August 2004 Archives
Quietly the students gathered in a concrete room below the Cesar Chavez Student Center. It was early afternoon on Wednesday when seven men and one woman gathered to discuss their plan – ending the war, junking the Patriot Act – and the person who represents their cause: Ralph Nader.
The first meeting of Students for Nader was more like a congenial chat among like-minded SF State students than a clandestine meeting of revolutionaries. Despite the meeting’s tameness, those who gathered talked about changing the American political system, working to combat political apathy among their peers and let their fellow voters know they have a third choice when voting this November.
Nader, who was not endorsed this election by the Green Party and is now running as an independent with Peter Camejo on the ballots of seven states (California is not one of those states) and could qualify to be on more ballots in the coming weeks.
“This is a process of change and building democracy,” said David Russitano, one of the meeting’s organizers and a liberal studies major at SF State. Russitano is a registered Green Party member but will vote for Nader this election. Despite the setbacks Nader has faced this year, Russitano contended Nader is a vehicle for change.
“Young people care but because of the lack of choices we’re given, there’s not really a choice,” he added, referring to the small presence of a third party in this year’s election.
The goal of the organization is to create a forum for people to discuss national issues – the war in Iraq, America’s dependence on foreign oil, among other issues – and encourage students to register to vote and vote for Nader. The meeting’s organizers insisted that their efforts will last longer than the November elections and that they are trying to build an organization that will champion independent party issues in between elections.
“There will be some people who do get active but will fade away after the election,” said Jeff Boyette, a Students for Nader organizer and cinema major. "But we are building something for the future.”
The reasons for those who attended were as varied as their goals for the organization.
“I’m here to see what I can do,” said Shane Gill, a cinema major, who said he planned on voting for Nader in November.
Binh Tam Ha, a biology student and only woman in attendance, said she came because she did not know much about Nader but liked that the meeting was “open to hear anyone out.”
Another attendee, John Chilcotti, a history major, who voted for Nader in the 70s, said Bush is the biggest threat to Nader who cannot “do a complete surrender to corporations” and “must make the electoral system proportional.” Chilcotti recommended the Nader supporters attend the presidential election lectures on Wednesday nights in the College of Humanities to ensure that the Greens “don’t get pushed to the side by Democrats and Republicans.”
After settling scheduling conflicts the fledging group plans on setting up tables near the student center to recruit members, organize debates with other campus political groups and register voters.
“I just need something different to put my hopes into,” said August Beck, a meeting organizer and civil engineer major.
Students for Nader will meet every Tuesday at 1 p.m. in room C-112 of the student center. Peter Camejo is scheduled to address the campus on Sept. 19 at noon.
The first week of classes have officially ended and the normally foggy and drizzly campus was treated to a heat wave. As student organizations tabled by the Malcolm X plaza, President George W. Bush stood by the quad area and took the hits as they came.
No, not the actual president was at SF State, but a blow up doll at the San Francisco College Democrats table (SFCD) was available to those stressed about adding classes or unhappy with the current administration’s handling of the war in Iraq. With over a dozen tables lined along the neatly trimmed quad, this was an effective tactic used by the newly formed SFCD to attract new possible members.
Michelle Montoya, 18, stopped by the table one morning and was excited to see such a club existed on campus. Montoya is a transplant from Folsom, a city almost two hours away from San Francisco and with a population of 64,000.
“I’m excited because I’m a staunch Democrat,” said Montoya. “Folsom is very conservative and not at all liberal.”
Westly McGaughey, president of the new organization, welcomed comments from Democrats and non-alike. In a neatly pressed white button down top and black tie, McGaughey, 22, fielded various questions those ideas than a 20-inch article,” Kassiola said before the class on Wednesday. “They bring scholarly reading to the topics and I think they approach topics in a different way than journalists.” Academics, he added, are more committed to the process of reasoning and can pursue unpopular ideas, an uncommon thing in journalism.
“There is tremendous interest in this campaign,” said Jules Tygiel, a professor of history at State and the College Democrats faculty advisor, when asked about the student turnout. He, along with his wife, passed out fliers, John Kerry buttons, posters and voter registration forms to students waiting to get into the class.
“This is the most important election of our time and I am motivated [to be here] by how important it is for students to get involved.”
