Sonoma State University's president told students Thursday to press Gov. Jerry Brown to stop cutting and to restore funding to the state's public higher education system.
"This is a self-inflicted wound that will have great repercussions in this state," Ruben Armi?na said, urging students to focus their activism on the governor over legislators. "Usually, what the governor proposes is 98 percent of what the budget is."
He spoke at a campus gathering of about 25 students who have joined in a statewide campaign to protest budget cuts that have led to higher tuition, larger classes and the layoffs of thousands of lecturers.
The state has slashed $750 million from the California State University budget in the past year and another $200 million cut is threatened if voters reject proposed tax hikes in November. SSU's state funding has dropped about $50 million since 2008, to $46 million.
CSU tuition has climbed to $5,472 a year from $1,428 in 2001. At SSU, including fees, full-time students now pay $6,862 a year.
Commenting later on Thursday's smaller-than-hoped-for showing, Armi?na said students must assert themselves more strongly in the politics.
"They feel powerless and when you feel powerless you don't participate," he said.
"They're not powerless but they're not very good at exercising their power through the ballot box," he said. "Members of the legislature know that they don't have to fear them."
Dubbed the Bucks Start Here, to emphasize the economic benefits of an educated workforce, the student-led protest campaign is built around a symbolic collection of faux $650 million bills on which students have written how budget cuts have hit them.
Associated Students president Alex Boyar said SSU students have contributed 850 stories to the mound of blue notes piled in a clear, plexiglass cube making its way around CSU's 23 campuses.