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No more cuts, say Stanislaus students
CSU Stanislaus students stand in the university quad listening to speakers and bearing banners lamenting the effects of the economy on the campus.
Students at California State University, Stanislaus joined in the nationwide Day of Action to support education on Thursday, but not with the kind of rowdy, highway-blocking affairs seen in Davis and Berkeley.
A crowd of 300 walked out of classes to gather at the CSU Stanislaus quad for an Education “unFair” to argue for increased funding and an end to the ceaseless cycle of cutbacks.
“This is where the cuts stop,” said John Sarraillé, professor of Computer Science and president of the Stanislaus California Faculty Association Chapter. “This is where we put an end to it.”
Students, as they made their way around the quad, paid visits to booths such as the “Can you hear me now?” station, which informed visitors of the importance in calling local legislators to lobby for funding. They stopped at a sign making booth, scrawling slogans on pieces of fabric that were pinned on clotheslines to “air out the CSU’s dirty laundry” of increasing costs and reducing benefits.
Students even turned a crank on an old-time ice cream maker, putting in work for a scoop or two.
Signs at that booth read, “Education is like ice cream, a privilege, not a right” and “sweet if you can afford it,” referring an editorial in the Chronicle of Higher Education penned by CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani arguing that education — like ice cream — should only be for those who deserve it in these challenging economic times. But even if students did the work of turning the crank, they earned just a half-full bowl of ice cream, signifying the loss of classes, 144 dropped from the Fall 2009 semester alone.
Celeste Mitchell, a CSU Stanislaus student with Students for Quality Education and an organizer of the day of action, experienced first-hand the effect of class reductions on her education. Twice she was dropped from full classes she had enrolled in just days before the start of a semester as funding for the sessions dried up.
“Why is it that we’re paying more and getting less?” Mitchell asked.
Mitchell said she knew that nothing would change in the current economic climate — except for things getting worse — without getting mobilized and lobbying legislators to restore needed funding. That’s what Thursday was all about, she said.
“We are making a difference,” Mitchell said. “We are making history. We have declared March 4 our day to save public education.”
Another booth at the unFair, a bake sale to save education, offered a more immediate solution to the budget cuts. However, there were no takers for the $30 million cupcake. To be fair, there was no cupcake either at the tongue-in-cheek booth — the person who was supposed to make it was furloughed, booth workers said.
A number of speakers — students and professors alike — took to a public address system to address the gathered crowd with tales of cuts and unintended impacts. At the bare-bones level the CSU is currently operating, the only options left are to cut programs wholesale or increase tuition yet again, speakers said.
The effects of recent cuts, with diminished admission rates and tuition up 32 percent from a year ago, were driven home when Ann Strohm, a professor of sociology at CSU Stanislaus, teared up as she spoke before the gathered crowd. She told how she was the first in her family to even graduate community college, and that she wouldn’t have made it in the current economy.
“I would have been denied access, told to sit down, shut up, and take a typing class,” Strohm said.
Students in the crowd stood rapt listening to the tales of Strohm and others for two hours, as speakers enumerated the challenges facing CSU Stanislaus and the students of today — those set to become the workforce of tomorrow.
“And where are we going to get jobs now?” asked a student in the crowd. “I’m freaking out.”
Jessie Duran, Students for Quality Education, said Thursday’s protest was not just about the students present, however. As a graduating senior, he noted that any changes would occur after he is gone.
But the point of Thursday’s rally was to care for the future, Duran said, pointing to small children some had brought to the event. It’s for those people, for the ones who will walk through the doors of CSU Stanislaus some day in the future — should seats be available — he said.
For its part, the university remains dedicated to doing whatever it can to ensure extra funding, according to CSU Stanislaus spokesperson Eve Hightower.
“We are focused on working together with legislators to ensure they understand the value of CSU to the state’s economy and workforce,” Hightower said.
But for Stephanie Harbeck, a junior majoring in Liberal Studies who happened upon the protest without knowing much about the situation, sitting back and waiting for legislators to do something seemed to not be an option.
“The point is just to get involved,” Harbeck said. “The government and the legislature aren’t going to do anything different, just keep taking.”
Harbeck said she now plans to get involved in the fight for education.
CSU Stanislaus students already have a slew of events planned for the coming days, including a Friday lobbying day with local legislators. Another lobbying day is set for Friday, and on March 22 a CSU Stanislaus-sponsored bus will take students to a CSU systemwide rally at the state capitol, featuring a march from Raley Field to the Capitol Building.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.