February 2004 Archives
Despite the presence of rumors SF State Provost John Gemello may have generated himself by suggesting the possibility of consolidating academic departments during a Feb. 13 meeting with department chairs, he now denies such a possibility exists.
At a meeting of the academic senate on Tuesday, Feb. 24, Gemello was adamant there are no plans to consolidate departments at SF State. He said speculation over consolidation was purely based on rumors, and he had no idea where the rumors got started, according to Joel Kassiola, dean of the college of behavioral sciences.
SF State spokeswoman Christina Holmes, the interim director of public affairs, completely denied consolidation has ever been mentioned. “It literally didn’t come up,” Holmes said. “It’s never been proposed, and there are no basis to the rumors.”
Gemello, however, admitted that at the Feb. 13 meeting he did mention the possibility of department consolidation, but only to offer up an example of what might be necessary during the upcoming budget crunch for the 2004-05 school year.
SF State will be saddled with a budget deficit of somewhere between $11 million to $14 million, according to Jim Edwards, chair of the Academic Senate.
“What I said was that in this bad budget situation, we need to keep an open mind,” Gemello said. “Possibly combining departments was just an example of the kind of open mindedness we will need to have.”
According to Gemello’s example, two academic departments could be consolidated into one, under one department head and with one staff.
Acting Dean of Faculty Affairs Marilyn Verhey refused to comment on how department consolidation could possibly affect job security for faculty members.
Robert Cherny, chair of the CSU Academic Senate and an SF State history professor, said a decision such as consolidation falls directly into the hands of each individual university. “The chances are very unlikely the chancellor’s office would ever get involved in that,” he said.
Cherny added some schools were already moving in that direction, and said Cal State Dominguez Hills has already consolidated some of its academic departments.
The administration canceled all classes Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Strong winds and heavy rainfall cut power to several buildings, flooded facilities, and at least one person was hopsitalized.
According to Paul Sherwin, dean of humanities, these safety concerns warranted closing the campus. The vice president of academic affairs, John Gemello, informed Sherwin of the decision shortly before 11 a.m. Gemello's office only confirmed the cancellations but could not give a detailed explanation, as the office was fielding many calls and concerns about the weather.
Xpress staff covered the events of the day, from one student's surprise at finding his car underwater in a SF State parking garage to the staff efforts at damage control. The breaking news coverage of the day showcases a collection of the sights and sounds of a campus struggling to stay afloat.
Do you have stories from the day to share? Email us.
CHECK OUT OUR ONGOING COVERAGE:
Heavy Wednesday morning floods assaulted the SF State campus, bringing classes and services to a halt. Marie Shaefle, director of the Student Health Services building, spent the morning not seeing patients, but using a dry vac to clear out the morning flood. Students with appointments were turned away at the doors as health workers used flashlights to look up files and find medication.
View the full multimedia story.
For those people who think about possibly ditching class some mornings, David Berry can now tell a story that won’t make you think twice about sleeping in.
On Wednesday morning, Berry, an SF State sophomore, was taking a smoke break before his Asian American Studies class in the HSS building. While on his break, Berry heard the first floor of the Lot 20 parking garage was flooded.
Berry ran to the first floor, only to see his 1993 Honda Prelude on level 1A covered in water up to the windows about three to four feet above the ground. It was the only car left on the level.
"I went outside to go smoke and two of the maintenance guys were out there," Berry said. "And on their walkie talkie they were saying that 'oh the bottom level of the parking structure is about to flood.' I was like, 'oh really? Shit. I’ve got to go check my car. And my car was already up to my knees in water, and I can’t move it anymore."
After Berry saw the car he went up to one of the police officers standing nearby who told him there was nothing he could do. Berry ran to the Administration building only to find that there was no one there due to the blackout also caused by the rain.
Berry then tried find a camera to take pictures but nobody could sell him one due to the blackout. Berry finally got a little luck when a lady in the Lake View building on North State drive gave him a camera for free. Berry then took pictures of all angles of his car before the area was closed off at about 10:30 a.m. About 11 a.m. cars were being told to turn around and not enter Lot 20 as most classes had been canceled due to the rain and blackout.
“I did call my insurance company, and they should cover it because I have comprehensive,” Berry said. “I will be contacting people at SF State to see what their insurance policy is for flooding and whether or not I will be covered by that. They should have water systems, gutters, or something to get this water out of here (Lot 20) and they obviously don’t because the water is easily above waist level.”
