‘Class Closed’ Event Targets Educational Budget Cuts

Sara Purington

Alex Klawitter started taking aviation classes this past fall and now, like many students at Glendale, he must put his pursuits on hold because he has been unable to enroll in summer classes because of budget cuts.

Protest against these cutbacks took the form of theater, music and poetry as faculty, staff and students gathered on May 6 for “Class Closed,” an event organized by the Glendale College Faculty Guild, Associated Students (ASGCC), California Federation of Teachers and Ash Grove Music in Plaza Vaquero.

“The budget cuts take away the inalienable rights of the people to obtain a quality education,” said GCC student Alexander Reyes, who was one of many displaying signs with slogans such as “Don’t Agonize Organize.”

The rally was modeled after the cultural and political movements of the 1960s.

“We can learn a lot from the strategies of the 1960s while incorporating our own unique strategies to the new social, economic, and political context,” said sociology professor Richard Kamei of the faculty guild.

“Using culture to raise awareness and to challenge the status quo is an effective tool in our struggle for human rights. I hope events like this one will occur across the state, so that solutions to the fundamental economic problems will no longer be on the backs of students, faculty, and classified staff in education.”

The rally kicked off with a performance by blues musician Bernie Pearl, presented by the Ash Grove, a cultural arts organization that promotes social understanding and activism.

Glendale history professor Gordon Alexandre, who was the master of ceremonies for the event, spoke of the devastating impact of the budget cuts and suggested reconsidering Proposition 13 to raise property tax saying, “we need to tax more people that can be taxed.”

The rally also included a skit entitled “Class Closed,” written by Joan Holden, former head writer of the Tony award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe, and William Shields, who is a playwright and chair of Labor and Community Studies at San Francisco City College. It was directed by S. Pearl Sharp.

The skit was set in a college classroom where on the first day the teacher, Ms. Brumble, played by Yvette Freeman of the TV series ER, finds her English 1A class overfilled with 50 students when she can only accept 30. She struggles deciding who to let into the class when she is approached by two students who desperately need to get into the class. Both are overachieving straight-A students who have overcome incredible odds to pursue their education, like being a single mom and supporting an extended family.

After hearing both the students’ stories Ms. Brumble decides to accept all of them despite the fact that it will be very difficult for her to manage a class of 50 students on top of the many other classes she is teaching. The play ends with Ms. Brumble getting a call from the dean, which leads to her distressing announcement that the class has been cancelled because of budget cuts.

“The play said it all,” said student Pa Kanyi. “With all these budget cuts the result will be less educational opportunities for us. The teachers will be forced to choose who he or she is going to add or not since we will all be fighting for the same seat.”

The next performance came from GCC student and rapper Manny Bracamonte, who rapped “Strong Hold- A Students Anthem” which poignantly ended with the line, “What are we fighting for? Your little brother and sister’s future.”

The rally also featured the Get Lit Players who will represent Los Angeles in the Brave New Voices International teen poetry slam. Performers Briauna Taylor, Azure Antoinette, and Rene Aguiluz recited lines of their poetry that reflected on the effect budget cuts have on students.

Following this performance was a very strong speech by ASGCC President Lilya Avagyan who said, “[Budget cuts] should not be allowed to close the doors on our education because we are the future of California’s economy. ASGCC will not stop fighting.”

The rally ended with Alexandre saying, “It’s [the government in] Sacramento that needs to get the ire of faculty, staff and students.”