Fed Up Students Walk Out
May 17, 2004 10:12 AM
What started out as 30 students marching around the Cesar Chavez Student Center at 10 a.m. swelled to about several hundred students blocking 19th Avenue during a walk out Wednesday to protest the budget cuts.
Although the protest was labeled as a statewide walk out, students at other CSUs did not do the same Wednesday, according to campuses public affairs offices. Long Beach State had a protest last week.
Students waved banners, flags and signs throughout campus with inscriptions such as, “Cut Corrigan, not classes,” “Stop closing the door on education” and “education is under attack; what do we do? Rise up and fight back!” One poster claimed that Chancellor Charles Reed sold out.
About 800 students rallied in Malcolm X Plaza as students and faculty spoke about the effects of the budget cuts before they marched to 19th Avenue.
The crowd grew to about 1,500 students who chanted “education is liberation” to the tune of a drum, horn and banjo while marching through each building on campus, alerting students of the walk out.
“We want to show both the CSU administration and the government that we, as students are united against these cuts,” said Mandy Smith, an undeclared freshman. “It’s about solidarity and that it’s not just a few of us who are against these budget cuts, but all of us.”
“We’re not going to take this, and we don’t have to,” said psychology sophomore Kirya Traber. “We fought for the ethnic studies department in 1968. The whole university shut down for seven months. We were told that we wouldn’t be able to get the department, but we did, anyway.”
A major argument presented at the rally dealt with the amount of money being invested in the war in Iraq.
“Only 5 percent of state and federal taxes go to education; 50 percent goes to war. There’s enough money to give every single college student in this country a free education,” Traber said.
“I believe a lot of money is being spent on war, but not on schools,” said communications student Siaira Harris. “The usual political rhetoric is that we’re supposed to be the future and yet, there seems to be a very anti-young adult agenda coming from the president and governor.”
According to the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, an average of $5 is returned to the economy for every dollar invested in education. This translates to about $15 billion put back into California’s economy.
Regardless, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California’s public universities struck a deal Tuesday, in which the universities agreed not to fight budget cuts this time around in return for a promise of long-term financial stability. The deal includes a plan to cut an additional $700 million from the CSU and University of California systems.
SF State in April announced $10.3 million in cuts to Academic Affairs’ $113 million budget. This put up five undergraduate and five graduate programs for elimination.
The governor’s deal bypassed the Legislature, which still must back the plan.
If approved, universities will potentially see an enrollment growth in fall 2005, saving schools from again turning away eligible freshman.
Under the six-year deal, which Schwarzenegger referred to as a “win-win situation,” undergraduate students will see fees increase and will be paying about 30 percent more than they’re paying now in the 2007-08 school year, and graduate students will be paying about 50 percent more. According to the deal, fees will not increase more than 10 percent each year, unless economic circumstances occur that require otherwise.
Some Democratic lawmakers were worried about the plan to increase student fees and preserve the cuts in enrollment.
“Somebody has to fight for these students, and I intend to do so,” said State Sen. Jack Scott, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate’s education-budget subcommittee, in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday. “The State Legislatures was not party to this agreement. Therefore, I intend to explore the options for preserving access for all eligible students.”
In response to the statewide educational budget plan, David Abella, president of Associated Students Inc. for SF State said, “It’s our job to read the document in it’s entirety and find specific points of contention that are not good for, or in the best interest of students; that’s the job we must do.”
“I think what they are doing, while I appreciate the effort, won’t have the impact on the people who are making the decisions on the budget,” said English major and senior Jason Colan of the march.
But international relations student Brandi Chalker argued that it is our job to make Schwarzenegger carry out his obligation and stand up to us.
“Schwarzenegger ran for a platform that was in support of education, now he’s slashing it. I simply want him to be accountable for his actions,” Chalker said.
“Hopefully with students united with the community and faculty, it puts the pressure on every single legislator to say, ‘no’ to this deal. It’s bad for students--- and it’s bad for faculty. We have no voice in this,” said Eric Mar, Asian American studies lecturer and San Francisco school board member.
According to Cathy Arroyo, creative writing senior and rally organizer, the plan for the march grew out of an overwhelming student realization that all students of need to be aware of the extremity of the cuts.
For students who are interested in getting involved in the ongoing fight against CSU budget cuts, there will be a meeting held 2 p.m. May 20 in room C-112 in the Student Center to discuss further strategies to save the CSU.
Additional reporting by Julia Palma and Julyette Moreno
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