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Across California: Students Rally for Higher Education

November 17, 2011

The past few days have been momentous ones in Berkeley and across the state. Yesterday, students, faculty and staff at UC Berkeley staged a student strike and open university, in protest of the police brutality of last week and the defunding of higher education.

In the evening, former Secretary of Labor and campus favorite Robert Reich spoke. The plaza was filled past overflowing with students standing on surrounding roofs. Attendance estimates range from 1,000 to 10,000. I’d guess 4,000.

Today, meetings of the UC and CSU Regents were scheduled. The UC Regents cancelled their meeting, citing security threats. Students were planning to protests the Regents meeting and the recent and potential future fee hikes. Instead, students (myself among them) from UC Berkeley and UC Davis convened in Sacramento to bring their message directly to legislators, the ultimate decisionmakers on higher education funding. Students lobbied lawmakers and held a press conference to publicize their cause, including reform of Prop. 13. Vice

Vice Chancellor George Breslauer joined the students and spoke at the press conference. His words were moving: ““I’m speaking from the heart. It has been a beautiful thing to observe for 40 years how this community college system, and CSU system, and UC system, created together the glory of this state. It takes 100 years to build that. It takes 10 years to destroy it. Please. Whatever it takes. Please, don’t let it be destroyed.”

It was a sunny day in the Capitol.

In Long Beach, students protested the CSU Regents meeting. Students were forced to leave the meeting and, once the regents voted to increase tuition, they attempted to reenter the building. One protestor broke a glass door into the building and police repelled the students, using pepper spray. Three police officers were injured and four students were arrested.

 


I don’t know all the facts about the Long Beach protest, but I’m not really sure that this can be called peaceful: breaking a door is not nonviolent. Perhaps the door was broken by a single aberrant protester while the rest of the protestors were peaceful; maybe many of the protestors would have broken the door if they were at the front. Either way, that’s violent; the injuries to both students and police were unfortunate.

Nonetheless, the events of the last two days and last week have been important to refocus public attention on the deleterious effects of cuts to higher education, just as the Occupy movement nationwide has refocused debate on increasing income inequality in America. It’s just a step – sustained action is necessary – but it’s a step in the right direction.

(Some photos from this SacBee slideshow and the Daily Cal.)

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