Last year, a volcano of frustration erupted across the state as the 450,000 students and 46,000 faculty members that comprise the California State University system felt robbed of $564 million.
Facing unprecedented cuts to public education, students, educators, the UC system – whose own budget was slashed by a whopping $813 million –and faculty unions from CSUs joined forces on March 4, 2010 – a Day of Action.
Ramon Castellblanch, chapter president of the California Faculty Association at SF State, played a major part in organizing local events in hopes of putting a stop to the unparalleled 10 percent pay cut last fall.
“The budget cuts made it a lot harder to do our jobs as educators, and it put a lot of the faculty’s families under strain,” Castellblanch said. “A lot of people just barely make ends meet, so a 10 percent pay cut was a serious problem for a lot of families.”
A school-wide march, organized in part by students and faculty of the neighboring City College of San Francisco, led to the steps of city hall where an estimated 12,000 people attended the Rally for California’s Future.
The rally, geared to unite all levels of San Francisco Bay Area public schools, was a project of major education unions and their supporters over the last two years.
“I think there was a wave, a lot of student activism that started the proceeding fall and came together in a very unified way,” said Castellblanch. “We had groups across a broad spectrum of organizations working together, so I think that was part of the reason we had such a powerful outpouring.”
The rallies in downtown San Francisco and protests at SF State and CCSF, coupled with demonstrations in Sacramento, sit-ins, and the occupation of UC Berkeley, did not go unheard. A $199-million restoration to the California budget for public education would later be directly attributed to the tremendous public uproar that took place on March 4 and the following weeks.
The Day of Action was also about the students – and student organizers like Akasha Perez, a political science major at SF State, played a major role in making March 4 a day that shook Sacramento.
“March 4 was about everybody getting together and making our voices heard statewide,” she said. “There is power in numbers, and together we accomplished more. Education is a human right. It’s an issue of social justice.”
Perez, who spoke as a representative for the University at the Rally for California’s Future, attributes the success of last year’s events to an overwhelming student turnout.
Dylan Martinez, a fourth year criminal justice major at SF State, was one of the many enraged students who gathered on the Day of Action to express frustration over the massive budget cuts.
“I went to the Day of Action to meet other people that are feeling like I am—angry, pissed off,” Martinez said. “We needed to shout. We needed to do whatever we could, we needed to organize and start screaming and chanting and singing, to get attention and raise awareness. That’s really all we can do.”
Martinez, like many other students in the CSU and UC system, was troubled with financial pressures brought on by dramatic tuition increases and dwindling chances at getting a seat in the classes he needed to graduate.
“When I’m going to school I should be thinking about school, but instead I’m thinking about rent,” Martinez said. “I’m thinking about groceries. I’m thinking about bus fare and how much BART is going to cost for me to get to work, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of sitting on the ground and crashing classes.”