The Highway 6


If you live in or near Santa Cruz you have probably now heard of the “Highway 6”, which refers to the six UCSC students who last Tuesday blocked off the entrance to highway 17 in protest over increasing tuition fees. The move caused hours of traffic delays on the county’s busiest highway, and is estimated to have cost the community hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost economic activity. The effort also nearly resulted in the death of a small child whose first response vehicle was caught amongst the disarray. The protestors, who had chained themselves together using barrels full of cement, were finally freed using jackhammers and promptly arrested. They were initially charged with felonies (later reduced to misdemeanors), and were each met with a 14 day suspension right before the final two weeks of the quarter.

Unfortunately for the protestors, their tactics seem to have overshadowed their cause as over 3000 members of the Santa Cruz community responded by signing a petition to have them expelled. All this while the topic of chronically underfunded higher education goes into the background.

Now, no one can deny the power of 3000 people actively expressing themselves, but a petition alone doesn’t tell the whole story and definitely doesn’t allow for opposing views, of which there are plenty. We at Civinomics decided to pose the question to our members in the hopes of fostering a broader dialogue, the results of which would prove quite astounding.

First and foremost, almost all of the participants who weighed in on our site agree that the cost of higher education is far too high. The fact that tuition at the UC system alone has increased an average of 10 percent a year for the past 10 years is outrageous, and is something that should keep our state elected leaders and UC administration awake at night. We have posted about this before, but received nowhere near the amount of participation as we did with this issue.

The question, “Should UCSC Expel the Six Students who Blocked Highway 17 in Protest?” was posted on Thursday (3/7/15) in the early afternoon, a full day after the petition to expel the students was published. Since then, the initiative has been viewed over 6,000 times, and has received 85 votes and 30 comments. This is the fastest rate of voting since the debate over the Public Safety Task Force Recommendations, which received over 800 votes in 2 days (spread over 12 different recommendations).

And the results: a dead heat.

As of 8:30 am this morning the voting totals were evenly split at 50-50, making this the most controversial issue ever covered on the site. And it’s not surprising, especially given all the different pages and networks it was shared on (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc.).

People have been very vocal about their positions, both for and against. The arguments generally follow a couple of main paradigms of thought. Those in favor of expulsion make the case that the protestors knowingly caused such significant damages to the community that they have forfeited their privilege to go to school here. Elaborating further, many feel that the protestors should not have engaged in tactics that harmed innocent people, and because they crossed that line they should be made an example of.

Those against expulsion are split into two camps, again, generally. There are those who believe that the protestors, while acting inappropriately, have been punished enough, and that the damages incurred are not worth depriving them of their educational rights beyond what has already been done. And then there are those who adamantly support the actions of the protestors, harkening back to other social movements where similar acts of civil disobedience were committed. And while others respond that this is categorically different, the sentiment is certainly familiar, especially in Santa Cruz.

And finally, the last camp generally argues that if the students don’t like the cost of attending UCSC, they can go somewhere else. In other words no one is forcing them to pay that much when they can attend community college, or a CSU, etc.

All of these arguments have merit. And even though the more paramount topic of higher education is being superseded by a debate over punishment, the issue is very real to this community. UCSC is the largest employer in the County, and a huge portion of the Santa Cruz City population count themselves as slug alumni. Any decision of this nature should be careful and considerate.

Should the student protestors be expelled, or is there an alternative way to reprimand them? Can the act of protesting garner enough organic attention without having to resort to inconveniencing (or even harming) others? How can we resolve the issue of our chronically underfunded public education system? What would you have done in their position – protest in a more constructive way, or simply go somewhere else? These are all very important questions, and I hope you seriously consider them before voting. All comments are welcome.

Should UCSC Expel the Six Students who Blocked Highway 17 in Protest?

On Tuesday March 3rd, six UCSC students chained themselves together and blocked Highway 1 to protest the increases in UC tuition.

