RETURN OF CAMPUS PROTESTS COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS ANGRY OVER WAR, BUDGET CUTS.
They've held campus rallies, marched on downtown Los Angeles and ridden buses for hours to the state Capitol to voice their displeasure over threatened state budget cuts to California's community colleges.
The college activism that marked the 1960s has resurfaced on San Fernando Valley community college campuses, with its main target being Gov. Gray Davis' proposed budget cuts to higher education.
``You have awakened a small community of giants,'' said Samvel Kbushyan, 23, of Valley Glen, president of the Associated Students Union at Los Angeles Valley College.
Last month, nearly 10,000 community college students rallied in Sacramento against the proposed cuts and about 4,000 participated in a budget protest in Pershing Square downtown.
``In my 24 years, I've never seen anything like it,'' said Patrick McCallum, a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Community College District and other systems, who has been involved with the Legislature and higher education issues since 1979.
``For them, they feel like they're fighting for their future: 'If I don't get an education, I don't have a future.' It's visceral; it's personal for them.''
Davis has proposed cutting $530 million from California's community colleges and doubling fees from $11 to $24 per credit hour.
The Los Angeles Community College District is facing nearly $21 million in state cuts. Trustees have already cut classes 10 percent and warned of possible administrative furloughs.
Jessica Salazar, a Valley College student and an organizer of the Pershing Square rally, said students fear the worst is yet to come.
``At Valley, we have 14 percent fewer classes this spring than last spring,'' the 20-year-old Sylmar resident said. ``It's not just a threat; it's a reality.''
Of $5.4 billion in total cuts to public education, the state's 108 community colleges would lose $530 million compared with $299 million in cuts to the eight-campus University of California system and $260 million in reductions to the 23-campus California State University system.
``Whenever you feel like you're being picked on, you get mad,'' said community college trustee Warren Furutani. ``They're going to be paying so much more and getting so much less - it's motivated them.''
But can protests and postcards make a difference when the state is facing a $35 billion deficit?
``With 2 million agitated students, it's creating a tension both in the administration and among the Legislature that normally you wouldn't see,'' said McCallum, the lobbyist. ``If they're successful, they will not only have protected their own personal education, but (that of) their brothers and sisters.''
Lizeth Moro, right, a student at California State University, Northridge, joins a rally against both the war in Iraq and cuts from her college's budget. The event was held at CSUN by its chapter of the California Faculty Association.
Evan Yee/Staff Photographer