Thousands Continue to Fight Budget Cuts

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press April 22, 2010

A diverse coalition of people walked the final mile of a 365-mile march in protest of state budget cuts to education on Wednesday, April 21.

Protesters filled three city blocks on their way to the Capitol.

Rain beat down on the group as they gathered in a Sacramento park before it became a drizzle.

The 48-day march, dubbed The March for California’s Future, began with five “core” walkers. A San Diego community college professor, a Los Angeles probation officer, a Watsonville teacher, a Marina del Ray substitute teacher, and a retired Los Angeles teacher began to walk in Bakersfield, with the ultimate goal of rallying on the steps of the Capitol.

“I am marching because I believe the only hope for education is for us to get out in the streets and educate people about how we fund public education in California,” said Jenn Laskin. She has taught for 11 years at Renaissance Continuation High School in Watsonville, and was among the group of core walkers…

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Q&A: UC President Mark Yudof

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press March 4, 2010

UC President Mark Yudof sat down with student media representatives from UCs Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Merced, Davis, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The topics of conversation ranged from student demonstrations to financial aid to the recent racist incidents at UC campuses.

Republished with permission

Republished with permission

City on a Hill Press: You increased the threshold for the Blue and Gold Plan, which now waives education and registration fees for students whose families earn less than $70,000 per year. How will you inform high school students of this so that they aren’t deterred from applying to the UC because of cost?

Mark Yudof: We have been communicating directly with the parents, we have met with the guidance counselors, [and] we have produced materials on the Blue and Gold Program. If I had my way, the window would be much higher and we’re looking at [whether] we should increase it to $80,000 and so forth. …

We have to obey the state and federal rules on awarding financial aid, and if we award more than what they determine is your level of need, they subtract it out someplace else in the process. So we need to make sure students actually come out ahead in this process. … It’s absolutely almost a moral issue that if you’re below $70,000 we need to help you, but there are significant financial issues for families above that, who are not poor but not rich in the sense that they can just sit down, write a check and not think about it…

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UC Targets ‘Sustainable’ Spending

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press May 20, 2010

The pessimism of members of the UC community during the public comment period was juxtaposed by UC President Mark Yudof’s promise of a brighter future for the UC in the opening remarks at the latest regents meeting.

Yudof call the cuts that the UC system endured this year “unsustainable,” indicating a more promising budget for this 2010-2011.

“Even in tough times, the state needs to have a priority,” Yudof said. “We’ve been in crisis mode for the last couple of years, and some desperate and temporary measures were taken, almost none of which, in my heart of hearts, I feel good about … now we’re at the point where we must look over the horizon for longer-term, sustainable ways of operating…”

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Students Walk On for AIDS

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press April 8, 2010

Students lined the aisles in the Biology of AIDS classroom on the last day of lecture, cash in hand, ready to turn in their final projects. About 130 students of the 294 enrolled in the class chose to raise $100 each for the Santa Cruz AIDS walk instead of turning in a term paper for the class, to help fund the efforts of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP).

As they waited, the students compared fundraising success stories and nightmares, from the aunt who generously gave $50 to the neighbor whose dog chased them out of the house before they could even ask for a donation. Every dollar they raised and experience they relayed spoke volumes of what they’d learned about AIDS outside the classroom this quarter. And every dollar would become part of the almost $15,000 donation the students of UC Santa Cruz made to the 20th annual Santa Cruz AIDS Walk in 2010, which will take place this Saturday, April 10.

Public health care in California has suffered since the recent state budget cuts, and the funding for AIDS programs has been no exception. SCAP, which puts on the AIDS walk every year, was dealt a crushing blow when funding for HIV/AIDS education and prevention was cut completely from the state budget after California slashed $85 million from AIDS programs last year.

California has consistently had high HIV/AIDS infection rates. The Center for Disease Control ranked the state second highest among the 50 states in cumulative reported AIDS cases in 2008. Because of the prevalence of infection in California, the decrease in funding for these programs has hit organizations like SCAP hard. SCAP Executive Director Merle Smith said the organization has since been kept afloat by the efforts of the Santa Cruz community, especially volunteers from UCSC.

“We could not manage without the support we get from the community,” she said. “The support of the community and the support we get from students, the free labor, it literally keeps us going.”

In the SCAP food pantry volunteer Justin White, a Cowell first-year, describes how various individuals and organizations host food drives for the organization and stock the pantry. Photo by Alex Zamora.

