January 2004 Archives

With speculation mounting, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal for California also raises the anxiety of thousands of students in the California State University system who rely on financial aid to fund their college education.

Many Californians who watched Schwarzenegger’s State of the State address will be affected by the harsh budget cuts expected for the next two years. The 140,000 students eligible to receive financial aid in California are no exception.

Either way, the SF State Office of Student Financial Aid says all we can do is sit tight.

“The CSU Board of Trustees will meet in March 2004 and determine what they are going to be,” director Barbara Hubler said of the effects of state budget cuts on financial aid. “We are expecting that they will reduce some of our funding, but until then we’ll just have to wait and see.”

According to information from the CSU's official Web site students on financial aid need not worry. They claim that as fees go up, so will grant levels.

Two kinds of grants issued by the state are university grants and Cal grants. State university grants typically go to the most needy students.

Cal grants have assisted students in paying for books, supplies and living expenses, but staff writer Bruce Kauffman reported in an article for North
County Times, officials at the California Student Aid Commission say requirements for Cal grants will tighten significantly.

Amy Garua, 29, in the teaching credential program at SF State, shudders at the prospect of reductions in financial aid, claiming the little she receives now is already spread thin.

“The thing about state school is that it was always an option for people who don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “Now because of the cuts the middle-class people are being pushed out of that option. There are so many intelligent people out there. Where are they supposed to go?”

As for Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, Garua said, “I don’t really know what he’s planning, but it doesn’t seem like he’s making education a priority.”

Tri Nguyen, 26, a history major at SF State, has received grants and taken out loans to help pay for his college education.

"The financial aid I've qualified for has always been enough," Nguyen said, who is scheduled to graduate in May. "I just feel sorry for the freshman and sophomores who are going to have to deal with this."

In his address, Schwarzenegger promised the state that no matter how ominous the deficit, he would not raise taxes. Legislators, however, fear
that without raising taxes the state will compromise public services and education.

“All we can do is hope that grant money will be adequate in covering the
cost,” Hubler said. “Until March it’s going to be hard to determine what the fees will be.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger dealt the California State University system a stunning blow Jan. 9 when he released his 2004-2005 budget proposal.

The proposal includes a $240 million cut from the CSU system, a 10 percent increase in fees for undergraduates, and a 10 percent reduction in enrollment. The budget also proposes the elimination of funding for the CSU’s Educational Opportunity Program, outreach and academic preparation programs; programs lauded as highly successful in helping less fortunate students obtain college degrees.

The proposed cuts arrive on the back of an earlier $531 million cut to the CSU system in 2003-2004.

Schwarzenegger’s budget depends on voters passing a $15 billion bond slated for November’s ballot. Should it fail to pass, the proposal has no chance at being implemented. The bond, titled Proposition 57, already faces a dubious electorate. Recent polls show just one-third of likely voters supporting Prop. 57.

Schwarzenegger recently began taking his case to the masses, appearing in town-hall type forums across the state to try to convince Californians that the bond is vital to the state’s economic well-being. The governor also highlighted the importance of the bond in his State of the State speech, calling it “absolutely critical to our financial future. The alternative is economics chaos.”

However, Clara Potes-Fellow, a spokesperson for the CSU Chancellor, believes the real danger to California’s economy lies in the proposed cuts to the CSU system.

“The CSU system normally graduates 77,000 students every year,” she says. “Without funding, that’s 77,000 less professionals that will be joining the workforce, which could affect the economy and tax collections. The more prepared people you have, the better jobs they get, and the better wages they earn.”

“When you reduce investment to the CSU,” says Potes-Fellow, “you are reducing investment in the California economy.”

Schwarzenegger also took flak from prominent state Democrats for cutting funding for various programs and local governments rather than raising taxes. For example, a tax hike for Californians who earn more than $250,000 could net the state $2 billion-$3 billion.

