CSU Meeting Interrupted By Protestors’ Chants
November 15, 2006 6:58 PM
The blazing Southern California sun was not the only thing heating up the Nov. 15 California State University Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. Over 1,200 CSU faculty and students raised hell to confront policy makers about their various grievances.
“More classes, lower fees, help our students get degrees,” went another.
Organized by the California Faculty Association, the protest began as a march outside the chancellor's building, and eventually made its way in the middle of the final board meeting. With the boisterous chants and cheers making it nearly impossible to hear the board members, it seemed like all the members, except SF State President Robert Corrigan, walked away without finishing their last meeting.
“It's time for us to have a voice at the table, to be treated with respect, to be treated as equals and to be treated as people who understand what is happening to the California State University. This is what this is about,” said John Travis, CFA president as he and other CFA members sat in vacated board member seats.
“The second message...is that we're not going to do business as usual. This is a different time. It's time for us to assert our own responsibility for the greatest higher education system in the world,” Travis said to cheers.
According to Paul Browning, media relations specialist for CSU, the board adjourned the final meeting, but it was too loud to hear the announcement. Browning also expressed concerns that the protest would be counterproductive to negotiations.
“The chancellor's office has offered the faculty a 25 percent salary raise over the next four years, which we think is a pretty good offer,” he said. “In fact, after just three years on that offer full time faculty would be making over six figures. Of course, they're all contingent on the budget and how much we can get.”
Contract negotiations were a big issue for many of the protesters, and it was the main complaint for Cal Poly Pomona Professor John Mallinckrodt. The physics professors, like many other in the crowd, had negative feelings towards Chancellor Charles Reed.
“There's been too much dishonest bargaining by the chancellor,” Mallinckrodt said. “The chancellor came into office promising to eliminate a salary gap that had existed for some time. In the past five years that gap has only gotten worse.”
Maire Fowler, a member of SF State's ASI and a CFA intern, woke up at 3 a.m. to make the flight down to Long Beach in time for the board's meetings. Clad in a bright red shirt that read “This is what an activist looks like,” Fowler said the morning started off very frustrating because of some unforeseen hurdles.
Fowler said her taxi could not drop her off near the Chancellor's building because the roads were closed down, and after arriving at the meeting hall she found out that only those with passes were allowed in.
“I'm just disgusted that they're trying to not listen to the people who pay their salaries,” she said.
Fowler played a role in the meeting's first major interruption by opening the back door, which allowed at least 15 protesters stalled the meeting with their chanting. She told security she opened the door because she had to go to her car.
California State Senator Gloria Romero spurred the second interruption. After four hours of meetings, and no acknowledgment of the protesters by the board, Romero stepped to the public comment microphone during a brief recess, during which many of the board members stayed in the room.
“The CSU is our nation's largest public education system,” she said. “I am proud of this system, I am proud that I graduated from this system and most importantly, I am proud that even as trustees in this room sat here pretending not to hear, there were over 1,000 students and faculty outside calling upon the chancellor and this board of trustees to do three things to make sure California's master plan works for them the way if worked for me.”
Those three things, Romero said, were to roll back student fees, get rid of executive perks, and negotiate a fair contract with the faculty.
Almost immediately after Romero finished speaking, a group of CFA members marched to the center of the meeting room and implored the board members to sign a pledge agreeing to those three things. No one signed.
Many students chanted “don't raise fees,” but Browning said that chant didn't make much sense at this meeting because fees didn't go up this year at all
“There was no proposal at this meeting to raise fees. That was a misconception that many students at the meeting seemed to have,” said Browning, who suggested students might have been misled.
Adriana Garcia, an intern for CFA, used to attend San Jose State University but currently doesn’t attend school because she can't afford it.
“It's not fair,” she said. “These board members are getting paid to get new cars while students have to get two jobs and take out loans to afford school.”
After coming back from recess, the members tried to start the meeting again, but the chants from the protestors drowned out the board’s attempt to call roll and members began to leave.
All of the hubbub did not seem to bother Corrigan, as he was the only board member who stayed until the protesters were done in the meeting room.
“It's basically part of the democratic process,” he said. “There was a lot of concern on salaries, a lot of concern about some of the perk issues, so it's not a surprise.”
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