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Supporters Take a Stand for a New University : Ventura: Politicians and CSUN satellite's students, graduates raise money and celebrate anniversary.


Joining hands to spell out their school's initials in human letters, hundreds of supporters of the Ventura campus of Cal State Northridge gathered Saturday to celebrate the campus's 20th anniversary and press for a new state university in the county.

"Our turn has come. We have paid our dues, and we want our university soon," campus Director Joyce Kennedy told the crowd of students, graduates and politicians.

The satellite campus is struggling to accommodate a record number of students in an office building on Alessandro Drive off Seaward Avenue. Meanwhile, the state is fighting a legal battle to purchase the 260-acre lemon grove west of Camarillo chosen as a site for the new campus in 1991 after a five-year search.

Saturday's event was held at neither the office building nor the lemon grove, but in the dusty, sun-drenched carnival lot at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. There, such participants as County Supervisor Susan Lacy could ponder the irony of the posh new "watch and wager center" under construction across the field, and hope that work would begin soon on library, laboratory and classroom buildings.

The public spectacle even had some suspense, as supporters worried if enough people could be found to spell out CSUN-VC.

Organizers estimated the crowd at 300, including two busloads of high school band and drill team members who played music and danced as a warm-up act.

Even with enough people, however, forming the letters was a challenge for some volunteers in the human chain. This, after all, was an unrehearsed crowd, not a Big Ten marching band at halftime.

Barbara Journet, a volunteer captain for the letter "N," acknowledged that she had chosen her letter because the lines are straight.

"The 'S,' however, would probably be difficult," said Journet, 44, a county personnel manager from Oxnard who earned her master's degree in public administration from CSUN's satellite campus.

Forming the 20-foot-high letters took a bit of coaching from letter manager Judy Nash. "Can we get the hyphen to straighten out and stand up, please?" Nash asked.

But when crunch time came, the crowd performed like pros. They had some help, though. The letters had been marked out with masking tape on the blacktop.

It took a couple of minutes for the letters to fall in line for the photo op. Loudspeakers blasted Whitney Houston's song, "One Moment in Time, One Moment in History," and a helicopter with a TV crew arrived. Everyone waved, and Nash informed the crowd that aerial photographs of their "one moment in time," suitable for framing, would be available for sale in the coming weeks.

The "Stand Up for Education" event was a fund-raiser to help subsidize the satellite campus, which Kennedy said had been devastated by budget cuts. Each participant paid $5 to be part of the human chain.

"This is supposed to be like our homecoming," said Shannon Anderson, 24, a sociology student and president of the Ventura campus' student government.

Bobbi Hooten, 23, a psychology student, said she hoped the proposed campus in Camarillo would be opened by the time her 12-year-old sister Tawny is ready for college.

"Right now," Hooten said, "a lot of students have to travel out of the county to go to school."

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