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Examination of the current state of education and last nights occupation in Fresno
my reflections on why the tactic of occupation was chosen and on the current problem in higher ed
In order to have a well functioning democracy you must have an educated public. This is a truth which we are very much aware of. The continual deterioration of the school system and the current crisis are evidence that there is a problem and something must be done about that problem as it continues to get worse. The problem is at Sacramento, and D.C., but the problem is also right here in Fresno as well as every other city and university. The problem lies in the very structure of this system and in order to try and fix this problem we must challenge the root of it. The growth of the administration is a symptom. As we see more and more administrators being hired and paid six-figure salaries with regular raises, we see faculty who have to teach to larger class sizes and who have been denied their contractual raises for most of the last decade. The administration views the university as a business and their primary goal is to make a profit. Their bad investments are largely a part of what has gotten us into this mess, how many millions have been lost because of the Save Mart center? Who is going to have to pay when Campus Pointe proves to be the same cash drain? The administration has misplaced priorities and is not fit to make decisions which affect the university and entire community, this is why we have declared our independence and are drafting our own constitution to take back our campus and give power to the students, faculty and staff so that we can make our own decisions rather than having them handed down from Welty’s ivory tower.
On March 4th when 80 students, alumni and community members entered Vice President Dr. Olario’s office on the second floor of the Joyal administration building we were taking back space and asserting our power. Our entire lives we have been told what we can and can’t do, we are forced into tiny boxes where we do not belong and can never really fit. If we want to build a better world we have to take control of our own lives and our own destinies, taking back our university is a beginning step towards this. For those 8 hours, that office was our space, and we transformed it into what we wanted it to be at that moment. We wanted it to be a space where we could be alive and breathe; so we conversed, we danced, we lived and when the group decided to leave we left. We were accused of misconduct, of creating a disturbance, but what greater disturbance to students education is there than furloughs, fewer and larger classes, and constant fee hikes meaning another part time job? Is this not administrative misconduct when the funds are going towards hiring more administrators, giving current administrators hefty raises, non-academic construction projects, lawsuits caused by administrative negligence, and so on and so on. And the administrators really don’t seem to get it, they don’t understand the importance of education to the community or democracy. One woman brought her children with her to the sit-in, Dr. Olario told her “my wife is a social worker, I should call CPS on you”. She defiantly told him that she was there because she wishes one day to have the chance to go to college, and for her children to go to college. She explained to Olario that she had brought her children with her because this is what Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King did and said you should do, she wanted to raise them as conscious individuals who are not afraid to stand up and fight for their future.
This was a non-violent action, no one was hurt and nothing was damaged, the only threats made were made by the administration. It has been said that occupations are an act of desperation, but these are desperate times which call for desperate measures. We can no longer sit idly by hoping that the administration will somehow magically solve the problems that they have created. We must take action now before it’s too late. Chancellor Reed has instructed each campus to take this crisis as the perfect opportunity to “restructure” the CSU system with fewer students and more corporate sponsors. We have decided that Chancellor Reed is right, this is the perfect opportunity to do some “restructuring”, so we are creating a structure free from the dead weight of overpaid administrators. A university where the people who do the work of teaching, staffing and learning decide how they will teach, staff and learn.