Protestors march to governor’s SD office

    An estimated 1,000 college students, faculty and supporters marched through downtown San Diego on April 26 in protest of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed tuition hikes and budget cuts to higher education.

    Courtesy of Fred Lonidier

    About 70 UCSD students joined the rally, marching with participants representing different colleges in San Diego County, including Grossmont College, San Diego City College, San Diego State University, Mesa Community College, Southwestern College and California State University San Marcos.

    “I think that there’s a sentiment that students are not a political force, that we have no voice, and that we don’t care,” Benjamin Balthasar, a coordinator for the UCSD Coalition to Stop the Cuts, said. “The protest suggests that whatever preconceived notions there are about students, there is a commonality of interest in terms of affordable higher education, and we need to keep it an acceptable price.”

    The event was sponsored by the San Diego Stop the Cuts Coalition, a group with representatives from the different college campuses. The protest was also part of a statewide student walk-out coordinated with student groups similar to the San Diego coalition.

    The list of concerns students voiced during the rally and protest included the proposals to cut financial aid and outreach programs and to increase student fees at each college system.

    “Given that the Legislature is really not representing what the priorities are in this state, it’s really important for us to come out, collaborating as students, to say we’re not going to accept this kind of attack on the basic right of having an education that is affordable and available,” Rebecca Anshell, a member of the UCSD Coalition to Stop the Cuts, said.

    The rally began at 10:30 a.m. at San Diego City College, where student speakers encouraged the crowd to demand affordable education.

    The protesters walked 40 blocks, stopping traffic at intersections. Escorted by the San Diego police, protesters marched to the governor’s downtown San Diego office chanting, “Don’t tax students, tax the rich.” The students stationed themselves in front of the governor’s office on Front Street while speakers continued to discuss how the proposed cuts and fee increases would affect them.

    Heather Flowe, vice president of external affairs of UCSD’s Graduate Student Association, said that the fee increases are detrimental to the economic state of California.

    “[Students] contribute to the economic vitality of this state, we keep this state going,” Flowe said. “We need to invest in our education, not eliminate them, if we’re going to get out of this budget crisis. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our students.”

    Protesters sent a delegation of six students from the different San Diego colleges inside the office to deliver a letter stating the protesters’ demands. Earl Warren College junior Samara Bahoor was the UCSD undergraduate representative for the delegation.

    Bahoor said that she and other members of the coalition described to officials their personal experiences as students and spoke about the importance of outreach programs.

    “I spoke about working students and how it’s going to make it harder for me to live,” Bahoor said.

    The governor’s proposals include the elimination of outreach programs, a 10-percent increase in student fees for UC resident undergraduates and a 40-percent increase for graduate students.

    California State University students spoke about the $240-million cut the CSU system might face, which, they said, would mean fewer classes and professors. Community college students also spoke about the importance of outreach and maintaining the lower tuition fees.

    “It is so important to have community colleges because it is cheap and [that’s] the main reason why people go,” Bahoor, who transferred to UCSD from a community college, said. “It’s important to maintain the lower level of tuition so that people can get an education.”

    For John Muir College freshman Tam Phan, who currently receives financial aid, the protest was a new experience.

    “[The protest] felt very empowering, seeing all these people from the different colleges come together,” Phan said.

    While there are no definite plans for other rallies, the coalition is continuing to meet and is planning an event in May when the revisions to the proposed budget are made, according to Balthasar.

    “I think that [the protest] went exceptionally well,” Balthasar said. “It was one of the first times students from all the areas and colleges marched together.”

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