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Performing in protest

Students, faculty attend ‘Class Closed,’ a musical and cultural show.

May 07, 2010|By Max Zimbert

Chris Wise came to Glendale Community College to be an engineer. The 33-year-old left the design and construction trade to get a more specialized degree, but his progress has been slowed as he, like many in California, struggle to enroll in the classes he needs.

Classroom overcrowding is a thread that united the scores of Glendale Community College students and faculty who attended a music, theater and spoken word demonstration Thursday.

“General education classes are very difficult to get into, and I wasn’t able to get any classes at all this winter,” Wise said. “If the students present themselves in masses, maybe the board of directors here at the college and colleges everywhere can stop Sacramento from cutting school budgets.”

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The music and cultural presentation, “Class Closed,” was organized by the Glendale Community College Guild, the faculty union. History professor Gordon Alexandre said approaching the state fiscal crises through culture was a way to connect with students.

“It’s like a party with a purpose,” he said. “The answer to California’s budget problem is not more cuts. We have a revenue problem, not a spending problem.”

A troupe of Los Angeles high school students reenacted a scene Wise and psychology major LaToya Kirkland were all too familiar with: an over-worked, financially strapped student who, for the ninth time, couldn’t get a spot in English-1A.

“It has to be out in the open, otherwise it’ll get swept under the rug,” Kirkland said. “We’ve got to talk about the things we don’t usually talk about.”

And sociology teacher Richard Kamei has seen his classes swell to 50 students, he said.

“Office hours are the best example; it’s just impossible to see everyone,” he said. “Our workload increases . . . but it hurts the learning environment for the students.”

“Class Closed” was different from the speeches and march organized by the college’s student government in March.

But that rally inspired faculty members to organize their own, said David John Attyah, an art professor.

“This is intended to keep that momentum moving,” he said. “Faculty felt we had to get behind them.”

Students laid out along the grassy slopes in the Plaza Vaquero on the cloudless and sunny day, many with signs like “Hoo kneeds educashun” and “No more cuts.”

The procession was the first of its kind, and if successful, would be replicated at community colleges elsewhere, said Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, the parent union of the Glendale Community College faculty guild.

“It’s the beginning,” he said. “Some will feel that spark and want to go further and organize.”


Get in touch MAX ZIMBERT covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at max.zimbert@latimes.com.

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