More than 10,000 students participated in a rally to protest Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed cuts to the community college budget at the state capitol in Sacramento on Monday.
The rally drew college and high school students, staff, faculty, parents and legislators from all over the state.
“I am sure it’s going to have an impact, a huge impact,” said California Community College Chancellor Thomas Nussbaum. “I am optimistic about the coming year. We will come out of this with a decent budget.”
Nussbaum said he believed the rally drew one of the largest gatherings of students in California history.
Speakers from colleges around California took the podium to present their views and voice their complaints that Davis’ budget is unfair and sacrifices education.
Students began marching from nearby Raley Field and made their way slowly up the Capitol Mall under police escort. The mass procession of students kept a steady pace and chanted, like a platoon of soldiers marching in formation.
“We know how important education is to you,” said Jack Scott, former Pasadena City College president and current state democratic senator from that city. “We’re going to be working hand in hand.”
Many at the rally described the community colleges as the doorway to success, and it was on this premise that the rally was given the name “Keep the Doors Open.”
“The students are here in order to be able to fight for the kind of funding that is necessary for community colleges,” California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante said.
Associated Students of GCC sent eight members, including Jurgita Dargyte, ASGCC representative of campus organizations.
“We have to do what we have to do,” Dargyte said. “It’s not fair. I am sure after hearing our voice, they will do something about [the budget cuts].”
Dargyte said that if cuts must be made, she hopes legislators will trim the budgets of the community college, California State University and University of California systems in an equitable way.
“Obviously, [Davis] knows it’s bothering us,” said Maggie Kirikian, ASGCC representative of campus relations. “We sent letters and everything. But now he can finally see that we’re out here. We’re actually real people, real students, wanting our voices to be heard.”
ASGCC Senator of Campus Relations Tate Bejanyan agreed.
“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to unite and present our voice in such a way that it will make an impact,” he said. “We would like the budget to be altered in such a way that it would distribute the budget cuts equally.”
As a single mother of four, at Butte Community College student Roberta Davis is in a bind. Her Extended Opportunity Program Services status was canceled due to cuts that have been affecting that college. Because she does not receive welfare or any other aid, she was the first to be cut, she said.
“As a mother, it affected me because now I have to pay for my own day care,” Davis said. “My tuition is going to be doubled by next semester. [Budget cuts] are going to cut out my CalGrant. I need that to go to school.”
Davis said she did not think the student rally would change the governor’s mind, but that showing up was important.
“We are the voice, and we have to speak up,” she said.
“I think it’s good that we let [the governor] know that it’s wrong,” said Davis’ daughter and Las Plumas High School sophomore Samantha Mauldin, 15. Mauldin said her school may lose 26 teachers and that all vocational education at the school has been cut.
Las Plumas High sophomore Mai Yang agreed with Davis’ opinion that the rally would not change the governor’s mind but that “it will let him know that we are out here.”
“We want to show Davis that we are serious, that we don’t appreciate losing all of our teachers and all of our programs,” said Selene Marcom, 19, a freshman at Sierra College in Grass Valley.
SuzanneYada, 22, a student at College of the Sequoias in Grass Valley, said that her school could see an increase in enrollment in the fall.
“Since there is an increase in fees at the CSUs and UCs, the community colleges are going to . enroll more people” who can’t afford the fee hikes, she said.
The most serious consequence that may come out of Davis’ proposed budget may be the impact it will have on disabled students.
“There are 83,000 students with disabilities in the California community colleges,” said Paula McCroskey, coordinator for Disabled Students Services at Riverside Community College. “The absurdity of it all. California community colleges are taking a really big hit, but disabled students have taken the biggest hit, according to Davis’ budget.”
GCC is planning to cut at least 43 percent of its Disabled Students Services budget by laying off staff, hiring fewer student workers and canceling special classes, according to Disabled Student Services Associate Dean Joy Cook.
“The programs provide direct support services for students who are attending the colleges,” said John Ames, counselor coordinator of Disabled Student Services at American River Community College in Sacramento.
“How dare they do that to us!” said deaf student Michael Evans from San Bernardino Valley College. “I just need an interpreter – that’s all I live and breathe right now. I feel bad for the deaf community, and I feel bad for myself. How dare they interrupt my education.”
Nussbaum said that community college campuses should stage rallies monthly or even weekly. He urged students to put together events that involve the community.Students will hold a rally in downtown Los Angeles on March 28, similar to the rally in Sacramento.
“This can’t be a one-time event,” Nussbaum said. “Bring in the community and bring in the media. Don’t give up.”