College Students Protest Cuts to Higher Education

College Students Protest Cuts to Higher Education

MARCH IN MARCH: Students and instructors chant while holding signs as they march from Southside Park to the state capitol om March 5. Community colleges across California are raising tuition from $36 to $46

Angel Silva, El Vaquero Staff Writer

College students and instructors from across the state gathered in Sacramento on March 5 for a massive protest against continued budget cuts to higher education in California.

The protesters gathered at Southside Park, arriving on buses and carrying signs. Colleges that sent students to Sacramento included Glendale, Pasadena City College, Cal State Stanislaus, UC Berkeley, CSULA, CSUN, and several others.

The march to the state capitol started at 10 a.m. Students held signs and chanted in unison. “Students united, will never be divided,” “Hear us out or we’ll vote you out,” “No cuts, no fees – education should be free!”

Students from UC Santa Cruz brought a float of their school mascot, the Banana Slug, in the form of a Chinese Dragon, with students inside of the float carrying it throughout the march.

Others carried signs with slogans such as “Cut The Bullsh*t, Not The Classes,” “Not Sure if Getting an Education/Or Getting Ripped Off,” “Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed,” alongside others.

Joe Perez, 20, a criminal justice major at Salinas College, said tuition for classes has increased $10 yearly. Tuition per unit this year for California community colleges will increase from $36 to $46.
“We’re trying to bring light to the issues, such as less courses and more packed classes — so we can afford to have an education,” said Perez.

The crowd of students and supporters reached the steps of the capitol at approximately 10:40 a.m., where a joint rally between the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, the California State Student Association, and the University of California Student Association was held.

Keynote speakers included Sen. Darrell Steinberg, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and California State Student Association President Gregory Washington, who headed the day’s demonstrations.

At the start of the rally, Washington asked the crowd to harness the power of social media.
“Everybody get on your phones right now, and we’re going to send a message to Gov. Brown,” said Washington.

Washington then asked the crowd to send the following to the governor’s Twitter and Facebook account: “Jerry Brown, Why don’t you support the future? Why don’t you support higher ed? #supporthighered.”
“What we’re doing right now is creating a lot of noise, letting [politicians in Sacramento] know what we want,” said San Francisco State biology major Ivonne Quiroz, 27.

After the rally, some students, including ASGCC Vice President of Campus Relations Darvill Rodriguez, stayed and visited with their senators.

“We needed to give a message to the government, tell them that it’s already hard enough for students as it is,” said Rodriguez.

According to Rodriguez, Glendale’s group spoke to assemblymembers Mike Gatto and Anthony Portantino, as well as representatives for senators Bob Huff and Carol Liu.

Most students left at about 4 p.m. However, some remained and joined 150 to 200 Occupy protesters in a sit-in and general assembly inside the capitol building.

The protesters remained inside the capitol until 7:30 p.m., when 68 of those people were arrested. Police gave an order to disperse at 6:26 p.m.

A smaller rally at 5 p.m. outside the capitol focused on levying new taxes in support of education, the Millionaire’s Tax in particular.

If passed, the Millionaire’s Tax would require those with $1 million income or more to pay an additional 3 percent in state income tax, and those with $2 million or more would pay 5 percent more.
Sixty percent of the funds raised by this tax would go to funding public education from kindergarten to college.