Protest part of nationwide action

Matt Weir / The Collegian

Students, educators, staff and community members took to the streets Thursday as part of a nationwide day of action, and ended with a sit-in.

An estimated crowd of 300-350 people rallied in Fresno State’s Peace Garden to protest the state of California’s education system. The rally was preceded by a march to campus from the corner of Shaw and Blackstone avenues that began at 10:30 a.m.

The crowd held signs and chanted as they marched.

Matthew Jendian, sociology professor, said he marched to support students and education. He said prop 13, in 1978, was the beginning of California’s problems with educational funding. Prop 13 rolled back property tax.

“It set in place the infrastructure, the permanent defunding of public education,” Jendian said. “Ever since then we have been sliding backwards on how much California pays for each pupil from kindergarten through college.”

The rally began just after 11 a.m. and welcomed the marchers at noon while chanting “What do we want? Education. When do we want it? Now.”

The demonstration at Fresno State was just one of many spanning 33 states.

Matt Weir / The Collegian

Similar protests took place in Oakland where police arrested students for shutting down the I-880 freeway for more than 45 minutes, reported. In Sacramento, police used rubber bullets to keep students from blocking the I-80 freeway.

Michael Becker, a political science professor, opened the rally with a breakdown of why California isn’t funding education. He cited the funding of Californian prisons, bank bailouts and tax cuts for the rich.

“So, it’s really not a budget crisis,” Becker said. “It’s a tax crisis.”

Just before 1:30 p.m., the rally’s lineup of speakers ended. The crowd, thinned down to roughly 55, marched to the Joyal Administration building, where they staged a sit-in inside the office of the vice president for student sffairs.

Paul Oliaro, the vice president for student affairs, arrived shortly after to address the crowd. The crowd shouted him down, but not before he said “at some point, you’ll have to make a decision.”

Oliaro later said he was informing the students that they were being disruptive.

Senior sociology major Matt Ford, one of the students involved the protest, said the students did not want anything from Oliaro. He said Oliaro would just blow smoke and not facilitate real change.

Matt Weir / The Collegian

Ford said the protesters’ goal was true democracy within the California State University (CSU) system. This would include an abolishment of the administration as it exists now.

“This is not a drastic thing,” Ford said. “It’s just us taking back our stuff.”

Undeclared freshman Satvir Dhah, another one of the protesters, said the protesters would consider negotiating an academic constitution, a document that has been under development for several months.

“Everything that we do, we realize it is symbolic,” Dhah said.

Dhah said, regardless of the outcome, the goal was to reclaim the building.

In an e-mail interview, President John Welty said it’s critical that state legislators hear the message put forth by the day’s protesters.

“We support their efforts to let the community know that it is of the highest importance that our state reinvest in higher education,” Welty said.

The day’s rally and future planned CSU events, Welty said, will contribute to the public’s understanding of the need to reinvest in California’s higher education.

“The rally today at Fresno State indicates the value that our students, faculty and staff place on higher education and their dismay at the budget cuts in the California State University,” Welty said.

The protesters, thinned further to 30, remained inside the building as it closed at 5 p.m. As of 10 p.m. Thursday night, it was reported 30 protesters remained in the office of Student Affairs.

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