Berry works at an import tuning shop on 23rd and Noriega and tunes up mostly Hondas. Berry had just recently put in $1,000 worth of stereo system material in his car including a new sub woofer and a new amp. Berry’s goal was to put more money into the car to make it faster and eventually take it to the racetrack. That material is now all gone.
"I don’t know what my next car is going to be but this one is gone,” Berry said. "I thought it was going to be another boring day in class. After that go to work and go home. Just another normal day. But I come here; my car gets fucked up."
Hensill and Thornton halls were two of the hardest hit buildings affected by the storm on Feb. 25 that led to the cancellation of classes.
Runoff from 19th Avenue rushed through doors flooding classrooms and offices and even breaking into a sterile cryogenic device lab.
At Hensill Hall professors tried to clean up water by flashlight.
“At one point I was knee deep in water,” said Mark Ciotola as he pointed to the watermark on his khaki pants.
Ciotola, a professor in the physics and design and industry departments, went to Thornton Hall to help clean up the physics department offices.
Around this time he witnessed a waterfall crashing down from 19 Avenue onto the old softball field.
The force of the water eroded away the soil, leaving an exposed water main without any form of support. Police and officials evacuated the area in fear that the main would burst.
The waterfall also caused a mudslide that left some construction equipment being used to renovate and earthquake-safe Hensill Hall partially buried.
Ciotola described a raging river that made an island out of the portables now housing Hensill Hall departments displaced by renovation.
Meanwhile in the basement of Thornton Hall, the flooding penetrated some of the most delicate, controlled atmospheres.
The cryogenic device-testing center, also known as the “Icy IC lab,” is normally a highly regulated, sterile environment, requiring “bunny suits” and forbidding such things as exposed shoes, hair or clothes.
“Everything is monitored, even tiny air particles,” said Jeff Haas, a student researcher who works with superconducting devices.
Lab technicians scrambled to mop up standing water and restore the lab to its original sterile state after it was flooded with water dripping from the ceiling.
Power returned to the building a little after 11 a.m.
Scientists scrambled to clean up pieces of the fallen ceiling and protect their valuable equipment, from lasers to X-rays, covering them with plastic to fend off the water still dripping from above.
Meanwhile, Karen Carrington stood next to a dry erase board in the dark, powerless Cesar Chavez Student Center, surrounded by inquiring students eager to get confirmation that their classes are indeed canceled.
“All classes are canceled for the whole day,” said Carrington, the accounting supervisor for the Student Center, relaying information she received from the public affairs office, public safety office and the president’s office.
“Some of the buildings have lost power, been flooded and evacuated. It would not be fair to ask students to stick around and wait for their classes in the buildings that are open,” Carrington added.
Heavy rain this morning caused a landslide just off 19th Avenue at the back of Hensill Hall. The saturated ground caused a steep hill to collapse leaving two exposed water mains with little natural support.
The sidewalk along 19th Avenue was temporarily closed while engineers evaluated the stability of the ground. They concluded the land is stable but will require surveillance as more storms are on the horizon and could bring more rain at any time.
In the event more erosion takes place the waterlines could lose support and break, which would flood the campus, SF State’s Director of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety Robert Shearer said. He and engineers are observing the situation and formulating a plan to add support to the water lines.
Shearer said they would not be able to add additional support until the land around the pipes dries and becomes stable enough on which to work. Possible solutions Shearer sees for creating support include putting metal sleeves around the pipes to add strength or bringing large boulders to stabilize the hill.
One water main is a 24-inch fully charged domestic water pipe supplying water for drinking and fire hydrants to the campus and the surrounding community, Shearer said. He believes the other is a sewage pipe.
The water main is the primary concern because it is much larger than the other pipe and it is more likely to burst without support. The high volume of water moving through that pipe puts a lot of pressure on it, Shearer said.
In the event of the water main breaking, the water will be shut off but not before a significant amount of water washes through campus. Although there is an emergency plan, the line breaking and the water shutting off could not be simultaneous and significant flooding could occur, Shearer said.
SF State's Plant Operations along with SF State's Department of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety are taking responsibility for fixing the problem because it is state property, which means the City and County of San Francisco and PG&E are not responsible for providing a solution.
“The more we can handle our own emergencies the better we are,” Shearer said. But added that they will get support from PG&E and other agencies if they need it.
