Paving the way

HIGHER EDUCATION: March 5 protests in Sacramento are remarkable for all the things activists did right, not the spectacle they generated.

Related Posts

A multifaceted strategy is imperative for success in any struggle. Whether its on some far-flung battlefield or while navigating political challenges at home, effectively engaging with all obstacles only increases the chances of victory. The March 5 Day of Action in Sacramento, as well as protests leading up to it, in many ways serve as a shining example of the collaborative demonstration that champions of higher education in California need to make an impact.

Where past protests have delivered a muddled, disparate message, March 5 was constructive and focused. Yes, the multi-pronged effort — a rally outside the Capitol, the occupation within, the direct lobbying and the “99 Mile March” — belies a singular goal. But the positive attention garnered that day grew from a chorus in-tune with the challenges facing higher education, not the cacophonous shouts of agitators and radicals.

Bringing together a significant number of people to demonstrate civilly is difficult in itself. That communities from all three of the state’s college systems stood as one and remained unified in message should impress every Californian, especially the lawmakers who represent them. That they protested peacefully and without major incident is likewise remarkable.

Politicians like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Senator Leland Yee and Assembly Speaker John Perez should be thanked for standing alongside protesters and engaging in the debate. But they must now move beyond cheerleading and deliver results. As representatives, they need to prioritize solutions already on the table and introduce further legislation. Perez’s proposed Middle Class Scholarship Act is an excellent starting point, but one law won’t solve everything. The state must fully reinvest in public higher education.

Yes, all eyes should shift to leaders in Sacramento — they must now respond to the public’s concern. But do not become complacent just because progress was made. The funding of higher education in California will always be in flux. Remain at the ready and, when the time comes to protest again, look to March 5 as a model for a cohesive, large-scale protest.