Hundreds of CSUN students took part of a statewide “Day of Action” on March 4 to protest budget cuts.
The day began with several students gathering at tables set up by the Coalition of Students and Teachers (C.O.S.T) in front of Manzanita Hall and the Oviatt Library.
Several students began to walk out of their classes after they were cancelled by their professors or due to the majority of the class leaving to take part in the day’s event.
“We’re here today to fight for our education,” said Giselle Castanon, 24, communication studies major, who was among the protesters.
“We’re tired of the cost, we’re tired of everything. Everyone here is being affected. We’re trying to make this work. We’re doing it peacefully, we’re just protesting and making sure that this will help us out in the future, for the future generations,” Castanon said.
Students from the Black Student Union (BSU) and Students for Quality Education (SQE) gathered on the fourth floor of Sierra Hall with posters and signs that read “Stop the Cuts” while chanting “Student Power.”
Dr. William Watkins, Vice President of Student Affairs was present at the rooftop demonstration.
He declined to comment because “it was all about the students” but added that he was there supporting a “peaceful expression of their (students) concerns.”
Whistles were blowing and cars were honking as students crossed the B1 parking lot chanting “walk out” as they headed for various streets surrounding campus.
A mask of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was also paraded amongst the crowd as many students expressed discontent over the implemented furloughs and tuition fee increases.
At about 11: 30 a.m. protesters walked to the corner of Reseda Boulevard and Nordhoff Street where they spread out into four groups on all four corners of the intersection.
Student protesters signaled drivers inside their cars along Nordhoff Street to honk their horns to show their support, many of who complied.
By noon, protesters managed to gather at the center of the intersection, successfully holding up traffic.
“Get out of the street,” said a police officer over an intercom inside a CSUN police car on
Reseda Boulevard as they tried to clear up the roads so cars could get by.
To which some students, who were near by responded with obscene remarks.
By noon the rally headed back to the Oviatt Library lawn as protesters chanted “no cuts, no fees, education should be free!”
“It’s ridiculous, the fees are just hiking too high,” said Brandi Beard, 20, sociology major with a minor in Pan African studies and member of the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Harambee Student Association. “No one is able to afford it. Classes are getting cut, people are not graduating, it’s just not fair.”
Once on the Oviatt Library lawn, a rally was hosted by SQE in which several students and faculty gave their testimonies on how the budget cuts affected them.
“Many of us are good students, and have degrees in our minds, a proper education is being prohibited from us,” said Pedro Trujillo, third year student, Chicana/o studies major and member of Dreams to be Heard on the steps of the Oviatt Library to the crowd.
Other students encouraged more participation.
“If Martin Luther King marched for a day, we would not be here,” said Jonnae Thompson, 22, English major as she encouraged protesters to go back into the streets and continue to rally.
Other CSUN ethnic clubs and organizations were also present in the event such as the Asian Americans for Community and Talent (AACT) and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A).
“We came out here to organize the Asian American students so that we can have a presence here on this campus so that we’re not like modal minorities here that not all of us are rich and we all need a chance to express our concern on this issue,” said Brian DeGuzman, Urban Studies and Asian American studies major and vice president of AACT who held a yellow cut out of a fist with a red stash.
Brian said the red stash symbolized Asian American solidarity. The red color, he said is always worn by Asian Americans when protesting.
Protesters then went back into the streets in and around CSUN.
After rallying on the intersection of Reseda and Nordhoff Blvd. for a second time, the throng of people walked east into Nordhoff Blvd. causing traffic delays. On the corner of Lindley Ave. and Nordhoff Blvd. the crowd unintentionally separated into two groups. One walked back into campus while the other went to Zelzah Ave. and back into campus.
The California Faculty Association (CFA) one of the event’s sponsors, held the last rally on campus.
To end the rally, Theresa Montano, Co-President of CFA Northridge chapter and K12 Southern California Coalition asked everyone on the library’s lawn to take out their cell phones and dial 1-888-268-4334, call their assembly speaker and ask “Where were you on March 4?”
Most people obeyed her orders and some shouted that the line was busy.
“Keep calling,” Montano responded.
United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) was present at the rally.
“We’re just one more part of the educational system in Los Angeles and the state of California trying to team up with all educators, all students, all parents, and all teachers to send the message that it’s not smart to start with education and to cut the future of America, it’s a stupid way to start the cuts in California,” said Michael Cranshaw, Chapter Chair-House of Representatives in Monroe High School, UTLA.
M.E.Ch.A coordinator and Chicano/a House co-chair Luis Miranda, 22, chicano/a studies major said he hoped the event gives Jolene Koester, Chancellor Lee, and Arnold Schwarzenegger “a sense that we’re unhappy of the representation.”
“Governor Schwarzenegger is elected on the stance that he was going to fix education, but all he did really was dig us into a deeper hole,” Miranda said.
After dismissal, Montano said the event was “much bigger than today. Today is the beginning”.
Montano responded to Associated Students support of the cause but not the walkouts.
“Hopefully, after they saw the demonstration of support for the event and for the walkouts, that they’ll jump on board because this isn’t about who walks out and who stays in class, this is about the future of the country and the only way we’re gonna demonstrate that we mean business is by doing what the students did today,” Montano said.
Faculty was also in attendance not only to support the protest but their students as well.
“As a faculty person, it’s important to allay with the students to demonstrate that the budget cuts are not only affecting everybody in terms of fee hikes but also pay cuts and also resources to the different departments,” said Tracy Buenavista, Asian American studies assistant professor.
The demonstration has been peaceful with only some disturbances taking place between and after the demonstrators.
A male protester holding a poster of President Barack Obama with a Hitler-style mustache and the word “Impeach” was confronted by several protesters around him with several people aggressively trying to take their poster.
“You’re not welcomed to walk with us,” said an unidentified female.
A police officer on scene was quick to settle the dispute but was unable to comment on the incident.
Another disturbance took place after the on-campus demonstrations as students continued to rally on the intersection of Prairie St. and Reseda Blvd, causing traffic to stop and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) presence.