Rebecca Adams, a SF State student, agrees. She believes the proposed cuts would “discourage people with no money from getting degrees, when (Schwarzenegger) could tax people who already have a lot of money.”

“It’s ridiculous,” says SF State student Tanya Josephson of the proposed cuts. “The priorities of this state are all wrong. There’s got to be other places where you can cut than a school system that’s already so under-funded.”

Josephson is currently completing a master’s of art degree in women’s studies, and her status as a graduate student leaves her far more vulnerable to the proposed fee hikes. While undergraduate fees will rise 10 percent, graduate fees would go up 40 percent.

Part of the reason Josephson came to SF State to get her M.A. was its low cost. She worries the cuts will particularly affect those least able to pay for an advanced degree. “People who do get master’s at CSUs usually don’t have a lot of money” she says.

For Anvi Parikh, an SF State junior studying mathematics and biochemistry, the scenario that Josephson describes is a reality. She wants to attend graduate school at SF State, but worries the cost would prove to steep if the current budget is passed. “I don’t think I could keep going to school,” she says.

However, not all SF State students are concerned about the proposed cuts.

As soon as news of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut $240 million from the CSU system and raise student fees considerably came out, SF State Professor Corey Cook asked his winter session political science students what they thought of it.

Instead of hearing rallying cries to organize and battle the governor’s proposed changes, he mostly heard statements like, “Uh-oh, I better hurry up, get done quick, and get out of here before this affects me.”

This sort of attitude may help explain why the governor’s cuts targeted public colleges. Higher education provides an easy target for lawmakers, as students rarely vote in elections and are poorly organized and represented on the state level.

“(Higher education) is the most unprotected thing there is in the California budget,” said Cook, who specializes in California and urban politics. “Politically, cutting higher education is a pretty safe thing to do. Students don’t have a strong organization protecting their interests in the legislature. People see it as a bipartisan thing to pass on budget deficits to college students.”

When asked how much negative fallout Schwarzenegger will likely receive for cutting the CSU budget so drastically and raising student fees, Cook quickly responded, “Almost none.”

Voter turnout among student-age voters may be one reason lawmakers consider cutting funding to higher education so politically palatable. According the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, electoral participation of Californians under the age of 25 has declined by 20 percent since 1972. In 2000, voter turnout among 18-24-year-olds was 44 percent – a full 26 percent lower than those 25 or older. Without the threat of being voted out of office by young voters, many politicians may feel no need to cater to their interests.

While many groups who could have had their funding severely cut by the governor have strong political lobbies in Sacramento – the prison guards union, for example – college students have none. This lack of state-level organization leaves public colleges largely out of the negotiating process when it comes to budgetary decisions.

Another reason the budget proposal includes such profound cuts for higher education lies in funding for state college’s status as discretionary, meaning colleges are not constitutionally guaranteed a certain amount of funding by the state of California.

When a governor must find money to cover a large deficit, such as California’s projected $14.9 billion deficit for 2003-2004, he has few options. Sixty-five to 70 percent of the state budget is decided before any sort of budgetary choices are made, due to constitutional assurances that certain programs or groups will receive certain amounts of funding.

What remains are the areas of the budget considered discretionary, which the governor has control over. Discretionary areas include higher education, health care, and welfare, all of which are being cut heavily to cover the deficit.

Should students choose to fight the cuts, they do have options. The incredible political organization that grew around the recent San Francisco mayoral race and Proposition 54, could be emulated to create a movement opposing cuts to the CSU system. The large 18-25 year old set could be motivated to start voting against candidates that make cutting higher education part of the platform.

Students could also begin to organize on the state level. Funding for K-12 education was not cut in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget in large part because of the constitutional guarantees they will receive a certain amount of funding. Local governments, like colleges, currently don’t have similar guarantees but are working to place an initiative on the next statewide ballot that would ensure they would receive a certain amount of state funding. By organizing on the state level, college students also could put a similar initiative on the ballot.

Along with higher fees and less funding, the proposed budget will drastically affect CSU enrollment.

