Thousands of students and staff stood sweating in the heat at last Thursday’s faculty and student walkout rally, fanning themselves with picket signs and fliers.
By noon, when the rally began, temperatures had reached almost 95 degrees. But that wasn’t the only reason why students and faculty were sweating.
“We in the university community see the effects of these years of funding cuts – fee increases, fewer classes, larger classes, less access to professors,” said Markus Luty, a speaker at the rally and physics professor. “The UC system is at a tipping point between greatness and mediocrity.“
The next day in his physics class, Luty allegedly received a standing ovation from his students.
Several students, faculty and community members spoke at the rally, including a student from the Native American Student Association, CEO of Sacramento Central Labor Counsel Bill Camp and Gretchen Braun, lecturer of the Undergraduate Writing Program.
The walkout was initially organized by faculty upset by the recent furlough plan and increased student fees, but garnered student support through interest in the fee hike. The rally was part of the day-long walkout, and was joined by members of the University Professional and Technical Employees union.
The rally ended at approximately 1:30 p.m., with the crowd taking “the scenic route,” as one protestor called it, to Mrak Hall, circling around the center of the campus, acquiring support and attention from bystanders.
Following the Mrak Hall protest, participants marched to the Chancellor’s house off campus, carrying signs that read, “I’ve seen the best minds destroyed by Yudof,” and “Cut from the top, not student tuition!” There, they ate donated sandwiches and held an open-microphone session for protestors to tell the crowd why they attended the walkout.
After the rally, responses from those who attended were positive, with many impressed by the turnout and spirit of the day’s events.
“I was caught off-guard, not by the amount of students and faculty there, but that there were so many people going up to the microphone and voicing their opinions and being allies for the cause,” said Ozzy Arce, a junior community and regional development major who participated in the rally. “I was very impressed.“
In response to the walkouts held across all 10 UC campuses, the UC Office of the President released a statement in which they recognized the frustrations of those protesting, but pointed to the state’s diminished contribution to higher education as the reason behind most of the cuts.
“While we understand there’s some anger and angst spread across our campuses, our hope is that it will be directed more precisely toward Sacramento, where the heart of the problem lies in shifting political priorities and a dysfunctional system of governance,” said Leslie Sepuka, media specialist for UCOP, in a written statement. “It is a sad state of affairs indeed when a state spends more on prisons than it does on higher education.“
Although over 1,000 students attended the rally and nearly 200 faculty members signed a letter signifying their support for the walkout, the majority of the campus did not attend or did not support the walkout.
When Jacqueline Condliffe, a first-year music major learned that her professor might be walking out on Thursday, she expressed sympathy for the professor’s situation, but believed that the walkout might not be as effective for students in the classroom.
“[If my professor doesn’t show up today,] I feel like coming to class would have been a waste of my time,” she said. “I have other classes I could be studying for.“
Condliffe also heard that many of her peers were not showing up to class on Thursday, not in support of the walkout, but simply to get out of class.
“I know a lot of kids that are taking advantage of their professors not coming to class. It’s an excuse to ditch.“
In the following weeks, those at the rally hope to continue writing letters to local legislators, urging state lawmakers to apportion more funds to public universities.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be email@example.com.