By Amy Warshauer / News Editor
By Amy Warshauer / News Editor
“What do we want?!”
“When do we want it?!”
Megaphones roar, candy colored signs thrust through the air, and tenacious demands of vehement college goers echo down the street.
The corner of Canyon Crest and University Avenue was densely clustered with a posse of protestors on Sept. 24. The swarm of over 300 lined the university curbs with plans of greeting UCR fall semester attendees with an unconventional “welcome back.”
In defense of public education, faculty, staff and students throughout the University of California system walked out of class and office to publicly profess their grievances regarding college cuts in funding.
The proposal for this statewide walkout was not planned by the students, but rather by a majority of professors and staff who deemed their cutbacks unreasonable. According to the official faculty walkout Web site, ucfacultywalkout.com, The American Association of University Professors officially supported the event, acquiring a total of 1,232 authorized signatures from UC professors statewide to support the rallying cause.
California college faculty and staff are currently enduring burdens to their careers such as layoffs, furloughs (temporary leaves of absence without pay) and increased class sizes.
Many low-income and middle-income faculty and staff members who managed to elude a layoff are still strained by the mandatory furloughs which have reduced their pay by four to 10 percent. Remaining professors are also accountable for teaching classes that have substantially increased in size, resulting in more work and decreased pay.
Kris Lovekin, the media relations professor and overseer, voiced her concerns about the financial issues.
“I understand why we need to take the furlough days,” Lovekin said. “However, financially there is a contradiction. I think it is unacceptable that teachers are robbed of this time and money while upper executives of the UC system are currently receiving raises and bonuses. It does not seem like the money is being distributed logically or fairly.”
Uproar over UC changes also captured interest in the student body. The UC faculty walkout Web site then spawned the creation of a student made Web site, ucstudentwalkout.com. This site encouraged the undergraduates to join the event and gave them an opportunity to go out and publicly voice their personal criticisms of the government sanctioned “solutions” to the California budget crisis.
Over the next year, the president of all 10 UC campuses, Mark Yudof, has proposed to raise student fees by an additional 32 percent, which will amount to a $2,500 increase. The boost will up the total bill to over $10,000 a year for a resident student to attend any UC. Classes and profesors have also been cut, resulting in packed classrooms with less available help. California resident student admission will be cut down, and various grant funds will be considered for termination, consequently producing less diversity in the UC system.
Outraged students skipped their first day of fall semester for the Thursday morning walk out to voice their opinions. Adrianna Salvatore, a junior UCR student, waved her fluorescent sign through the air, “Keep the ‘public’ in public education”.
“I understand that we are going through a recession and budget crisis, but honestly, I feel like the government really needs to get its
priorities straight,” Salvatore said. “Education is the last thing that should be cut. What is America’s future going to be like if no one can afford an education? It is hard enough for us to pay the tuition now, and if things continue this way then people will probably be better off attending private colleges rather than a UC.”
Dozens of people gathered intently around the small platform to listen to various representatives of staff and faculty vocalize their concerns via speakers and megaphone.
Others preferred to rally from the sidewalks by waving diversely opinionated signs at oncoming cars to gain a honk or two in support of their cause.
And some students, such as Daniel Dinan, gathered in groups to receive the class syllabus from teachers who had refused to enter the classroom for the day.
“You would not believe how hard it was for me to get my classes,” Dinan said. “I have been waitlisted since the day I was allowed to register. And I am not showing up to four classes today, the first day of school. But you know what? I feel like I am standing up for something that I truly believe in, and that is the most important thing to me. I really hope this will be recognized and it will cause some sort of change.”
Despite the togetherness of the event, no protest is complete without conflicting views. While some may sympathize with the staff’s struggles, others state that teacher’s walking out of class for the day is creating another negative addition to the list that suffering students already have to deal with.
Young Conservatives of America member, Allison Baker, was among those holding one of the more controversial signs, “Cry baby instructors waste my time and money.”
“I don’t think that highering the tuition should go to pointless causes,” Baker said. “The increases are still paying professors who are walking out of classes and wasting student’s time and money.”
However, other students like Harold Chang, a senior political science major, attested that regardless of personal feelings, everyone had a right to be there.
“I see a lot of signs out here that I don’t agree with and a lot of signs I want to take home and staple to my wall,” Chang said. “The fact is, I am happy to see that people are actually coming out here and practicing what they preach. Even though a lot of protestors here have different opinions, I think the main point of all of this was to bond together and empower ourselves by standing up for personal beliefs.”