The upcoming spring semester of 2004 marks the first time California will break a promise it made to its residents concerning their access to college. In 1989, lawmakers introduced a revision to the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education. The revision stated all students in the top third of their graduating high school class would be guaranteed a spot in the CSU system.

Due to recent cuts, this year that won’t happen, according to Potes-Fellow. “It definitely is a broken promise to students. We are not going to be admitting all students eligible to CSU, “ she says.

And should the governor's budget pass, the situation would worsen. The budget may force the CSU system to reduce enrollment by approximately 20,000 students. The proposal also recommends redirecting 4,200 of CSU freshmen to community colleges.

The CSU system, wary of the possibility of the budget passing, already has plans in the works to open up more spaces in their colleges faster. Stricter requirements for community college transfer students are currently being considered. The requirements would force community college students to complete 60 units of coursework, declare a major, and pass certain prerequisite classes before they would be allowed admittance. Ideally, this would get students in and out of colleges faster.

Despite all of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brutal cuts, raised fees, and decreased enrollment, the state legislature’s independent budget analyst Elizabeth Hill claimed the new budget would still lead to a $6 billion shortfall in 2004-2005, more than twice what the governor’s office predicts.

If her prediction is correct, next year could be just as devastating for higher education as this one.

Rough times are ahead for SF State no matter what happens in Sacramento with the governor’s 2004-2005 budget proposal for California.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $240 million cut to the CSU system would add to the $531 million cut the CSU took last year. Fees across the CSU were raised 30 percent to close part of the budget gap last year.

Aside from the hike in fees, SF State has so far managed to avoid massive cuts in course offerings, and there are no hikes in fees expected for the spring. But some departments and colleges in the university are already in deep trouble, and there is worse to come as the university struggles to close a budget deficit that as of now stands just under $3 million.

According to a Dec. 11 e-mail from SF State President Robert Corrigan, SF State began the 2003-2004 academic year with a $30.2 million deficit, but averted major forays in cutting academic offerings partially due to revenues from the CSU-wide fee hike, higher enrollment, and one-time sources of funds including lottery reserves. The university also made a $6.6 million reduction in support services and infrastructure.

SF State’s use of available revenues and program cuts combined to bring the deficit down to $11.2 million dollars, Corrigan said. But all available reserves will be exhausted after this year.

SF State still was able to trim its way down to a smaller deficit, and did so by cutting off the Department of Athletics, Career Services, and Counseling and Psychological Services from all state funding. That would leave SF State with only a $2.9 million budget deficit for 2004-2005 if no further cuts hit the CSU.

But some departments are already having a hard time with existing cuts, and are seeking to make up for their losses directly from students’ wallets.

When the Department of Athletics got bumped from the university’s budget, it lost $1.4 million – fully half its $2.8 million budget. The department is now solely dependent on the university’s Instructionally Related Activities (IRA-General) fee, and is asking for a $33 increase to recoup its losses.

The Career Center is off the university’s budget entirely – without funding from students, it will cease to exist without a new fee. The Center is asking for a $30 fee increase, to last for the next five years.

Corrigan’s e-mail said the Office of Academic Affairs might have to absorb the $2.9 million deficit still remaining. The results would include as many as 575 sections of courses being cut. To avoid that possibility, the Office of Academic Affairs wants to create a new fee – called the Academic Instructional Fee – of $75 dollars to offset the effects of the deficit.

The Student Center Governing Board and the Health Services Department are also asking for fee increases to help them out. Students will have a chance to decide what to pay for and what not in five referendums coming up this semester.

Other departments in the university are not suffering so dramatically. In his e-mail Corrigan said SF State only slightly reduced the number of classes offered in 2003-2004 than in the previous year. But classes have grown bigger, and many departments are trimming down wherever they can.

“Instead of offering ten sections (in a core course) we may be offering 8,” said Larry Low, director of operations for the College of Business.

