Protest efforts pooled between staff, students
September 16, 2009 7:14 PM
Will Hand has been consistently showing up to a biology class he is not enrolled in since the beginning of the semester, and hopes for the best until Sept. 22, the last day to add a class.
"On the first day of class there were 160 people enrolled and about 100 people were trying to add this class," said 20-year-old theater major Hand. "There was a line for this class on the second floor all the way through the staircase and to the first floor trying to get in."
Hand had to crash almost all of his classes this semester and has managed to get 11 units. He still does not know what is going to happen to his financial aid because he is one unit shy of full-time student status. Despite this, he knows he is still one of the fortunate students when it comes to being affected by the California State University budget cuts.
Greg Dunham, a staff member at SF State, decided that this semester's budget cuts are the straw that broke the camel's back. He said that too many students like Hand are not getting the quality of education they deserve and are paying for, and that the source of the problem is that education, along with its providers, is being devalued in the state.
Dunham, a scene shop supervisor in the College of Creative Arts, decided to start organizing a statewide CSU protest among faculty, staff and students so that the people of California will understand the severity of the situation.
"I had this dream that there was a mass walkout," said Dunham, who has been working at SF State for a decade and received bachelor's and master's degrees here as well. "And I realized that that's what needed to happen."
So far, Dunham has rounded up students, staff and faculty in the College of Creative Arts to begin the organizing process and has held three meetings to discuss and map out their ideas. They meet every Thursday in Creative Arts 134, where anyone interested is welcome to contribute.
"I don't think anything will change unless the people of California are made aware of the nature of the problem," Dunham said. "The media is not covering it so it's up to the CSU faculty, staff, and students to let everyone know what's going on. We want to work towards a very large statewide demonstration."
Dunham said that he has been going to theater faculty and staff meetings for the past 10 years and every meeting the department chair announces more cuts to the budget. Dunham said that this cut is the last of a long line of cuts.
"We have passed a breaking point," Dunham said.
Dan Rosenthal, the IT director in the College of Creative Arts, is contributing to the project by helping create a Web site to get the word out to students. He said that young people find their voice online through social networking sites. Rosenthal is working with students in the College of Creative Arts to put up videos on the Internet in a form of viral marketing in order to make people aware of the protest.
"It affects us all, and instead of complaining about it, we need to use our creative voices to further the struggle," Rosenthal said.
Torben Torp-Smith, a prop shop supervisor in the College of Creative Arts and technical director of The Brown Bag Theater Company, started helping Dunham once the idea of organizing a mass protest came up. He agrees with Dunham that education in California is being neglected.
"In California and across the nation we're continually losing jobs to foreign countries that put a priority on education because they know that by doing that they're supporting the economy," Torp-Smith said.
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