Channel that anger

Students need to turn their frustration into action

Last Thursday (March 4), some 2,000 college and university students and teachers converged on the State Capitol in Sacramento, while thousands more gathered on their campuses up and down the state. The predominant mood was anger.

The students were angry about the skyrocketing fees at the state’s public colleges and universities. But they were angry as well at what they saw as the demise of one of the world’s greatest education systems, and the stealing of a generation’s hopes for a better life.

They understand too that California’s higher-education system is its greatest social treasure, and that without good public colleges and universities the state will struggle to create and keep the kinds of jobs that will power its economic recovery. In Chico this week, on Wednesday (March 10), students again gathered to protest the dismantling of a great public education system, and one could see the beginnings of a movement.

The question now is: How can this anger be channeled into action? How can this frustration and disappointment be used in a positive manner?

One place to begin is with AB 656, a bill by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D-Newark) that would institute a fee on the oil and natural gas extracted in California and use the $2 billion generated to help fund higher education. Other oil-producing states—Texas, Louisiana and Alaska—have such fees; why not California?

But it won’t happen if students don’t push for it, and push hard. Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Republican minority in the Legislature are adamant in their opposition to taxes, no matter how reasonable they might be, and only a massive show of resolution will change their minds. Students, this is your chance to make history. Grab it.