Robert Singleton

16 comments on “The Highway 6

  1. Just a correction to your stated facts, the six protesters were on the southbound entrance to HWY 1/Santa Cruz. They were NOT blocking the entrance to HWY 17. And while I find their actions to be abhorrent and idiotic, there has been no proof to any claims that lives of children or adults in first response vehicles were put to risk. Numerous media outlets have covered this story and none reported or were able to confirm your claim. I do not approve of the six students and their actions that Tuesday, but the first paragraph of your opinion piece is irresponsible writing. Who proofs things there before publishing? Come on guys…be more professional!

  2. There is a middle ground. One group says they go back to school. The other group says expel them. I say expel them for 2 years. They can spend their time in the real world during those 2 years, and maybe grow up, and realize someone else’s viewpoint other than their own. If there was a professor or another person who put them up to this, maybe they can learn to not be the Useful Idiot / Useless Idiot of another.

  3. One group says let’s put this behind us. The other group says to expel them. The solution between the two groups is to expel them for 2 years. They can live in the real world. They can mature. They can learn something. They can learn a viewpoint than their own. They can work.

  4. Actually, they were at the end of HWY 17 Southbound. Which is also the junction for hey 1….. at Ocean St.. I was there. I drove by their line while headed northbound on 17 that morning. Facts of location are correct.

  5. Coming from a famiy with deep roots in sc I feel that what we did in the 60’s can’t be copied in today’s world. Because of the growth in what used to be a little town on the beach, mostly as a result of UCSC, doing things like blocking a main entrance into the city of sc is no longer just an attention getter but, instead, a dangerous stunt that was just plain stupid.

  6. One side says “Move on.” The other side says “Expel the students.” There is a middle ground. Expel them for 2 years. They can spend the time working, and learning about other people’s viewpoints and concerns and schedules and responsibilities. They can mature.

  7. Causing innocent people time, money, etc is NEVER acceptable. There are ways to protest without making other people miserable. You lose support for your cause when you block entrances to anything, roads, freeways, buildings, whatever.

    Regarding expelling or suspending them. Was this action and punishment printed in UCSC rules and regulations and they knew the consequences of their actions before doing it? If yes then the University is within their rights, it no, then no they should do nothing.

  8. Yes it was just south bound….however they had to close both directions at some points… this was very disruptive to more than 50,000 people. There were other ways that do not put the public safety at risk….. if you didn’t live through that day….you have no idea the he’ll it caused! It just felt like they were competing with Berkeley for attention…..EXPELL…..and send a message to learn more civilly safe forms of protest…..

  9. Scotts Valley City Council put propane tank next to 17. It will require blocking 17, and evacuation of 1 mile, for days, a radius like that problem in Lincoln California railcar fire of same quantity. SV has NO EMERGENCY PLAN to deal with this, despite objections of residents, no caltrans approval, etc.

  10. who cares where they were. They showed total disregard for the people in the community. That alone should carry some form of punishment. They cost people thousands of dollars in lost wages and productivity.

  11. I think that the actions or lack of action by the six individuals following their arrests should have a bearing in their punishment. Specifically the absence of any type of public apology or evidence of remorse reinforces my opinion they should be expelled for at least two years or possibly permanently.

  12. A form of protest should not negatively influence the group from which they are seeking sympathy…this is the same with the “99%” and the “black lives matter” protests…I have compassion for all of these movements but when they affect me and my business I quickly lose interest and, in fact, become angry and anti-sympathetic. Their protest should have involved stopping new students from enrolling at the institution.

  13. Instead of expelling them, why not have them do community service as a condition of their continued enrollment at UCSC?

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  15. As a student at UCSC i’d like to apologize to the people of Santa Cruz for this ridiculous event. I had nothing to do with the actual event itself, but have seen what the university, and the students have done to your community and it’s definitely disappointing. We can all agree that the actions of the UC Regents and Janet Napolitano are unjust. For those who don’t know, Gov. Brown stated that he and the state would meet the financial “reality” that the regents requested from the students. This is basically what caused the uproar. However, whoever thought that blocking a state highway in order to gain recognition and representation (instead of going to class) was a good idea is a complete imbecile and in my opinion honestly doesn’t deserve higher education whatever the cost may be. They should have kept this protest at the school and not bring it to the community of Santa Cruz. I signed the petition for their expulsion, and am unsympathetic to their BS plea. I’ll see you guys in the line up.

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