A student walkout drew a crowd of more than 100 to the HCC courtyard Tuesday, March 6, to protest Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to change the way the state governs and funds its community college system.
A succession of students spoke loudly against the governor's plan, which follows a report issued by the Boston Foundation. The report and Patrick's proposal would replace the boards of trustees of the 15 community colleges with a single, central board based in Boston, which many people believe would result in a loss of local control.
"We just want to make a public stance as students against the governor's proposal," said Cheryl O'Connell, one of the student organizers of the walkout and rally.
Students also argued against other parts of the plan that would eliminate line item budgets for each of the community colleges and instead fund them based on performance from a single pool of money. "Funding based on performance can only be described as standardization of curriculum," said student speaker Lance Matos.
Further, the students contend that the proposed emphasis on workforce development at community colleges would result in the loss of academic programs that would reduce opportunities for transfer to four-year schools for those who want to continue their educations.
"My big issue is that it's going to limit higher education possibilities for low income students," said O'Connell. "The emphasis on workforce development will lead to cutting academic programs, particularly art and music. We're refusing to let that happen to ourselves, as students."
Student organizers passed around petitions protesting the governor's proposal and said they gathered more than 250 signatures.
"While the administration is sympathetic to the students' concerns about Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to consolidate community college boards of trustees, we are obviously concerned anytime a student misses class," said Erica Broman, vice president of Institutional Development. "That being said, this is an important issue and it is important that students' voices be heard."
Broman encouraged students to take part in Advocacy Day at the State House in Boston on Thursday, March 8, when they can bring their voices directly to state officials who need to hear them. A van will be leaving the Bartley Center at HCC Thursday morning at 8 a.m. Students who want to go can sign up in the HCC Student Activities office.
Photos: (Left) A student signs a petition protesting the governor's plan to change the way the state governs and funds community colleges. (Right) A student speaks to the crowd in the HCC courtyard.