Students, Union Members Rally at Two Separate Protests

Student groups — including the Arab Student Union, Students for Justice in Palestine, Students for Civil Rights in Iran, the Muslim Student Association and the Student Sustainability Collective — held a demonstration to show solidarity and create awareness about the uprisings occurring under the authoritarian governments of Egypt and Tunisia.

“Each of our organizations [is] each rooted in promoting peace, justice and empowerment,” Student Sustainability Collective Energy and Waste Director Annie Le said in an e-mail. “Our organizations collaborated to coordinate this demonstration in solidarity with the movements of the people in Egypt and Tunisia.”

The protest included student and faculty speakers, including A.S. Council President and Tunisian-American Wafa Ben Hassine, communication professor Gary Fields and ethnic studies assistant professor Roshanak Kheshti.

Marshall College sophomore Meryem Kamil said about 50 people attended the demonstration, which was finalized two days before the event.

“A lot of people were walking by, it was right in front of Library Walk, and start listening in,” Office of the President Press Secretary Reem Ateyeh said. “Other reactions were just looking, listening. It didn’t seem like anyone had any negative reactions. It was pretty positive.”

Kamil said the event was relevant to students.

“I personally had wanted to do something because I felt that it was really necessary for the campus to know something is going on beyond just classes,” Kamil said.

The group marched with baguettes, which Le said were to reflect the revolts in Egypt.

“The revolutionary baguettes wielded today mirror the protests of the Jasmine Revolution and those in Egypt against the shortage of food and high prices for staples,” Le said. “Central to the struggle is literally fighting to eat and we wanted to demonstrate this particularly visceral, essential reason that Tunisians and Egyptians are rising up.”

During the same afternoon, members from the solidarity demonstration joined about 50 postdoctoral researchers, academic student employees and faculty members to occupy the Chancellor’s Complex for about 25 minutes and protest the appeal process of researcher Wilda Helen.

“We call on Chancellor Fox to intervene and provide Dr. Helen a chance to appeal her termination,” Xiaoqing Cao said in a statement.

Cao is the president of the United Auto Workers 5810, a union for UC postdoctoral researchers.
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox was not in the office at the time of protest.

Helen, who is from Indonesia, worked as a postdoctoral researcher at bioengineering professor Adam Engler’s stem cell biology and bioengineering laboratory for two years before being terminated on Jan. 6.

Helen then filed an appeal for her termination under the terms of UAW’s collective bargaining agreement.

“Her termination, we believe, is based on false allegations about her work, so she is appealing through the grievance process in the union contract,” UAW 5810 representative Scott Clifthorne said.

Clifthorne said UCSD deleted her record in the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

“[The university] is not required to do that,” Clifthorne said. “They chose to do that. The university knew that Dr. Helen was appealing her termination.”

After an employer deletes an employee in the SEVIS system, he or she has 30 days to leave the country or else remain illegally. Through the system, Helen is required to leave the United States by this Saturday, Feb. 5.

“Dr. Helen wants to appeal her termination, wants to take it to arbitration [and] wants to present the facts to a neutral, third-party arbitrator but the university is trying to force her out of the country this Saturday before she has a chance to do that,” Clifthorne said.

Clifthorne said the grievance process takes a long time. If the issue is not resolved through the department, university labor relations or the UC Office of the President, then the appeal is taken to a neutral, third-party arbitrator.

“She is being denied due process,” Clifthorne said. “If she was a U.S. postdoc, she would easily have the right to go through the full grievance procedure and go through an arbitrator.”

Engler said in an e-mail he could not comment on the topic due to confidentiality issues. Labor relations specialist Belinda Hein, who is handling the case, could not be reached for comment.

Readers can contact Regina Ip at [email protected]. 

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