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Student protests remain calm, focused on budget cuts

March 1, 2012 |  2:47 pm

A noontime rally at Cal State Long Beach drew several hundred students who protested that the quality of their education is declining even as tuition spirals higher.

Students gathered on a campus common, many sitting on the grass in bright sunshine, while a student band played spirited tunes and speakers urged states leaders to invest more in education.

Pathways along the quad were ringed with large signs, one of which read "Democratize the Board of Trustees."

Students said those who govern the system and approve tuition increases are out of touch with the challenges they face.

Dalia Hernandez said the scholarship she receives is not enough to cover rising costs, including tuition, campus fees and books. "It's frustrating trying to balance everything," said Hernandez, 22, a geography major. "Day in and day out, it's difficult to keep myself motivated."

Luis Arroyo, a professor of Chicano and Latino studies, told students that he hears of more and more of them who are unable to graduate because budget cuts have reduced class offerings.

On the Long Beach campus, 717 sections -- 7% -- were cut from 2008 to the 2010 academic year, Arroyo said. That also has meant a loss of instructors.

"We are reaching the point where the quality of education is in danger," said Arroyo, who sported a red T-shirt that read "Take Class Action." "We keep cutting and adding students to classes and we're reaching the point of diminishing returns."

Nearby, Daniel Orozco manned a table with sign-up sheets for a spot on a bus that will carry students to a statewide rally to protest education cuts scheduled Monday in Sacramento. About 20 had so far confirmed, he said.

Orozco, 23, an undocumented student born in Mexico, doesn't qualify for financial aid and said every increase in tuition is painful. The senior psychology major said class cuts have delayed his graduation by a year and a half. "Everybody is feeling it," Orozco said.

Meanwhile, at UCLA, Occupy protesters set up eight or so tents on Wilson Plaza, which the demonstrators said they renamed after Angela Davis, the politically radical professor who taught at the university.

The small group said they intended to keep the tents up through the night. Among the 20 or so participants was Sergio Sorza, 20, a political science major who said he was upset about higher tuition, larger class sizes and fewer courses available to undergraduates.

“We are not getting the same quality of education that UCLA promised us,” said Sorza, a junior from Orange.

The turnout did not surprise other students who did not participate and said they didn’t like the Occupy tactics of trying to camp on campus.

“It’s not their message but the way they go about it,” said Mark Rudnik, 21, an economics major from San Francisco.

Thursday marked a day of protest at colleges and universities around the state.

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-- Carla Rivera and Angel Jennings

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