Occupying the capitol is our next step


The Oak Leaf thanks the 68 students and supporters who were arrested after occupying the capitol for standing up for education. They showed courage and conviction, took a risk and put themselves in harm’s way for what they believed in: us, the students of California.

Every year, thousands of students, faculty and supporters march in Sacramento to lobby legislators to re-fund education, and every year our budgets get cut even deeper. Clearly, more needs to be done and that is exactly what the occupiers did.

Change doesn’t come from legislators listening to the thousands of voices on their front lawn. It doesn’t come from Obama’s campaign slogan or from 75 percent of Americans being against the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010.

Change comes from disruption, from upsetting the day-to-day norms and forcing those in power to react. Change comes from massive sites like Wikipedia going down for a day to defeat SOPA. Change comes from consumers demanding advertisers pull their ads from bigot Rush Limbaugh’s sexist show.

Students and faculty organizations don’t have political clout. They don’t have billions of dollars to bribe politicians to do their bidding.

However, a couple of years ago we came a little closer. When the first round of fee hikes to the UC system hit in 2009 students across the UC system occupied buildings, like Mrak Hall at UC Davis and an administration building at UC Santa Cruz, which the protestors held for an entire weekend.

Keep in mind those occupations were before Occupy Wall Street and long before occupying got trendy. They were responses to the fee hikes and students knew lobbying would be pointless.

In response, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Jan. 6, 2010, “Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future. What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy.”  He proposed an amendment to the California Constitution to make sure the state didn’t spend more on prisons than higher education in his State of the State address. The amendment was lost in bureaucracy and forgotten, and if Keep California’s Promise is right, it would have been a hollow gesture had it passed anyway.

However, the important lesson that came out of that is how to affect change in the system. Quite simply, you disrupt.

Schwarzenegger’s Chief of Staff told the New York Times that those protests were the tipping point. That is the important lesson: Schwarzenegger responded, reacted to the students. Schwarzenegger reacted because the students disrupted the day-to-day norms and he had to react.

To save education in California, there will need to be many more arrests and more students standing up for education. The Millionaire’s Tax Initiative would be great if it got voted into law and refunded education. But the chances of that are slim. In 2010 there were two ballot initiatives that were supposed to refund education and they failed for various reasons.

To continue to march in Sacramento for a few hours once a year and expect education to be refunded solely because of its definition of insanity: we’d be doing the same action expecting different results.

The march in Sacramento is a great way to get students involved and get the message out. But we’ve been telling the same stories, making the same complaints year after year.

It is time to step up the action. It is time to make demands. It is time to for the legislators to feel the force of the student body, those who will inherit California. March in March shows the legislators the size of the student body. When thousands of us walk through the doors of the Capitol and refuse to leave until our representatives fix the system they have helped break, they will feel our force.