Low said the College of Business is committed to keeping students on track to graduate on schedule, and so is offering fewer and bigger classes. He said the college is also trimming costs by asking faculty and staff to conserve supplies, by not upgrading computer equipment and software and by cutting the number of conference trips the department will finance.

Low would not comment on possible effects the governor’s proposed budget will have.

“We don’t speculate in this college,” he said.

But other departments are playing what-if to figure out what to do if the governor’s budget leads to further cuts.

According to LaVonne Jacobsen, head of the library’s collection access management services, SF State’s library staff held a general meeting about the budget situation recently.

“We had a budget meeting about what we would do ‘if,’ “ she said. “The Office of Administration and Finance has asked many departments to strategize if the cuts were 4 percent, if they were 8 percent, and so on,” she said.

Some colleges in the university are getting by nearly unscathed – for now. Tomas Almaguer, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, said that students are only having trouble getting into the critical thinking courses in Ethnic Studies.

“We’re welcoming (new students) – come on down,” he said.

Almaguer said Ethnic Studies has been under target enrollment in previous years, and so has never had difficulty accommodating students that wanted classes. The college is at only 110 percent of target enrollment this year, he said.

Almaguer said that although the college is doing well this semester, operating expenses were going to be near zero in the fall. Staff and faculty are going to be asked to conserve and dig deep to make up for shortfalls in supplies, he said.

Campus Crime

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Tuesday, Jan. 20

3:44 p.m. Disturbing the peace
Ten to 15 juveniles were impeding pedestrian traffic and bouncing a basketball on a wall in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Officers responded; made contact with seven of the juveniles and escorted them from the area.

Wednesday, Jan. 21

2:03 a.m. Drunk in public
Joseph Strebler, 25, was booked into county jail after an officer saw him staggering near the intersection of Font Boulevard. and Cambon St. and determined that Strebler was unable to care for himself.

12:21 p.m. SFPD scanner call
A MUNI driver was assaulted by an unknown person at 19th and Holloway avenues. SFPD to handle.

5:05 p.m. Petty theft
A vehicle jumpstart kit owned by the Police Dept. was reported stolen near Perimeter and Holloway Avenue. Estimated loss: $50.

Thursday, Jan. 22
11:40 a.m. Found property
A cell phone was found by an officer in the middle of the intersection of Lake Merced and N. State boulevards and returned to its owner.

4:46 p.m. Petty theft
A purse was taken from a female student in the Creative Arts Building. Estimated loss: $30.

Friday, Jan. 23

4:00 a.m. Medical assistance
A female SF State employee slipped, fell and hit her head in Lot 6. SF State and SFFD officers responded, determined she was conscious and breathing OK. Though bleeding, she refused transport to a hospital.

2:33 p.m. Disturbing the peace
A group of skateboarders on Font Boulevard were advised by an officer to leave.

Saturday, Jan. 24

3:25 a.m. Public intoxication
Matt Nehring, 21, a Village at Centennial Square resident, was booked into county jail on suspicion of intoxication after becoming belligerent with his friend.

8:34 p.m. Possession of marijuana
Sheire Coleman, 26, a Village at Centennial Square resident, was cited and released on suspicion of smoking marijuana inside the apartment.

Monday, Jan. 26

6:16 a.m. Vandalism
An unknown suspect used a rock to break a window by the front entrance of the HSS Building.

8:07 a.m. Suspicious person
A male subject was reported sleeping under a blanket behind some garbage cans on Holloway Avenue. Officers responded and advised the man to leave.

8:32 a.m. Suspicious circumstances
Officers responded to a report that the “666” was written in blood on the ground in front of the Cal State 9 ATM by the Student Services Building. A report was taken, and ETHOS advised.

2:13 p.m. Consent to remain on campus withdrawn
Officers escorted a male student off campus after the student yelled at financial aid personnel. No charges were pressed.

