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Students, Alumnae Rally to Demand Mills College in Oakland Stay Open

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- The fight to save a historic women's college in the East Bay continued Friday as Mills College announced a partnership to house 200 UC Berkeley freshmen on the Oakland campus in the fall. It's part of an effort that could help the financially struggling school get a boost of cash.

The announcement came on the same day as a rally where more than 100 people gathered to keep the college from closing.

A passionate and at times angry group of students, staff and alumnae gathered Friday afternoon determined to find a way to save Mills College. They said the school plays an important role in the community.

"I stand with all of you to demand the trustees to go back to the drawing table," Oakland city councilmember Sheng Thao said to the group of protesters. She took classes at Mills when she was in college.

Last week, the school announced that, within the next two years, it will no longer offer four year degrees and instead will be transitioning to an institute by 2023. It's all due to financial issues that were amplified during the pandemic.

"We want to be included in decisions. We want to attempt to fund-raise," said Mills College sophomore Zoe Kendrick. She graduated from Los Gatos High School and said she struggled there due to the fact she identified as a lesbian.

"It was really hard to be so different and I just wanted a place that felt like home," she said.

Kendrick said she found a home at Mills College, an all-women school founded in Oakland in 1852. About half of the students identify as LGBT and 65 percent identify as people of color.

"It's important to support this community of learners because these learners become leaders and they represent voices that otherwise often don't get the representation and attention that they deserve," said Kalie Caetano, a Mills College staff member and union representative.

Many of the speakers Friday said they want the opportunity to talk with trustees about their ideas for working through the financial crisis and keep Mills as a four-year college. They say that, so far, the college hasn't asked for their input.

KPIX reached out to Mills College for comment but did not get a response before air time.

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