Magazine article American Libraries

Fresno Students Protest with Study-In

Magazine article American Libraries

Fresno Students Protest with Study-In

Article excerpt

There has been a resurgence of student activism at public universities throughout California. State budget reductions and rising student fees have resulted in students paying more and getting less. Students have occupied buildings, held marches, and been arrested at UCLA, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz. California State University at Fresno is not known as a radical campus, but even in this conservative region of the state students are taking action. This is the story of a successful student "study-in" at the Henry Madden Library on the campus of Fresno State.

About 100 students (and a few nonstudents) stayed in the library after it closed at 5 p.m. Friday, November 20. They were located on the second floor north, mainly by the windows but with the overflow at the tables by the current periodicals and microfilm. This was a strategic location so that the protesters could be seen from outside and where they could put up their signs with maximum impact.

Refusing to leave

University staff that stayed with the protesters were Paul Oliaro, vice president for student affairs; Carolyn Coon, dean of students; Peter McDonald, dean of library services, and myself, Dave Tyckoson, associate dean. The university police officer assigned to the library and several student public safety assistants were also in the building.

After closing the rest of the building. Peter McDonald talked to the students, informing them that the building was closed but that we would allow them to stay and study. We told them that since we were closed, no one else could come inside and if someone left that they could not re-enter. For safety, we also asked them to stay in the general area of the second floor. Some students and supporters, including the mothers of two students inside, who did not make it to the library by 5 p.m., remained outside near the front doors. We did allow those outside to pass along food for those inside. A lot of pizzas came in--along with fruit and water.

We were told that the purpose of the sit-in was to be a study-in, so we said that we would help them out. McDonald and I helped most of the students with reference questions. I am not sure what exactly the students he worked with were doing, but the ones that I helped ranged from searching cognitive neuropsychology treatments in cases of autism to finding books on printing in color. By helping the students, we set the tone that studying was really what they were here for and what we expected them to be doing.

At 8 p.m., the students held a spontaneous meeting to talk about their issues and to rally their position for the media. They gathered in a circle and provided testimonials to each other about how the budget cuts were affecting them. This was to solidify their stance, and the university officials watched but did not speak.

At 10 p.m., the students held a preorganized press conference. We allowed the media in and the students read a press release and chanted slogans such as "24-Hour Library!" and "Whose university? Our university!" They had called and texted friends to raise the numbers outside the library. Those on the outside joined in the chanting, often doing a call-and-response through the exit gates and front doors. University staff sat and watched; after all, this was the students' event.

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Once the media had left, McDonald talked to the students about plans for the rest of the evening. He and the students agreed that they could stay the night but would leave before 8 a. …

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