Staff members, faculty and students equipped with picket signs and booming voices marched to the doorstep of the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) President Edouardo Ochoa to protest staff layoffs on Oct. 16.
After the university administered 29 layoff notices on the first day of Fall 2020 instruction, several CSUMB employees – whether they were given a layoff notice or not – felt disheartened by the manner in which the notices were distributed, and went straight to Ochoa’s home to voice their concerns and demand the layoffs be rescinded.
“There is no lack of work on the CSUMB campus,” said Tasha Lindstrom from CSUMB’s College of Business in the press release for the picket. “With these layoffs, programs and student success are at risk, and we think that President Ochoa has other options that should be explored first.”
She was one of the main leaders of the protest, along with President of the Employees Union Chapter 322 Sathyan Sundaram, who was listed as the contact person for the event. A website titled No Layoffs at CSUMB was created to publicize the march where members of the CSUMB community could RSVP and find protest slogans for their picket signs.
According to the site, the reasons staff layoffs were protested was due to the threat it poses to CSUMB students, the poor communication with those who received layoff notices, the layoffs hindering campus morale and the university’s silence to staff members several unanswered questions about the layoffs. The website also included a page that said all protesters must wear a mask and practice social distancing throughout the entire march to ensure proper health and safety for everyone attending.
At 5 p.m. over 30 participants gathered at Wainwright Park in East Campus, which is located just a few blocks away from Ochoa’s home, and began to make picket signs. Phrases such as “Lack of work says who?” “No CSUMB Layoffs,” “Layoffs hurt CSUMB students” and “What work have you done Natalie” were found raised in the air as the group made their way down Wainwright Drive.
Unified shouts were heard from the protesters as they marched through the street saying “No Layoffs!” and “Rescind Layoffs!” and approached Ochoa’s driveway. When making their way through the East Campus faculty neighborhood, few bystanders watched the march and the speeches conducted inside the president’s court.
Once they reached Ochoa’s home, protesters used their stillness as an opportunity for conducting speeches, offering a space for staff members to share their stories. Marta Gonzalez appeared in front of the crowd, burdened by the news of her layoff notice.
Gonzalez works for the University Police Department and said the school’s police officers will now be responsible for the parking service tasks she usually oversees. “Their job is to keep our campus and East Campus safe and they’re being pulled away from that to work on the duties that I was originally doing,” she said. “I was laid off. When the students eventually come back, who’s going to be there for them?”
The concern that students will be affected by the layoffs was a common theme during the march. Not only did picket signs declare protester’s worries, but this was also expressed when individuals spoke in front of their determined cohort.
Graduate student Nawied Amin expressed his rapport with the staff affected by the layoffs. He grabbed the megaphone, faced the crowd and said, “We students respectively support all of you.” He then encouraged another unified chant as he and the protesters declared “We support you!” repeatedly three times.
“Students want the best out of our college experience … each of us are respectively stakeholders,” said Amin. Although students might not be affected by the layoffs currently, Amin said “there’s next academic year” and future students who may be impacted.
Protesters waited for Ochoa, ready to express their disappointment towards the staff layoffs. Many hoped they could begin a discourse with the president and find a solution that works for staff members and the administration.
After 6 p.m., frustrated protesters repeatedly chanted “shame” and “come out,” trying to get a reaction from the president. Despite their efforts, Ochoa did not step out of his home and was nowhere to be seen throughout the entire protest.
“I’m not surprised,” said Jennifer Hinds from CSUMB’s College of Business. Hinds was close to hitting her one-year employee anniversary when she said she received an abrupt, one minute phone call with news that she would be laid off.
“We let him know ahead of time that we were going to be here and as a leader he should’ve come out and talked with us,” she said. “It was very frustrating.”
Hinds oversees roughly 60 students and pairs them with business mentors to aid them in networking for their future careers. Standing on the sidewalk in front of Ochoa’s home, she spoke to those participating in the march. “I do a lot for our students and who will hurt the most?” To finish her sentence, all the protesters chimed in to speak in unison with Hinds and said “the students!”
Hinds said along with the rescinding of the layoff notices, staff members desire an empathetic and personal form of communication with Ochoa. “Go to each college and apologize to each person who’s been laid off, instead of writing a letter, instead of doing an email or instead of doing a Zoom town hall,” she said about the president. “He needs to personally apologize to them … it would have been a great start (to mend the ties between staff members and the administration) if he would’ve come outside of his house and supported us and acknowledged us.”
The group of marchers had support outside of the evening’s protest as over 100 people signed a petition listed on the anti-layoff site, which included signatures from employees of a dozen different CSUMB departments.
Those opposed to the staff layoffs are hosting another protest at the overpass behind the Dunes Shopping Center in Marina on Oct. 19.
The Public Information Officer of CSUMB Walter Ryce was unable to comment on the protest by the time of this article’s publication.