Supporting safety and access to our campus

This message was shared with leaders of the campus's Academic Senate on June 3.

Dear Senate leadership,

These have been difficult days and I write to share more detailed information about the actions taken last week to support safety and access to our campus. As I stated in my Friday message to our campus community, it was only after repeated unanswered calls to have the unlawful encampment voluntarily disband and remove the dangerous reinforced blockade from the campus entrance that we made the decision to take more formal action. What started off as an apparent peaceful demonstration with limited impacts on campus operations transitioned over weeks through intentional escalation by the demonstrators. I appreciate the passion that was driving their desire for protest, and support their right to do so in a constructive way, but their actions caused significant disruption, hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs to campus (including repairs, vandalism removal, and debris disposal, among others), unquantifiable impact to the educational progress for students, and most worryingly, significant safety risks for the entire community.

Our primary goals were to remove the barricade to reopen the main entrance of campus and to clear the unlawful encampment, which continued to fuel disruption and safety issues. Those goals were met. However, as the international issues that first prompted the demonstrations remain, additional disruptions are anticipated. We do, however, hope that demonstrators will voice their concerns in ways protected by the First Amendment and consistent with our policies and shared values as a university. Our decision to act was not made because individuals demonstrated or because of the topic of the demonstration; it was because they chose to pursue unlawful actions that harmed our community and created unsafe conditions.

How long could we as an institution allow demonstrators to blockade, with barriers, rocks and chains, our entrances, disrupting the lives of more than 22,000 students and employees who are members of our community? How long could we allow access to medical and emergency vehicles to be dictated by individuals who have no expertise, authority or responsibility for the well-being of our community? How long could we disrupt the livelihoods of individuals who depend on being paid to support themselves, their children and families? How long could we disrupt or jeopardize our mission as an educational and research institution for which the taxpayers of this state entrust us and for which students and families pay? To choose to be part of this community, we must embrace our shared responsibilities to and for each other.

From the start, we have prioritized the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff above all else, even when it required difficult decisions, such as shifting to remote instruction or closing buildings and enterprises in Quarry Plaza. We sought to de-escalate wherever and whenever possible. We believe in and advocate for freedom of speech; however, the campus must take action when individuals choose to act unlawfully, creating significant safety risks and inflicting harm on countless others across the university. Doing nothing would be a dereliction of the responsibility we have to our students and employees that has been entrusted to us by the State of California.

As chancellor, my duty is to ensure that UC Santa Cruz continues to deliver on its mission of teaching, learning, and research; that all our support resources and services are available to everyone in our campus community; and that everyone feels comfortable to express their ideas and views. The encampment and related incidents created frequent challenges to our central functions.

There were numerous, if not daily, in-person warnings given to the demonstrators and the encampment by university officials, fire marshals and law enforcement over a period of many weeks and again on Friday morning via megaphone. Individuals were asked to leave or be subject to arrest. Many did not heed those repeated warnings, resulting in over 100 people being arrested. Every person who was arrested was given multiple opportunities to avoid arrest.

Here is a summary of the events leading up to Friday and information about some of the many deeply alarming incidents that have occurred:

