It was a 1980s-style demonstration at Pierce College Monday--a high-visibility protest carried out in a way that would not jeopardize the grades or the career plans of the participants.
Student leaders at the Woodland Hills campus of the Los Angeles Community College District school had called for a boycott of classes Monday and today from 10 a.m. until noon.
The boycott was called to protest cuts in faculty and reduction of course offerings. The budgetary steps have been ordered by the district’s board of trustees as it grapples with declining enrollment and a corresponding loss of state funding.
But faculty and administrators said Monday’s boycott had little effect on attendance. Most students showed up for class.
And student leaders said their purpose in calling for the demonstration was not to cripple the educational system, but simply to “raise the consciousness” of the student body.
“We just want to make a statement. We want to tell the students they are at a crisis point in their education,” said Liz Ziemba, student body president at Pierce.
“I’m not certain that the protest was supposed to disrupt the academic process,” said Pierce College President David Wolf, who met with students during the planning of the boycott.
“The students wanted to strike a balance between making a point and not hurting themselves academically.”
So, in the warm, sun-splashed campus quad, students signed petitions, wrote letters that will be mailed to trustees and shouted their disapproval of future budget reductions as they hurried to classes.
“I’m against the faculty cuts and I think the district should be trying to find ways to improve the academic atmosphere here,” student Joseph Baxter said. “But I’ve only got a few weeks before finals and have some catching up to do, so I just can’t miss class.”
Another student, Andrea Peterson, agreed. “Books have got to come first, especially with finals coming soon. Anyway, if I was going to skip class, I’d rather be at the beach than at some protest rally.”
In the last few months, the district’s trustees have announced a variety of money-saving measures, including furloughs of clerical and administrative staffs and the layoff of 143 faculty members. The district has even tried to raise money by leasing empty classroom space to the crowded Los Angeles Unified School District.
Individual trustees have voiced sympathy for student and faculty demands, but they have said that unpopular cuts will have to be made to balance the district’s budget.
The effectiveness of the two-day boycott was debated by those lingering around the Pierce quad Monday.
“I don’t think any single act like this boycott stands out by itself,” Wolf said. “But there are a lot of similar things going on, and I think that makes the board more sensitive to the feelings of the students and faculty.”