If the water main breaks while school is in session an emergency plan will take affect. The campus has a safety committee that will notify building safety dispatchers of the specific emergency and give instructions to ensure the safety of those on campus, Shearer said.
A flood on 19th Avenue made its way to Hensill Hall and shut down a switchgear room that powers the campus with electricity, causing classes to be canceled.
“Lights won’t be back on in all classrooms until they clean up Hensill Hall and the system at the substation is repaired,” said Tony Hayward, plant engineer at the student center. Hayward does know how long that will take.
The lights went out at about 9 a.m. according to Kerry Thomas, who works at the Student Center information desk.
The library and science remained open for students but was out of power. Hensill, Burk and Thorton halls reported some flooding and were closed.
“We got a phone call that said certain floors were flooded in Thorton Hall and Burk Hall,” Thomas said.
Only the bottom floor of the Student Center remained open and students stood confused at the plastic announcement board that listed the buildings that were closed.
Although students were informed classes were canceled, some chose to stay on campus to avoid dealing with the weather.
“I think this is really bad for the students who commute,” said Alan Nudo, 19, a criminal justice student. “I’m wet and miserable, and now we are going to have to drive back home in the rain.”
The Student Center remained open for students to take haven from the rain.
Students sat around knitting, studying or sleeping and waited for the pouring to subside. Some were not thrilled the university was not better prepared for the power outage.
“It does not make sense to me,” said Lashawe McCoy, a political science major. “I pay too much in tuition for this school to be in the dark.”
In the cafeteria, only one gas stove was working. Hungry students stood in line to get the last tortilla.
“I might as well eat since I’m not going anywhere right now,” said junior Tony Serrano, 20, an English major.
A 68-year-old woman was taken away in an ambulance today after she slipped on a rain soaked sidewalk at 19th and Holloway avenues as flooding wreaked havoc for SF State commuters at the intersection.
The woman -- who communicated with a Cantonese interpreter from the SF fire department -- fell hard on her back and smashed her elbow on the concrete after she stepped out a white pickup truck, according to Myron Fong, a MUNI supervisor at the scene.
SF Fire Department officials initially arrived to take care of the woman and an ambulance came later to take her away.
“We were at a house where the basement was flooded with six feet of water, and we got a call that someone was hurt, so we headed here as a priority,” said a firefighter.
Campus police and Department of Parking and Traffic officials directed the chaotic scene as downed traffic lights and three-foot deep puddles backed up commuters for miles.
Fong parked his white Volkswagen in the middle of one crosswalk to help divert traffic away from a flood along 19th Avenue that also stalled MUNI riders from reaching SF State.
“There’s more to come, so I’m going to be out here all day,” Fong said. “I’m not leaving for anything short of a fire or shooting.”
Soaked students waited to cross the avenue for five minutes at a time in some cases waiting for the go ahead from campus police.
“They don’t care about us or something,” said N. Dejene, a postgraduate student who waited in the wind and rain for the opportunity to cross.
A flatbed tow truck slowed traffic on Holloway Avenue taking up a full lane and part of another allowing one car to pass at a time.
Lights were also out at Holloway Avenue and Junipero Serra, and a DPT official left her three-wheeler to help confused drivers and wet pedestrians navigate the intersection.
About 70 students interrupted classes today and rallied others to walk out in protest of the pending budget cuts facing the dance department.
Students were told at a Thursday meeting about the reduction of the dance department, which sparked theatre arts students to fight back, students said.
A rally that started inside the Cesar Chavez Student Center with performances by the dance and theatre arts students evolved into a train of protesters rushing from building to building, urging students to get informed and vote on the March 2 and 3 referendums.
“We’re fighting for what we love,” said Faith Meyer, a theatre arts major.
“We want people to be mad and fight for it,” she said. “It’s a cycle. First it’s dance, then theatre arts, then music, then fine arts.”
Demonstrators -- carrying signs like “The arts is a culture’s soul,” and “What major’s next?”-- hit many hurdles from the start of the 2 p.m. rally. First, those with picket signs were told that their dowel-propped signs could be used as weapons and wouldn’t be allowed at the protest, according to protester Darcy Villere. So the students ripped their signs off the sticks and carried them.
