Students protest at Fresno State

Matt Weir / The Collegian

An estimated 400 students attended and participated Wednesday in a teachout and walkout on California State University, Fresno’s campus that ended with a sit-in on the fourth floor of the Henry Madden Library.

The teachout began in the university’s Peace Garden just after 10 a.m. and the crowd slowly grew over the next two hours. Several of the students played drums, shook rattles and sounded conches to draw the attention of passers-by.

The protest was spurred by the 32 percent fee increase that Fresno State students saw before the semester as well as the implementation of furloughs, cuts of hundreds of courses and loss of nearly 330 employees.

The opening speaker was also one of the event’s organizers from the California State University Student Walkout Coalition (CSUSWC), senior Mauro Carrera.

“Education is not a privilege,” Carrera said. “Education is a right.”

Matt Weir / The Collegian

In an interview with The Collegian, Carrera said that he coordinated a walkout the same day for students on California State University, San Francisco’s campus.

Dr. Michael Becker, a political science professor, and several other professors and students took turns expressing their opinions about the university’s administration and sharing personal stories.

“This crisis started over two decades ago, when the state of California decided to build a massive prison-industrial complex and cut higher education,” Becker said.

He went on to say that over those decades the administration has consistently accepted cuts to higher education funding rather than fight for students and faculty.

Several other professors followed Becker and echoed his sentiments. Included in that group were political science professor Dr. Kenneth Hansen and women’s studies professor Dr. Elizabeth Swearingen. Hansen is the American Indian studies program coordinator, which received a 100 percent cut this year, and Swearingen will no longer be a full-time lecturer after the spring semester.

All of the faculty speakers urged students to continue to be active and get involved beyond just the walkout. They also pushed Assembly Bill 656, which would tax companies that extract oil and natural gas from the state.

“We’ve just got to fight back,” Hansen said. “The only way this stuff is going to change is if there’s blowback.”

Matt Weir / The Collegian

Just after noon, the group of students and faculty marched on and around the Fresno State campus chanting and carrying signs with slogans like, “No cuts. No fees. Education should be free.”

The march ended where it began nearly an hour earlier, in the Peace Garden.

Whitney Thompson, a facilitator for Students for Quality Education (SQE), was satisfied with the turnout but urged continued activism.

“A lot of us have been so apathetic, but the more we organize and tell legislators that we’re voters – when we actually are active voters – they’re going to want to help us out,” Thompson said.

At approximately 2 p.m., the group of almost 100 students that remained took a list of demands to the fourth floor of the library, where President John D. Welty’s office resides.

Welty was not immediately present, or available to speak with the group, so the protesters decided to sit and wait for him. Dr. Paul M. Oliaro, the vice president of student affairs, spoke with the students before Welty arrived. Oliaro stressed that the budget situation was complicated and that there were no easy answers.

“There’s a lot of people and they have a lot of difference of opinion on a lot of different issues, and the idea is to try to find some consensus and compromise, but you can’t,” Oliaro said.

After nearly two hours, Welty arrived to meet the students in the hallway where he reviewed the list of demands. He also agreed to meet with the students, who were insistent that there was no official leader, in the Peace Garden on Nov. 3 at noon to begin a discussion of the demands.

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