Protestors march down Ocean Blvd. on their way to City Hall. Photo by Jason Ruiz
Nearly 200 students, community activists and labor union members marched from the Pacific Coast Campus of Long Beach City College all the way to City Hall Wednesday in an effort to inform the community about a student-led recall of four trustees in the wake of several vocational and trade programs being discontinued at the start of the year.
Before making the almost three-mile trek to Downtown, the mass of people gathered on the main quad outside the Student Union building where they received instruction of the march route, copies of an article recently published detailing the plight of the trade programs at the school and signs with slogans saying "Don’t tread on me or my education" and "students unite." David Root, a representative of the LBCC trades being cut, barked the details over a megaphone and shared his own feelings over the cancellation of the 11 trade programs during a mini-rally before the march began.
“This college right here was built for the vets,” Root said. “It was built for vets returning home from World War II that needed training to go back into the work force. Them closing this down…and I’m a vet myself…basically what they’re doing is slapping me in the face. They’re disrespecting me and disrespecting my country when they shut down programs that were built for people like us.”
Four motorcycle patrol officers provided an escort to make sure the protestors crossed streets safely and remained out of harm’s way. On the ground, people chanted “save our trades” and handed out flyers to businesses along the protest route and to people stopped at lights to spread the word about the recall. And in the air, a banner-toting airplane--at a cost of $500 an hour--flew with a message that read “Save LBCC Trades-Recall Board of Trustees Now” in tow.
“I thought it would be poetic to have an airplane flying around when our aviation program is being cut,” said Student Trustee Jason Troia, who publicly called for the board member recall last week and also organized the protest march.
Troia, citing a loss of credibility and leadership, demanded that President Roberto Uranga, Vice President Jeffrey Kellogg, Douglas Otto and Thomas Clark step down at a Board of Trustees meeting last week. The direct recall servings came just one day after the LBCC Associated Student Body issued a vote of no confidence toward the board. Troia alleges that the misappropriation of funds, private board member meetings in violation of the Brown Act and underreporting of enrollment has lead to the cancellation of 11 vocational programs including aviation, carpentry and automotive technology.
He hoped the protest would draw attention to all of this and help him garner the thousands of required signatures he’d need to collect in order for a recall to be possible.
“I think it will send a strong message to the powers that be at Long Beach City College and the City of Long Beach that we’re done with the cuts to education,” Troia said.
Mark Taylor, Director of Community and Governmental Relations for LBCC, refutes the idea that the administration is minimizing the impact of the program cuts by tweaking enrollment numbers. Instead, Taylor says that the numbers that Trustee Troia is basing his allegations off of are taken from the college's program-review data which displays the number of seats filled each year and not necessarily the number of students in the programs.
“As you know if you’ve been a student, students enroll in multiple classes,” Taylor said. “So a student might take up three or four seats [in a program], but it's only one student.”
Taylor went on to say that even though the certificate programs and associates degrees for certain trades were being discontinued, many of the same classes would still be available at LBCC.
“Welding will continue to be taught even though we wont offer an associates degree program or a certificate in welding,” Taylor said. “The welding will still be taught as part of other programs. That’s something that hasn’t been communicated clearly in this process.”
Still, the cluster of slogan-yelling, trashcan-lid-pounding and sign-wielding people made their way to City Hall on May Day. Among the crowd of people that snaked it's way down Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach Boulevard and Ocean Avenue before finally arriving at the Civic Center was 32-year-old aviation-student, Rose Vance. She noted that some people have given up a lot to be part of these cancelled trade programs, some even moving from out of state. Vance also stressed the importance of the programs to the city’s economy.
“Long Beach is a trades community,” Vance said. “By getting rid of the programs the college is basically telling the citizens of Long Beach they have no economic right to exist and I think it’s absolutely wrong.”
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“Sometimes its necessary to stand up for the things you need to do what you want it life,” Lister said as he marched down PCH with his tool belt in hand. “And when people are trying to take these things away from you for no reason it’s a good idea to stand up and voice your opinion.”
In a prepared statement released Wednesday after the protest, LBCC President Eloy Oakley conceded that some students will suffer immediate impacts due to the cancellation of their degree and certificate programs but that the cuts were made with the best interest of the student body as a whole in mind.
“While I understand students’ disappointment and frustration with the outcome of the program discontinuance process, the decision was made after a lengthy public process that included significant input from faculty, administration, students and other college stakeholders informing the decision that was made as a result of years of reductions in state funding,” Oakley said. “Clearly, discontinuing programs has significant short-term impacts on some students and faculty; however the decision was made to reallocate resources to provide additional opportunities and support that will allow the greatest number possible of LBCC students to complete degrees and certificates in the long run.”
Troia, though, is convinced that with persistence, not only can the students force a recall of the trustees but inevitably their efforts will save the programs from extinction.
“We have a lot of momentum right now and if we just keep applying the same amount of pressure we will save these programs,” Troia said. “I’m not even worried about gathering 10,000 signatures in each of the districts. That will be a simple task.”
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