Community Colleges Act to Raise Public Awareness

JORDON WATROUS
Special to El Vaquero

On March 15, thousands of
community college and
high school students, teachers
and administrators will converge
in the state capital to protest the
proposed budget cuts to the
states community college system.
Six Hundred of these students,
including two from GCC,
will be like no students ever seen
in Sacramento. In fact, they will
not be students at all.

In an effort to raise community
college advocacy known as
“The Missing Community
College Student” project, community
colleges statewide are
purchasing 600 life-size fiberglass
human sculptures and
model them after community
college students that have been
denied access to classes due to
state budget cuts. Once decorated,
all the sculptures will be
installed on the state capital lawn
or on the median strip on capitamall
during a budget rally called
“The March in March.”

“The Missing Community
College Student” art installation
project was proposed by the
Keep The Doors Open campaign
in November, after the Board of
Governors of the California
Community Colleges released a
study stating over 175,000 community
college students had been
denied access to classes due to
class reductions caused by cuts
in state funding. ASGCC purchased
two of the fiberglass
molds, one female and one male,
and have turned them over to the
GCC student art association who
will use various art medium, creating
them into art pieces which
represent GCC students.

The purpose of the project is
to heighten awareness for the
need of state legislatures to keep
funding at an adequate level to
keep community colleges operating
at their current capacity.

Once the sculptures have been
placed in Sacramento, students
will join the “missing students,”
for a rally in support of
community colleges. After the
pieces are finished in
Sacramento, they will be
auctioned off to members of the
public to raise money for further
advocacy efforts on behalf of
community colleges.

Henan Joof, ASGCC
president, feels this project will
be a large advance in the effort to
raise awareness of the current
budget crisis facing the
community college system.

“This project is a plus because
it visually represents the point
which we are trying to drive
home,” said Joof. “[The
legislatures] want to listen to us,
they want to know what we are
thinking.”

Despite past efforts to raise
awareness of the issues, Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2004
— 2005 budget proposal also
includes many community
college related cuts and tuition
increases for all students.

Most important to students
directly is another proposed
tuition increase. Schwarzenegger
has proposed that the community
college tuition fee be raised a
second time in two years to $26 a
unit, more than double what it
cost per unit to attend a
community college in 2002.

In addition, any student who
already has a bachelor’s or
comparable degree would be
would have to pay $50 a unit.

This move could impact those
students who are returning to
college for certification or job
skills.

The “March in March” as well
as the “Missing Community
College Student” art installation
project are attempts to protest
against such changes.

“These marches have finally
woken up the sleeping activism
that has not been in the
community college student
population in many years,” said
Assistant Professor of Dance
Phyllis Eckler and faculty
coordinator for the “Missing
Community College Student”
project.

“There are big changes afoot
regarding tuition fee increases,
lowered thresholds for grant and
loan eligibility and an influx of
students who are going to be
turned away from the UC and
CSU systems,” said Eckler.

“The Missing Community
College Student project tries to
bring these problems out in a
very big way.”