Friday, April 15, 2011

Report From Wednesday's Rally at HSU

Posted By on Fri, Apr 15, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Speaking of protests (see Andrew Goff's post below), here's a guest post from Somes Bar resident Malcolm Terence on the protest against budget cuts held Wednesday at HSU:

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Students, faculty, staff and citizens gathered Wednesday at Humboldt State University for a rally reminiscent of the college demonstrations during the Vietnam War, converting the quiet library quad into a sea of signs and speakers. The protest was centered on budget cuts and CSU fee increases.

In the dicey science of crowd counting, the numbers were estimated at 1,200, four times the size of the crowd of union members and supporters who rallied at the county building in Eureka a week earlier. The HSU crowd was younger and louder but speakers at both events invoked the spirit of the huge rallies in Madison, Wis., in February when Governor Scott Walker fast-tracked severe anti-union laws through a Republican-controlled legislature.

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Rita Dunn (right), a sophomore in Political Science, was working the crowd Wednesday. Part of a clipboard-toting crew of Young Democrats, Dunn said that Governor Brown had already made $500 million in cuts to the CSU system but had hoped to avoid further cuts by asking the electorate to extend certain taxes in a special election. The proposed measures included temporary increases to sales tax, income tax and the vehicle licensing fee. Dunn said that two GOP votes were needed in each house to let the public vote and she wanted to make sure that her fellow students knew the details.

The rally had all the trimmings -- jugglers, drums and a wealth of signs. Dunn wore one of hundreds of bright red tee-shirts handed out by the California Faculty Association that read, "Take Class Action!"

The protest signs touted the importance of public education with slogans like "Students Are Not The Fiscal Problem" or "Fund Public Education -- It's OUR Future." The pithiest may have been "Tax The Rich -- Problem Solved."

R.J. Etzel, a junior History major who attended community colleges before HSU, carried a sign that said, "Don't Privatize Public Education -- Education for All." He questioned how more cutbacks and fee increases would help the state's economy and said he was already saddled with large student loans.

Student Dan Feliciano, one of the many speakers on the library steps, observed that the chancellor of the CSU system was paid $35,000 per month while students like him had to manage to live off $10,000 per year. The crowd cheered with approval.

"Are we angry?" he yelled into the microphone. He drew a loud response from the crowd.

"How angry are we?" he yelled. A response came, twice as loud.

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Speakers reminded the crowd that this rally, one of many held at all 23 CSU campuses across the state, was just the beginning.

John Woolley, former county supervisor and current rep for Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, surveyed the crowd from the podium and urged them to lobby representatives in Sacramento to let the people vote on extensions for taxes already in place.

Zuretti Goosby, a field rep for State Sen. Noreen Evans, said that a second tier of cuts would come if there were no tax extensions, "and none of us want to go there."

The California Faculty Organization predicts on its website that contract negotiations with the CSU administration "are likely to stretch on for months...and CFA will fight to protect student rights for an accessible, affordable and high quality education."  

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About The Author

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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