Students protest $1 billion education cuts

Cynthia Gomez

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story appeared in yesterday’s paper. This is an expanded version.

SACRAMENTO- “What do we want? No budget cuts! When do we want it? Now!” students chanted as they marched onto the streets of West Sacramento on their way to the Capitol.

“Today is the day for (students) to come out, scream, to show all the emotions, let loose and make sure that the lawmakers know what we want, what we actually need right now,” said Stephanie Chan, one of the coordinators of the march and a junior from UC Berkeley. “There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing all your peers, seeing a whole bunch of people together.”

About 50 CSUN students traveled to Sacramento on two tour buses early Monday morning to participate in the rally.

“What do we want? Affordable education! When do we want it? Now!” several CSUN students chanted during the march.

Students from other universities wore red T-shirts that showed in black print, “Access Denied.” Students during the march held up posters that showed statements such as “Gov’s budget is a huge disgrace!,” “College is knowledge” and “The CSU is the Solution! No Budget Cuts!”

Along with the proposed $1 billion budget cut to higher education, the governor has proposed to cut $386 million from the CSU system. The proposed budget cuts include a 10 percent student fee increase, the elimination of access to 10,000 eligible incoming students, the elimination of classes, increases in class size and the reduction of the number of faculty and staff.

In early May, the governor will release a revised proposal for the 2008-09 state budget, which includes funding for the CSU. If approved by two-thirds of the legislative vote, the governor is expected to approve the budget by July 1, the new fiscal year.

A decrease in the number of college-educated people California produces will further damage the economy, the California Faculty Association indicates. The CFA said the Alliance for the CSU hopes the governor will reconsider his proposed cuts of $386 million to the CSU budget.?

A two-hour press conference followed on the north steps of the capitol after the march, at which California State Student Association Chair Dina Cervantes, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, Speaker of the Assembly Fabian N’uacute;’ntilde;ez and state Sen. Darrell Steinberg urged the crowd of students and members of the public to oppose the governor’s proposed budget cuts to education. Similar protests were held on Monday in other locations throughout California including Los Angeles and San Diego.

“We’re here to say no more!” Cervantes said to the crowd.

A speaker said to the crowd, “If you don’t stand for something, you don’t stand for anything!”

Garamendi joined students in the march and spoke at the press conference.

“I am so proud of each and every one of you!” Garamendi said in the press conference. “Each and every one of you will change what’s going in Sacramento. And the message is simple: Kick us out, we’ll vote you out!” said Garamendi.

“It is time for us to stop taxing students!” Garamendi said to the crowd. “No more fee increase!”

The crowd chanted on the steps of the capitol, “No more fees! No more fees! No more fees!”

Steinberg said, “Education is an absolute necessity.”

“Yes we can! Si se puede!” Steinberg chanted as the crowd chanted along with him.

Garamendi said he was happy to see the estimated 1,500 students who marched to the capitol.

“I am so proud of what the students put together,” Garamendi said. “So proud of all of their work?and the turnout was wonderful.”

“This is only the first step, and there are many steps out ahead that they’re (students) going to have to take,” Garamendi said. “So perseverance, determination and never give up.”

At the end of the rally, college students expressed their reactions and thoughts of the rally.

“I thought it was great,” said Carmen Lopez, a freshman from CSU Fullerton. “It motivated me to keep working back at school with more people and to keep networking with other schools and keep trying to make that impact on people that have the power to make choices that will later affect us.”

“I thought it was a very unique experience,” Lopez said. “I really, really encourage (students) to get involved in what they believe in and to create change because it’s just a feeling that’s overwhelming at times that you can’t do enough, but it’s very rewarding when you come to events like these and you can see (what) all your efforts can appeal.”

Steve Gill, a CSUN student, said, “I liked the fact that all schools came together, not just CSU, but UCs and community colleges.”

Rebecca Hibbert, a theater major from CSUN, said she was happy to know that no violent incidents occurred at the rally.

“I hope people just keep in mind that this isn’t the end,” Hibbert said. “We need to keep fighting and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Marisol, a student from Los Angeles Valley College, who did not give her last name because she is an undocumented student, expressed her reactions of the governor’s proposed budget cuts.

“I am angry that (lawmakers are) trying to get this budget, and it’s going to lower the opportunities for students like me who have no chances of financial aid (and) scholarships,” Marisol said.