students, we believe we should have full access to books, computers,
and library materials before and during Finals Week. We also know that
the funds exist within the UC system to maintain a fully-staffed,
adequately paid 24 hour library on campus. Close to 8 billion dollars of
discretionary funding is sitting untouched, and the UC has taken out
over 6 billion dollars in construction bonds. This money comes from our
tuition and our and our parents’ taxes, and we want a piece of it.
Similarly, we are disgusted by the University’s negotiation process,
offering library staff representatives the “choice” of layoffs or pay
cuts; we want neither!"
The unionized librarians accepted the University's pay cut/furlough plan, but library assistants (in the Coalition of University Employees) will be undergoing 11 rotating layoff days next summer.
The study-in organizers explain:
"In taking over the library and keeping it open overnight Friday and
perhaps indefinitely thereafter, we are exerting our agency as students
and members of the UC community. We do not expect anything of you beyond
your normal work requirements, and despite administrative claims to the
contrary, we are not asking you to stay beyond your regular work hours.
We only ask of you, and of the University, that we retain access to
automated check-out machines, computer labs, and other basic unstaffed
resources. We additionally condemn any attempts by the administration to
shut off power or Internet access or lock the main doors.
"Our only barricades will be our bodies so long as authorities respond
peacefully to us, and it is our intent to leave the library cleaner than
how we found it. We intend to use the space for teach-ins about the
budget crisis, exam review sessions, study groups, and quiet study. On
Saturday at 1pm, we will be holding a General Assembly for the UCI
community to assess our ability to remain in Langson Library and
consider our capacity for further action. Should you or your coworkers
voluntarily choose to stay in the library for any period of time in
order to assist us in any way, you have our humble appreciation."
The manifesto goes on to make some grand statement of solidarity with past instances of direct action:
"This action is being carried out in solidarity with 15 prior occupations
in the UC and CSU systems this quarter, and with the occupations
throughout the world, most recently in Croatia, Serbia, Germany,
Austria, Italy, and Great Britain. While this may be the first attempted
occupation at UCI, it will not be the last. We will occupy the entire
campus, building by building, until everything that has been taken from
us is ours again.
It ends with a rallying cry: "LONG LIVE THE OCCUPATIONS!"
The planned occupiers say this: "We are an autonomous body in Orange County attempting to subvert hegemonic, state-supporting/ed protest by promoting radical discourse and militant action."
Of course, occupations have a mixed record in the UC recently, without the students necessarily achieving all their demands, although undoubtedly they became radicalized by the them. At UCLA, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz this past week, student occupiers of buildings on those campuses were forced to vacate them at risk of being arrested for "tresspassing." At Berkeley, over 40 were arrested.
Study-ins, however, have been successfully held at libraries in other UCs. One at Berkeley's Anthropology Library "led administrators to allocate funds from unrestricted donations" to keep that and similar specialized libraries on campus open. In addition, "student activism around the finals week closure brought about an awareness of the issue that led to a private donation to keep the libraries open during finals week" ("UC Libraries Face cuts, But Faculty and Student Activism Pays Off," UC-AFT Perspective, Fall 2009, p.9.)
Prospects for a peaceful resolution at UCI are as yet unknown. Will the University welcome students to stay for the duration of the study-in?
I like Langston Hughes, but given that Lang Son was where noted General Võ Nguyên Giáp defeated the French colonial forces there in 1950 in one of the first successes of the First Indochina War, facilitating military aid from China across the border, perhaps the students could have just added a blank space and renamed it Lang Son Library as well.