For years both local and student volunteers have played a huge role at SCAP. The organization was founded by a group of concerned citizens in the early 80s at a time when the AIDS epidemic was ravaging the country, Santa Cruz County included. The organization is in its 25th year of operation, and with the help of student volunteers, has weathered the storm of the recent cuts to their state funding to provide much-needed services to the community.

Though some programs have fallen victim to lack of funding, SCAP continues to offer HIV testing, mentoring and a food pantry and transitional housing, among other important services, from their new offices on Front Street in downtown Santa Cruz. The unspecatacular building looks much like any other professional office, and the plain façade doesn’t even hint at the exceptional work that goes on inside.

Every quarter, about 50 students from various classes and majors make room in their packed schedules to devote a minimum of two hours each week to helping the community cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS.

Volunteer Coordinator Alice H. Sebastian, a UCSC alumna herself, said she works primarily with students from her alma mater and is continuously amazed at the hard work students are willing to put in to help members of the community living with HIV.

“They really are doing everything we’re doing,” Sebastian said of the students she manages.

As she speaks, the unmistakably youthful voices of volunteers float into her cubicle in the SCAP building from the nearby rooms. Her words are occasionally cut by the loud thump of a paper cutter. Even in the days after spring break, the SCAP offices are alive with the energy of students.

The option to volunteer as a final project allows students to put their classroom education into the context of the real world, said UCSC biology professor Mary Zavanelli.

Zavanelli requires students who take her Biology of AIDS class to either commit several hours of their time to volunteer organization like SCAP or write a term paper. Not surprisingly, many students opt to spend time with SCAP rather than sit down to write a multiple-page paper.

“I [am] interested in getting the students out and volunteering in the community, because with an issue as complex as AIDS the only way to understand is to get in to that community,” she said. “It’s more broad than you think it is.”

And Zavanelli’s students do get out, in a big way. Sebastian said the class consistently raises at least $15,000 for the AIDS walk each year. UCSC students also comprise the majority of the walkers.

Sebastian’s words quicken as her professional demeanor gives way to one of excitement while describing the reactions of SCAP clients to student volunteers.

“Clients will come out [to the AIDS walk] and just stop and say ‘Look at all these people who care,’ and there’ll be 300 people and of that 250 of them will be UCSC students,” she said. “And they’ll say ‘Look at all these young people who care.’ That’s a beautiful thing.”

SCAP also has long-standing ties to the school, in many different programs. Sebastian said they regularly employ community studies, health sciences, sociology and psychology students, and they work hard to find a place for each individual.

“If you go to other places to volunteer they’re going to say ‘These are our positions, we’re looking for this number of hours to do these kind of things,’” Sebastian said. “We have a very grassroots-based kind of method to doing our work, and even though it’s 25 years later we’re still uniquely designed to use volunteers.”

SCAP Executive Director Merle Smith has piloted the organization through recent budget cut woes, and credits the work of student volunteers with much of the group’s success. Photo by Alex Zamora.

After consultation with Sebastian, volunteers are placed in positions that allow them to work within their skill set and area of interest, and apply it to AIDS advocacy. Students primarily interested in health care, for example, will be encouraged to find ways to apply their interest to public service.

Sebastian remembered one student who volunteered with SCAP who took his knowledge of health science and applied it to education and outreach to provide a resource for individuals at the drop-in center to identify if they had a staph infection, and then to find their options for treatment.

Selfless as they are, student interns at SCAP get back just as much as they give. Students who work with the organization gain real-world job experience while still being allowed the flexibility needed to put their education first.

“The vast majority of our volunteers are coming from the UC because of the miraculous combination of educated, driven, competent people who are already so busy they don’t mind shoving in an extra five or 10 hours, but they are in this position where they have these skills but they can’t get paid yet — they’re not certified yet to go get the job,” Sebastian said. “So we’re going to help them while they work at the dining hall on campus, or the grocery store, or the retail shop or as a nanny,” she added. “We’re going to help them build their resume so when it comes time to graduate they’re going have a this great recommendation and great experience.”

Emily Bluffi, who graduated from UCSC this winter with a degree in anthropology, said the work she’s done as an HIV test counselor both on campus and with SCAP has given her invaluable experience for a career in the public health field.

“If you’re going to help people in any sort of personal way, sex education or anything that affects their health, I think you have to have a good understanding of people, have a respect for them and be able to respect where they’re coming from,” she said.

