Volume 45 Number 3
Student and faculty from the University of California, California State University and community colleges joined together on March 4 in rallies like this one on the steps of the state Capitol to protest budget cuts in higher education.
Protests and rallies break out throughout the state
Students and faculty all over the state
mobilized in March to protest the budget cuts that threaten to dismantle California’s higher education system.
They came to the state Capitol in Sacramento on March 4 and again on March 22; they joined in major demonstrations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Long Beach, as well as on individual CSU, UC, and community college campuses.
Students at CSU Bakersfield, Fresno and Stanislaus, San Joaquin Delta and Merced Colleges were among those who participated in rallies to protest the elimination of course offerings and the escalating costs of higher education. One of the largest gatherings of students was at the state capitol, where students from CSU Sacramento, Chico, UC Santa Cruz and local community colleges joined faculty leaders for an “Educate the State” rally.
There, an impassioned Reid Milburn, president of the Student Senate of California Community Colleges told the crowd, “Our courses have been slashed, our programs reduced, our faculty are being laid off…how are we going to save the future if we can’t even get into our classes?”
Other speakers included CSU and community college faculty leaders, staff and students. CTA Secretary-Treasurer Gail M. Mendes emphasized CTA’s support for higher education in her remarks as well.
“We are standing together with you to ‘Educate the State.’ We are all standing together to tell lawmakers no more cuts! Seventeen billion dollars in cuts over the last two years to our schools and colleges is enough!”
Social media played a major role in the turn-out in California and throughout the country. Although the day of action had been loosely planned for several months by a coalition of students, it caught fire in the final few days as students and faculty got the word out through Facebook pages and websites such as CTA’s Standupforschools.org. Local organizers were able to promote their events in real time.
“It was an amazing outpouring of emotion and action,” said CCA President Ron Norton Reel. “Students and faculty turned up the heat and made their voices heard.”
Calling the statewide protest “historic,” Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, which represents some 23,000 faculty in the CSU system said, “For too long, too many of us have taken our public education system for granted. The March 4th Day of Action shows not only that we care very deeply about the future of our schools and colleges, but that tens of thousands of us are willing to do something about it.
Around the state
Meanwhile, there was also plenty of action on individual campuses. More than 200 students at Fullerton College demonstrated at all four corners of a nearby intersection in an activity that had been organized by the United Faculty, NOCCCD. The college band even turned out to perform in support of the protesters.
“We’re here as students to say enough is enough,” Fullerton College student Jesse Garcia, 20, told the Orange County Register. “These budget cuts are not only affecting K through 12, they’re affecting all of education.”
Dressed in black
Faculty and students dressed for a funeral and constructed a graveyard on the lawn at Merced College to mark the classes that have been cut in the past year. Several students said they will be forced to stay longer at the college because they couldn’t get the classes they needed to transfer to a CSU campus.
Merced College Associated Student President Spencer Bowen said community colleges are the public’s open door to education.
“We’re hoping to keep this door open for students,” he said. “What’s left for them when we have to turn them away from classes?”
Long Beach City College students and faculty also participated in a protest that brought out several thousand people to rallies throughout the city. At a noon rally on the community college campus, DeWayne Sheaffer, CCA board member and president of the LBCC CCA chapter, told the crowd, “Public education is under attack, and we need to do something about it.”
Sheaffer joined a contingent of other CCA members in Sacramento on April 21 to mark the end of the March for California’s Future, which started March 5 in Bakersfield. A group of marchers organized by the California Federation of Teachers that included representatives from public colleges, unions, and human services were joined by hundreds of supporters along the way as they marched up Highway 99 to Sacramento. The march culminated in a rally at the state Capitol. To view photos and narratives from the march, go to www.Fight4CAFuture.com. To keep up with upcoming activities, check out www.standupforschools.org.