Editorial: March for higher education not a productive solution

More than 10,000 students and demonstrators marched to the state Capitol on March 5 to protest the ongoing cuts to education. Speakers blasted lawmakers and demanded funding for colleges.

The fourth annual March in March for Higher Education took place in the midst of yet another fiscal crisis. California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott announced on Feb. 21 that community colleges will suffer an unexpected $149 million budget cut this year, according to a press release from the chancellor’s office.

The press release also stated that the state government cut $400 million from community colleges in the 2011-2012 state budget. An additional $109 million was slashed through trigger cuts. These cuts were automatically enacted when the state fell short of its expected revenue.

Thousands marched, held up signs and expressed their outrage and disapproval of this abysmal and broken system. Speakers at the rally criticized the ongoing cuts, along with rising tuition costs and fees. Community college fees are set to increase from $36 to $46 per unit this summer.

It’s a scene that seems familiar to those following the miserable state of California in recent years.

Budget woes and the subsequent protests began in 2009 when the University of California and California State University systems approved an increase in student tuition, while community college fees also increased by $6 per unit. The upheaval sparked outrage all across California, as infuriated students rioted and protested the unprecedented changes to higher education.

It’s only getting worse. Each year, the amount of angry students, dissatisfied with legislators and the state government, is constantly growing. As a direct result of this image, desensitization to budget cuts has occurred. Because of the ongoing cuts to education in recent years, the term budget cuts no longer carries any meaning. These slashes in funding have become mundane, as the amount of money cut is simply an abstract number. It’s a repetitive cycle of inefficiency and frustration.

An understanding of desensitization and a subsequent shift in thinking must occur. Protesting at an annual event is not an active solution. The images of angry mobs are too worn out. Claiming to be part of the 99 percent is not a solution either. The Occupy movement fails to have a unified message, and its participants fail to realize that their outrage is already recognized by legislators.

The solution to desensitization lies within making ourselves seem tangible to lawmakers. Lawmakers know that enrollment at community colleges has shrunk by ten percent since 2009. Instead of taking the time to point out the disparity, call your legislator or write a hand-written letter about how the issue affects you. Make your situation seem more real to those who will ultimately decide your future.

It’s better than being just a face in the middle of an angry crowd.