UC Rallies Aim to Gain Legislature's Attention

Photo: Taylor Kohles, a UC Berkeley student involved with Rolling University, works to mobilize efforts for the March 4 protests in Sacramento.
Evan Walbridge/Staff
Taylor Kohles, a UC Berkeley student involved with Rolling University, works to mobilize efforts for the March 4 protests in Sacramento.

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Analysis: March Fourth Protests

Assistant University News Editor Mihir Zaveri speaks with Javier Panzar about the March 1st and March 4th events.

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As the state budget process unfolds this spring, various groups are making efforts next week to ensure that the UC system avoids another year of drastic budget cuts.

Though the groups-ranging from UC officials to student and faculty organizers at the UC Berkeley campus-are employing various tactics to achieve different ends, all say March is a pivotal month in an ongoing effort to prioritize education in the eyes of the state Legislature and the general public.

Two separate efforts are planned for next week to urge the Legislature to make education a priority when determining the state budget.

On March 1, UC and student government officials will head to Sacramento to directly lobby state legislators for increased funding to the university.

Three days later, mass rallies will be held across the state, including in Berkeley, Sacramento and San Francisco. The day's events aim to advocate not only for higher education but for all tiers of public education.

Both days are important to secure funding from the state, said Victor Sanchez, President of the University of California Students Association (UCSA), which is planning the March 1 event.

"Any kind of social movement has to have all ends of the spectrum," Sanchez said. "(We are) utilizing everything else that has taken place, using this momentum to (advocate) in a more forceful manner."

A March 4 rally in Sacramento-planned by UC Berkeley professors from the organization SAVE the University-is one of many that focus on unity between all areas of education.

"One of the things that we have been told when we met with individual legislators is that ... this can't be a UC-only push," said Shannon Steen, an associate professor of theater, dance and performance studies at UC Berkeley and a member of SAVE. "Unless we join forces with the CSUs and the (community colleges), a lot of the legislators just won't listen to us."

Student leaders in UCSA will be joined by UC President Mark Yudof and several UC Regents to lobby top leaders in Sacramento on March 1. UCSA's lobby day is focused on advocating for the interests of the UC system only, and not the rest of public education, in contrast with the March 4 rallies.

"I am perfectly willing to have coalitions with other groups but on the other hand I think there is something special about the University of California," Yudof said. "We have a special case to make ... in terms of creating jobs, in terms of educating students."

While the aim of the lobby day will focus on the UC, the benefits of the pressure put on Sacramento will be felt throughout the entire educational

system, Sanchez said.

Three days later, SAVE the University will go to Sacramento with members of the CSU and Community College (CC) community to continue applying pressure on the Legislature.

After helping organize for the Sept. 24 walkout, members of SAVE decided it was time to make their presence felt in Sacramento in collaboration with other systems of higher education, Steen said.

As of press time, 586 people have signed up to go to Sacramento with SAVE. Free bus rides will provide transportation for students, faculty and workers from campuses around the Bay Area including UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University.

"I'm hoping March 4th is a day in which many, many people concerned about education can go to Sacramento and say 'God damn it, this has to stop.' We have to act like grown-ups, we need to pay for schools ... we need to run (the state) like a decent political community," said Christopher Kutz, chair of the UC Berkeley division of the Academic Senate.

Approaching the state government in conjunction with other sectors of public education is vital not only to receive increased funding for higher education, but also to chip away at the view of the UC as an elite institution, said Nelson Maldonado-Torres, a UC Berkeley associate professor of Ethnic Studies.

"It's very important particularly for the public to see the UCs coming out in coalition and solidarity and demonstrate an interest for public education at large because people consider the UC elite," Maldonado-Torres said. "It's not only a public relations campaign. We recognize that the state cannot survive without a really high-quality public education system."

The events of March 4 will get students around California to take a look at the way society values public goods, said UC Berkeley student organizer Eric Garcia.

"Its about re-imagining, rethinking, re-energizing the way we think about the basics of our society, whether it be health care, whether it be education," Garcia said. "As students we have the ability to push for these things."


Javier Panzar covers higher education.Contact him at [email protected]ycal.org.

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