The Daily Californian Online

Organizers Across State Prepare for Wednesday Protests

By Jordan Bach-Lombardo
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Category: News > University > Higher Education

Roughly 700 UC Berkeley students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered on Upper Sproul last October for a national day of action. The protesters united to support public education, holding teach-outs, sit-ins, marches and a noon rally.

Almost one year after over 10,000 protesters gathered on March 4, 2010 in San Francisco and thousands more across the state marched to protest state funding cuts to education, rallies are again being planned for March 2 across California - but much more locally this time around.

Pockets of protests from the Bay Area to Southern California to Riverside County will occur as schools gather to combine their voices in support of public higher education, which faces $1.4 billion in funding reductions in Gov. Jerry Brown's 2011-12 budget proposal. The UC and California State University systems are each expected to absorb $500 million and the California Community Colleges system faces over $400 million in funding reductions.

While many East Bay colleges are gathering in Berkeley, schools from the peninsula are organizing marches and public forums.

Students from San Francisco City College's Ocean campus will picket at San Francisco State University along with students there, according to Alisa Messer, president of American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 - a union that represents faculty members of San Francisco City College. Then, the community college and San Francisco State students will march together to the Ocean campus.

Later in the evening, K-12, community college and San Francisco State educators will hold a public forum at the community college's Mission campus to discuss the proposed funding reductions to public education, Messer said.

In Riverside County, UC Riverside protesters are beginning their rally with faculty holding lectures in the middle of the campus and are then marching into downtown Riverside to meet up with other local colleges, according to Alfonso Ruiz, a member of the student group Social Justice Alliance, which is organizing the events.

Farther west in Los Angeles County, rallies are being held at four campuses - UCLA, CSU Los Angeles, Pasadena City College and CSU Northridge - but collaboration between the campuses has not occurred at the same level as in other regions.

"One of the goals of this (protest) is to establish better communication between CSUs and UCs," said Dustin Marks, a senior at CSU Northridge and member of the Activist Student Coalition, which is organizing protests at the campus. "Other schools are doing things on the same day, but it has been very hard to find out what they are doing."

With the lack of inter-campus collaboration, Marks said the focus for March 2 is to build a stronger campus community out of a student body that currently has a "level of dissonance" about how to approach the issue of funding reductions.

"There will be different rally points set up around campus to engage with the different parts of campus to understand how the different parts of campus are being affected, to show how (the cuts) are affecting what these different departments are able to deliver," he said.

Almost exactly on the anniversary of last year's March 4 protests, organizers across the state are trying to raise the same level of energy for this protest.

"(People) have been a little slower in getting going this year - energy hasn't been quite as high," said Allan Fisher, an executive board member of AFT Local 2121 and an English as a Second Language teacher at San Francisco City College's Mission campus. "But I think that because the situation is so dire, people are responding."

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