Day of (in)Action

March 2, 2011 will most likely be remembered as the ‘Day of Little Action.’

This year’s Day of Action to save public education across California garnered some attention, but did not draw huge crowds at campuses statewide as expected—and SF State was no exception to the lower-than-expected turnout.

An estimated 100 students and faculty began a rally at Malcolm X Plaza and marched the two miles from the Cesar Chavez Student Center to City College of San Francisco’s main campus on Ocean Avenue.

“Given the weather, we didn’t expect to see that many people marching,” said Akasha Perez, 21, a political science major and member of Students for Quality Education. “I think the day went well and I’m proud of the support we received from students and faculty.”

Participants were protesting against the proposed $500 million budgetary cuts facing the California State University system amidst a statewide $27 billion deficit.

SF State faces a possible $32 million deficit during the upcoming 2011-12 fiscal year. CCSF, the largest junior college in the country, is part of the massive number of California community colleges facing a collective $400 million reduction in funds.

Other campuses throughout the state that participated included Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles, Riverside Community College, Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park and UC Berkeley; all schools witnessed lower-than-expected crowds.

Like the CSU’s, the 10-campus UC system also faces a likely $500 million budget decrease.

In response to the low turnout, associate professor of health education and California Faculty Association President Ramon Castellblanch noted that labor unions did not throw as much support behind the student protests this year as in past years.

“There was not as much political unity as last year,” Castellblanch said. “But we see this as part of the building process in response to the budget cuts and people made their mark.”

The CSU has been quite vocal concerning the cuts to education. Last year’s March 4 Day of Action resulted in massive system-wide protests with more than 450,000 students and almost 50,000 faculty fighting for funding.

Nearly 4,000 SF State students participated in the protests last year.

Many students attributed this year’s low turnout to their own personal preferences and the ironic message SQE delivered in marching against class and budget cuts while simultaneously missing classes to do so.

“I do support what they’re doing, but if the marches were about budget cuts and lack of classes, I certainly did not want to miss any classes,” said Christina James, 20, a music major who did not participate in the rally. “We’re all having a hard time as it is trying to find classes.”

Last year’s protests sent a powerful message, but California’s financial situation has only gotten worse, leading some to believe the protests were for naught.

“We’ve been protesting for so long and nothing’s happening,” said Jason Manalang, 24, a hospitality management major who did not participate. “Fees will only continue to go up and classes will keep getting cut. Nobody really cares about an issue until it directly affects them.”

Some students, however, still saw participating as a rewarding experience.

“I was proud of the fact that a lot of different student groups went out, and I think we got our message across as we were non-violent and coordinated,” said Nick Occhipinti, 30, a graduate student in political science. “We channeled the best energies to our campus and community.”

Not all was lost as Monday’s teach-in at the CCSF Mission campus drew a sizable audience. Among the speakers were District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar and SF Unified School District superintendent Carlos Garcia.

Despite the low SF State turnout, March 2 was by no means an isolated action for the protest movement.

“We’re going to have something similar on April 13,” Perez said.

Nationwide, April 13 will mark Class Action Day and there are plans to have a teach-in at Jack Adams Hall.

“It’s gonna be chaotic and a long process, but good things will happen,” Occhipinti said. “If legislators can work with students and faculty and staff to plan better education reform, we all win.”

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