Aug 09, 2020

Students protest fee hikes, budget cuts at rally

Dana Hull/The Collegian

Fresno State students and faculty came together Wednesday afternoon to protest student fee hikes and state budget cuts as part of the “Class Action Rally and March,” as all 23 California State University locations held events in an attempt to have their voices heard.

With a crowd of nearly 200 students, faculty, local residents and with a large number of media present, Fresno State graduate student Hector Cerda opened the rally, which was held in the plaza between the theater box office and the rose garden.

Fresno State alumnus and teaching associate Keith Ford was one of the first to address the gathering.

“There’s a lot of money in the state, why take it from us?” Ford said.

After several speakers presented their views, a mock trial was held for defendants “Politics as Usual,” “Administrative Waste” and “Apathy” (played by Fresno State English professors Howard Hendrix, John Beynon and Samina Najmi, respectively).

Presided over by a not-so-stern judge (music professor Ben Boone, who used his shoe for a gavel), the defendants were charged “with causing grievous harm to the people of California through your neglect of the California Plan for Higher Education … ”

Although “Politics as Usual” and “Administrative Waste” had their suit pockets overflowing with cash (“Politics as Usual” had a sizeable amount stuck in his hatband as well), the three pleaded not guilty.

“You have awarded tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in our state,” alleged the prosecutor played by English professor Alex Espinoza.

“You have blamed working people and unions for an economic disaster created by Wall Street. You have taken from the needy and given to the greedy.”

“Politics as Usual” was asked what he had to say in his defense.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, a great recession is a terrible thing to waste,” he said. His responses were immediately met by catcalls from several faculty members on the “jury,” with women’s studies chair Loretta Kensinger being among the most vocal.

“Let us vote! Let us vote!” Kensinger shouted.

The judge’s response to Kensinger — who Boone described as a good friend and colleague — was short and sweet.

“You get to vote in one moment, loudmouth,” Boone said.

The three were found guilty, christened with new names and ordered to wear red California Faculty Association “Take Class Action” T-shirts.

Cerda once again took the podium, concluding the rose garden portion of the rally by saying, “This is my last semester. Now, the sad thing is, when I’m done here, the rest of you who stay behind are going to have to continue paying and paying due to the lack of our elected officials’ ability to fund the CSU.”

Approximately 40 students then began their march to the Henry Madden Library, where they sought to confront Fresno State President John Welty in his office on the fourth floor. Welty was out of town, however, and the University Police Department was able to keep the crowd under control.

Students were optimistic about the outcome of the rally.

“I think that if we get enough people out here, and we get a lot of supporters, I think that we could make a change,” forensics-criminology major Nicole Avila said. “I think people that see us come out here may encourage other people to come out.”

Victimology major Samantha Tracy was in agreement.

“I’m hoping if the students come together and, you know, cause an uproar about it that hopefully things will change, because otherwise a lot of us aren’t going to be able to go to school with the tuitions going up. When I first started here, tuition was over $1,500 cheaper, and it continues to rise every semester, and I pay for college myself.”

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