The University held an all-campus meeting on March 18 in which students, faculty, staff and alumni discussed strategies to move state elected officials to reduce or eliminate proposed cuts to the California State University system.
Hundreds of Sacramento State administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni packed the University Theatre and other overflow-accommodating rooms Tuesday, March 18 in a display of united and determined opposition to a proposal to slash California State University’s budget by $386 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
The meeting served as a kickoff to “Alliance for the CSU,” a broad grassroots effort to convince the governor and Legislature of the wisdom of protecting, rather than cutting, the state’s investment in the University.
“We’re not just going to sit back and accept the budget cuts coming from the Governor and Legislature,” Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez said at the lunchtime meeting before more than 600 supporters. “This is about access, and it’s really about the promise of the Master Plan of 1960 that every qualified individual may take advantage of higher education.”
Gonzalez called the massive grassroots effort to preserve the CSU budget unprecedented in his 29 years with the CSU. “You have to do everything you can, everywhere in public,” he told the crowd. “We have to talk about the future, or our sons, daughters and grandchildren could be denied access to higher education.”
CSU Trustee Bob Linscheid said he drove from Chico to attend the Sacramento event because of the magnitude of the crisis, and likened the campus community to a family that bands together in times of trouble. “Maybe the message is that we can work together for the good of our campus community. We’re not going to be silent on this one,” he said.
University Assembly attendees numbered more than 600 in the University Theatre and four other overflow locations throughout campus.
CSU Student Trustee Curtis Grima said students must play a pivotal role in the budget fight. “The proposed budget cuts affect us directly. They will limit access and affect the quality of education at CSU,” he said.
Sacramento State student body president Christina Romero told the gathering via video that students must let the governor and legislators know that they’ll fight for their right to pursue a college degree. “We are tomorrow’s leaders, taxpayers, skilled workers. Ask them to make higher education a priority,” she said.
Faculty Senate Chair Bruce Bikle said CSU’s 40,000 employees, 425,000 students, and 2 million alumni can, if united, exert the political muscle to protect the CSU budget. “If we can get our neighbors, or the guy who bags our groceries, to understand, to contact their legislators and the governor and tell them these budget cuts don’t make it, they’ll listen. They’ll have to listen.”
California Faculty Association President Lila Jacobs led a chant of “Stop the cuts,” and then outlined the stakes. “We graduate teachers, nurses, engineers, police, state workers; we graduate the infrastructure,” she said. “When we can’t do our job, the whole state is negatively impacted.”
California State University Employees Union President Pat Gantt added that cuts to the CSU budget will harm all Californians. “CSU is part of the American dream because without a prepared workforce, California cannot move forward,” he said.
Sacramento State Alumni Association president Sam Starks likened today’s crisis to the struggles of prior generations. “They’ve had their crosses to bear. This is our cross,” he said.
Also urging opposition to the cuts were campus employee union spokesmen Joseph Small, Michael Mullen and Craig Riggles, who each warned that the budget cuts place services provided by campus workers in peril.
Gonzalez hailed the broad campus unity. “We are working together. There will always be disagreements, but this is one thing we can all agree on,” he concluded.
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Sacramento State’s Sandy Harrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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