Bluffi also emphasized the importance of volunteering within the Santa Cruz community.

“Your college experience should not just be one-dimensional,” she said. “As a student it’s good to have some kind of volunteer job or in some way connect to the community because once you graduate you’re no longer a student, you’re part of the community.”

Students also benefit from working in the field as it takes their study beyond theory and lecture. UCSC fourth-year politics major Eve Pourzan has been able to channel her interest in women’s access to affordable, high-quality health care into her internship with SCAP as she works to help the organization re-establish a community resource center, their former resource center having been a victim of the governor’s cuts to AIDS programs.

“At an organization such as SCAP, you can see direct results,” Pourzan said. “You work with people, you aren’t five steps removed from the actual progress that is taking place.”

The work Bluffi does as an HIV test counselor is one of the results of Pourzan’s work that she gets to watch happen. The organization was recently able to offer testing for the first time since the HIV testing program was cut this summer, a product of Pourzan and many others’ hard work.

UCSC alumnus Sean Lowry stayed on as a SCAP volunteer well past his school-mandated internship because of the opportunity for hands-on learning it allowed. Despite having graduated, Lowry can still be found lounging in the SCAP lobby talking with volunteers and lending a hand where needed, and he seems to be very much at home in the office as he leans back in a desk chair and explains his reasons for sticking around.

“I finished my internship and kept working here because it was more fun to get independent study credit working here than being in class,” Lowry said. “I felt like I was out in the field for six months doing real work, so going back into the classroom just seemed like a step backward.”

Many students like Lowry receive credit from the university toward their major for their volunteer work. But a lot of them stay on because of the things they get from their internships that don’t go on their transcript. SCAP Executive Director Smith believes that volunteering gives students an opportunity to see their education mean something more than grade points.

“It also gives them an opportunity to feel valued. Because a lot of times students get their education and feel like some of the work they’re doing is just to get through. Where, if they’re here, it’s a personal experience that is probably as rewarding as anything they will ever do in their lives,” she said. “When they’re able to take someone who is suffering from the disease but is also hungry back and help them build a food bag to take home to eat — I think that would be moving to anyone, but especially to a student.”

The value of student volunteers goes beyond the general need for unpaid workers. As new developments in science and medicine change the way AIDS is treated, so does the way society treats AIDS. As new vaccines and medications are developed, the problems of the disease have evolved from a death sentence to managing the diagnosis in daily life.

Sebastian explained that students are uniquely equipped to deal with this new era of AIDS advocacy.

“The beauty of having young student volunteers and interns is they can take all this education and bring a new face to it — it’s a new generation of HIV activists,” she said. “This isn’t the HIV community, this isn’t the group that started this organization, these are new people bringing all this in, and they’re not the ones who watched HIV from the beginning, but there’s this totally new perspective on it and that’s amazing,” she added. “There’s something beautiful about having student interns who are coming in at this time and shifting the concept around HIV activism. It looks different, and it needs to look different.”

The face of AIDS advocacy is changing, providing opportunities for students to make a much larger contribution to society than they have in the past. SCAP’s volunteers are using their education to utilize their skills in ways students haven’t before.

“Youth aren’t just a resource tomorrow,” Sebastian said. “They’re a resource right now.”

Originally published in print and online by City on a Hill Press

Conversation With a Magnetic Zero

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press February 25, 2010

If you’ve ever seen Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros perform, you might already have an idea of what it was like to interview singer Jade Castrinos. Her answers sound as if she’s thinking them for the first time, strung together to the point that they don’t really seem like sentences at all.

I welcomed a chance for Jade to open up about herself and the band beyond the songs they sing. I spoke to her over the phone as they geared up for their first major tour, on which Santa Cruz is the second stop. By the end of our conversation, the only thing Jade seemed sure about was that she was very excited about the trees. As for me, I knew that Jade’s eccentricity could definitely be described as magnetic.

City on a Hill Press: So I just read a review that described your group as more of a ‘traveling vagabond family’ than a typical band. Is that accurate?

Jade Castrinos: I mean, that’s a part of it, but that’s not the whole thing — we’re definitely a band and gather around the purpose of music. But the family idea, it’s kind of the lifeblood of the whole thing. Like the song ‘Home,’ that’s Alex [Ebert, the lead singer] and I just professing our love for each other as best buds. But we are like siblings, so there is definitely a ‘vagabond family’ thing, yeah.

