Capitol Alert

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Angry about tuition increases and budget cuts in California's poor financial state, about 100 University of California students protested at the Capitol this morning and flooded elected officials' offices with phone calls.

The protest came after the University of California, fearing student protests could turn violent, canceled governing board meetings scheduled for today and Thursday in San Francisco.

"We wanted to let them know that canceling a meeting will not impede upon our efforts to protect and defend higher education," Joey Freeman, a student organizer from UC Berkeley, said at a news conference on Capitol's north steps.

The students came on buses from UC Berkeley and UC Davis. A bus that was scheduled to pick up students in Merced failed to show up at that campus, said Jonathan Stein, an organizer.

"Student activism is consistently hampered by logistical problems," he said.

Before the news conference, Stein distributed scripts to students, and they spent about 30 minutes calling the offices of Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders from their cellphones.

Outside, students held signs that said "Save our State, Fund our Future," and "Don't Make Our Public Education a Debt Sentence."

"The governor, the Assembly members and the senators have continued to cut our budget over and over and over," said Alfredo Mireles, UC's student regent. "Let me tell you why that pisses me off. When it was these people's turn to go to college, and when it was their opportunity to go to the University of California, they went practically for free. But how come when it's our turn it costs $13,000, with the potential of going up to $22,000?"

Mireles added, "When it's our turn to lead this state, let's show a little bit more compassion to the next generation."

The students called for tax increases and changes to Proposition 13, California's landmark tax-limiting measure, to raise revenue. They did not specify what changes or tax increases they are seeking.

In response to a $650 million budget cut, UC officials this summer raised tuition by about 18 percent. UC President Mark Yudof said this month that the system would not raise tuition this school year even if state revenue falls short of expectations and automatic budget triggers are pulled.

Joining the students at the Capitol was George Breslauer, executive vice chancellor and provost at UC Berkeley. He said California's power and vibrancy are a result of its commitment to public education.

Of unprecedented budget cuts in the past decade, Breslauer said, "It breaks my heart."


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