Rally calls on state officials to 'Free the CSU'

Apr 5, 2018

Students and faculty from across the California State University (CSU) system gathered at the state capitol in Sacramento Wednesday, with the goal of getting the attention of Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators about what demonstrators say is a continuing decline in CSU funding.

Called #FreeTheCSU, the rally was hosted by the CSU faculty union and the group Students for Quality Education, and included students and faculty from San Luis Obispo’s Cal Poly.

Cal Poly student Mick Bruckner traveled to attend the rally. He spoke with KCBX earlier this week about the issues currently affecting CSU students. 

“When we say ‘Free the CSU,’ we mean free it from all of the different struggles students are facing,” Bruckner said. “And that ranges from massive tuition hikes over the past decade to attacks on undocumented students coming from the federal level to fighting issues of homelessness - just thinking broadly about all these issues and working to address them fully and their root causes, not just band-aid fixes.”

The ‘Free The CSU’ demonstrators are asking the governor to free up funds from California’s Rainy Day Fund to meet an expected budget gap.

According to CSU Chancellor Timothy White, although CSU trustees had proposed a budget increase of close to $300 million in November of last year, Governor Brown has proposed and approved an increase of only $92 million for the CSU 2018/2019 budget.

In his January budget, Brown proposed a three percent bump—and he was pretty adamant to reporters about it.

“It is enough. You’re getting three percent more and that’s it,” Brown said in January. “They’re not going to get any more. And they've [got to] manage. I think they need a little more scrutiny over how they’re spending.”

Brown’s Department of Finance says CSU funding has grown by more than $1.5 billion since 2011, but that’s after being cut by a third in the recession.

The CSU Board of Trustees has said, without at least half that, it will raise the money through a tuition increase—which the governor, the faculty and students all oppose. But advocates for more state spending have allies with other budget negotiators.

“There’s one thing absolutely certain,” said Democratic Senate leader Toni Atkins at this week's CSU rally. “It’s that we can never balance the CSU budget on the backs of students and their families or the faculty and their families.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon made similar comments to cheers. But, asked after their speeches, both legislative leaders said while they’re supportive of more funding, they wouldn’t commit to a level beyond what the governor proposed in January.