“Crisis level” is the term City College Professor Jim Miller used to describe the situation in California’s public colleges.
He was one of the leaders representing a conglomeration of education unions, boards and student organizations who held a press conference and rally in objection to looming cuts in funding to the California Community College system.
The Region X student rally, including contingents from San Diego and Imperial Valley community colleges, was held in Balboa Park on Nov. 20. Chanting, “Stop the termination of college education,” angry students waived signs depicting tombstones and bloody butcher’s knives.
Speakers included Josef Shannon, Director of Public Information in Region X, who offered positive results by mentioning that “last year we were able to keep fees from going up.” He also divulged some anti-cut strategy for the coming year, reminding students that they are supported by a large voting bloc and vowing that “politicians running for office will be confronted and protested.”
Chris Debauche attends Southwestern College and is the only student on the California Community College Board of Trustees. At the rally, he gave a charismatic speech, empowering supporters with the fact that, “the California Community College system is the largest higher education system in the world with 2.9 million students.”
Debauche pressed for attendees to, “take it to Sacramento.” When asked about the arrests of protesting students at UCLA, he said, “I support their efforts. If (cuts) get out of hand, there may be more arrests.”
During the time between speakers, students demonstrated their passion for the issue by chanting and waiving at passing cars, rapping at the mic about the state of human affairs, denouncing the enormous cost of state prisons and networking ideas for campus action.
The growing nature of college budget cut protests was summed up by City College ASG President David Campbell.
“We are letting everyone know that we are making our stand,”Campbell said. “People need to take the time to protest and think about the future.”
The preceding press conference, held Nov. 18 in front of the B building, featured elected administrators and union officials speaking out strongly against the cuts.
Miller, who is also American Federation of Teachers local Political Action VP, reminded the audience that “education is the gateway to opportunity,” and that residents need to, “fight for a just social contract in California.”
Peter Zschiesche, a trustee of the community college district, characterized the cuts as “crazy” and, in a tone of disbelief, questioned the fundamental logic of California’s decision makers.
“Why would government and the business community want to cut funding? How can a ‘no tax’ pledge be more important than education?” Zschiesche asked rhetorically.
He went on to suggest that concerned citizens, “keep (their) voice up,” and, “reach out to those outside of the education community” for support.
Jose Rodriguez, a member of the campus organization Bringing Education and Activism Together, listed programs that may be cut such as intercession and summer school. He predicted that the cuts will, “affect all people who go to school here,” and urged students to, “organize and do more” to stop them.
The event culminated with an impassioned speech by San Diego State Professor Emeritus Gene Lamke imploring the audience to, “Stand up! Speak up! Tell legislators ‘No more cuts!'”
Lamke said he was “appalled about restricting access and raising fees,” and mobilized listeners to action, stating, “We cannot let our voices go unheard.”
In reference to City College students transferring to SDSU, Lamke told City Times, “Every student should apply. There is no reason, if you are qualified, that you should not get in. If you don’t apply – the answer is always no.”