In Wake of Protests, Campus and City Consider Next Steps

UC Berkeley Officials, Student Activists Split On How to Pursue Fight For Public Education

Photo: <b>After protesters</b> rallied for the state's reinvestment in public education across California last Thursday, proponents of the cause are debating where to concentrate their efforts now.
Shirin Ghaffary/Photo
After protesters rallied for the state's reinvestment in public education across California last Thursday, proponents of the cause are debating where to concentrate their efforts now.

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Responses to the March 4th protest

We hear what some have to say about the statewide protest that occurred on March 4th.

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Tens of thousands united March 4 in support of public education, but the UC Berkeley community remains divided as to whether to direct efforts toward state legislators or the public at large.

Protests in support of public education grabbed headlines nationwide as more than 10,000 people took to the streets in the Bay Area alone. While many UC Berkeley students remain disconnected from ongoing activism, campus officials and student activists are following diverging paths to secure increased funding for the university.

Student organizers of the March 4 Day of Action have said they will pursue a broader strategy to rectify "a crisis in government priorities" on the state and national levels. According to senior Eric Garcia, a member of the March 4 committee, plans for the movement will be determined this week but collaboration with other interest groups is already under way.

"It is unnecessary to spend so much money on wars and prisons and so little on public education," he said. "That is why on March 20, many organizers will participate in the anti-war rally in San Francisco."

He added that protests are likely to be staged in the near future as part of efforts to inspire sweeping changes in national and state policy through mass mobilization.

"National organizers are using their individual connections to contact international organizers and plan a collective day of action for public education throughout the world," said senior Alejandro Lara-Briseno, a member of the committee.

A rally held March 4 at the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue drew about 800 participants. But the vast majority of students did not participate in demonstrations due to class conflicts, lack of familiarity with the movement as well as disagreement with the methods of demonstrators.

"I am here for my education, and in my opinion, (the rally) is stupid," freshman Barrett Glasauer said on March 4. "I am here to go to school and come back."

Freshman Katie Rue said she joined protesters outside Wheeler Hall Nov. 20 when a crowd of about 2,000 students surrounded Wheeler Hall to protest a large police presence which threatened to arrest 40 activists who had occupied the building. But Rue said she went to class on March 4.

"I was really turned off by the riots the week before," she said. "It seemed dangerous to participate (March 4)."

Freshman Jesse Yeh said the multiple "coalitions" on campus on March 4 hurt rather than helped organizing for the day of action.

"There were too many different coalitions thrown into the mix, like for example the impeach Obama people," Yeh said. "I feel like all the different groups were sending mixed messages."

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said demonstrating in the streets would no longer yield substantial results for the cause of public higher education. The solution to the university's financial woes lies in convincing Sacramento lawmakers to increase funding for the university by nearly $1 billion, he said.

"Continued protests will be less effective," he said. "Students and families going to offices of legislators and speaking to local officials is the next step."

Birgeneau, ASUC President Will Smelko and Tu Tran, ASUC Executive Vice President, will meet with democratic and republican lawmakers Wednesday, Birgeneau said.

"Going to Sacramento and taking it to the legislators will speak a much louder message than simply waving your hands at Bancroft and Telegraph," said freshman Ben Brint.

Campus faculty will also employ the traditional methods of campus student groups by tabling on Upper Sproul Plaza to teach students how to lobby legislators, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

Despite efforts from administrators and activists to raise support for their respective approaches, some students are still unfamiliar with the financial crisis facing public education.

"I wasn't informed about the rally on March 4, and I still don't even know what it was about," said sophomore Rachel Kwon.


Contact Gabby Fastiggi and Jasmine Mausner at [email protected]

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