SACRAMENTO-While hundreds of students rallied in the state Capitol Monday, five students were arrested during the UC Student Association’s annual lobbying day organized to secure state funding to the university before the state budget is finalized.
About 12 students entered the office of Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Yuba City-as about 100 students waited outside-demanding that he sign a letter promising support for increased funding for higher education as well as specific funding for recruiting and retaining low-income students, according to Filiberto Nolasco, a UC Santa Barbara graduate student who was one of the five students arrested.
When Nielsen refused to sign the letter, five students remained in his office until law enforcement was called in, Nolasco said.
California Highway Patrol officers arrested the students for disorderly conduct and disruption of state business and released them later in the day, said CHP Sgt. Steven Stone.
Students from across the UC system took part in the effort. Many chanted, “No cuts, no fees, education should be free” outside the Capitol while UC officials and other students met with state lawmakers inside.
“(Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s) view was: ‘I need to reform the budget and the tax system,'” said UC President Mark Yudof. “‘But anything we save, you are first in line.'”
Student Regent-Designate Jesse Cheng, who marched with the crowd after speaking to lawmakers earlier in the morning, said the day was a vital step toward reversing state budget cuts to higher education.
“We are going to hit the Legislature everywhere we can: in their districts, on our campuses, in Sacramento,” Cheng said. “When we organize on our campus, they hear about it, but they don’t see it, so it is important that we bring it here.”
The decision to partner with UC officials in lobbying lawmakers has opened up new opportunities, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Dani Haber.
But not all legislators have been receptive to the position of UC students and administrators, she added.
Haber said that when she and UC officials met with Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, the meeting “started off as cordial, then it got kind of hostile.”
However, meeting with state lawmakers such as Hollingsworth was a critical component of the lobbying effort, she said.
“I think that it said something that he took a meeting with us,” Haber said. “We oftentimes aren’t even able to get meetings with Republicans, let alone with the Senate minority leader, but I don’t think that we have his support-he is not an ally to university students.”
According to state Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, students’ personal experiences are an integral part of lobbying.
“Those kinds of personal stories about the real challenges students are facing in trying to get a higher education in California, they are very powerful,” Torrico said. “We are counting on the students’ activism from the grassroots campaign around California to change the hearts and minds of all the legislators here.”
About 100 students also staged a sit-in in front of the UC Center Sacramento building in protest of recent incidents at UC campuses, including a noose found in UC San Diego’s Geisel Library and “anti-gay graffiti sprayed in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center at UC Davis over the weekend,” according to a university statement.