Student protestors hold signs(FIRST PHOTO) while they block the Sather Gate at the University of California at Berkeley March 4, 2010 to protest against fee increases and budget cuts. In all, thousands of students at campuses across California were expected to protest. (2)(Second picture with red flags: Universty of Berkely protesters, so many under arrest.
(DIFFERENT UNIVERSITIES PROTESTER AONGSIDE THE COUNTRY DURING THIS WEEK AND SO MANY ARRESTED.)
Credit: REUTERS/Kevin Bartram
Coming around the corner from Red Square to the Quad, I was doubtful. Last year, in the midst of protests against budget cuts at the University of Washington, students and staff had turned out strong numbers in their protests, but, since last fall, continuing events aimed at calling attention to budget cuts have been a bit, well, anemic.
I was stunned, however, to see how many students had come out—perhaps 500 altogether—holding signs stating “No Layoffs,” “Tax the Rich,” and “R.I.P. Our Future.” After a few statements from the organizers, they marched around the lawned courtyard of the Quad, then into Kane Hall, across Red Square and on up University Way, chanting various slogans like “Who’s university? Our university!” and for a brief moment that WTO refrain, “This is what democracy looks like!”
The event was part of a National Day of Action to Defend Education that took place today on dozens of campuses across the nation, including Seattle Central Community College, Evergreen State College and Western Washington University. While the protesters didn’t shut down the campus the way students did today at UC Santa Cruz, it made this old alum very proud when, around 1:30 p.m., students in the top floors of the Art Building (of course!) unfurled a gigantic banner addressed to the university’s president. It read: “Emmert, Another Budget is Possible.”
Last year, in the wake of the Great Recession and state revenue shortfalls, the University of Washington’s budget was cut $73 million, leading the school to lay off 700 workers and increase tuition 14 percent. With tuition slated to go up another 14 percent this fall and more cuts expected, the protesters say the university has lost sight of its public mission—providing an affordable education.
Instead of raising tuition and cutting jobs, the school could start, say members of the UW Student Worker Coalition, which organized the event, by trimming the salaries of administrators who make more than $150,000 a year, with many participants calling UW President Mark Emmert’s $906,000 salary excessive. The coalition is also calling on the university to freeze tuition, halt the work speed-up that it says is affecting custodians (who had 39 positions cut last year, 17 of them direct layoffs), and provide real financial aid instead of loans that bury students in debt.
Jessica Boone, 20, said she is the first in her family to go to college and currently works two jobs to pay for her schooling, but is having a hard time keeping up. She wants to get a degree in sociology and go on to the UW School of Nursing, she said, but is considering enlisting in the Navy as a way to get her nursing degree.
“Mark Emmert makes over $900,000 a year,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll make that in my lifetime.”
Kayla Huddleston, 21, said she’s worried that further cuts to the university’s Office of Minority Affairs, which funds retention and mentorship programs, will deprive more people of color of a chance to get a college education. “If tuition goes up any further, it will be less affordable for those without scholarships,” she said.
“It’s ridiculous we’re balancing the budgets on the backs of students, workers and people of color,” said Steve Hoffman, an electrician at North Seattle Community College and member of the Washington Federation of State Employees, the union of the UW’s trade workers. “There’s a better solution, which is taxing the wealthy and corporate profits.”