Approximately 13,000 students and supporters from public colleges throughout California came to the state capitol in Sacramento to protest rising costs of education on Mar. 22.
The Student Senate for California Community Colleges organized a march that left from Raley Field at 10 a.m. and arrived at the capitol at 10:30 a.m. The protest commenced around 12:30 p.m.
The march was mostly peaceful and no arrests were made, the Sacramento City Police Department said.
Marcus King, SSCCC communications officer, said the group was inspired to protest after many students already dropped out of college due to fee increases. Cuts have also been made to the statewide Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), which stands to be slashed another $10 million, putting the burden on the poorest students.
“Limiting and crippling student success is not acceptable, especially in times in which there are more veterans returning who are enrolling, more students who are being turned away from the CSU and UC systems and record levels of unemployment, meaning more students trying to attain new job skills or refine skills they have,” King said. “We united with the CSU and UC students to bring awareness to this budget crisis and advocate against cuts and stress the importance of reinvesting in education.”
Zach Pallin, a San Jose State student, said there were several messages at the protest. Pallin believes the most important thing about a protest is that it follows a logical course. He believes occupations of buildings do not have much purpose, especially when a clear message is not communicated.
“I think the general protest was more of an ideological one, though,” Pallin said. “Establishing the idea that education is a right, and if it’s not, it deserves to be one. We need Sacramento and the state to really focus on higher education.”
Pallin came in support of Rep. Alberto Torrico’s[cq] (D-Fremont) Fair Share for Fair Tuition bill (AB 656), which would raise $2 billion for higher education through a severance tax on oil companies’ oil and natural gas. The bill is currently in the Senate Education Committee.
“Education is a civil right,” Torrico told the California Chronicle. “George Bush in Texas and Sarah Palin in Alaska knew it made sense to have oil companies pay their fair share for higher education.”
Olgalia Ramirez[cq], director of government affairs for the California State Student Association (CSSA), said the march was not only to draw attention, but also to show that higher education needs to be prioritized and should be seen as an investment and a solution to the troubled economy.
“We had the advantage of already having an established relationship with leadership, who brought students from schools to the Capitol,” Ramirez said. “We also made sure protestors understood the message ahead of time, so it was clear why they were there and could direct their energy productively.”
SSCCC holds “follow-up Fridays” in which students schedule appointments to meet with their local senators and representatives to gain support to advocate for higher education funding from the governor. King said the meetings allow for students to express their concerns beyond the protest setting. The first meetings took place on Mar. 26.
SSCCC President Reid Milburn[cq] recommends students to organize voter registration drives, letter writing campaigns, phone calls to lawmakers and share their personal stories and publicly comment during budget hearings.
“If we want to change the world we live in we need to take the responsibility upon ourselves,” Milburn said. “If we do not take the time, if we are too busy, or too tired, or too whatever, then we need to shut up and stop complaining and accept whatever the politicians decide is best for us because at that point we have simply given up our say in our future – it is easy; the choice is ours.”
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.