The University of California Student Association (UCSA) is a coalition of students and student governments that aims to provide a collective voice for all students through advocacy and direct action. UCSA participates in the shared governance of the University of California system, and seeks to advance higher education by empowering current and future students to advocate on their own behalf for the accessibility, affordability, and quality of the University of California system.
In 1960, California’s Master Plan for Higher Education mandated that the University of California should be free and its population should reflect the diversity of the state of California. Throughout the 1960s, UC students developed a culture of organizing by engaging in the Free Speech, Civil Rights, and Anti-Vietnam War movements that were sweeping the nation. In response, administrators, Regents, and elected officials tried to find any way they could to crack down on students’ freedom to organize.
In 1968, Governor Ronald Reagan dealt a heavy blow by creating tuition in what was supposed to be the “free” UC system, and calling it a “student fee.” Students responded by mobilizing more than 3,000 to the state capitol in protest of the cuts. But this was only the first in a series of attacks on students. Soon, UC students realized they needed a permanent organization to provide a voice in the Capitol and organize students on campuses, and the Student Body Presidents Council created the UC Student Lobby, which would later become UCSA.
Throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, UCSA fought for the access, affordability, and quality of UC education, winning battles to freeze and roll back student fees, to increase UC diversity, to protect crucial student services, and to expand financial aid. UCSA has won many victories for students, including creating a student voting position on the Board of Regents, getting the Regents to repeal SP1 and SP2, and winning fee frees or rollbacks in 8 of the last 15 years.
Today, UCSA continues to fight for students, using a range of tactics to win our issue-based campaigns and build student electoral power. It is going to take many students working collectively to restore the promise of a free education and a truly diverse University. Together, through grassroots organizing and direct advocacy, we can win victories that change students’ lives. The first step is to join in.