Student Unity Group Protests Budget Cuts in Education

Rally chants invoked the spirit of San Francisco State’s famed 1968 student strike as students protested the California State University budget cuts in a 200-person walkout on March 12.

The walkout took place at noon and was organized by Student Unity Power (SUP), a month-old student organization dedicated to liberalizing higher education.

Although based in CSUSF, the walkout was a joint cooperation between SF State and SF Community College. SUP members hoped it would make a positive statement about student unification.

“Our walkout marched to their school [SFCC] to show solidarity between campuses, since this issue affects not only CSUs or community colleges but education as a whole,” said Ernesto Martinez, SUP member at SF State. “We want to create a statewide movement of students that will have a real voice in the face of the state.”

The major aim of SUP is achieving autonomous education, a system run by the students rather than the university bureaucracy.

“[Autonomous education] also means that the [full] funding of education is necessary, and that the entire public university system be properly maintained with no cuts that will affect the quality of education,” Martinez said.

In mid-April SUP plans to co-sponsor a forum event with SF State’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano De Aztlan (MEChA).

The event will feature a speaker from Mexico who organized a number of student strikes in response to the government threatening to charge tuition at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

ASUCI student president Megan Braun commented on the strike.

“I applaud the students of SF State for taking a stance on issues of higher education, and we support them in their goal of keeping the cost of higher education low,” Braun said. “However, ASUCI does not condone walking out of class and we ourselves do not favor taking such dramatic action. Walking out of class makes a statement, but it also hurts the students because they are missing out on educational time. ASUCI prefers to push the student agenda through more diplomatic means.”

According to CSU officials, the new budget cuts for the 2009-2010 academic year place the CSU approximately 10 percent below its operational needs.

Whether or not this will be the situation for the UC system is yet to be determined. The UC Regents will vote on the 2009-2010 academic year budget in May. Officials, however, appear to be preparing for the worst with budget cuts.

UC President Mark Yudof noted at a conference, “The state budget does assume a 9.3 percent student fee increase.”

UC students will have to wait until May for the new budget to see if this increase comes to pass.