SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Students and faculty across the California State University system held rallies and and occupied campus buildings Wednesday to call for quality, affordable higher education.
Participants in the event, dubbed “Take Class Action: Demand Quality Education,” which took place at all 23 CSU campuses, asked university officials to seek new revenue sources, reign in administration salaries, and treat employees fairly.
KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:
Dozens of students gathered in San Francisco State University’s administration building for about two hours Wednesday afternoon to protest the conditions surrounding higher education and ask California State University Chancellor Charles Reed to resign.
The students said they are angry that costs are rising as the quality of their educations is deteriorating, and that Reed has not been an effective advocate for them.
“I’m fed up with my classes being overcrowded and my budget being cut and my tuition being hiked,” said Matt Gowalski, a junior studying anthropology. “I couldn’t sit around anymore.”
A spokeswoman for San Francisco State University said the student protesters were not asked to leave because they did not create safety or access issues.
Students met with a university administrator, and the building remained open throughout the day, spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said.
Gowalksi said classes at the school that should have 20 students are accommodating 40, while classes that should have 40 students have up to 140.
“I know a lot of people who are struggling with tuition hikes,” he added. “In fact I know people who live outside of the city because they can’t afford living in San Francisco and going here.”
Sadaf Malik, a San Francisco State University student who is interning with the California Faculty Association, said the students have been lobbying state lawmakers to adopt an oil and natural gas extraction tax as well as a progressive tax structure that could generate money that could fund higher education.
She said Reed and other executives have not been advocating for revenue-generating measures, and instead are enjoying six-figure salaries while student fees rise.
A spokeswoman for the CSU system said today’s events, particularly those organized by the faculty union, were a political red herring.
The real issue, university spokeswoman Claudia Keith said, is the state budget, in which CSU funding will be cut by between $500 million and $1 billion this year.
She said executive salary only comprises 0.2 percent of the CSU budget.
“Really, all of this energy and time should be spent on, ‘How do we get the Legislature in California to reinvest in higher education?’” she said. “That is the complete bottom line.”
The students acknowledged that administrators are working in a difficult budget climate, but said executives are enjoying perks such as car and housing allowances instead of sharing students’ financial struggles.
They oppose Reed’s $451,500 in annual compensation on ideological grounds, Malik said.
“Every semester our fees go up 10, 15 percent,” she said.
And although Reed and other administrators have appealed to state lawmakers for a bigger share of the state’s general fund, they have not been proactive about supporting an oil extraction tax or other revenue generators, the protesters said.
For example, AB 1326 would raise $2 billion for state universities and community colleges by imposing a 12.5 percent tax on oil and natural gas at the wellhead, according to its proponents.
Keith said that CSU officials did not oppose the oil extraction tax, but that there was no guarantee the revenue from it would lead to increased higher-education allocations. The funds could supplant money already coming to state schools, she said.
“I think we all agree higher education is in dire straits,” she said. “All this other noise is part of a particular agenda.”
An early afternoon rally in Sacramento on Wednesday began with more than 600 protesters, who blamed Reed for not doing enough to oppose cuts California lawmakers are using to close the state’s $26.6 billion budget deficit.
About 100 protesters occupied a building on the Sacramento State campus Wednesday afternoon.
“Too many Californians have already lost their homes and jobs; we will not let California lose its public universities,” California Faculty Association president Lillian Taiz said in a statement.
“We cannot cut back on training our state’s future workforce and then expect our economy to thrive,” she said.
Bay Area events included a noon rally at San Jose State University’s Tommy Smith statue, as well as activities on that campus throughout the day.
In San Francisco, a “Stand up for public education” forum was held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Jack Adams Hall in the Chavez Student Center.
Sonoma State University hosted an hour-long “Keeping the Public University Public” rally at noon on the main quad with speakers, music and visuals depicting student fee increases.
CSU Monterey Bay held an hour-long “Class in the Quad” starting at noon that features a “final exam” and “cold cuts” theme.
The California Maritime Academy in Vallejo held a picket line Wednesday morning from 7 a.m. to noon with information about the state budget and faculty contracts.
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