Protesters lay higher education plan to rest in mock funeral
Students, faculty provide solutions to save the CSU from further cuts.
Published: Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 15:07
More than 100 California State University students, faculty, employees and community members held a mock funeral in front of Chancellor Charles Reed's office Wednesday to protest cuts to higher education.
Demonstrators stood clad in black on the sun-soaked plaza to symbolize the death the California Master Plan for Higher Education.
Five mock pallbearers, preceded by a bagpipe player, carried out a cardboard coffin and laid a dummy dressed in a cap and gown to rest on the front lawn of Reed's office. Fifty tombstones, each representing 1,000 of the 50,000 students denied admission to the CSU system this year, decorated the lawn.
A double-decker bus was on hand to transfer people to and from Cal State Long Beach. Spanish major Kasey Lewallen, who arrived at the chancellor's office by the double-decker bus, said the general mood on the way there was enthusiasm and passion to do something about the issue.
"Both of my parents are educators," Lewallen said. "The ideals the CSU [represents] resonate with me."
Several students and faculty members delivered a eulogy and gave speeches laying out a multitude of problems and shortcomings in the CSU system this year. The 2009-10 CSU system budget was cut by $564 million compared to the previous year.
There were also some solutions offered. One was Assembly Bill 656, which would increase taxes to oil companies so the CSU system could receive some of the revenue generated.
Protesters seemed to spread equal blame across the board of trustees, the state Legislature and a portion of the public for being skittish of the word "tax."
"I want the public to realize there are remedies out there; they need to get excited to participate," said Toni Kukreja, Bargaining Unit 7 representative of the CSU Employees Union at CSULB.
Kukreja said educating the public is essential to achieving reform. She also suggested that the state Legislature revise Proposition 13, which she says is crammed with tax loopholes.
Demonstrators showed an overwhelming consensus that Reed and the board of trustees are not properly representing the students and faculty they were appointed by the governor to help.
"There are people on the board of trustees whose primary goal is not to work for the benefit of the CSU," said Deborah Hamm, a lecturer in the teacher education department. "This is about the system we value for first-generation students to get ahead."
Others also expressed feelings of resentment for the way the board of trustees have handled the issue.
"The state Assembly and Senate didn't have the wherewithal to get the budget passed on time," history lecturer Dennis Kortheuer said.
Erik Fallis, CSU media relations specialist, said "a sizeable amount" of the rally and demonstration was directed toward California lawmakers, which is "part of the university experience."
"I do think it's effective to have students express their frustrations," Fallis said, encouraging them to "make their voices heard in Sacramento" and show support for the CSU.
The Master Plan was first adopted by the California Legislature in 1960 and intended to provide higher education to Californians for an affordable price. The goal was to create an educated workforce that would benefit the economy and state as a whole.
One of the speakers, Jamela Pugh, a political science major from CSU Chico, grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in the Bay Area.
"With the budget cuts, the California State University system is now seeking out a better student: one who is better prepared for college, one more likely to graduate in four years, one more likely to donate to the university endowment upon graduation," Pugh said in her speech. "This means that the CSU does not want me."
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