By Greg Zeman
About 100 students staged an open occupation of the Rosenberg Library, on Ocean campus, Feb. 11 to protest reduced library hours. Students refused to leave at the new closing time of 6:45 p.m. and held a study-in until 8:45 p.m., which has been the library’s closing time for decades.
The Rosenberg Library action was unanimously decided upon by the City College General Assembly — a group of students, teachers and workers unifying their once divergent causes under a broad coalition against budget cuts to education that grew out of a statewide conference at UC Berkeley, Oct. 24, 2009.
“Today we’ve called a study-in to draw attention to the slashes to our education and social services. Students’ access to the library is necessary for meeting our educational goals,” said Xochitl Moreno, media liaison for the General Assembly. “This action is to create power and unity among our entire campus community.”
Associated Students senator and long-time City College student and activist “Diamond” Dave Whitaker, 72, helped to organize the study-in. He said the purpose of a general assembly action is to put the power back into the hands of students.
Four City College librarians, including Karen Saginor, stayed for the duration of the study-in.
“Education has made a huge difference in my life. Working here I get to meet all kinds of great people who are here because they want an education,” Saginor said. “That’s why students come to City College, because they want to learn stuff, and I love working with people who want to learn. It’s a constant inspiration to me.”
Moreno said the activists were not against the library or its workers, adding that they are also struggling against budget cuts.
“Our fight is also their fight,” she said.
The writing lab was open throughout the event, with five tutors on hand to help students with paper writing. Many students were actively doing homework and reading, but many others were gearing up for future action.
Lawyer Ronald Cruz, a UC Berkeley graduate and activist with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, encouraged those in attendance to embrace legislation like the state and federal Dream Act, which would make financial aid available to undocumented students fighting for education rights.
“Students at Mission High School and Galileo and other places more directly affected by this, they’ll walk out for this. This is something that we can really build March 4 with,” Cruz said. “Central to our ability to win the success of education is to link the fight for equality on our campuses with the power of the community, especially the immigrant rights struggle.”
March 4 is the unified day of action decided upon by the same democratic coalition that called for the network of general assemblies in October of last year. General assemblies and other grass roots groups at all levels of education throughout California are gearing up for what they hope will be a historical day in the fight for public education.
“At our last general assembly this Wednesday, two people came up from D’Anza College and at the end of the meeting they said to us, ‘You know what? We’re actually getting ten busses and we’re thinking of coming over to City College to join what’s happening over there on March 4,’” General Assembly representative Brian Cruz said. “We need to get out on the streets.”
Jordan Towers, a student and Iraqi Veteran Against the War, said unity of purpose is the only way forward.
“Now is the time when we come together, stand together as one and demand a change in values. But not just a change in values, cause that won’t work for this system. We need a revolution of values – that’s the only way we’re gonna fix things,” Towers said. “When you go to a public institution and are charged a $10,000 fee, not tuition, a fee, I say that’s a tax on education to keep certain people from achieving their goals.”
“I’m 72 years old, and I say this is a life-long struggle. Most of my life’s behind me – most of your life’s ahead of you, but we’re meeting here to carry on this tradition of struggle,” Whitaker said. “This came to me in a revelation and it seems to work in every situation: Cast a wide net; find the common thread; let light shine, and don’t panic – keep it organic.”