By Lisa Donchak and Jose San Mateo

Students of color came out in force to Bay Tree Plaza last Friday to express their dissatisfaction with Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision to cut key funding for Student Initiated Outreach (SIO) programs on campus.

About 200 volunteers came from the E-squared SIO outreach and retention center, but about 300 of the students who attended the rally were high schoolers who had recently been admitted to UC Santa Cruz. The high school students were attending E-squared workshops and touring the campus before the Friday afternoon rally.

Patrick San Juan, one of two co-chairs of E-squared, explained that the group is a student-initiated and run outreach and retention center on campus.

Seven outreach programs and four retention programs are affiliated with E-squared, and many of them are dedicated to increasing the percentage of minority and low-income students who attend and stay at UCSC.

The three-day program, which included Friday’s rally, was an attempt to raise awareness of the new budget, teach students about issues surrounding diversity, and empower students. Rally participants arrived on campus on Thursday, stayed for two nights, and left Saturday morning. Each student was individually contacted to attend the three-day program.

“We wanted to bring them up here to show them the community and make them feel like they have a space here,” San Juan said.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ‘zeroed out’ $440,000 of funding from the 2007-2008 state budget that is usually allocated to Student Initiated Outreach (SIO) programs like E-squared, according to San Juan.

Many high school students present expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed budget cuts.

“Obviously, we need more diversity at our UCs,” said Norma Lovano, a high school student recently admitted to UCSC. And about the programs that will be receiving less state money next year, she said, “These are the kind of programs that encourage minorities to continue their education.”

Chancellor Blumenthal addressed the issue of funding to SIO programs in a group interview with UCSC student media organizations last Monday.

“There are several places where funding comes from for Academic Preparation Programs, whether official university programs or Student Initiated Outreach programs,” he said. “The most significant amount of money [that] comes to the UC system is from the state budget.”

According to Blumenthal, approximately $19.3 million are allocated to both SIO programs and state funded student outreach groups like E-squared each year. Blumenthal also expressed disappointment in the governor’s decision to cut funding to outreach groups.

“We thought that we had resolved that question and I was particularly disappointed when that money was taken out of the budget,” Blumenthal said. “I’m quite confident that it will be put back in again.”

The legislature has the ability to restore Schwarzenegger’s cuts to outreach funding during the May revision of the budget, and Blumenthal was confident that the legislature would make such a decision.

Blumenthal continued, “Every state legislator that I’ve spoken with has been supportive of its return.”