By Rosie Spinks
Campus News Reporter

In Sacramento and Los Angeles on Monday, as part of the “Day of Action,” scores of students from the University of California system, the California State University system, and community college campuses marched in protest of the recently proposed state budget cuts to higher education.

Students for California’s Future organized the demonstration to speak out against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal for the 2008-2009 fiscal year which includes $1 billion in budget cuts to mitigate the state’s financial crisis. The cuts will take $332 million from the UC system alone.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi was just one of the legislators there to support the student activists and was the opening speaker of the day.

“There is no more important investment than the investment in students,” Garamendi said. “We must stop taxing our young people, and we must once again invest in the intellectual infrastructure of our state.”

The march was just one component of a stream of student activism against the budget cuts. The week of May 5 through 9 will be a “Week of Action” at UC Santa Cruz to take a stand against the issue.

On May 14, the UC Regents will be deciding between a 7 to 10 percent increase of fees. Organizers are recruiting students to attend the meeting, as well as the state legislature hearing in Sacramento on May 19.

Hailey Snow, a third-year student who serves as the UC Santa Cruz undergraduate committee chair for the University of California Students Association (UCSA), spoke at the march.

“This is the governor’s ‘Year of Education,’ but these are the biggest budget cuts we’ve seen in years,” Snow said.

The governor’s actions trouble Lauren Thomas, a first-year Student Union Assembly (SUA) intern.

“The problem with the government taxing students is that they are doing it to fix budget problems that they created with their own spending policies,” Thomas said.

One of the main goals of the rally was media and state attention. With over 2,000 students present in the State Capitol alone, the activists said the goal was achieved.

“A lot of the legislators present weren’t scheduled to speak,” Snow said. “But once they saw the crowd, they felt inclined to speak on our behalf.”

In addition to making higher education even more unaffordable, the potential budget cuts threaten the diversity of UC campuses. Tiffany Loftin, a UCSC first-year and SUA chair intern present at the rally, brought up this issue.

“At Santa Cruz, we’re not very diverse,” Loftin said. “A big part of that problem is that many students are unable to afford college.”

According to a diversity report released by the UC Regents, UCSC is the least racially diverse of the UC campuses. Snow pointed out the problem that occurs when college becomes unaffordable to low-income groups.

“By increasing fees we’re decreasing diversity for undergraduate and graduate students,” Snow said.

Snow explained that her interest in organizing around statewide budget issues and making higher education more affordable stems from her own personal situation.

“I know that I’m graduating after three years because I can’t afford to stay here any longer,” Snow said. “I’m doing this because I know there are a lot of other students in my shoes.”