Dozens of UCSB students, staff and faculty members gathered on campus yesterday in honor of the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education to protest the state’s cuts in public education funding.
The rally was part of a nationwide movement advocating increased government support for higher education. The event was organized by the UCSB Student Coalition and focused on the effects of the financial crisis on California’s public school systems.
According to Wesley Strong, a national organizer for the event, this series of protests marked the next stage of rigorous campaigning to defend the public education system.
“Oct. 7 is going to likely play the role of initiating or energizing a global movement to engage in what is likely to be a series of different events in public education,” Strong said. “We’re seeing it as really a kickoff to a year-long struggle to defend public education.”
The gathering echoed the sentiments of last school year’s widely publicized “March Forth on March 4” rally, during which time students and professors gathered to dispute tuition increases. Yesterday’s rally featured a march from the Arbor to the Student Resource Building, interspersed with three open mic segments for marchers to express their varying perspectives.
Laquintin Cathey, a third-year political science major, attended the rally to protest the dire predicament the UC finds itself in.
“I came out here to basically show my frustration with the lack of support and lack of caring with our education,” Cathey said. “It seems like our government no longer values education.”
According to Strong, undemocratic ulterior motives have spurred cuts in funding.
“The problem really lies in the interests that the government has been serving, which are really the interests of the rich and the private sector,” Strong said. “One of the reasons the private sector wants to disrupt public education is to disrupt unions such as teachers’ unions, but they’re really targeting local communities and poor people as well.”
Despite the insistence of the UC Board of Regents that fee hikes are a necessary course of action for protecting the system during financial stress, some students remain doubtful.
Student Coalition member Quinn Nguyen, a fourth-year global studies and political science major, said the UC Board of Regents treats the UC like a business instead of a university.
“An issue is that these Regents are not elected, they’re appointed,” Nguyen said. “Often they’re people who are close to the governor. It’s like a corporation.”
Italian professor Claudio Fogu said the Board has been deceptive about its policies from the start.
“When they were first established, they met secretly,” Fogu said. “The conflict of interests of these Regents is so large.”
Many attendees wore red to the event, which Nguyen described as a symbolic statement of protest.
“The red is supposed to symbolize the bleeding of our public education system,” Nguyen said. “And hopefully it won’t have to go to black, which is the color of mourning — the death color.”