Last Wednesday, UC Davis students joined UC Berkeley students in Sacramento to lobby legislators in a press conference and rally regarding the UC budget cuts and tuition hikes.
About 100 students, approximately 50 from UC Davis and 50 from UC Berkeley, bused to the state capital early Wednesday morning and congregated on the steps of the California State Capitol to address decision makers and speak out against the state’s role in the recent cuts to public higher education. The event was well attended by the press as student and faculty leaders took turns addressing the crowd of reporters.
The event was organized with the help of Joey Freeman, UC Berkeley (ASUC) External Affairs Vice President, in the wake of the announcement that potential automatic trigger cuts of almost $2 billion could directly affect higher education.
“We’re here in Sacramento to make a powerful message that we need the legislature to reinvest in higher education,” said Freeman in his speech. “This is not a time where we can have more cuts, where we can have our tuition continue to go up, and that’s all the more reason that we’re here, to let them know that that has to stop.”
Before the press conference began at 11 a.m., students and administrators gathered to prepare.
“We had a room reserved in the building where we congregated, made tons and tons of phone calls to the ‘big five,’ signed postcards to the governor in favor of Proposition 13 reform, and made signs for our press conference,” said Jonathan Stein, UC student regent-designate.
The “big five” includes Gov. Jerry Brown, speaker of the assembly John Perez, Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, and Senate Minority Leader Robert Dutton.
Proposition 13 refers to the constitutional amendment that brought changes to the California property tax system.
“Reforming [Proposition 13] will help fund our public priorities, like public higher education,” Stein said. “There is a University of California Student Association (UCSA) campaign currently underway to get tens of thousands of postcards signed by students urging the governor to support Proposition 13 reform.”
Those who participated in the rally felt that it was an important supplement to the various protest movements taking place on UC campuses across the state.
“We’ve realized that students need to look at all fronts, including lobbying,” said Adam Thongsavat, ASUCD president. “We chose to focus on Sacramento because they have a huge part, if not the biggest part. We need to put pressure on the regents, on the state of California, on local leaders, and on community members. No one should be spared from this conversation, because it affects everyone. We all need to be united and to offer any resources we can.”
“We think it’s incredibly important and powerful to be here in Sacramento standing jointly with our administration,” Freeman said. “We are all on the same page. We all care about an affordable and accessible public education system.”
STEPHANIE B. NGUYEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.