Seeing Beyond UCState Issues: Campus turnout was disappointing, but yesterday's state-wide protests brought much-needed attention to the cause.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Category: Opinion > Editorials
Yesterday, students across California rallied in their towns and at local college campuses for the need to defend and value public education. These demonstrations made a powerful statement, manifesting the great desire and drive of students and faculty to maintain the quality of education in this state.
UC Berkeley students, workers and faculty rallied on Sproul and marched to downtown Oakland while many bused themselves to a large demonstration in Sacramento. On a campus inundated with protests since last fall, the turnout was understandably unimpressive. However, it's unfortunate that UC Berkeley, with its activist reputation, failed to match UC Riverside's turnout.
Compared to the estimated 5,000 demonstrators in the Sept. 24 walkout, yesterday's protest in Berkeley peaked with only about 800 protesters. The low turnout likely stems from the fallout of last week's Southside riot and a growing level of apathy, as protests have been happening here for months.
The outspoken presence at the rally of Marika Goodrich and Zachary Miller, who were arrested at the Southside riot, may have also contributed to students deciding not to participate. Sure, anyone is welcome to speak their views, but simply being arrested isn't sufficient justification for these two to continually cast themselves as leaders of this movement. They personify students' concerns that extremists have hijacked a once broad mobilization effort and hurt, rather than help, the cause.
Overall, though, campus protesters handled themselves very well and ensured that the rally and subsequent march were nonviolent. Though UC Berkeley was not involved, we condemn any violence perpetrated yesterday, most notably at UC Santa Cruz, where extreme acts prompted officials to effectively shut the campus down. Additionally, we urge participants to refrain in the future from unproductive acts that distract rather than further the overarching goals of these protests, including building occupations and efforts to march on highways.
Notably, the conduct of Berkeley's police was an improvement from the walkout and the Wheeler occupation. Though police were visibly present throughout the day, they avoided interfering with the actions of protesters and helped to maintain the peaceful atmosphere.
In quite the organizational feat, successful demonstrations occurred throughout the state at CSU and UC campuses as well as city centers. Undergraduates, graduate students and faculty stood side-by-side with elementary, middle and high school students-all demonstrating for the same cause. There has even been action nationwide, with protests in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas.
Ensuring that Californians hear and read about protests to support education is arguably the most effective means of taking the message directly to taxpayers. Widespread turnout successfully thrust the cause into the national consciousness, to a greater degree than earlier efforts, propelling the statewide demonstrations to the top of today's news cycle.
But only time will tell if this attention will tangibly translate into more state support for education, through not just words, but the millions needed to maintain quality schooling.
Perhaps the most important takeaway message from yesterday is to remember that the struggle for affordable and quality education is one that goes far beyond the University of California. Yes, college students have largely been the most outspoken against budget cuts, but in this state, schools are suffering across the board.
College students are already among a narrow privileged percentage of the state population. The progressive disinvestment in public education as a whole has left many Californians without any hope of attending college. Everyone in California public universities has benefited from the state's historically celebrated system of public education. And for elementary, middle and high school students, this opportunity is greatly threatened. That's why we protest.
Apathetic or exasperated UC Berkeley students must remember this reasoning going forward, and not allow the stupidity of extremists to deter them from being informed and aware. After yesterday, we're unsure of where the protests will go. But we hope that March 4 showed the state and students just how broad support for this cause is, and that that support can give the movement a second wind to pursue until its goals are realized.
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