Gearing up to fight cuts at SFSU

September 1, 2009

DEVIN LINER is a third-year physics major now more than a year behind because the math classes required for him to move on are full. His schedule this semester is comprised of useless units chosen only because they free him up to work during the week. "I really don't know what else to do," said the 20-year-old.

Emily Caruso, a political science major is in a similar situation. She paid her tuition, but a system error put her on a financial hold. It took 14 hours to correct the glitch, and by the time she was able to register, the classes she needed were gone. "So I can be included on my parents' health care plan, I was forced to completely change my schedule and sign up for courses with empty units so I could still be a full-time student," she said.

For students at San Francisco State University (SFSU), this kind of anxiety and uncertainty will follow them through the fall semester. Rosa Huezo described her surprise when "priority registration neared, I looked at the schedule of offered classes, and almost all them were completely full, both in actual seats and the waiting list. I have never seen anything like this."

What students should expect to see are hallways overflowing with those petitioning for a place. The pressure will be on the faculty to accept more than capacity, which not only sacrifices quality, but also intensifies their work, placing the burden on professors to make up for the cuts.

The notion that the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees somehow acted "responsibly" when they voted for cuts and fee increases, and that a "shared sacrifice" was inevitable, is ridiculous. CSU executives continue to see their salaries rise, while the CSU Employees Union was given a "choice" between additional layoffs or accepting unpaid furloughs amounting to a 10 percent pay cut.

The one dissenting vote on the Board was Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who pointed to a concrete source of revenue, Assembly Bill 656--a tax on oil companies that would raise money for the state's universities. The rest of the board however, wouldn't even consider it, shamelessly referring to it as the kind of, "special interest initiatives that have driven us to the brink of disaster."

It's clear that hundreds of billions of extra dollars are floating around in California--from the money used for maintenance of the prison system, to the state's regressive tax structure--but the rich much prefer us to "share" the sacrifice among ourselves.

Before the fee increases, students on average were graduating $20,000 in debt. Denise Bambauer, a history major at SFSU, is skeptical whether many will even reach graduation. "I almost don't see the point. Getting a bachelor's degree now comes with ratcheting up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and there's nothing that reassures me a BA will land me a job that can pay that off."

But the coming semester wasn't all defeat for her. "I remember being a part of that walkout (against the fee hikes) and feeling like something was really possible," she said. "I think we're all just waiting to get back out there."

With school starting up this week, let's hope she won't have to wait too long.
Alex Fu, San Francisco

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