CSUN has low student turnout in Sacramento protest

Brian De Los Santos

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Students listen to information about the budget cuts to higher education Sunday night at the Grand Salon. Photo Credit: Kristopher Fortin / Staff Reporter

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Twenty-one students shuffled onto a charter bus early Monday morning, carrying posters with declarations of disapproval and backpacks on their shoulders.

The bus left CSUN’s G3 parking lot around 1 a.m. and arrived at Sacramento shortly after 6 a.m., where the pavement was wet and the air was cold.

Upon arrival, students awoke from their naps and realized they were a few hours away from being a part of a statewide protest against budget cuts on the west steps of the state Capitol.

CSUN students joined students from other CSUs and California community colleges in the March in March protest. They walked 1.4 miles from the California Automobile Museum to the state Capitol.

Some CSUN students, like sophomore Grace Castaneda, 19, political science major, opted to skip classes to attend the event.

“I missed my favorite class and my cabinet meeting, but the reason why I’m giving that up is because I’m standing up for what I believe in,” Canstaneda said. “Not just for my right but for others.”

Castaneda receives financial aid to pay her way through school. However, she said she is scared that budget cuts will lead to less money for her education.

“I know several people who did not return this year to CSUN because they just did not have the money,” Castaneda said. “They say ‘I would rather go to a community college.’”

Out of the 50 students who signed up for the trip to Sacramento, that was sponsored by Associated Students, only 21 actually attended.

Most students who took part of the trip were disappointed with the outcome of CSUN students’ participation.

Sophomore Joe Martinez, 19, African-American studies major, who attended last year’s march in Sacramento said he was frustrated with the low turnout and the lack of participation on behalf of faculty and staff.

Martinez said he remembers last year’s protest vividly.

He said he remembers the crowds, the commotion and marching alongside his best friend, who passed away last year.

“(Last year) I felt like my school was actually present,” he said.

Martinez said he understands that a full 360-degree change in favor of students might not succeed, but he still wanted to voice his concerns.

“Last year I was expecting a change, now I’m not expecting that,” Martinez said. “I just hope (the protest) brings awareness.”

There were both experienced and inexperienced protesters who attended the morning event.

This was Shaneisha Wofford’s first time visiting Sacramento to protest. The 21-year-old deaf studies major said she wanted to represent all students.

“As a minority and someone who comes from a single parent home, I don’t have the funds to pay for my tuition on my own,” Wofford said. “More budget cuts would be detrimental to my education.”

Thousands of students gathered at an empty parking lot, where a pre-rally began. People screamed and chanted while dark clouds brought light rain.

Protesters, who acted as directors, guided others with their megaphones to begin the march.

Martinez carried a poster that read “No money? Then cut back on your check! Cut back on prisons! Cut back on war!”

By the time the procession had traveled several hundred feet, the ink began to drip off the white paper poster.

Castaneda said she saw someone who looked like Gov. Jerry Brown observing the thousands of people gathered on the west steps of the Capitol building.

“Tell him to come down to talk to us!” she exclaimed.

The energy of the crowd got to Wofford.

“I felt like I was part of something much bigger than just me alone,” Wofford said. “I felt anxious, excited, determined,and ready for action.”

The event concluded after the last speech was delivered.

The crowd dispersed and the 21 CSUN students made their way back to the bus for the journey back to Northridge.

“I hope next year, despite the fact we shouldn’t have a protest next year, turns out better and bigger,” Martinez said.