Students Ditch Town Hall to Take Action
April 30, 2004 10:24 PM
Dissatisfied with a lack of student speakers, more than 50 students and at least one faculty member marched out of Thursday night’s Save the CSUs Town Hall meeting to start their own.
What began as an effort to include student voices in the Town Hall meeting turned into a temporary takeover of the proceedings. About an hour after the meeting began, SF State lecturer and master of ceremonies Mark Jones said that to build the type of coalition needed to be successful, he was letting two students speak to the audience. He then introduced SF State student Ed Hernandez.
Following a short speech by Hernandez, fellow SF State student Cathy Arroyo addressed the capacity crowd at Jack Adams Hall. Beginning by brazenly asking the crowd, “Where’s Corrigan?...I think he’s a little bit afraid,” Arroyo then lamented the lack of student speakers.
“It’s not enough that only two students get to speak here tonight at a town hall meeting that lasts two hours,” she said. She also claimed the meeting had primarily consisted of emotional speeches expressing solidarity. “And that’s good,” she said. “But what’s needed is an organizing meeting. Let’s get organized.”
With that, she asked any student that had something to say to come up to the podium and say it. After several students spoke to the audience about the need to save social services and gerontology, among other programs, Arroyo took back the mic.
She asked students who wanted to strategize to leave the meeting and walk downstairs to Malcolm X Plaza. “We’re gonna strategize because this is not a strategy meeting. We’ll better all this discussion and turn it into action.”
More than 50 students rose and followed her out Jack Adams Hall and down to Malcolm X Plaza, where a free-for-all discussion about the budget cuts and how to combat them ensued.
Those present at the breakout meeting suggested many ideas for action, including occupation of the administration building, a march on Sacramento and closing down 19th Avenue.
While everyone present expressed disdain for the budget cuts, the group was divided over how best to fight them. The main argument concerned whether to battle Corrigan and SF State’s administration or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature.
Deborah Gerson, a lecturer in Social Sciences and a member of the Academic Senate, advocated cutting salaries at SF State. She said that both Corrigan and Gemello claim they will cut $10 million from Academic Affairs no matter what. However, Gerson said they refuse to consider a 10 percent cut to the salary of every SF State employee earning more than $90,000 to $100,000 a year, which she claims would bring in a lot of money and lessen the blow of the cuts.
“They’re making us decide if we want to cut this finger, this arm or this leg,” Gerson said. “It’s like King Solomon cutting the baby in half. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Michael Hoffman, a senior double major in physics and math, said he felt Corrigan should be held responsible for the cuts. “We need to make Corrigan stand up for this,” he said. Hoffman also advocated occupying the administration building. Citing the creation of the Ethnic Studies Department at SF State in the 1960s, he said. “That’s how we’ve won in the past. Because we shut this campus down, not because we asked nicely.”
Margaret McCarthy, an SF State junior, disagreed. “The most effective thing we can do to is to change the state’s budget,” she said. And she claimed confronting the governor and the state legislature provided the best way to do it.
State Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D, 19th district, who dropped in on the meeting briefly, recommended a similar tact. “The governor is the guy you have to get,” he said. When asked why the state wasn’t taxing the rich to solve its budget crisis, Mullin cited Schwarzenegger’s refusal to implement new taxes, instead opting only for cuts to meet the state’s budget crisis.
Mullin also blamed Republican state legislators for standing in the way of saving CSUs from massive cuts. A two-thirds majority is required in the Legislature to defeat a budget, and, according to Mullin, while every Democrat opposes Schwarzenegger’s budget, it’s not enough to defeat the Republicans who support the budget.
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