Protest disrupts college summit

Ernesto Lopez

In an attempt to calm the seemingly angry crowd of students protesting cuts to education on April 15, Constance Carroll, San Diego Community College District Chancellor, and City College President Terrence Burgess stepped out of a high profile event held on campus to address the group.

“Let us proceed with our event. We are going to have to ask you to leave, this is not the way to get anything done,” Carroll told the protesters demanding summer school be reinstated.

City College was the host to US Department of Education’s Fourth Regional Community College Summit, in which college presidents from several western states gathered to identify practices for improving eductional experience for military families and veterans.

“I respect the fact that you’re protesting and we share your message, but you are not going to get your summer school by busting this event,” echoed Burgess. “These people cannot do anything for your, we are hosting colleagues.”

Students did not leave Gorton Quad as requested by administrators, but demanded a dialogue and to have a voice in the summit.

The event’s luncheon was to be held at the quad but had to be rescheduled to a later time due to the protest.

Many students had the understanding that California Gov. Jerry Brown would be present to speak about educational funding.

“There are all these corporate baboons in there, we don’t agree with their agenda”, said Socialist Club member Marcos Perez. “We are not going to leave, we want answers.”

On April 8, Burgess communicated to students via email that due to drastic budget cuts from the state for the 2011-12 school year, the number of classes offered in the summer had to be reduced.

“We are deeply disappointed by this decision,” he said in the apologetic message. “We regret that we are forced to drastically reduce our summer offerings to minimum levels.”

He did say the only courses being offered are those for year-round programs that are structured to include summer to meet program requirements, special contractual agreements, and students who have petitioned for summer graduation that need a specific course to complete graduation their requirements.

“We want summer school back,” shouted the students at Burgess and Carroll.

Student Norissa Gastelum, who was at the protest, blames politicians and corporate elites for the cuts to education.

“They come here and feel they can speak on our issues but they know nothing about being poor,” said Gastelum.

At one point the protest was taken to the streets. The crowd stopped at the Saville Theatre, where the more than 100 participants gathered and began chanting against the cuts to education.

Irvin Pachuca, chicano studies student, stepped up to the bullhorn and expressed his anger and frustration at state legislature who was believed to be part of the event.

“Let’s make sure we send these pigs back to Sacramento with their ears ringing,” Pachuca said.

Richard Dittbenner, San Diego Community College District Public Information Officer, who also stepped out of the summit to witness the protest, said students are directing their frustrations at the wrong people.

“The summit gathered to discuss service to veteran students, this is not a state issue event,” Dittbenner said. “The people here today are dealing with serious business, the protest does not foster a good atmosphere.”

Burgess recommended students at the protest to contact their local Republican representative Nathan Fletcher, one of four legislators who did not support Brown’s tax extension proposal.

If approved, the extension would have generated funds for the state colleges’.