CHP: So with the large family/band-style group — there are at least 10 of you at each show — there have to be a lot of different ideas and influences. Has it been difficult to incorporate everyone’s input? How do you make that work?

JC: You mean like with making music?

CHP: Yeah, with the songs you guys write and perform.

JC: Well, everybody is a really talented musician. For the record, Alex had some ideas for songs, but everyone came in and played it, and it’s like, you play how you feel about the music — like, ‘What do you feel here?’ There’s no ‘Play it this way!’ It’s very … everyone’s involved.

CHP: And how would you categorize that music? The term ‘folk’ has been thrown around — does that fit your music and your group?

JC: I don’t know. (Laughs.) I mean — yeah, we’re definitely folk, but I don’t know — I always say our band category is happiness.

CHP: Can you tell me a little about the band’s name?

JC: Yeah, Alex wrote this novel, and the main character was Edward Sharpe, and he came to save the world but kept falling in love with girls, so he wasn’t completing his mission — I’m not sure I’m the one to ask about this, I might get it wrong but — (loud noise, Jade yells) — Wait, I completely lost track — what are we talking about? Could you repeat the question?

CHP: We were talking about the band’s name, and you were explaining about Alex’s novel.

JC: Oh yeah, yeah, he might be the best person to ask about this, but [the novel] is definitely reflected in our songs and the videos we’re doing.

CHP: What about your debut album? Tell me about writing and recording ‘Up From Below.’

JC: When we started, the guitar player Nico — we recorded at his house, he and Airin had a studio in their basement and we would record there and it was so magical. Nico’s girlfriend Becky would make the most amazing food and we’d just have dinner and jam every night and come up with great songs. It was all magical, but definitely the beginning … and definitely Becky’s cooking was a huge part.

CHP: So last question, then I’ll let you go. Your hippie-throwback vibe definitely has an audience in the students of UC Santa Cruz. Are you guys excited to play here, and do you have any expectations about the show?

JC: We’re totally excited to play there. I don’t know if we’ve played there before, but I’ve definitely driven through that area, it’s beautiful. Are there redwoods there?

CHP: Yeah, tons.

JC: I love the forest! … We’re definitely excited to play there.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will play on Monday, March 1 at the Rio Theatre. Show begins at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Streetlight Records or online at Tickets are $18 in advance or $22 at the door.


UC Board of Regents Votes for Further Fee Increases

Published online at City on a Hill Press July 14, 2011

Increase will bring undergraduate tuition to $11,220 beginning fall 2011

UCSA President Claudia Magaña addressing the UC Board of Regents

The UC Board of Regents voted today to approve a 9.6 percent increase in systemwide fees, bringing  annual undergraduate tuition to $11,220. This increase follows the 8 percent fee hike passed by the board in November, and is the second such increase in less than a year.

The UC Board of Regents convening at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay Conference Center. The Board raised tuition by 9.6% in Thursday’s vote, bringing it to roughly double the amount in fall 2005.

The fee hike will affect undergraduate and graduate students, beginning fall 2011.

Raised tuition comes in response to the $650 million state cut funding for UC last month, reducing total state support for the university by more than $880 million, and leaving the UC with a $1 billion budget shortfall, according to Nathan Brostrom, the UC system’s executive vice president for business operations.

The board voted 14-4 for the increase. Regents Eddie Island, Student Regent Alfredo Mireles Jr., George Marcus and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom were opposed. Newsom urged the regents to send a message to lawmakers by refusing to raise tuition.

Claudia Magaña, a UCSC third-year and president of the UC Students Association, addresses the Board of Regents on Wednesday. In her address she urged the regents to absorb the state budget cuts through means other than tuition increases.

Regent Bonnie Reiss said she would vote for the hike “with sadness and disgust…”

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UCSC Alum Named to Board of Regents

Published online at City on a Hill Press December 13, 2011

Cowell grad Kenneth Feingold appointed for a two-year term

UCSC alumnus Kenneth Feingold has been appointed for a two-year term to the UC Board of Regents, Chancellor Blumenthal announced today in an email to the campus community.

The Santa Monica-based lawyer and 1971 Cowell graduate will serve first as an alumni regent designate beginning July 1, 2012, followed by a 12-month term as a full, voting member of the board.

