UC Berkeley students decide: Attend class or protest
on March 4, 2010
Students throughout the University of California system are mounting massive protests today against state budgets cuts which have caused classes to be cut from public universities, staff and instructor furloughs, and have led to a 32 percent increase in student fees. At around 7:45 a.m. Thursday, about 150 people showed up for the demonstration in front of UC Berkeley’s Sather Gate.
“Education is a right one fights for,” yelled the group of student protesters, which also included UC Berkeley labor union members, Cal alumni and even high school students who are worried about their future education.
“We have more people than we had at this time of the day compared to the previous protest on September 25th. We have to show our solidarity,” said Ricardo Gomez, a junior at UC Berkeley and an organizer with the Solidarity Alliance and Berkeley Students Against Cuts. Gomez said he is lucky enough to have a scholarship available for him, but he says he is participating in the protest for the good of future generations. “I am doing this especially so students of color will have access to affordable education,” said Gomez.
Other student protesters said the budget cuts are deeply affecting their lives. “I cannot even sleep at night because I am worried about how I can pay tuition. My family is not wealthy enough to support me,” said Cristina Doan, an 18-year-old freshman at Berkeley. Doan says she cannot even find work. “The economy is really bad and it is hard to find job to pay tuition,” said the ethnic studies major, who says she wants to be a teacher at community college.
Berkeley junior and ethnic studies major Alejandro Jimenez agreed with Doan. “I do not have tuition for the next semester,” said Jimenez. He supports better educational opportunities for students with color because most of them are not privileged enough to afford tuition. “I want my share for what I pay for with my taxes,” he said. “We deserve affordable education.”
There ware several skirmishes between protesters and other students who were trying get through the Sather Gate. “Join the strike today, go to the class tomorrow,” the crowds shouted. However, some students said protesting by boycotting classes is not an effective way to send a message.
“I think they are misguided,” says Jeffrey Lucas, a junior at Berkeley, who was overlooking the protest from the Cesar Chavez Student Center. He said that if students really want to change the situation, they should go to Sacramento. “The methodology is wrong,” said the 22-year-old philosophy major.
His friend Andrew Brandford agreed. “I think it is a good form of expression. But I do not think boycotting class makes sense because we are already losing classes,” said the 21-year-old philosophy major. They were on their way to a class taught by philosophy professor John Searle, who was active in Free Speech Movement in the 1960s. “Even Professor Searle did not cancel the class today,” said Lucas.
Around 10:30 a.m., the protesters broke into several groups to picket around the campus, leaving a portion of their group in front of the Sather Gate. They stormed classes taking students and teachers by surprise, although many classes went back to normal after the protesters left. Said a senior molecular and cell biology student who was attending a class at the Wheeler Hall after the protesters left, “I am angry about the budget cuts, but I still have to graduate.”
Photos by Ayako Mie; photo slideshow created by Allison Davis.
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