Photos by Michael Quibuyen, Sarah Vagts and Erik Fallis
Thousands of CSU, UC and California Community College students march to the steps of the capitol in Sacramento on March 5. Their message is concise and direct: “Fund Our Future.” This message is a response to the billions of dollars cut away from the state’s three higher education systems in the last five years.
The students’ message also highlights the slow economic recovery in California – a recovery threatened by the shortage of educated workers prepared for high-paying, high-demand and high-tech fields. The simple reality is that California cannot secure its future while shortchanging colleges and universities. Funding students and higher education is funding the future for all Californians.
California State Student Association President Greg Washington (center) holds the banner leading the students through nearly two miles of Sacramento city streets. Fellow leaders from the UC Student Association and Student Senate of the California Community Colleges join Washington at the front of the march.
Standing to the left of Washington is CSSA Legislative Affairs Vice President Sean Richards. Washington and Richards meet directly with several elected officials following the march.
Hours prior to the march, students and media assemble at Southside Park. KCRA reporter Richard Sharp interviews CSSA Chair Aissa Canchola for the morning news. Canchola reinforces the students’ message that legislators and the governor need to prioritize higher education.
A group of students – all wearing “I am made in the CSU” t-shirts – prepare their signs. One sign speaks directly to state elected officials: “When you cut higher education, we all bleed.”
As the crowd grows in number, signs begin to cover the wide range of student concerns and budgetary impacts. A central question captures the mood: “What happened to our American dream?” To students, the connection between educational access and prosperity is self-evident.
CSU Student Trustee Jillian Ruddell shares her unique perspective as a Chico State student suffering from state funding cuts and a member of the CSU Board of Trustees. Ruddell puts the pressure back on lawmakers to recommit to higher education.
Mehran Khodabandeh, president of Associated Students, Inc. at CSU Stanislaus, strikes a chord of unity: “When I look at this crowd I don’t see CSU, UC or Community College students. I just see students!”
Students invite three elected officials to speak, including CSU trustee, UC regent and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. While the speeches are punctuated with cheers of support for specific proposals, all of the officials are challenged by the crowd to “show us” what they will do to reinvest in students. Newsom echoes the point that actions speak louder than words.
Chico State students pose on the steps of the capitol with a $750 million “CSU Reserve Note” – acknowledging the critical role that CSU campuses play in the economy and California’s communities, as well as the threat to that role resulting from this year’s budget cuts.
Capturing all of the activity are (from left to right) CSSA University Affairs Vice President Michael Quibuyen, CSSA Assistant Executive Director Sarah Vagts, and CSU Media Relations Manager Erik Fallis.