Thousands Converge In San Francisco and at CSU Trustees Meeting Wednesday

Following ReFund California’s Statewide Actions, Campuses Across California Unite in Calling on Higher Education Board Members to Make Banks Pay to Stop Cuts

Following widespread student protests and a growing movement calling on higher education board members to make banks pay instead of cutting funds to higher education, thousands of students, teachers and supporters converged yesterday in two locations – at the CSU Trustees meeting in Long Beach, and in downtown San Francisco.

The week of action that began with rallies at over 14 college campuses on November 9th was conceived of and planned in September by ReFund California, a statewide coalition of students, teachers, homeowners, workers, community members and faith leaders working to make Wall Street banks pay for a crisis they helped to create. After uniting around ReFund California’s pledge calling on the state’s higher education board members to do everything in their power to make banks pay to stop cuts to higher education, students have begun self-organizing on their respective campuses, committed to building the movement to refund public education across the state.

“The response to ReFund California’s actions has exceeded everyone’s expectations, and has demonstrated that people across the state are united in calling on higher education board members to make banks pay to refund public education,” said Charlie Eaton, organizer with ReFund California. “More and more people are approaching the disinvestment in public education in a whole new way. They’re not just saying “don’t cut” – they’re saying that the banks and the 1% are the culprits here, and we’ll no longer let them off the hook while our schools, our jobs, and our communities suffer. This is only the beginning, and we will continue to demand that banks and the 1% pay to stop cuts to higher education, restore needed state revenue, and improve the economy for California families.”

At the CSU Trustees meeting, hundreds of students, workers and community members came together to call on the trustees to endorse the ReFund California Pledge for Public Education. In an attempt to limit public participation, the CSU administration restricted access to the meeting to levels well below the number of people who had been allowed at previous meetings, thereby forcing the majority of protesters to remain outside.

When ReFund California representatives spoke out to urge the Trustees to embrace the pledge, CSU Board Chair Carter shut off the public comment microphone and recessed the meeting.  CSU police then forcibly evicted everyone from the room, pushing people out of the building, using batons and pepper spray on the crowd, and arresting three students.  The Trustees reconvened the meeting in a secret location from which media and the public were barred, and voted 9-6 to support a tuition increase. The protests continued with a march down Ocean Boulevard to a rally outside Wells Fargo.

In a statement released late Wednesday, CSU Trustee, Lt Governor Gavin Newsom called for the board to re-open the issue at its December 5th meeting.  He stated,  “At that time, the full board can hold an open debate with full public comment and members of the media present, so that the people of California can be confident that these decisions are being made in the open and decision-makers — myself included — are being held to account."

In San Francisco, over 1,000 students and supporters converged at Justin Herman Plaza and marched to a nearby Bank of America, where they demanded that Bank of America Board member Monica Lozano sign the pledge to refund higher education. Protests remained peaceful, but nearly 100 arrests were made. The San Francisco protests were previously scheduled to take place at the Wednesday meeting of the UC Regents, who chose on Monday to cancel their meeting.

 On the Berkeley campus, Occupy Cal remains despite encampments being disbanded by police. On Tuesday, more than 10,000 students and supporters protested across the state at campuses and in the streets, including at a day-long strike at UC Berkeley to reject the excessive force used by police last week and continue to call on higher education board members to sign a pledge to make banks pay to refund higher education.

In response to a campus-wide email sent late Tuesday by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau, ReFund California issued the following statement:

“The disinvestment in public higher education is the direct result of the owners and executives of big banks and corporations – including many of the UC Regents – using their influence and money to keep from paying to fund the needs of our State.  The message from you on the board of Regents to Sacramento should be that you and your corporations are ready to pay to refund public education and all Californians – and that the Sacramento and Washington should stop letting the rest of Wall Street and the 1% get away with bankrupting our State.  You can send this message right now by signing the ReFund California pledge to support for a tax increase on California’s wealthiest 1% and eliminate corporate tax loopholes, forcing corporate property to be taxed at fair market value.  These steps alone would solve the funding crisis for not just California’s higher education system but for education as a whole and much more.

Words won’t solve this crisis – only action will.  It’s time for the leaders of the UC and CSU system to openly join the call for Big Banks and Corporations to pay their share and use all of their relationships, financial dealings and influence to make them act.  As Chancellor Birgenau said, ‘The issues require bold action and time is short.’ We could not agree more.”

Many members of the university boards hold leadership positions at some of the nation’s biggest banks, financial institutions and corporations, which are the target of nationwide Occupy protests – including Monica Lozano, UC Regent and Bank of America Board Member. As these banks and their executives continue to profit, the California higher education system has suffered deep budget cuts resulting in the layoffs of thousands of teachers and workers, cuts to research projects vital for progress in public health and other areas, and record tuition hikes that have caused students – especially students of color – to drop out or delay education plans.

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ABOUT US: ReFUND California is a coalition of organizations throughout California committed to exposing the unfairness of the state’s current economic reality and engaging in public campaigns to force the changes that are necessary.