Three Cal Poly students led a teach-in Friday to draw attention to budget cuts that they say are hindering education for students.
Architectural engineering junior Erik Fernandez, social science sophomore Jose Montenegro and ethnic studies junior Vanessa Soto discussed education concerns with a group of about 35 students and faculty members surrounding furloughs, budget cuts and privatization.
The three students decided over winter break that they wanted to do something and fight the budget cuts. Their first step involved creating a Facebook group to help inform the public called “Cal Poly, Battle the Budget Cuts!”
They said the premise of the presentation was to unify students, faculty and union workers at Cal Poly around a common goal: Put an end to the budget cuts on higher education and eliminate the transparency which exists between the administration and students.
Soto said they wanted to get people informed since many in the Cal Poly community did not know much regarding the impacts of the cuts. But their struggle to end the cuts in higher education would take many more voices other than their own, she said.
“We want to see as many people uniting together behind a common goal,” Montenegro said. “It’s outrageous to no end that we have to take out more money to fund our education.”
Some things they wanted to address were how Cal Poly plans on cutting enrollment. In a speech earlier this month at an Associated Students Inc. Board of Directors meeting, Provost Richard Koob said nearly 2,000 students will be cut in the upcoming year, bringing enrollment to 15,702 students. Also, the students were concerned about the fee increases that are making education harder for people to obtain. Finally, the group wanted students to understand the impact furloughs have on education and the financial impact on faculty as well.
They said one of the major hopes in holding the discussion was to allow a group of people to come together and stand behind a course of action. Those in attendance were able to voice their own opinions regarding the group’s direction.
The students plan on holding another teach-in within the next two weeks. Following the next meeting, the students want to form committees to organize an event for Mar. 4, which has been delegated as the Statewide Day of Action. The day of action is a call for everyone involved in public education to stand up against the cuts to education. The students hope that the event will portray the displeasure of the students and faculty at Cal Poly in order to provoke change within the system.
“We are going to push for the maximum and see what we can get changed,” Montenegro said.
The students also said they realize that their efforts will need to continue following the day of action.
Fernandez said he wants to see a shift in priorities toward emphasizing a quality education over funding for prisons.
The efforts from recent demonstrations around the state seem to be paying dividends as the governor proposed to place more money into funding higher education earlier this month. In a recent New York Times article, Susan Kennedy, chief of staff to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the tipping point for choosing to fund higher education over the prison system was the protests on the University of California campuses.
Students who attended the teach-in said they thought it was beneficial. Josef Sanchez, an aerospace engineering graduate student, said he was concerned about how access to higher education was becoming more difficult.
“I really wanted to see what other people thought and if they were as concerned as I am regarding education,” Sanchez said.
Throughout the past couple months, neither of the three individuals thought solely about their own benefits from making higher education more affordable or through abolishing the cuts. Fernandez said their own individual experiences with education restriction, through fewer classes and furloughs, are compelling enough.
“We never thought about us,” Fernandez said. “Instead, we thought about what we could do to gain back our education.”