The UC Berkeley hunger strike urging university officials to publicly denounce Arizona's illegal immigration bill that began Monday at noon has garnered strength over the last few days.
The fasters, comprised of Latino students and others, have a number of demands, including turning UC Berkeley into a sanctuary campus for undocumented immigrants, re-hiring laid off custodians and dropping charges against those who took part in the Wheeler Hall occupation earlier this year.
A press release sent Tuesday on behalf of the fasters said that although university officials have had informal conversations with the group, they have not agreed to any of the demands yet.
The press release said that hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members have stopped by the place near California Hall where the students, alumni and community members who are calling their coalition “Hungry for Justice” have set up camp.
A local priest said Mass for the group at 11 a.m. Tuesday and up to 200 supporters took part in a 7 p.m. rally.
The two largest unions on campus have supported the strike.
The “Hungry for Justice” coalition was scheduled to meet with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau Thursday afternoon, a day after he sent them a letter saying he was “personally prepared” to oppose Arizona's strict illegal immigration law.
Although a meeting was called Wednesday between the strikers and the university administration it was not held after a campus union member was refused entry.
Birgeneau responded to all the demands made by the hunger strikers, explaining that it was not possible to turn UC Berkeley into a sanctuary campus, citing safety concerns.
He denounced the Arizona anti-mmigration bill Friday in a statement saying that he made it widely known last week to the campus community "he was horrified by this law."
"I, along with many others on this campus, and others across the nation, am profoundly disturbed by the passage of this bill which so many of us personally believe cannot be implemented without engaging in racial profiling," he said. "The drafting of similar bills by other states is truly frightening."
Birgeneau further acknowleged in his statement that some of the university's Chicano/Latino stidents and staff "are engaged in the desperate measure of putting their health and wellness in jeopardy through a hunger strike to denounce this law. I am personally ready to stand in solidarity with our students and other members of our community in speaking out against SB 1070."
The statement also said: "Universities are international communities based on the fundamental principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. These values cannot exist when members of our community fear being targeted for the color of their skin. The passage of SB 1070 has created a chilling climate for many members of our campus community who feel that the bill will encourage repressive measures against those who are undocumented.
"SB 1070, which President Obama has called "misguided," should be repealed and replaced with comprehensive federal immigration reform that will best serve our country and protect the rights of all who aspire to live in this great nation. As an academic community, we stand ready to use our immense intellectual resources to assist the president in this task."
The university has dropped charges against some students who took part in the Wheeler Hall occupation last year—the strikers are demanding that all charges be dropped—while undertaking a review of campus procedures to investigate and charge students of wrongdoing.
According to an e-mail sent by campus Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande more than 30 students who were arrested during the Wheeler occupation Dec. 11 will not be facing any charges due to the “genuine confusion” stemming from dispersal orders.
The e-mail also said that the university's Code of Student Conduct had been changed to reflect that students receive individual letters outlining specific charges and violations.
The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to Birgeneau last month objecting to the university’s handling of student misconduct charges following a Dec. 11 protest outside his house.
The nine-page letter drew attention to what it alleged were problems with the university's disciplinary procedures, particularly in the case of UC Berkeley students Zach Bowin and Angela Miller.
Although charges against Bowin were later dropped, Miller was kept on on interim suspension. Although she was scheduled to have a student hearing today, the university agreed to an informal resolution which requires her to carry out 20 hours of community service right after it announced the changes to the student conduct code.
Follow the strikers on their Facebook page.