Action Rally participants gather at the CSU plaza on March 10.
From the President's Desk
“Today Decides Tomorrow”
More Than a Chant at the Action Rally
Amidst the many signs and exuberant chants at the Chico State Day of Action Rally on March 10, one especially stood out. On several occasions, the estimated crowd of about 3,000 broke out into heartfelt chants of “Today Decides Tomorrow! Today Decides Tomorrow!” What was even more remarkable is that the first time this chant filled the Student Services Center plaza it was spontaneous.
I have never heard of a campus whose motto is its rallying cry. It would be nice, I guess, if Harvard rallied to chants of “Veritas! Veritas!”(“Truth! Truth!”). But the University of Maryland cheering “Manly deeds, womanly words!” (I kid you not; look it up “Fatti maschii, parole femine”) or the students of Faber College of Animal House chanting “Knowledge is Good! Knowledge is Good!”? Not likely.
This was a distinctly Chico State moment.
The rally was a distinctively proud Chico State moment.
Beginning last fall, student leaders from the Cross Cultural Leadership Center, the Associated Students, and MEChA began to organize this event. They wanted an event clearly conceived by and featuring students and distinct in purpose and tone from the various rallies and protests around the state and nation, many of which had turned ugly with vandalism, building break-ins, and police intervention. In particular, they wanted to stage an event that informed those who attended of the dire conditions facing public higher education in California and enlisted them in activities beyond the rally to change the present course. In other words, they sought to conduct an event that focused on the issues, delivered a message of civil yet forceful resolve, and had positive consequences.
It was more than “a perfect day for a march,” as the Chico Enterprise-Record characterized the event. It was an impressive and moving affirmation of why our students love their University and rally to its defense and values.
Along with CSU trustees Bob Linscheid and Glen Toney, I was pleased to join the speakers’ list, which, except for the three of us, were all students. We pounded out the same message:
- Restore the vision of the Master Plan and its promise of true access, affordability, and quality.
- Build a future of hope through higher education, rather than one of fear through thicker prison walls and higher border fences.
- Hold our representatives in Sacramento accountable to the desire of the people of our state to secure the promise of higher education.
- Infuse public policy about higher education with a sense of social justice and moral responsibility and insist that our elected officials reflect these values.
- Emphasize that higher education is an investment for the public good, not just an expense for privileged individuals.
- And, most importantly, learn about the issues and what’s at stake and how you can influence public policy.
Like many who attended, I am encouraged to believe that this rally was not the end of an effort, but part of a sustained campaign; that it was a reflection of deeply felt passions about the issues and genuine trust among the organizers and participants; and that it will strengthen our own institutional sense of purpose and identity.
Yes, today decides tomorrow. This is not just some empty slogan that looks good in Latin or on banners and is an easy target for derision. However achieved, it seems clear that our students largely know and embrace it as a felt expression of the Chico Experience.
Those who gave voice to the chorus of concern about public higher education at the rally also spoke eloquently about the relevance of our educational focus. For those of us who believe that the essence of education is self-discovery and the ability to seek and see connections, the rally bore witness that Chico State is a place where we walk the talk of choosing and building our future through the actions we take now.
Yes, it was a perfect day for a march and a great way to demonstrate the power and appeal of our convictions.
—Paul J. Zingg, President