THOUSANDS of students poured out of classes from University of California (UC) campuses across the state on Thursday to show their anger and opposition to devastating cuts to public education.
The State of California, which has nearly gone bankrupt, has dumped the burden of a $750 million deficit which has been translated into cuts to the state university education system.
Lecturers lead the walk-outs and teach-ins, and thousands of nonfaculty workers from the University Professional and Technical Employees union joined with the strike actions because of a labour dispute with UC administrators.
University regents have laid off hundreds of workers, imposed unpaid employee furloughs and reduced courses in order to meet budget targets.
University students are facing a 45 per cent increase in tuition fees next year, to $10,302, which will put university education beyond the reach of most students from working families.
At the UC campus in Berkeley, just down the road from Oakland’s massive container docks, 5,000 students massed at Sproul Plaza to condemn the decisions. They then marched through the centre of Berkeley disrupting traffic for more than two hours shouting, ‘Education should be free. No cuts, no fees,’ and carried placards saying ‘Budget Cuts; Death of Public Education’.
Jazmin Adibi, 3rd Year student said: ‘The budget is about increasing fees and losing staff and creating more inequality
‘We have a human right to an education, not just those who are able to pay for it, because what are we saying about the United States if it is only available for people who can afford it, it’s complete hypocrisy.
‘That is not what a democratic nation is.
‘A democratic nation means that every single person has the right to education.
‘We shouldn’t have to be out here to do this.
‘And so what we at the University of California at Berkeley are trying to do, along with other university campuses, is to say it’s wrong what the legislature is doing. We are trying to get our voice out there because every single person who is willing to put in the work has a right to higher education, even if they cannot afford it.
‘I am in favour of moving forward to a different social system because American capitalism is bullshit.
We are constantly exploiting other nations for our own profit. That is not the way the world should be governed.
‘We should all have equal opportunities, not just having some nations at the top while some nations are in extreme poverty.’
‘I would definitely be in favour of forming a Labor Party because we need to keep changing to get what we want.
‘Demonstrations were also held at other colleges throughout the state like San Jose State, San Francisco State University and city colleges.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dismissed the statewide turn-out as a screaming interest group. ‘They are all screaming,’ Everyone has to tighten their belts’, he said during a Commonwealth Club appearance in San Francisco.