Students Across California Protest Budget Cuts

Stephanie Spearman

Students and faculty marched through the Administration building to get to President Mo Qayoumi’s office. The protest at CSU East Bay was just one of many that took place across the state calling for lower administrative salaries.

CSU students across the state exercised their right to peacefully assemble on April 13 as they protested yet another set of budget cuts to the system.

Tuition fees that rise seemingly every quarter, and further cuts being made to the CSU and UC systems, are no doubt getting students riled up.

Select faculty from the California Faculty Association (CFA) and students from various groups on campus put together “A Day of Class Action for Higher Education” with the intention of peacefully assembling the campus community together to protest budget cuts.

At 11:30 a.m., students and faculty gathered in front of the bookstore lawn along with free ice cream to begin their ‘teach-in’ sessions.

Teach-ins are mini educational sessions held in tents on the lawn, taught by faculty members and students.

There were a wide range of topics in these educational settings, including a proposal for a more environmentally friendly shuttle system for CSU East Bay, but only a few were directly related to the matter at hand—budget cuts.

At 1 p.m., the students in attendance gathered around a rally leader in front of the bookstore to start the rallying for the day.

“We have the right to peacefully assemble in any building on campus,” a student holding a megaphone said. “So who would like to liberate a building?”

As the students cheered, rally leaders led a crowd of about 150 people- consisting mostly of students but with about 20 faculty members- to the new Student Administration building.

As they marched, the group chanted things like “you say cut backs, we say fight back,” and “who’s university? Our university!”

Similar to the March 4 demonstration last year, the students targeted the University President Qayoumi along with the CSU Chancellor Reed, asking for the Chancellor’s resignation and demanding to speak with the President.

According to CSU budget records, Chancellor Reed makes around $421,000 a year with $12,000 in car allowances and free housing.

Many students took issue with this, especially while classes are being cut and the number of students CSUs can admit is being limited.

Students who carried signs that read “Chancellor ‘Greed’ Should Resign” called for the Chancellor and other CSU executive salaries to be cut down to that of an average tenured faculty member’s salary, though there is no specific number as to what that may be.

Students wanted their concerns to be heard, deciding to go straight to the head of CSUEB in order to achieve this goal.

Upon entering the administration building, student facilitators of the protest urged students to remain respectful- asking that students not engage in violence or destruction.

However, students were encouraged to chant loudly as they walked up four stories of stairs to the President’s office, patiently waiting to give him a piece of their minds.

While most students were enthusiastic about the possibility of talking with the President about pressing concerns like the lack of availability in classes and tuition hikes that go toward the salaries of CSU executives, it became apparent that other members of the group were not there for any specific cause.

Perhaps those students grew bored with waiting because despite the urges of fellow students to be patient, a few students started calling for lower gas prices and better air conditioning in other buildings on campus, both off topic from the day’s targeted discussion.

Most students were focused on the matter at hand, however, and were ready to be taken seriously.

Though the protest was relatively modest compared to that of bigger CSUs—including Fresno State, which also marched into their administration office—University Police were brought in to regulate.

Flyers that were handed out to all protesting students informed them of their legal rights and rally leaders prompted the group to not answer any questions without a lawyer.

Arrestee Intake Forms were also handed out as a precautionary measure that almost seemed like encouragement from the CFA and student groups for students to get arrested for the protest.

The chief of UPD tried to ease the crowd by announcing that the police were respecting their right to protest, but that it was also their duty to protect buildings.

The students were asked to make a pathway down the center of the hall, which was complied with.

Still, officers were kept on hand, just in case.

“These officers have weapons,” one rally leader said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable. If you do not feel comfortable protesting here, you are welcome to leave.”

Students were finally admitted into the President’s office, who was not present, marching through in a single-file line.

Unsatisfied with the fact that they did not get to talk to anyone, rally leaders encouraged the group to reconvene in front of the President’s office, on Monday, April 19 at 8 a.m. as the Chancellor will be visiting the campus to let him know they are serious.

As students continue to protest CSU budget cuts, keeping up to date on legislation that affects the education system directly will help make for a much stronger argument than simply acting on what they hear in passing.