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Students occupy education

Members of Occupy Stanford spent Thursday demonstrating in Berkeley and Oakland in support of Occupy Education, a movement protesting funding cuts of public education and tuition hikes in the University of California system.

The rallies, which were part of a nationwide Day of Action to support public education, kicked off a five-day march in Northern California to the Capitol building in Sacramento, where demonstrators plan to begin occupying the Capitol on Monday.

“This movement won’t stop,” said Laura Wells, the Green Party candidate for governor in 2010, to The Daily. “You can’t deal the next generation a lack of opportunity and expect them to sit there and take it.”

Occupy movements from around the state gathered at U.C. Berkeley for a rally on California’s higher education system Thursday afternoon. Occupy Stanford began the event by reading a statement of support and later marched with demonstrators six miles to Oakland. (NEEL THAKKAR/The Stanford Daily)

After smaller teach-ins and discussions under the rafters of the UC-Berkeley Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building, Thursday’s main action began at noon in Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, under drizzling rain.

The 16 Stanford demonstrators led off the rally, taking turns reading an enthusiastically received statement of solidarity to a huddled group of about 150 UC-Berkeley students and staff and city locals.

“An education like one receives at Stanford should not be ‘elite,’ and you should not have to be ‘lucky’ to get an education,” the statement read. “We won’t accept a future where access to education is a privilege, and not a right.”

Students drafted the statement in Meyer Library Wednesday evening.

“I know California is in a budget crisis,” said Josh Schott ‘14 to The Daily before the event, “but education should always be a No. 1 priority because it’s a key ingredient of democracy.”

The hour-long rally featured speakers whose various demands reflected the diversity of the audience.

Andrea Barrera, a senior at UC-Berkeley, called for the restoration of affirmative action, while Joshua Clover, an English professor from UC-Davis, said a wholesale restructuring of capitalism is necessary.

Others recounted previous protest experiences or asked for protection of union rights. Decorating the plaza were murals painted by local high school students for the occasion.

“Don’t close the colleges,” one painting read. “We’re coming.”

After the rally, with the weather clearing up, about 100 protesters gathered to make the six-mile march to Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza, where Occupy Oakland and students from other area colleges were meeting. To chants of “No cuts, no fees, education must be free,” the crowd fanned across the breadth of Telegraph Avenue.

The public they met along the way matched their enthusiasm, for the most part. The marchers were met with many honks of appreciation, but also a few obscene gestures. One motorist was so incensed he got out of his car, punched a demonstrator and sped away, according to another protester.

Though the rally and march were smaller than previous demonstrations, the atmosphere among the protesters remained hopeful.

Edwin Okongo, a lecturer in Swahili at UC-Berkeley, said he was marching for his nine-month-old daughter, whom he used to bring to Occupy Oakland protests.

“She’s part of that, the protest,” he said, “and [it’s important] to know that you can’t just sit back and wait for things to be handed to you. You have to fight for them.”

It helps that he also lives in Oakland, Okongo added.

“If this runs into any trouble or anything, I’ll just say I was walking home,” he laughed.

Another marcher, Paul Bloom, said he has been a resident of Berkeley for almost 40 years and has been involved in activism for even longer.

“You make your path by walking, and this is kind of consciously doing that,” Bloom said. “This is just one day, and a rainy day at that…I don’t think you can take a quick measurement and say we’re doing well because we have a thousand people or we’re not doing so well because we have 200 or this or that.”

After two hours of walking, during which the number of marchers dwindled to about 80, the crowd arrived at Oscar Grant Plaza, chanting, “Here comes Berkeley.”

Joined with the protesters already there, the size of the whole crowd swelled to just under 200, as it prepared to begin the “99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice” to Sacramento. Though about 80 people were committed to walking at least part of the way, organizers said they expect thousands at the protest that on March 5.

Here the group from Stanford parted ways with one of its members, Peter McDonald ‘11, who is walking the entire distance to the Capitol. Other Occupy Stanford members will join him when he gets there.

McDonald explained why he decided to make the “99-mile march,” saying that Stanford students are usually too concerned with academics.

“[At Stanford], everyone’s always so focused on the class in front of them that it’s hard to engage,” he said. “Marching 80 miles is a really important statement.”

Occupy Stanford expand the scope of its operations this quarter, participating in Occupy Wall Street West in January and coordinating with Occupy movements around the Bay Area.

The group has faced questions on campus about the size and strength of its movement, but Occupy members said they believe their involvement in demonstrations such as Thursday’s proves otherwise.

“You can always criticize people for shouting,” said Emma Wilde Botta ‘14. “But this is more doing something concrete.”

  • Anonymous

    High Speed Universities offers all our students the opportunity to be taught by excellent instructors whose location or schedules preclude attendance at local weekly class meetings, check out online for more research

  • Laura Wells

    Thanks for your wide-ranging coverage of the first day of Occupy Education 2012!

  • Snoopy

    This is awesome journalism. Big ups to Neel who came out and covered the event. Good luck Peter!

