Why Laney College student Alessandro Tinonga is protesting March 4

Editor's Note: The following appeared on the website of SocialistWorker.org.

By Alessandro Tinonga
Special to TheBlackHour.com
LAST FALL, following a speakout and town hall meeting, members of the student government, professors and representatives from various student groups formed the No Cuts Peralta Coalition to fight budget cuts on campus here. The coalition has been successful in getting a core of two dozen students to lead protests against proposed cuts.

Also last fall, the administration and board of trustees of the Peralta Community College District tried to pass draconian budget cuts that would have cut millions from student services. Due to protests by the coalition and members of the Peralta Federation of Teachers, approval of the budget had been postponed three times.

Protests also brought continued attention to the corruption and cronyism of Chancellor Elihu Harris and his administration. In January, it was announced that the district would not renew the contract for Harris or Vice Chancellor Tom Smith.

Despite these successes, the cuts are still being handed down to the students and staff. Over a dozen staff were served with layoff notices in December, and over 500 classes have been cut throughout the district.

Furthermore, the cuts to education in the UC and CSU systems have forced many students to seek classes in community colleges, leading to a growing student population. The influx of students coupled with reduced classes and student services has led to frustration. This semester began with students suffering long lines and longer waits to get registration and financial aid processed.

Members of the coalition hope that the March 4 actions will build solidarity between students, staff and faculty, and organize frustrated students into the movement to save public education.

Outreach thus far has been successful in creating a buzz on campus. Laney College is plastered with walkout fliers. Additionally, the Peralta Federation of Teachers Local 1603 support the March 4 actions.

Some students and faculty are hesitant to participate in the walkout. One student said, "If I miss one day of classes, I may not get the grades I need. I feel like my education can slip right out of my fingers." We as student activists should be patient and understanding about such concerns. By reaching out and mobilizing as many students as possible, we can build confidence.

We could get hundreds of students to walk off campus and march to downtown Oakland. However, if we get a hundred or so students to participate in the rally and get them involved in the movement, that would also be a step forward.

Alessandro Tinonga is a Laney College student and an organizer with the Laney chapter of the International Socialist Organization.

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