Monday, March 23, 2009

Whose Legacy?

Yadira Arroyo
El Reflejo should have attacked this measure before the voting took place. I know, I know.

Thankfully however, the Beach Legacy Referendum did not pass.

If it had passed, the BLR would have increased student fees at Cal State Long Beach by $95 per semester ($70 for a summer semester) starting in 2010 to fund athletic scholarships, a new soccer field, a new track, and a women’s something-or-other sports team so that the school wouldn’t lose a men’s sports team.

Well, it did not pass, so what use is it now to break down the arguments? No use really, except perhaps to record my own humble opinion. So, I won’t do that. At least not thoroughly. What I can’t seem to put aside though, were the peculiar events that took place on the first day of voting.

A bunch of us were scheduled to flyer at 2pm on Wednesday March 11. I marched to the Raza Center to gather the troops, but perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or the revolution was not scheduled for that time and I missed the memo, because several of my peers seemed puzzled, or a bit lax when I announced, "It is time." I left the Center alone, with a stack of flyers that Indira, part of Students for Quality Education, had provided for us.

I called Julio, fellow Reflejo staff member and cartoonist extraordinaire, only to find he was actually way ahead of me, at that moment fighting the good fight at Maxson Plaza, right outside of Brotman Hall. I met him and Indira there.

Traffic was slow and we decided to move our actions to the walkway by the Psychology building and bookstore. Julio left and I was glad to see members from La Raza Student Association and FUEL arriving to replace him. There, we happily flyered – until they came.

Immediately, I could tell that they were athletes. The sweatpants and rowdiness gave the group of women away.

Cackling, they approached one of our allies, whose name I must apologize for forgetting, took flyers from him and asked him for more. And then…

Their fearless leader jumped on a bench, and standing on her toned and tanned legs announced:
"This is what I think of this!"

Rip. She tore one of our flyers to pieces as her teammates cheered her on. And as if that weren’t enough drama, she haughtily tossed the shreds in the trash.

I cringed at the sight. Suddenly, I was flooded with acid memories of high school, where the cheerleaders tormented the geeks, who for the most part, actually gave a fuck about shit. Except that wait – I was raised in South Central and I never went to a school like that. I realized then that I was confusing my life with the one portrayed in white teenager films and television shows like She’s All That, Popular, and Bring It On. That’s where those memories came from!

We continued to pass out flyers and encourage people to vote against the referendum. They continued to harass us – I mean, vouch for the BLR.

"You see her?" exclaimed the leader, pointing at me. "She doesn’t care about her school. She doesn’t care about school pride!"

And what could I say? It’s true, I don’t care about school pride. The last time I thought that sports and pride were essential to a fulfilling college experience, I was a goofy freshman who took pride in her bowling alley, pool tables, Panda Express and video arcade.

"She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!" she continued. "I bet she’s never even been to a basketball game…"

Her buddies roared, because I’m a loser, or an American freak, or something. But then came the kicker.

"…in her life!"

I was bewildered. I looked bewildered.

"Umm, what does basketball have to do with anything?" I turned and asked them.

And I was hoping they’d let me in on the secret. Like, watching basketball has been proven to quicken the path towards graduation. Or basketball is the ultimate embodiment of coolness, like being sexually active. But it doesn’t come.

"Why are you voting ‘No’?" one of them asks me.

"I am voting ‘No’ because I cannot afford to pay for tuition. I had to drop to part-time this semester and even then, it’s difficult to pay."

But, they were armed with the perfect rebuttals. I was no match.

"Wow! Is that the only reason you’re voting against it?"

More cackles.

"Did you know that Cal State Long Beach is one of the best value colleges in the nation? Top 3! You’re paying some of the cheapest tuition anywhere in the States!"

My demands were ludicrous.

"Yeah, and I still cannot afford it."

Somehow, the "I’m one of those for-real broke people," message was not getting across. How could I sit down and tell them of my parents’ financial woes? How could I explain to them that because my parents own property, I cannot receive grants?

And so, they continued. I felt like I was at an anti-war protest. Their "She has no school pride!" taunts reminded me of "You’re not an American!"

I’ve been wondering this whole week whether I can pull the race card on this one. As I looked around that day, I noticed that those of us flyering were Latino, and most of the BLR supporters were white. They wore "Beach Gear" and looked primp and proper. But perhaps the class card would be more fitting.

The results of the elections made me happy, made me believe in people a little bit. Certainly, the economy had a lot to do with the referendum not passing. The majority of voting students saw their request as ludicrous.

As I have flashbacks from that action, the cackling of Cal State Long Beach’s women’s basketball team echoes in my memory. This was but one small victory in the battle for more equal access to higher education. And I can laugh my ass off and gloat in self-righteousness too, but I have more class than that. ¶

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