UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Day of Action highlights looming cuts to higher education
*UPDATE – Multimedia Editor Aaron Williams interviews various supporters of the ‘Day of Action’ protest.
Students and faculty will unite once again to protest budget cuts in a statewide Day of Action on March 2.
SF State’s Students for Quality Education will protest in conjunction with City College of San Francisco in a march that will include student and faculty speakers. A picket line on 19th and Holloway avenues will take place from 11 a.m. to noon with performers also participating – including an African protest dance, spoken word poetry, a rap song about the cuts and an a capella group to rally students from noon to 1 p.m.
The actual march route will be from Ocean Avenue to CCSF and will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. CCSF will have a reception with food and refreshments for those who march and support the cause.
“We are the people being educated, we have to fight for it,” said Akasha Perez, political science major and member of SQE. “We have a lot to fight for.”
Many SQE members are hoping that the Day of Action will empower students and encourage them to become active about the cuts to education.
“We’re hoping for a mass mobilization of students,” said student organizer for SQE Sadaf Malik. “We want to show them that solidarity is still here. This is to show that we still care and get recognition, especially from the governor.”
Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2011-2012 budget, the CSU and UC systems would each experience a $500-million cut that would leave SF State with a $32-million deficit. The situation could be further complicated if the state chooses not to renew the 1 percent increase in tax funding allowed this year.
“(The cuts mean) more furloughs, fee increases, delays in graduation,” Malik said. “If no one stands up, it shows that it’s OK to cut them. Only when we make noise will we be heard.”
Between 3,000 and 4,000 SF State students attended last year’s Day of Action on March 4 and thousands more attended the march when it moved to Civic Center. Students, faculty, the Staff United organization, as well as unions, including the San Francisco Labor Council and United Educators of San Francisco, organized the event. This year, hundreds of students are expected to participate. The smaller attendance is attributed to the fact that, unlike last year, the event is mostly student organized.
Some ethnic studies professors will be bringing their entire classes to the protest. Members of SQE hope that with this support, participation will get up into the thousands again.
Participators have created a list of demands for the state of California, stressing, “free public education from pre-K to graduate school as a fundamental human right, no privatization and austerity, taxation of the rich and corporations, democratic governance of the education system and the end of discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation and class as well as immediate full legalization of all immigrants and a reversal on the ban on affirmative action.”
Major rallies will also be conducted in Los Angeles, Oakland and Berkeley. Oakland’s rally will begin at noon in front of city hall on 14th Street and Broadway; Berkeley’s will also begin at noon at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus.
Other CSUs that will be participating include: CSU Fresno, which will stage carnival games demonstrating the budget cuts as well as showing the students how to fight back from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at its Free Speech Area and Peace Garden; CSU Fullerton, which will host a forum to plan for the future of education as well as a workshop called “Declaration in Defense of Public Education” from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in its Humanities building, room 126; CSU Monterey Bay, which will host a rally called “Speak Out” on its quad at 11:30 a.m.; and Sonoma State, which will host “Camp Out for Quality Education,” where students will stay on the quad all day with small events to draw attention to other students.
Some students believe that the protests are ineffective because it takes students out of class instead of allowing them to take advantage of the classes they do have.
“If I’m going to protest not having classes, I’m going to do that by taking my ass to class,” said dance major Mo Awobo.
Members of SQE, however, believe that students must take matters into their own hands by means of protest to make their voices heard.
“We are the people we have to count on,” Perez said. “We have to depend on us for reaching out and keeping up the work.”