Feingold will be the first UC Santa Cruz graduate to serve on the board in seven years.

“I am honored to have been chosen to serve as a Regent by the UCSC Alumni Association Council,” Feingold is quoted in the release. “This is a difficult time for the State of California and the University of California. I pledge to work as an alumni regent to keep our institution strong and responsive to the needs of the students, the faculty and our state…”

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Education, Interrupted

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press January 21, 2010

Winner of the 2010 California College Media Award for Best News Series

Republished with permission

Republished with permission

Most college students change their major at least once in their undergraduate years. Yoali Lamarque has changed hers twice in the two years since she came to UC Santa Cruz, but not for the reasons you might think.

One of the reasons she chose to attend UCSC was the community studies program.

“It just seemed like such a perfect fit for being a social worker,” Lamarque said. “But then, as I was telling people it was my major, it got cut.”

So she changed it to sociology.

However, as the budget got smaller so did the course catalogue, and Lamarque found herself struggling to get into even the introductory classes required to declare her major.

“Every quarter I would crash all the ones that were offered. … I’d spend like a week and a half in those classes hoping that someone would drop, and even bought the books, sometimes the reader,” she said. “For a year and now two quarters, I have not been able to get into a single sociology class…”

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Yudof Announces Investigation of UCPD Action

Breaking news story published online at City on a Hill Press November 22, 2011

Independent consultants will examine Nov. 18 pepper-spraying of UC Davis protesters, UCPD protocol

UC President Mark Yudof announced today an independent consulting company will undertake a “fact-finding” investigation of the pepper-spraying of UC Davis students on Nov. 18, and of UCPD protocol regarding campus protests.

Footage of students being pepper sprayed by UC Police Department (UCPD) officers as they sit with arms linked on the campus quad at a UC Davis protest has garnered national attention. The attention has brought the UC Police Department (UCPD) under severe scrutiny.

In a release from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), Yudof said the announcement came in response to a request from UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi that the UC president conduct a thorough review of the event. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, has also requested an independent investigation of the event…

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Santa Cruz Remembers Erik Lippmann

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press May 6, 2010

Santa Cruz Remembers Erik Lippmann

Republished with permission

Republished with permission

As families picnicked nearby, mourners gathered to remember Santa Cruz resident Erik Lippmann. Lippmann was reported missing on April 21, and after a week of intensive search efforts by members of the community, he was found dead at Marina State Beach.

UC Santa Cruz students will remember seeing the fliers posted around campus and the Facebook group devoted to finding Lippmann popping up in their news feeds as their friends joined. Word of the missing 30-year-old autistic man and the search to find him spread quickly over the eight days since his disappearance, largely due to social networking. The Facebook group grew to almost 6,000 members, some participating in search efforts and others just showing support, most of whom had never met Lippmann…

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Walking With A Ghost

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press November 18, 2010

Walking With A Ghost

Rising interest in paranormal activity prompts investigation into Santa Cruz’s spooky history

“You know how when someone stands close to you, you can feel it? It’s like that. Or it’s a static energy-type feeling, that’s what makes your hair stand up,” Nancy Bowmen described.

The co-founder of Paranormal Zone TV (PZTV) is certainly qualified to describe the presence of a ghost. Since she predicted her father’s death at the age of nine, Bowmen has had numerous experiences with paranormal entities, including witnessing two full-body apparitions and developing a personal relationship with Sarah Logan of the Brookdale Lodge, one of Santa Cruz’s most famous ghosts.

For Bowmen, investigating supernatural activities is not just a job but a deeply rooted passion that is evident in her willingness to express her belief in ghosts with an emphatic “yes.” Her interest can be traced back to a paranormal incident from her childhood.

“I was sitting on the lawn with a girlfriend and I was picking at the grass — but you know, when you’re … doing something mundane, and you kind of go blank in your mind?” Bowmen said. “In a heartbeat I got this little message. I couldn’t hear a voice but it was like a message, telepathically, saying, ‘Your father is going to die.’ And a week later, he passed away. I really think it was what you would call your guide which prepared me. I looked at my girlfriend and told her, ‘My dad’s gonna die. My dad’s gonna die…’”

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Uniting Youth to Form Community

Published in print and online at City on a Hill Press September 23, 2010

Uniting Youth to Form Community

Daniel “Nane” Alejandrez does not pretend to be perfect. Thirty-three years after founding the now nationwide nonprofit Barrios Unidos, Alejandrez speaks openly and frankly about his own battles with violence and addiction. He bears the scars and tattoos of a former gang member and a former drug addict, and the roomy fit of his dark jeans and buttoned-up short-sleeved shirt make no apologies for who he is, who he has been and who his people are. He is proud of his heritage as a member of the Latino community, and he would fit in just as comfortably were he sitting at a picnic table at a backyard barbecue with friends and family instead of in his office.

