SPECIAL SERIES : SF State Budget Woes
Students and Faculty: Budget Reductions May Scar SF State Image
How will campus get out of the budget hole?
April 20, 2004 12:24 PM
SF State has had a long-standing image of a diverse and accessible place of higher education that is affordable for San Francisco and Bay Area community. This image, many feel, is now put to the test in the midst of the budget crisis.
While the $22 million cuts that lie ahead scare and alert students and teachers about the future of the university, they also put SF State in the center of public attention, said Natalie Batista, president of Associated Students Inc.
SF State currently offers 116 areas of specialization for undergraduate degrees and 95 for master’s degrees.
Batista said that cutting programs and student services will change what SF State is all about. She said she doesn’t want to see SF State turn into an “online university” with a quick, “drive-through” education.
“All other 23 universities are looking at us,” she said. “What are we going to do? If you want to make it a junior college with a few specialized programs, then continue cutting everything,” she said.
Kenneth Monteiro, the dean of Human Relations, the department recently axed, acknowledged the cuts are inevitable. But he says it is a perfect opportunity for SF State to set a strong example in a public eye by the way the administration deals with the cuts.
Monteiro said he wants the administration to take care of the students and faculty the best way they can and protect the university’s mission. It is important, Moteiro said, that “social justice, equity and diversity are maintained even through the cuts.”
“With more budget cuts, you can’t expect people to want to come here,” said Kory Biggs, 25, who is about to graduate. Biggs expressed his dislike of the administration. “They don’t make students feel they are wanted here,” he said. He suggested image repair starting with the existing students who will later tell others about their SF State experience. “If you want to attract new students, you need to impress the people that are here,” he explained.
Corey Gulley, 28, a communications major senior, came from a low-income family. He said he selected SF State because the school was diverse and cheap. Gulley supports himself as a full-time student by working part time. He said he thinks it is still cheaper here compared to other state schools, but rising fees and fewer academic programs make him change his views about SF State image. “I don’t think it’s going to be as affordable anymore,” he said.
Andy Miller, 24, a creative writing student, said the student fees almost doubled since he started his education at SF State a couple of years ago. Miller said his financial aid used to cover all his costs. Now, he noticed sadly, it barely covers half his expenses.
David Veuve, 19, who just started his education at SF State, said that cutting academic programs will “take away some of the uniqueness of the university” and turn it into “more of a business and nursing school.”
Veuve has noticed the cuts create a very tense environment on campus that makes “less of a positive image” for the university. The teachers become more “hostile” because they are too preoccupied with the future of their jobs, he said. “If teachers don’t enjoy being here, then students don’t enjoy being here either."
The affordability and accessibility of higher education at SF State allowed minority and low-income students to get high paid jobs and improve their economic status in the society.
This is what happened to Ausberto E. Beltran, who came from a low-income family then graduated from SF State’s School of Engineering and is now a vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in the Bay Area. He said that education at this school opened up a window of opportunities for him. “It changed my life in so many ways,” Beltran added. “I am able to afford things I would never be able to afford.”
About 600 students have enrolled in the same School of Engineering from which Beltran has graduated. The engineering school was saved in the announced cuts to academics, released Monday. Its master's program will be moving to self-support. If the cuts sustain, he worries, the window of educational opportunities opened up for Beltran will be closed to new applicants.
SF State's budget crisis hit students and teachers hard as they now face shortage of classes, fewer academic programs, higher fees and pink slips.
Todor Cooklev, professor of electrical engineering, who might lose his job if the program is cut, said that laying off faculty members “is not appropriate for a university setting. It may be appropriate for a corporation.”
Cooklev characterized the budget cut situation “where we (SF State) want to save one department and eliminate another” as “a nasty political environment in which we don’t want to get into.”
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