Over 100 San José State students rallied in last Wednesday’s hot noon sun to loudly oppose the proposed five percent increase for California State University tuition starting this fall.
“We are here because we think that’s f*cking bullshit that the CSU Board of Trustees wants us to pay more money for a declining quality of education,” said Ryan Eckford from Students for Quality Education. He pointed out that the CSU system has decreased funding as the number of non-white CSU students has increased.
“We have to accept the really sad reality that those in power don’t give a f*ck about us and if we don’t fight for our rights no one is going to,” Eckford said. Students whooped and cheered in response. Eckford asked students to attend the Board of Trustees meeting on March 22nd in Long Beach to fight the tuition increase.
The rally was organized by MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) and supported by SQE (Students for Quality Education). Anakbayan Silicon Valley, Students for Quality Education, the California Faculty Association, the President of Associated Students, Students for Justice in Palestine and Student Advocates for Higher Education all had representatives who came out to speak or read statements of solidarity.
Students brought signs calling for student resistance with slogans like “Education not deportation,” “Stand up students,” “Education should not be a death sentence,” “Free the CSU from food insecurity” and “Victory for immigrants and students.”
Lupe Pepe, a MEChA organizer, called out: “Ready to fight?”
“Damn right!” Students yelled back.
“We have to resist until our state government values education over corporate interests,” said Hector Perea, the Associated Students President. “Resistance is continuous. It requires sacrifice. [...] What are the sacrifices that all of ya’ll are willing to make?”
Perea addressed the faculty members in the crowd and asked them to stand up and support students in their struggles.
J.P. Sanchez read a statement from Anakbayan Silicon Valley, a progressive Filipino youth organization, denouncing the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. The statement called for increasing public educational funding by decreasing military funding, the removal of DeVos from office, free public education for all and protections for undocumented students.
Students booed whenever Secretary DeVos was mentioned.
Sanchez and the crowd chanted together: “Long live international solidarity!”
A representative from Student Advocates for Higher Education asked students to get involved in student organizations.
The President of the California Faculty Association, the union for CSU faculty, Preston Rudy, spoke to express faculty solidarity.
“Rather than moving towards privatization of higher education, that is selling education like an iPhone, like groceries, public education should be fully funded by the state of California,” said Rudy. He also spoke about the disastrous shift from hiring tenure professors to hiring adjunct instructors who are not given enough work to earn a living wage, despite having decades of higher education.
Martin Madrigal from MEChA informed the crowd that undergraduate students would pay $270 more a year, graduate students would pay $438 more a year and credential students would pay $312 more a year if the CSU proposal goes through.
Madrigal said the CSU system threatened that classroom conditions would not be improved, faculty would no longer get resources or raises, and that student resources centers for vulnerable students would be cut if this increase does not go through.
“The state and financial administration have a long history of pitting students, faculty and staff against each other in order to distract us from the increasing privatization of the California State University System,” Madrigal said. MEChA called for statewide student and faculty solidarity and actions before the Board of Trustees vote on March 22nd in Long Beach.
Around 70 students marched in a circle around campus while chanting: “The students united will never be divided! The students united will never be defeated!” Other San José State students stopped to stare. Many pulled out their phones.
Once students arrived back at the Cesar Chavez Memorial Plaza, the organizers opened up the mic for anyone who wanted to speak.
A man took the mic and asked the crowd who had a job. Almost everyone raised their hands.
He then asked how many students made over $6000 a year. Everyone dropped their hands down. He told the crowd that they should be entering engineering jobs or spending their tax returns on better things, but the crowd responded angrily.
One woman shouted,
“Some of us didn’t eat breakfast
and some of us aren’t gonna
eat lunch later.”
Around one in five CSU students are food insecure and one in ten are homeless, according to a 2016 CSU Long Beach study.
Other students refocused the conversation on solidarity, urging people to sign up with student organizations and attend the CSU Board of Trustees vote on March 22nd in Long Beach.
“If that guy’s words light a fire under you, take that fire, become active,” one student said.