San Diego State professors, faculty members and students assembled yesterday in front of the Free Speech Steps as part of the state-wide California Faculty Association’s “Take Class Action” demand for the quality of higher education.
The demonstration was held to protest the proposed $500 million state budget cuts for California State University campuses and public higher education institutions, which were introduced by Gov. Jerry Brown in January to balance a $28 million state deficit.
“The primary motivation is to send a message to the CSU administration that we want quality education,” Charles Toombs, associate professor of Africana Studies and chapter president of SDSU’s CFA branch, said.
“We want a fair contract, and we are unified to make sure we do that and will work to continue these efforts,” Toombs added.
According to Doreen Mattingly, a women’s studies associate professor, the proposed budget cuts are affecting the upcoming contract negotiations between the CFA and the state department, resulting in “significant take backs,” including pay decreases, loss of certain privileges and even changes to layoff procedures.
“(The cuts would) weaken the protection of contracts of SDSU lecturers,” Mattingly said. “Many of them have three-year contracts. I’m not sure if it would weaken or eliminate the three-year contract rule, but it would change it.”
The proposed cuts would also allow SDSU administrators to perform layoffs against the contractually obligated “order of firing,” which currently requires administrators to lay off staff and faculty based on seniority and tenure.
“We’re trying to pull together a lot of strength to show we’re not ready to give those things up,” she said.
Geology lecturer Victor E. Camp believes faculty and students have suffered enough as a result of recent cuts and shouldn’t have to make more sacrifices in order to balance the state budget.
“The budget cuts that the state university system has undergone have been disproportional,” he said. “Student fees have gone up, tuitions have gone up. We’ve lost more and more educators, and we’re going to lose more with more and more budget cuts.
“The sacrifice seems to be more on education than anything else,” he added.
Demonstrators formed a circle along Centennial Walkway, holding handmade signs with statements such as “Funding for Education” and “Budget Cuts Must Go.” Their goal was to spread awareness about the budget cuts, and try to motivate the statewide involvement of CSU students.
“I hope (the demonstration) will accomplish a greater awareness in general with the government … we students and teachers stay involved and care about our school,” psychology senior and Association of Chicana Activists member Celia Cruz said, who was there getting signatures for a petition in support of the CFA.
Mattingly’s florescent pink sign read “Don’t Wisconsinize Me,” an homage to the recent Wisconsin teachers strike, which occurred as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed legislation to remove teachers unions’ bargaining rights.
Mattingly said there is a similarity between the current troubles of the CFA and the Wisconsin teachers strike.
“If you take away the order of firing, you destroy the union,” she said. “That’s our fundamental right as faculty, and that was what happened in Wisconsin. It was about taking away the right of a union to exist, and this is fundamental to our right as a union to exist.”
Passing students and staff members were invited to join the circle and were given signs and bright red stickers that read “Take Class Action!”
Anthropology senior Lumen Vera, who watched the demonstration but did not join, said even though he didn’t know the details about the proposed state budget cuts, he still believes protesting them is important.
“They’re angry because they’ve worked so hard for all this to educate us … just (for the funding) to be cut back and put into other things that the state may not necessarily need,” Vera said.