Sleeping bags offered little padding against the tile floors and, even at night, the blinding fluorescent lights never went off. Yet the Cal State Fullerton students who staged a four-day sit-in at an administration building on campus to protest budget cuts say the discomfort was worth it.
They say they got what they wanted.
The students met with university officials Thursday morning and negotiated into the early afternoon before the two sides reached an agreement.
The students were bleary-eyed from nights with little sleep — and many complained of feeling a little ripe after days without a shower. They still had enough energy to cheer as Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon prepared to sign a letter called a "Statement in Defense of Public Education."
"Sign it! Sign it!" chanted several dozen students who had participated in the protest.
And Gordon did, saying he applauded the students' efforts to protect the California State University system.
Similar student protests were held at other Cal State campuses last week, but ended less amicably. At Cal State Sacramento, police in riot gear pushed the students out early Saturday, as many of them slept, according to news accounts.
"We did it!" David Inga, 21, a senior history major, said as Gordon signed the document. "We bridged the gap between students, faculty and administration at this campus."
What they came up with was a broad, one-page statement offering a shared desire "to recommit to and reinvest in public education." The document also advocates fair and equal access to college and says administrators, faculty and students support increased funding for education.
The document did not offer policy initiatives and made no promises about the budget.
But the protesting students said they were satisfied that university officials had given them a seat at the table.
"It's surreal — four days of sitting in Langsdorf Hall has been amazing," said Ally Bordas, a 21-year-old senior journalism and international politics major. "At first it was a lot of frustration, with the other side not working with us.
"Our efforts aren't going to the wayside," she added, looking both proud and worn out after camping out since Monday. "We're not going to end up as another fruitless protest."