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A night at ‘Tent City’

Luke Stangel

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Beneath a moonlit sky, open textbooks mingled with half donutsand home cooked spaghetti in an industrial-sized pot. A cell phonecharged, an orange extension cord snaking between the tents. Alight wind ruffled the dog-eared edges of a petition that 1,000students had signed during the day in support of the MulticulturalStaff Association. Everywhere, activists slept.
Sleep was less than comfortable, and on Thursday morning signs ofexhaustion were beginning to set in. Fifteen student activists hadbeen sleeping in the quad since Monday, in protest of thedistrict’s recent decision to lay off 30 classified staff membersthis month.
The protest is arguably the most visible event Students For Justiceactivists have organized on campus this year. SFJ has been workingwith the Service Employee International Union to save thesepositions since Mike Brandy, vice president of finance and collegeservices, first called for pink slips.
Brandy recently announced that, although the state budget crisiswill not be as bad as initially projected, the district willcontinue with the layoffs.
SFJ members were frustrated with general student ignorancesurrounding the layoffs and with the district’s unwillingness tobargain for the jobs of the impacted staff. In response, “TentCity” was born, and it continues to grow.
De Anza students and staff have been supportive of the protesters,providing food and moral support regularly. Local press outletshave been covering Tent City since Monday, and they have managed toget media coverage by The San Jose Mercury News, The CupertinoCourier, Sing Tao Daily, The Metro, NPR and KGO.
I went to Tent City in search of the activists’ motivation. Whatdid it feel like to participate in a sleep-in?
I only stayed one night, so I can’t pretend to speak on behalf ofthe activists who stayed for the week. I can say, however, that itis physically taxing. They studied for finals, wrote papers andscrambled to class in between getting petitions signed and eatingfood that came at irregular times. The processes of life becomework when you’re sleeping on the concrete.
The fact is that the layoffs are unjust. I stayed the night insupport of Lily Espinoza, the transfer counselor at Foothill whowill be losing her job this month and losing her health benefitsthe month that she is expecting her first child.
After only six months of employment as a transfer coordinator atFoothill, she will be losing her job as part of an action to saveour district $4 million.
What alternatives has the district exhausted to make sure thatEspinoza keeps her job? I’m not convinced that they’ve done enoughto keep her and the other impacted staff employed.
The activists plan to spend this week camping out at “Tent City”while they wait for a message from the Board of Trustees. I callupon all concerned students and staff to help “Tent City” in asmany ways as they can, by giving the activists moral support,donating food or even bringing a tent and spending the night if youfeel the cause.

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