By Henry K. Lee and Nanette Asimov
Public university students in the Bay Area staged protests Thursday against possible tuition hikes, saying the passage of Proposition 30 provided only a temporary reprieve from cuts to higher education.
At UC Berkeley, about 200 students and faculty members braved a steady rain at noon on Sproul Plaza to rally against the specter of increased fees. They brought out a giant No. 2 pencil reading, “Kids R No. 1″ and a sign that said, “We got the money, we want the power.”
“Hey, rain or shine, the cuts are coming — stay here,” a woman who helped organize the event said on a speaker, imploring fellow students not to let the weather stop them from taking part in the protest.
Speakers demanded tuition rollbacks, saying that because Prop. 30 guaranteed only that tuition will not rise this school year, cuts in the future remain likely.
“I’m glad that Proposition 30 passed, instead of not passing, but it doesn’t actually do anything more than at most delay or defer plans to raise tuition,” said Geoffrey O’Brien, an associate professor of English. “We understand that we have, unfortunately, a permanent struggle.
“Without raising a stink and raising some noise, we’re not going to do anything except passively watch burdens increase for undergraduates.”
Ridhima Vemula, 19, a sophomore double majoring in public health and economics, huddled under an umbrella with Madhavi Muralidharan, 18, a freshman economics major as they watched the demonstration.
“It’s a really important dialogue to have right now, especially now that Prop. 30 has passed,” Vemula said.
Muralidharan said she never fully understood the struggles facing public schools until she found herself having to “take out huge loans to try to get to Berkeley.”
“I’m here because I think this is really relevant to all of us here right now,” Muralidharan said.
The UC Berkeley protest was one of several demonstrations on UC campuses Thursday in advance of a university regents meeting next week in San Francisco on whether to raise fees for seven professional degree programs.
California State University students also staged protests, with Bay Area demonstrations at Cal State East Bay, San Francisco State and San Jose State.
CSU trustees will vote next week in Long Beach on a proposal to impose hefty new fees on thousands of students who repeat courses, take far more credits than they need to graduate and take more credits in a single semester than strictly necessary.
CSU officials said their proposal is actually beneficial to students because it is designed to free up thousands of classroom seats so that fewer qualified applicants, as well as students who are currently enrolled, will be turned away or shut out of courses. CSU says it has turned away 20,000 students a year since the state’s budget crisis began four years ago.
But protesters call the proposal “student fee extortion” and say there are legitimate reasons why many students need to take additional credits or repeat courses.