2:36 p.m. Assault with a deadly weapon
Charles Harris, 58, was booked into county jail after attempting to strike a female SF State staff member repeatedly with a cane in what appeared to be a random act, officials say. As the woman was dodging Harris' blows, she fell down and injured herself. She was treated at the Student Health Center where she was treated and released. Harris was taken into custody after officers contacted him at the 19th Avenue MUNI platform.

A federal judge ruled Jan. 23 that a portion of the USA PATRIOT Act is unconstitutional, marking the first legal decision to set a part of the act aside.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said the PATRIOT Act’s vaguely defined ban on giving expert advice and assistance to organizations deemed international terrorism groups violates the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

The lawsuit against the act was brought by the Humanitarian Law Project, representing five organizations and two U.S. citizens who wanted to provide expert advice to Kurdish refugees in Turkey. But the lawsuit is but one of hundreds of challenges to the Act being raised in the courts and in legislatures by politicians, average citizens, organizations, and even cities and communities.

The PATRIOT Act’s vague prohibition against advising and assisting international terrorism groups is but one controversial section of many in the Act.

Section 215 of the Act allows the government to force libraries, financial institutions, places of worship, medical and other public agencies to turn over personal records as long as the government can certify to a judge that the records are necessary to protect against terrorism. Section 505 uses an even lower standard: the attorney general can write a “national security” letter to force public agencies to turn over personal records, without any judicial oversight.

Section 218 expands the powers of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, which allowed the government to conduct secret searches and wire taps on persons suspected to be agents of foreign powers. The PATRIOT Act altered the law so that now the cause for the search need not be foreign espionage but any connection with a terror investigation.

Section 213 expands certain FISA powers to criminal searches, allowing police to search private property without prior notice to the owner. The law says the owner must eventually be notified, but gives law enforcement discretion on when.

Sections 215, 218, 505 and many other parts of the Act sunset – or go out of service – in 2005. But that’s not good enough for many individuals, organizations, and politicians.

Sections 213, 215, 218, and 505 are each under attack. The first lawsuit against the PATRIOT Act came in July 2003 when the ACLU challenged the constitutionality of Section 215 on the grounds that the section allowed the government to collect too much personal information on people not suspected of criminal activity.

Legislation on the federal level is being considered to neutralize other sections of the act as well, and the ACLU reports that more than 230 communities, including Los Angeles, have passed resolutions against certain sections of the Act.

But if the Act eventually dies by dismemberment, some underlying law and historical trends from which it sprang will still be around. One example of underlying law is FISA, written in 1978, which allowed the government to do wire taps and secret searches on those suspected to be involved in foreign espionage.
Historical trends seem to show that when the country is threatened, the Constitution is not so much set aside as interpreted as allowing the kinds of things – and worse – that the PATRIOT Act makes possible.

“There’s always been an argument that the Constitution will allow whatever is necessary to preserve the union,” said Christopher Waldrep, professor of history at SF State.

Waldrep cited the Department of Justice’s actions in January 1942, when thousands of citizens of Italians, Germans and Japanese were rounded up in a manner very like people of Middle Eastern descent were rounded up after the Sept. 11 attacks. Those rounded up in 1942 were not charged for terrorism, but merely sedition – criticizing the government, he said.

During World War I, 10,000 women were rounded up for subverting the war effort – they were suspected of spreading venereal disease to the men, Waldrep said.

Waldrep said suspensions of rights go back at least as far as President Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War. Criticism of such suspensions has always been strong – and the effect of the Constitution has never permanently been seriously infringed, he said.

“(Changing the Constitution) is a slow process,” he said.

Another historian highlights another trend that keeps acts like the PATRIOT Act alive -- the scapegoating of immigrants.

“The pattern is suspicion of certain groups of immigrants,” said Austin White, professor of history at City College of San Francisco.

White said that acts infringing civil liberties and constitutional rights have targeted immigrants since the 1790s, when reaction to the French Revolution helped foster the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. This was an attack on the French, he said. The Smith Act, following the Red Scare of 1918-19, was targeted to Russians. He also mentioned the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Japanese internment during World War II as further examples of this pattern.

