[via The Peralta Report]
Laney College students protest budget cuts, storm Peralta Colleges district headquarters
Demanding no more budget cuts, staff layoffs, or fee increases, Laney College students held a noontime rally on the main campus quad on October 7. Some later marched to the Peralta Colleges district and briefly occupied the Chancellor’s office.
Coinciding with a National Day of Action in Defense of Education, the “Speak Out” let any student share how education budget cuts affected them. At the bottom of the event’s stage was a banner that read, “Free Speech Zone,” mocking a policy proposed last spring that critics said would limit free speech on the campus.
While most talked about budget cuts have affected them, their families and classmates, the overall emphasis of speakers was the press need for organization.
“This is exactly what we need to do to let our voices be heard and to show the powers that be that we are organized and we are one,” said Jurena Storm, a student member of the Peralta Colleges Board of Trustees. Storm left the rally early to attend a program at College of Alameda that featured a mass graveyard for education.
Laney College Black Student Union member Timothy Killings told students to take charge of their education’s by being actively engaged in the colleges’ governance, and retaking control of the school.
“First thing we need to do is clear up the misconception that our school is run by the Board of Trustees,” Killings said. “This is our school.” Killings criticized a new fee policy that dropping students from their classes if they do not pay their fees promptly.
“People being dropped out of their classes for not paying a $17 health fee,”
In between speakers, the rally’s emcee, former Laney BSU President Jabari Shaw, rapped the song, “Chop from the Top.” The song – based on a popular chant at Peralta board meetings last fall – became a budget cuts anthem of sorts last spring.
“People have called the cuts a tragedy,” said Peter Brown, an instructor in the machine technology department. “A tragedy is when someone is hurt and no one benefits. But when someone benefits, that’s not a tragedy, that’s a crime.” Brown’s comment was a reference to Senator Diane Feinstein’s husband, Richard C. Plum, a UC Regent who has profited while the tuition has skyrocketed, along with others who benefit while people suffer.
Shaw then introduced the next speaker, a challenger for the Peralta board facing a two-term incumbent in the November 2 election, adding, “We’re trying to get rid of the incompetents.”
Monica Tell, a former Laney College student running in Trustee Area 3, introduced herself as a person who grew up in Oakland that is “going to fight the good fight to represent you.”
Student Adon Ortega, an intern with Californians for Justice, encouraged students to sign a petition about financial aid issues and the district’s new policy.
“People are supposed to pay fees, and use financial aid, but financial aid doesn’t come until weeks after,” Ortega said.
Student Jevon Cochran, a member of Laney’s Student Unity and Power (SUP), called for repealing the new fee policy and for cuts from administrators.
“When these cuts started to come down, they gave administrators raises,” Cochran said. Last year, the Bay Area News Group revealed that former Chancellor Elihu Harris gave raises to administrators against board policy. When trustees found out, instead of repeal the raises, trustees ratified the decision. “They didn’t think it was fair that (Peralta) administrators didn’t make as much as other (districts) administrators. But it’s fair for students to get kicked out of school and it’s fair that workers lose their jobs?”
Administrators need to fight against the cuts, also, Cochan said, calling on students to go picket the district’s headquarters. “We’ve got to take it to the state and to the administrators too. Let’s march!”
The rally abruptly ended as about 30 students marched from Laney’s quad, down 8th Street towards the district’s headquarters chanting, “No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!”
The group burst into the the Peralta District’s headquarters, interrupting a Benefits Fair for employees. Corporate representatives from CostCo and 24 Hour Fitness appeared stunned as students marched past before doubling back and entering the offices of Chancellor’s staff.
Staff quickly called Peralta Police Services – a contract of the Alameda County Sheriffs Office – whose offices are housed in the same building. Students continued chanting, demanding to see trustees.
“We should stay here until the Chancellor agrees to meet with us,” Cochran said.
Deputy Glen Pace, entering the offices at that same time responded, “Here’s the agreement, you have thirty seconds to leave.” The scene greatly resembled the April 22 board meeting that was shutdown by student’s protesting the closure of the College of Alameda Children’s Center. The group left the building a minute later, while sheriff’s locked and blocking the entrance.
Students marched back to Laney, with many taking public transportation to join the demonstrations taking place at UC Berkeley.