The March 4 National Day of Action to Defend Education is underway at several United States universities. Students are protesting against tuition fee hikes and racism, and for free publicly-funded education.
The focus of activity is in California where a statewide protest is underway from UC Berkeley to Oakland campuses. Participants are encouraged to use any tactics they deem effective or appropriate. This includes strikes, walkouts, marches, rallies, occupations, sit-ins or teach-ins. The rallying cry is public outrage at recent increases in tuition rates—up to 32%—at state public universities in California.
On Twitter, the #March4 hashtag is being used by people with updates about events. @Lavika shared information regarding the participation of California State Superintendent Jack O’Connel at a rally scheduled at Colton Hall in Monterey. Colton Hall is a symbolic building since it was the site of the first publicly funded school in California.
The website Fightback! News has an article about mounting restlessness in different California college campuses. The UC Irvine Campus Administration Building was occupied by students and workers on February 24. One of their demands included financial aid for undocumented students.
Race relations is another issue which is boiling to the surface as part of the March 4 event. The UC San Diego and Berkeley Black Student Unions and the UCLA Afrikan Student Union have engaged in demonstrations against hate crimes and the lack of diversity in the UC System. A recent Blackout was held at UC Berkeley campus on March 1st.
The following Youtube video uploaded by rgiwaproductions highlights some of the demonstration activities.
Blackout Demonstration at UC Berkeley on March 1st 2010
There is East Coast participation from Hunter College, New York University and The State University of New York (SUNY), and The New School where many students have announced their solidarity in blogs and social networking sites. The state of New York saw a 14% hike in tuition rates last fall. On one blog, Takethecity, there is a manifesto of sorts, saying they have had enough of paying for, “a ‘crisis’ created by the rich and the bureaucrats that serve them.”
Occupy Boston writes that Massachusetts has seen their share of public education budget cuts also, and about a US$400 hike in fees per semester. They are organizing a teach-in from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. where they will address issues such as public education funding in Massachusetts, democracy in the educational system, accessibility and affordability of public education in MA.
The March 4 Day National Day of Action stems from a meeting held on October 24, 2009 at the UC Berkeley Campus where teachers, students, parents, organizations, unions and anyone interested in education were invited to participate in an open dialogue to discuss the increases in public education costs. More than 800 people attended the meeting, their main concern being that tuition increases will negatively affect working class students and communities of color. They expressed solidarity with demonstrations and people united against the tuition rate increases, and democratically decided on the March 4 Day of Action.
About a month later, UC Berkeley students occupied Wheeler Hall, a main lecture hall, and made demands for a free public education. A YouTube video uploaded by OccupyEverything2009 follows the students through their direct action efforts.
Other signs of solidarity include the dropping of pro-March 4 banners across college campuses in the U.S. The New School Reoccupied Blog has posted several photographs of banners dropped in the California area and the U.S. that depict language supporting the March 4 event.