  • Jake

    I find this really really funny! I can’t believe that a student from Stanford would actually write a  statement saying
    “An education like one receives at Stanford should not be ‘elite,’ and you should not have to be ‘lucky’ to get an education.” Getting an education at Stanford has nothing to do with being elite or lucky! As I recall I worked my butt off and went above and beyond while the 99% of my peers did the least they could and focused on having a good time.As well as I found it very telling when McDonald stated 

    “[At Stanford], everyone’s always so focused on the class in front of them that it’s hard to engage,” he said.” Well duh McDonald maybe that is why people get a great education at Stanford–hard work!
    I find Stanford Occupy the biggest joke of the year. Also what do these Commies at UC not understand about CA being broke and where does it say in the Constitution that education is a right? Maybe they should see what is going on in Stockton and realize that this is what is going to be happening to most of the cities on CA.

    Wise up people nothing is free and you can’t borrow printed money forever. Maybe you should be out getting a job or doing your homework instead of marching!

  • Z.

    I find your comment really really funny!  I think you missed the point of the statement about being “elite” and “lucky.”  The statement wasn’t saying that people only get into Stanford because they are elite or lucky; it was saying that most people consider the education received at Stanford to be
    elite (and I think many people do consider themselves lucky to be getting
    such an education). The statement expressed the wish that getting an education like one receives at Stanford no longer be considered something that only a small number of people have access to and that instead, but instead be considered something everyone can take advantage of.

    I agree with you that getting a good education does involve hard work on students’ parts, but the point is that you can’t do that hard work in school if you can’t afford to go to school.  That’s the reason why people are marching onward to Sacramento as I write this–they recognize that fewer and fewer people can afford to do so.  You can’t talk about getting your work done in school if school is unattainable!

    The lack of funding for education is not really due to the fact that CA is “broke.”  It has to do with really regressive taxation and poorly allocated monetary resources.  There are plenty of potential funds of education that sit untapped simply because Californians are unwilling to tax millionaires.  There’s plenty of money going into the prison system.  The resources are there; we just have prioritized things very poorly.  Yes, there are budget issues, but when you have to make cuts, why do you have to cut education funding?  Cutting off access to education merely exacerbates other problems (very notably that of crime and incarceration rates).  It’s simply wrong that the less-affluent people of this state have to suffer simply because the very affluent people running the government don’t want to pay taxes.

  • Jake

    Once again the class warfare. 50% of the people in the US don’t pay taxes. Only with Obama has being successful become evil. What a joke— that is why kids want to attend Stanford in order to have a better chance at getting a job and being successful! WHEN WILL YOU LIBS UNDERSTAND NOT EVERYONE IS EQUAL AND NEVER WILL BE REGARDLESS OF YOUR PIXIE DUST MULTICULTURAL EGALITARIAN  B.S. 

    The answer is NOT once again to tax, tax, tax. Cuts need to be made–across the board–PERIOD! Did you not read today in the WSJ Draghi states the socialist welfare state is gone, dead. Wake up America. Greece is coming your way. You Liberals want to make it about taxing the rich. It is not going to pay the 15 trillion America owes. Maybe if all the Dems hadn’t promised unrealistic benefits to the unions so much would not have to be cut from education. The democrats have run CA and Detroit for years and look at those states! The governmental fin. aid is part of the problem with educational costs.
    You are wrong on the elite and lucky. It means as I exactly stated it –read it again. Once again education is not a right. There are plenty of opportunities in state schools and junior colleges that are cheap and endless scholarship money but hey you have to do the work–you don’t start thinking about going to college the year before you want to go. You have to take some responsibility and PLAN years in advance whether it is academics or money. Then want do you want to do dumb down Stanford so someone with a SAT of 12 can get in? What do you not get — not everyone has the same IQ and part of the reason Stanford is such a great school is because of the level of intelligent kids that come here.Those students are crazy thinking that marching is going to get them free education. Like one of the other posters mentioned online school classes like sites such as Kahn Academy is a great answer but that takes very motivated students. I don’t see that in the occupy bunch.

  • Anonymous

    Public universities prefer higher taxes and more funding to cover over inefficiencies,

    I love University of California having been a student &
    lecturer. Like so many I am disappointed by Chancellor Birgeneau’s failure to
    arrest escalating costs, tuition. Birgeneau has doubled instate tuition. On an
    all-in cost, Birgeneau’s UC Berkeley (UCB) is the most expensive public
    university. Tuition consumes 14% of a median family income.

    Paying more is not a better
    university. Birgeneau dismissed removing much inefficiency: require faculty to teach
    more classes, double the time between sabbaticals, freeze vacant faculty
    administrator roles, increase class sizes, freeze pay & benefits &
    reform pensions, health costs. Birgeneau said removing such inefficiencies wouldn’t
    be healthy. UCB ranked # 2 in earning potential in USA. Exodus of faculty, administrators:
    who can afford them?

    Californians agree it
    is far from the ideal situation. Birgeneau cannot expect to do business as
    usual: raising tuition; subsidizing foreign student tuition; granting pay
    raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues,
    individual income.

    Recently, Chancellor Birgeneau’s
    campus police deployed violent baton jabs on Cal. students protesting Birgeneau’s increases
    in tuition. The sky above Cal.
    will not fall when Robert J. Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) is ousted. Email
    opinions to the UC Board of Regents   marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

     

     

     

  • Ledg18

    you are the worst Jake!