Many people assume Americans are prone to apathy and oftentimes diffident to hit the streets in protest. To this, I reply that labeling US citizens as impassive requires completely overlooking the rich tradition of activism on campuses nationwide. Particularly, students in California could run clinics on how exactly civil disobedience should be done, so it’s no surprise that the students at California State University, Fullerton, spent a second night in the school’s administration building last night in protest over cuts to the university’s system budget.
The sit-in began Monday night after CSUP President Milton Gordon refused to sign a symbolic declaration in defense of public education. (Photos of the occupation can be viewed here). Cal State faces at least $500 million in cuts during the next fiscal year.
“That money should go towards education; you educate the mind so they don’t become criminals,” said Jackie Bebawi, a senior studying history at Cal State Fullerton, in an interview with OC Register.
Also in California, hundreds of disabled people and their supporters rallied at the Liberty Bell to protest Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget cuts on developmental services. The proposal includes $570 million to $1.1 billion in cuts from the Department of Developmental Services.
“This affects everybody. There’s over 90,000 people who will lose services and not have a place to be,” protester Myrna Mawrence told Kero 23.
Students in Pennsylvania also engaged in civil disobedience Wednesday afternoon when they, along with faculty members, participated in a walkout in protest of deep cuts to higher education in Governor Corbett’s budget.
“If the budget really goes through, a lot of the students won’t be able to come back here,” said Chris Carter, president of the Cheyney Student Government Cooperative Association and emcee for the event.
Corbett proposes cutting the budget for all fourteen schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in half, from $465.2 million to $236.6 million.
Carter said the walkout was intended to clearly communicate to students what the governor’s spending plan could mean for them and to encourage their participation in a protest Tuesday in Harrisburg.
Many Cheyney students are the first generation in their families to attend college, he said, and many receive scholarships, grants and loans to do so.
“It makes it a lot harder for students to even go here if you’re going to cut financial aid and increase tuition,” said Carter. “You’re just putting more students in a situation where they have to work or find other ways to live their lives, and really, with an education being the key to success that we’re all told as we grow up, it makes it next to impossible for us to succeed if you’re taking away our access to it.”
Cuts to education often result in tuition hikes, so these massive cuts will have a two-prong effect: they will price many students out of an education, and bury other students under a mountain of debt that could take them decades to pay off, if they can pay back the debt at all.
Many students already work multiple jobs in order to pay their tuition. Daily Local News interviewed Yasheaka Oakley, a communication arts major, who works three jobs to keep up with her debts.
“I’m looking at schools that want $500 per credit hour for graduate school work and if tuition increases, I’m sure it’s just going to go up all the more,” she said. “So I’m putting myself into more student loan debt to pursue a graduate degree and the hiring market is so horrible that they’re saying, ‘Well, a B.A. is nice, but we prefer you to have a master’s.’ So it’s just hard all around.”
Dr. Weldon McWilliams, a professor of African-American studies, wonders why the state doesn’t seem to have enough money for higher education, but is able to increase corrections spending by 11 percent, or $2 billion. McWilliams says there is a contradiction in politicians stumping for bringing jobs to the state while simultaneously making it impossible for students to acquire the skills to perform those jobs.
“I think that in order to have these jobs and these investments in technology, you have to continually invest in education and these…students who are going to find these innovative ways to bring us into the future,” he said. “So it seems almost contradictory that on one hand you say we’re going to move towards these jobs and different technologies, but on the other hand you see a slash in education.”