Perhaps it is because he is so honest about his past — in his words and in his appearance — that he is able to convince so many people, young and old, to choose a path of nonviolence.

Speaking from his Santa Cruz office, Alejandrez tells the story of Barrios Unidos (BU) and the thousands of men and women whose lives it has changed. The organization is devoted to preventing youth violence by providing young people with  alternative opportunities to survive and succeed…

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Protesters Take to the Streets on March 4

Originally published in print and online at City on a Hill Press March 11, 2010

Thousands gathered at the Capitol, on campuses and in the streets — more specifically the freeways — across the state last Thursday. Students, parents, educators and administrators from K-12 public schools, California community colleges, California State University (CSU) campuses and the University of California united to protest cuts to California public education.

UC Berkeley students Meegan Brooks, a fourth-year political science major and Eden Amans, a first-year English major, said they made the trip from their campus to the Capitol to join the group of 2,000 advocating for public education alongside the California Faculty Association.

“We’re really just showing support,” Amans said. “That’s what’s really going to get the most attention — the fact that all of us are here from all over and we’re all united in this one cause.”

The actions at the Capitol and on individual campuses garnered the attention of national media like “Saturday Night Live,” the San Francisco Chronicle, and CNN.

UC Davis specifically was criticized for extreme actions taken by protesters on campus. An estimated 300 protesters attempted to march onto Interstate 80 after gathering on the UC Davis campus. More than 120 campus, city, county and highway patrol law enforcement officers resorted to the use of force in an attempt to halt the crowd’s progress onto the highway. Officers wielded batons and fired pepper balls at the advancing crowd. They arrested one student.

On campus, protesters pulled fire alarms, disrupting classes and library patrons.

Julia Ann Easley, senior public information representative for the UCD News Service, said March 4’s events were extraordinary for the Davis campus.

“For the most part, our campus protesters are peaceful and law-abiding,” she said.

Easley, who has served on the UCD campus for more than 12 years, said the administration’s primary concern on March 4 was student and community safety.

“It’s the first time I’ve known students to try to lock up the interstate,” she said. “It made my heart sink out of the danger.”

Although rumors of violence and disruptive behavior at UC Santa Cruz circulated on Thursday, it has been determined that the protest was nonviolent, and reports by the administration of destructive behavior were misinformed. The rear windshield of a single car was broken when the vehicle attempted to forcibly cross the picket line, and, contrary to initial reports from the UCSC administration, thus far no police reports have been filed indicating the use or presence of weapons at the demonstration.

In Sacramento, representatives from the California Faculty Association and members of the legislature and state Senate addressed the crowd on the north steps of the Capitol building. Assemblyman Alberto Torrico was one of several politicians to speak at the podium, but he was the only one scheduled to do so.

Torrico focused on promoting Assembly Bill 656, an oil severance tax that would fund public education. Torrico, who authored this bill, is an advocate for higher education.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg also spoke, and applauded the protesters’ actions as a means of protecting California’s economic future.

“If we are going to create jobs, if we’re going to improve our economy, if we’re going to have a better budget, the last thing in the world to do is to cut public education,” he said.

Reid Milburn, president and regional senator representing Sacramento for the Student Senate of California Community Colleges (SSCCC), also addressed the crowd at the Capitol. Reid and members of the SSCCC are organizing a second march on the Capitol for March 22, and expect around 8,000 participants from across the state.

“I highly encourage any and all UC students — and any students or educational supporters from across the state — to join us,” she said in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press. “It is about time students stood up and helped California understand that the first priority in a fiscal crisis such as the recession should be to educate its people.”

Steinberg encouraged students on March 4 to continue their involvement in actions like the March 22 rally.

“You have already made a huge difference,” he said. “You have already changed the debate, but there is a long way to go. Let this be the beginning, and let this — once again, because of your activism, your advocacy, your stubborn unwillingness to take no for an answer — let this be the year that we begin restoring the California dream of public education.”