  • Wednesday, May 1–The encampment was established at Quarry Plaza, and most plaza buildings were closed soon after due to its presence. Student support resources were relocated. Campus officials were in daily contact with student encampment representatives.
  • Sunday, May 5–After demonstrators called on UC Santa Cruz to end its relationship with Hillel and other organizations, we affirmed that Santa Cruz Hillel has long been an important part of our campus’s interfaith council and that we value and intend to continue this relationship.
  • Monday, May 6–The campus experienced three simultaneous dining hall disruptions that interrupted food preparation and required us to work toward closing down the facilities during one of their busiest times of the day. Such dining hall disruptions intimidate students, who often need to find other places to eat, and our dining employees, who are simply trying to support our students and the broader campus community. Additionally, it was confirmed that several classes were disrupted by demonstrators who entered classrooms chanting, intentionally disrupting the education of others.
  • Tuesday, May 7–We entered into formal dialogue with encampment representatives after agreeing upon guiding principles for our dialogue, in collaboration with a mediator.
  • Wednesday, May 8–We continued formal dialogue with encampment representatives.
  • Thursday, May 9–We continued formal dialogue with encampment representatives.
  • Friday, May 10–Campus officials provided a thoughtful offer with the actions the campus could offer. This offer reflected the genuine dialogue with encampment representatives over the week. Encampment organizers returned with additional demands. Campus could not agree to them. Student representatives posted on social media that the dialogue was over. We reaffirmed our goal of finding an amicable resolution with students that would include the voluntary disbanding of the encampment.
  • Saturday, May 11–Student encampment representatives reported to the media that the dialogue was over.
  • Wednesday, May 15–Demonstrators blocked Hagar Drive in the campus core, shutting down a major campus arterial road for around nine hours. Additionally, it was confirmed that several classes were disrupted by demonstrators who entered classrooms chanting, intentionally disrupting the education of others. Following this incident, we again called for the voluntary disbanding of the unlawful encampment.
  • Thursday, May 16–For several hours, demonstrators disrupted scheduled activities at the Physical Sciences Building and infringed on the rights of students, faculty, and staff to conduct their teaching, research, meetings, and events. Demonstrators were targeting a faculty-organized event for graduate students to interact with representatives from many companies and learn about post-graduate career paths.
  • Monday, May 20–Demonstrators blocked both roads on campus and the campus entrance as well as the Bay and High intersection, preventing access to campus and requiring transition to remote work and learning through Wednesday, May 22. Employees who are able to work remotely were encouraged to do so. The encampment at the Quarry Plaza moved to an area near the Barn Theater adjacent to the busy intersection at the entrance of our campus. Campus staff observed extensive and significant damage to buildings in Quarry Plaza, including graffiti and vandalism.
  • Tuesday, May 21–Remote instruction continued. Employees who are able to work remotely were encouraged to do so.
  • Wednesday, May 22–Remote instruction continued. Employees who are able to work remotely were encouraged to do so. Announcement about continuing mostly remote construction continuing through Friday and return in in-person instruction on Tuesday, May 28.
  • Thursday, May 23–Remote instruction continued. Employees who are able to work remotely were encouraged to do so.
  • Friday, May 24–Remote instruction continued. Employees who are able to work remotely were encouraged to do so.
  • Tuesday, May 28 –UC Santa Cruz returned to in-person instruction. The main and west entrances to campus were blocked through the afternoon and into the evening trapping students, staff, faculty and visitors on campus, some for more than four hours before some traffic was permitted through the west entrance. The permanent barricading of the main entrance by the encampment began. Emergency vehicles experienced delays and often blocked entry, employees reported inability to leave campus to pick up their children and attend medical appointments. Upset drivers began driving over curbs to try to break through the human barricades. Essential employees were blocked from entering campus. Those employees include our dining hall workers whom we depend on to provide daily meals for more than 6,000 students who live on campus and our healthcare workers at the Student Health Center. The entire neighborhood was affected. Students with mobility challenges reported that they could not access and traverse the campus.
  • Wednesday, May 29–The main entrance remained blocked and barricades continued to be fortified including with rocks and broken glass.
  • Thursday, May 30–The main entrance remained blocked and barricades continued to be fortified including with rocks, broken glass, and chains. Two unidentified men attempted to break into two employee on-campus homes using a wooden bollard. 
  • Friday, May 31–Law enforcement removed the encampment and the blockades to the main entrance to campus. It is estimated that more than 20,000 pounds of materials from the barricade were removed from campus. Those who remained were repeatedly warned to leave or face arrest. While law enforcement included multiple agencies, the arresting units were primarily UC law enforcement. The main entrance remained blocked due to many demonstrators refusing to leave the area.
  • Saturday, June 1 - present– Both entrances are open. Social media accounts associated with the unlawful encampment reshared and endorsed posts about an incendiary device that was placed next to a police vehicle at UC Berkeley. Demonstrators vandalized several buildings across the residential campus in the early morning of June 3.

We understand that there may be additional demonstrations planned for today and in the days to come seeking amnesty for any and all policy violations and illegal actions students and employees may have committed. Such requests have already been addressed by UC President Drake and the UC Regents. Amnesty will not be granted by the UC. Everyone involved was notified repeatedly of the offenses they were committing, and they could have left at any point to avoid arrest. The decisions they made after being notified are their responsibility alone.

Members of our community have been personally affected by the immense suffering and loss of life caused by the tragic events of October 7 and the subsequent humanitarian crisis that has continued to escalate in Gaza. All of us care about the lives lost and the urgent need for the violence to stop. We share a desire for basic respect and human decency. However, supporting one community doesn’t mean one can harm another, especially a community that everyone on this campus chose to be part of.

We know there will be disagreement about the decision and the steps taken to support campus safety. However, as I wrote in my message Friday, our ultimate responsibility is for the safety and well-being of the entire campus community. We continue to believe that it was a necessary decision at a critical time.



Cynthia Larive