Protesters play musical chairs

Anna Jacobsen / The Collegian

The California Faculty Association used some theatrics Thursday in order to drum up support from students at California State University, Fresno.

Several faculty members and student volunteers used an old favorite, musical chairs, to demonstrate the systematic and ongoing losses that are affecting California State Universities, said professor Diane Blair, the vice president of the CFA’s local chapter.

Blair addressed a crowd in the Free Speech Area before the demonstration.

“In a sense, local administrators, the chancellor, the governor and the state legislature are all playing musical chairs with our students’ education and with our professional careers,” Blair said.

Blair pushed support for Assembly Bill 656. The bill would provide for a 9.9 percent tax on oil and natural gas extracted from the state that would create revenue for a California Higher Education Fund (CHEF). In comparison, Alaska’s extraction tax is 25 percent.

In an interview with The Collegian, Blair said that AB 656 is a better solution.

“Furloughs, layoffs, course reductions, enrollment reductions – those aren’t real solutions,” Blair said. “Those don’t protect higher education.”

Periodically throughout the game of musical chairs, one faculty member read facts about CSUs over the loudspeaker. For example, the cut to the CSU system was more than half of a billion dollars.

The participants circled eleven chairs with fake cash in hand to the sounds of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and Journey’s “Any Way You Want It.” As the music stopped, the leftover participant represented a person left behind by budget cuts.

However, in this version of musical chairs, in order to stay in the game the remaining participants were forced to hand some of their fake cash over to Chancellor Charles B. Reed, or rather a person holding a large cutout of Reed’s head. The fake cash donned the faces of Reed and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

One onlooker, senior civil engineering major Juan Martinez, was not impressed by the performance and doubted its effectiveness.

He said that he would not support AB 656, because he didn’t think it would be effective either. Martinez chalked it up to his own pessimistic opinion.

President John D. Welty released a statement.

“The CSU has not taken a position on AB 656 but does have concerns about this legislation,” according to the statement.

He said that the bill would create confusion about who is responsible and accountable for CSU system’s annual budget, and that the state legislature and governor could ignore the bill’s provisions.

The CHEF is modeled after a Texas foundation that has been in place for nearly 100 years, and uses the funds on construction costs at the University of Texas, according to the bill’s author California Assemblymember Alberto Torrico.

Blair was pleased with the overall event and said she would continue to gather signatures for AB 656. She said that she was surprised that the administration has not supported the bill, even though it has support from the CFA and Students for a Quality Education.

“The chancellor’s office and the administration have not come out in support of it, as of yet,” Blair said. “We would like them to.”

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