Wednesday, November 16, 2011

South Bay Student Power!

2011-11-16 "Students stage walkout against fee increase at SJSU" by Christina Molina from "The Spartan" newspaper of San Jose State University
More than 250 students participated in a walkout Wednesday to protest high tuition costs while a nine percent increase was approved by the California State University Board of Trustees earlier in the day.
The protest, organized by Reclaim SJSU, Students for Quality Education (SQE) and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), included a march through campus with students chanting and using buckets as drums.
The walkout began at the Tommie Smith and John Carlos statue at noon, then moved towards the administration building, the Student Services Center and ultimately the president’s office in Tower Hall.
“We are here in solidarity, with the Occupy movement, with the student movement,” senior sociology major Sandra Huerta said to protesters through a megaphone.
Organizers of the protest, including Reclaim SJSU organizer Huerta, asked protesters to form a single file line and silently enter and march through the administration building.
The crowd then congregated outside the administration building along with a small number of police officers overseeing the rally.
“We have got to do what we do, we’re students here, we need to have affordable education,” said Bayo Fagbamilia Jr., a senior health science major, to the large crowd outside the administration building.
The protesters proceeded to the Student Services Center and walked through the building silently.
“This is the biggest demonstration I’ve ever seen and I am very happy about that,” said a faculty member in the Student Services Center who wished to remain anonymous.
Following the silent walk through Student Services Center, the protesters gathered near the Boyce Gate at San Fernando and Ninth streets.
The crowd responded with multiple chants,  such as “Whose university? Our university!”
Political Science major Domingo Juan said a protest is the proper way for students to exercise their First Amendment right.
“I learned about the walkout through good word of mouth,” Juan said. “It’s the students sending a message by breaking the norm to be heard.”
Police following the protestors along campus said as long as the march proceeded peacefully and no individual broke the law, they would not interfere.
Many onlookers observed the protesters on campus but did not partake in the march.
“I didn’t even know about (the protest),” said Derrick Arbiol, a freshman mechanical engineer major. “I guess I am affected but I just have stuff to do today.”
Senior marketing major said Sovann Pron also said he was too busy to join the walkout.
Pron said he felt indirectly affected by the student fee increases because his school expenditures are fully covered by financial aid.
“It feels like we have always had student fees raised,” Pron said.
The march reached Tower Hall around 1:15 p.m. but protesters were rejected when the front doors were locked and all other entryways were blocked by police.
An officer who would not give his name said the president was not in the building and those inside Tower Hall were trying to sort things out regarding the protest.
Junior history major Lewis Geist said he felt the protest could have been more effective off campus.
“What I don’t understand is why we are protesting on campus to other students to let them know that fees are going up, when I am pretty sure students are aware,” Geist said. “It’s the outside world that needs to see us struggling, to see us fighting.”
He said if students are going to take time out of their day to protest, it should be in a visible place where something can be achieved through protesting.
“There are no brownie points for showing up, we need to have an impact and this protest had very little impact outside of our school,” Geist said.
Approximately 10 minutes after standing on the stairway in front of Tower Hall, police unlocked the doors and protesters entered the grounds, occupying the first floor with a sit-in.
Huerta addressed the 100 remaining  protesters and asked that they form small groups of eight to 10 people and discuss what the next steps are for SJSU, such as proposals and future actions.
Junior geography major Alexander Rojas suggested buttons that read “hello my name is” and signing it with the amount of debt a student has accumulated in college.
Fagbamila suggested students post signs of fee increase opposition on freeway exits and entrances to get the attention of the community.
“I know there’s a lot of people that will fight with us,” he said.
Others mentioned getting faculty involved with the movement as well as organizing a statewide
protest and march.
Anahi Jimenez, junior child and adolescent development major, said she is exhausted with fee increases.
“I work about 50 hours a week, have two jobs and can only take two classes at a time,” Jimenez said. “I have been here four years and I don’t see a way out.”
Joe Jordan, a meteorology and math lecturer, was one of the few faculty members in attendance during the walkout and sit-in at Tower Hall.
“I am told the burden of the budget hole is falling mostly on the students and faculty,” Jordan said. “If that’s the case, the administrators ought to at least do a token solidarity gesture or something that will help.”
Jordan said he wants students to keep up the good work and thank them for coming out to
“I hope you are as inspired as I was at the power of people coming together to try to make things better,” he said.

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