At a time when the world watched as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned from his regime and the newly-elected governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, proposed a “Budget Repair Bill” that would potentially strip his state’s workers of their collective bargaining rights, the term “protest” isn’t taken lightly.
As the California legislature prepares to make budget decisions in early March, students from all over the state will join together on March 14 to march in protest of recent and proposed budget cuts to higher education. Protesters will meet at the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento at 10 a.m., and will march to the west steps of the capitol building. A rally will take place from there from 11 a.m. to noon.
“If we are loud enough and show our support, we can make a difference and change our education system,” ASI President Pedro Ramirez said in a phone interview. “The protesters will be the last voice the representatives hear, as the deadline for the budget is the next day, March 15.”
Ramirez is assisting in raising awareness on Fresno State’s campus for students to get involved.
The march is organized by the California State Student Association and the Student Senate for California Community Colleges. Ramirez, along with other representatives from the California State University system, the University of California and community colleges, are urging students to join together to protest budget cuts against higher education.
“The goal for Fresno State ASI, specifically, is to encourage as many students on campus to go to Sacramento,” Ramirez said. “If we can get 50 to 60 students from Fresno State alone, we’ve definitely succeeded.”
ASI is sponsoring a bus that will provide students with a means of transportation to and from Sacramento. Interested students are encouraged to stop by the ASI office in room 316 in the University Student Union for more transportation details.
The purpose of the March for Higher Education is to raise public awareness about the value of education to both the public and decision-makers in Sacramento. The march wants to bring as many students as possible that are concerned about the future of the education system.
Olgalilia Ramirez, CSSA director of government relations, said that the march is an opportunity for student advocates to voice their opinions to send a clear message to the state.
“While we might not be able to compete with large campaign donations that support budget cuts to higher education,” Olgalilia Ramirez said, “[students] have power in numbers and a voice to be heard.”
This year the march is anticipating more than 20,000 students and supporters — it would be its largest turnout to date.
Over the past few years, the rally has seen an increase in attendance. According to Olgalilia Ramirez, the march began with only 5,000 students. Then it grew to 8,000. Last year, the march brought together 13,000 protestors at the steps of the state capitol.
Fresno State, however, has not been very successful in the amount of students that made the trip to Sacramento — only about 30 students participated from Fresno State last year. Jaime Moncayo, ASI senator-at-large of legislative affairs, said that while ASI tries to get a large amount of students involved in the political process, it’s ultimately the students’ decision.
“[ASI] provides the opportunity for students to fight for their education,” Moncayo said. “The motivation to act upon the opportunity, however, has to come from the students themselves.”
Moncayo is also the chair of the legislative affairs committee for Fresno State and deals with lobbying efforts ASI has put forward to get students to go to Sacramento for the march.
“The committee plays an active role in being involved with the campus and trying to raise student interest in this important issue.”
Allyson McCaffrey, a psychology major at Fresno State, attended the march last year and hopes to participate again next month.
“It’s our future and the future of our children that we’re protesting for,” McCaffrey said. “We need to show the decision-makers that we’re paying attention to politics and taking account of what is being done.”
McCaffrey believes that the majority of her age group, 18 to 24, is not very politically active and it’s because the legislature tends to not vote with that constituency in mind.
“It’s important for students to show their support and have the legislature consider us,” McCaffrey said. “Students are people too — our voices should not be ignored.”