Next, the students were shut out of the fifth floor of the administration building as they called the administration “pimps and hustlers.” The elevators stopped at the third and fourth floor, and the emergency door in the stairwell to the fifth floor was locked.
Then, according to Associated Students Inc. President Natalie Batista, Penny Saffold, vice president of student affairs, told Batista over the phone during the protest that if Batista was leading the demonstration, she would shut it down.
As long as the protest was led by students, Batista said, it could go on. Saffold could not be reached for comment.
The hurdles didn't stop the momentum of the group.
Dressed in leotards and ballet slippers, Ben Ramos and Asher Lyons, kept the crowd going with impromptu dances to “The Eye of the Tiger.”
“The governor promised that children and education were his top priority,” he said carrying the boombox playing the music for Lyons, who pranced along the protesters.
He performed a strip tease outside a first-floor class window of the Humanities building. “I just want to dance,” he pleaded to the protesters.
Jonathan Kakacek, dressed in a loincloth and a headband with “Gov. Arnold” written on it, impersonated Gov. Schwarzenegger atop a large rock in the courtyard between the Fine Arts building and Burk Hall.
“Arts have always been a pain in my butt,” he said in an exaggerated Austrian accent.
“But aren’t you an actor?” one protester yelled out.
“Yes,” he replied. “But I don’t like theatre arts. I can’t act on stage.”
The protest eventually wound into Thornton Hall, bringing students and professors out of their classrooms, with the chants making it hard to hear anything otherwise.
"I haven't seen this much excitement since Berkeley in '68," said Roger Bland, physics professor, referring to the student protests that shut down this campus and UC Berkeley. "The protest is good, but everyone should also come out to vote."
Kakacek, the governor impersonator, worried that the fee referendums put students on a slippery slope. "It's getting kind of dangerous. The fees are not broken up right."
If the 140 students in the dance and music department pay the academic fee increase, Kakacek said, then their money should be funding their department.
"If it was that way, I would support the fee increase."
Mike Abts, a theatre arts major, will not vote for the increase.
"Money should come from the state, not the students," he said.
After running through the halls of the creative arts, humanities, athletics and Thornton Hall, the demonstrators ended the rally in Malcolm X Plaza about two hours later.
They are young; they are active; and they are in no way ready to accept the effect state budget cuts will have on student assistance programs at SF State.
Students and faculty rallied to promote the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) and protest the effects of state budget cuts on student outreach services today in Malcolm X Plaza. The gathering drew as many as 300 students, who listened to student speeches, spoken word performances and music.
State budget proposals threaten a complete elimination of EOP, a student services organization currently servicing more than 2,400 students at SF State. The program was designed for low-income and educationally disadvantaged students who individually receive an average of $745 in grant money each year.
“This is turning one of the most affordable public universities into one of the most expensive,” said Kirya Traber, 19, a psychology student. “The low cost is why we have such a diverse campus. People of color can actually afford to go here.”
The rally was significant in scope for bringing together a diversity of voices as well as campus organizations. According to EOP representatives, such an event has not accomplished as much since the early 1990s.
“We need to come together, or they will take everything away,” said Rakita O’Neal, 20, a psychology major at SF State.
Many of the speakers stressed the need for unity on campus to overcome state assistance and funding issues.
“How do we call ourselves tomorrow’s leaders if we are not willing to fight today? We’re walking around like we got here ourselves when the reality check is that somebody had to get beaten for us to be here,” said Asa Randolph, 23, a Black Studies major. “Now they’re going to take it away? Oh no, not on my watch!”
A common reference that echoed in many of the speeches was of student strikes during 1968 over racial tension and student unrest, which led to the closing of campus for a week. Confrontations -- some of them violent -- between students and faculty and police caused the closing of campus, according to information from SF State's library.
Student speakers called the campus to action, suggesting several different ways to get involved and take back student services, like EOP. Among the ideas mentioned were marches in Sacramento, writing to legislators, attendance at other events on campus, campus dialogue and awareness.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t know what’s going on,” one student said.
Banners lined the stage in Malcolm X Plaza reading, “They’ve got money for war, but can’t feed the poor,” and, “Oh no you didn’t mess with the EOP.”
“The importance of this rally is equity and access for the poor and working class,” said Aimee Barnes, program development officer for the Richard Oaks Multicultural Center. “The history of EOP spans 30 years. It’s an effective program and has contributed to the economy of California and to the world, opening the doors to higher education that may never have been open.”