Students here will no longer be able to say they don’t know where to vote to excuse themselves from their civic duty.

SF State has become a voting precinct, and there will be a polling place in the J. Paul Leonard Library ready for the March elections.

The administration signed a contract with the San Francisco Department of Elections Friday, Jan. 16, after four years of lobbying by various campus organizations, including the California Faculty Association, Associated Students Inc., San Francisco Urban Institute and the administration.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who supported the effort, attributed the accomplishment to the successful registration drive in the fall that signed up 1,400 people on campus to vote.

SF State has now positioned itself as an important part of San Francisco politics - one that can’t be ignored anymore - now that it has become a voting precinct and earned a polling place on campus, said the organizations that worked on the project.

The action gives students more leverage and makes it easier to mobilize, class representative Chris Jackson said.

“Instead of you going to the candidates, candidates slowly will be coming to you,” he said.

He added that with cuts to the California State University system and financial aid, politicians from San Francisco -- such as Democratic U.S. House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and State Senate president John Burton -- have abandoned the San Francisco student.

“Now we have a foothold in San Francisco politics. We just need to get out the vote,” Jackson said. “District 7 has a conservative supervisor (Tony Hall), but with us as a precinct, he’ll have to do something for us.”

Mitch Turitz, president of SF State’s faculty association, said it’s important for people to get involved politically so that they realize there is a process for getting change done.

“Democracy works. ... We really want to get people started young, because we are getting older,” he said.

With voters behind any issue, anything can be accomplished, said Turitz, who works in the library, the site of the polling place.

“Politics is getting what you want. That’s what it boils down to.”

Brian Murphy, executive director for the Urban Institute, told Supervisor Chris
Daly at a meeting with ASI members to thank Daly for his support of the polling place on Jan. 21, “We’ve added about 1,200 voters to Tony Hall’s district. It’ll be exciting to see the new element that will bring.”

Daly provided on-the-spot assistance for the ASI members in their quest to go beyond getting the polling place on campus to getting students out to vote. The students had been given the run-around by different city agencies, so Daly offered help to find sponsors to donate materials for a voter raffle.

“Congratulations, but (granting the polling place) is much more of a response to your voter registration drive,” Daly said at the meeting.

The collective effort by the faculty, ASI and the Urban Institute registered a
record 1,400 voters in the fall, an amount that wasn’t thought possible because they had less time to register voters due to the recall.

During the fall elections, ASI -- which tries to motivate voters to increase student power and visibility -- provided maps for students, outlining exactly how to get to their polling places. But the effort proved difficult and didn’t show strong results getting students to the polls, ASI members said.

The convenience of having a polling place on campus, and not a half-mile away, will make a difference in the turnout, Turitz and the ASI representatives said.

Although the chosen location may be a bit distracting to students who are studying at the time, “the library is a major part of the university and is readily accessible to all students at any hour of the day there is classes being held,” Turitz said.

Even if only five percent of registered voters turn out on election day, Chris Jackson said he believed that would enough to start turning heads in city politics.

There is always room to grow, according to Neeta Chowdhry, head of the ASI Lobby Corps.

She calculates that once the new residential halls are built, there will be about 1,800 more potential registered voters on campus. A precinct constitutes between 300 to 800 registered voters, she said, so the next goal will be to add a second precinct to SF State and put polling places in the lobby of each residential hall.

While political humorist Michael Moore and the Rev. Jesse Jackson expressed disappointment during on-campus appearances last fall about SF State not having a polling place, not many university campuses have them, according to ASI.

“Hopefully we are setting a precedent to get polling places in all campuses, so no government can pull crap on us,” Chris Jackson said.

The details are still being ironed out, but the polling place has given a sense of victory to the organizations that have lobbied on behalf of SF State students.

“This will make them stand up and take notice and take time to look in on our efforts,” Chowdhry said.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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