Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sac State students, employees protest budget cuts, tuition hikes

Marching through campus from the library quad area where the protest started, students make their way to the Sacramento Hall, the administration building on the Sacramento State CampusBryan Patrick
Sacramento Bee, Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hundreds of Sacramento State students and employees filled the campus quad Wednesday afternoon, speaking out against budget cuts, tuition increases and what they say are the university administration's misguided spending priorities.

After a lunchtime rally, many marched across campus and into the Sacramento Hall administration building, where a few dozen students held a sit-in for the afternoon and into the evening.

"Students and parents don't know how much a four-year degree will cost because they increase our tuition every semester while cutting the classes we need to graduate," student Amanda Mooers said to the crowd of about 1,500 assembled in the quad.

The protest at Sacramento State was part of a larger effort in which students and faculty at California State University campuses participated in demonstrations, walkouts and sit-ins Wednesday. The actions were organized by the California Faculty Association, the union that represents CSU professors at all 23 campuses.

The union is locked in negotiations with the university management for a new contract. With the state cutting at least $500 million to the CSU system next year, negotiations are tense as the university looks for ways to save money and the union tries to save jobs.

The parties disagree on proposals concerning workload, tenure, promotions, evaluations, layoffs and how much time professors can take off from teaching to conduct union work.

"It is clear in our bargaining over the faculty contract that the chancellor believes the state budget battle gives him license to impose policies that have everything to do with his own discretionary power and little to do with saving quality education," CFA President Lillian Taiz said in a statement.

Claudia Keith, a spokeswoman for the CSU Chancellor's Office, said the workers and administration of CSU should be working together to advocate against further funding reductions by the state.

"It is unfortunate that the faculty union chooses to promote its own collective bargaining agenda as part of the larger effort that we are all advocating for, and that's no more cuts to our budget," Keith said.

On the quad at Sacramento State, students chanted "No more cuts, no more cuts" and carried signs that said: "Cut executive salaries, not classes."

They criticized the housing and car allowances that CSU presidents receive and complained about tuition going up 60 percent over four years.

Claire De Castro, 23, said she was at the protest because her social psychology professor brought the class.

"She felt the need for it because our tuition is going up every semester, and (for) a lot of kids, it's hard for them to pay for their classes," she said.

In the lobby of the administration building, students taped a list of demands to the wall, including, "Funding should go to instruction and student services, while cuts should be allocated to administrative bloat" and "Fair contracts and fair working conditions for all faculty and staff."

They studied and chatted while conducting their sit-in. As the afternoon wore on, students ordered pizza. The faculty union picked up the bill.

After holding a lunchtime rally at the Sacramento State quad, protesters marched into Sacramento Hall, which houses the administration offices. The protest was part of a day of demonstrations Wednesday at all 23 CSU campuses statewide.

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