The auditorium filled quickly exceeding the 75 enrolled students. The lecture featured three speakers: Robert Cherny, professor of history; Michael Graham, professor of political science; and Christopher Waldrep, chair and professor of history.
Each speaker discussed a different part of American politics, the Electoral College and the evolution of the presidential campaign, providing insight into how these institutions have impacted the contemporary political landscape.
“I don’t know anything about the election,” said Sarah Oberman, a business major who attended the class. “I don’t know why I want to lean one way or another.” The class, she said, would help make her a better-informed voter though she would have understood more if the lecturers used “elementary terms about what they were explaining.”
The number of students attending the class was an indication of changing attitudes on campus in the last four years.
When asked at the end of the lecture if voting had become obsolete, Waldrep replied, to much laughter, “It was a very common attitude on this campus in 2000 to hear there’s little difference between Republicans and Democrats. I haven’t heard that lately.”
The San Francisco College Democrats, a fledging student organization headed by SF State student Wes McGaughey, encouraged students to register to vote outside the auditorium.
Arriving directly from work in a blue dress shirt and yellow tie, McGaughey passed out information about the College Democrats, hoping to recruit more members and officers.
“If I had time I would have dressed more college student like,” he confessed before recounting the many obstacles he faced in organizing the College Democrats, like surmounting the political apathy of college students and the lack of support from the university administration.
He hopes the organization will change student awareness of political decisions.
The protests earlier this year over fee increases, he said, where largely ineffective because students were demonstrating after the policies were already in place.
He also hadn’t been able to get university permission for the College Democrats to gain non-profit status, making contributions tax deductible.
“People have become disenchanted with politics and I want to present an image that’s cool,” he said about the College Democrats. So far the organization has registered 86 students to vote; 72 of who are registered Democrats.
The lectures will be held every Tuesday night starting at 7:15 p.m. through Dec. 8 in Humanities 133. During Election Day, Nov. 2, the class will be held in Jack Adams Hall for a special election night session featuring live commentary and post-election analysis from faculty
Smokers may find it difficult to light up at SF State this fall as a new mandate limits tobacco use to seven designated zones.
The policy is the latest step towards a complete smoking ban at the university, and it reflects California’s ongoing campaign to eliminate the cancer-causing agent from public spaces.
The rule was originally proposed by the Academic Senate and later approved by President Robert Corrigan. It officially takes effect Aug. 26, a day after the fall semester begins.
But officials haven’t crafted a detailed plan yet, and reactions among the SF State community could contribute to a more comprehensive regulation. Check out the second issue of Xpress for faculty and student reactions to the ban.
Compliance with the SF State rules is voluntary. According to SF State Spokesperson Ellen Griffin, everybody in the campus community is expected to “cooperate out of mutual respect for one another.”
The pathway leading from the corner of 19th and Holloway Avenues between the HSS and Administration buildings has been reconstructed to comply with
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.
Work on the path, along with reconstruction of the HSS building entrance nearest to 19th Avenue, is the latest in a long series of projects the university has undergone in order to be more accessible to its disabled students, faculty and staff.
According to SF State’s Illustrative Landscape Plan for the project, the work ran from June 24 to Aug. 23, both widening and lessening the steepness of the pathway, removing the concrete stairs to an HSS entrance to make it accessible to wheelchairs, and adding more greenery around the path.
Gene Chelberg, director of SF State’s Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC), said the problem with the path was not its obvious steepness as one climbs the hill from the center of campus, but a cross-slope – a slope running perpendicular to the main climb. The main slope from 19th and Holloway runs east to west; the cross-slope runs north to south.
Cross-slopes are defined as barriers to accessibility in ADA guidelines; the guidelines note that too steep a cross-slope can make it hard for wheelchair users to guide their chairs in a straight line.
The path reconstructed at SF State had a cross-slope steep enough to make wheelchair users feel off-balance as they went up the main slope, said Chelberg.
ADA guidelines dictate that a cross-slope can be no steeper than one foot in rise for every 50 feet in length, so the pathway has been altered to fit those guidelines.
“It’s a magnificent project in terms of how much more of the campus will be compliant,” said Chelberg.
Funding for the project has come out of a category SF State gets from the state of California called deferred maintenance.
Phil Evans, director of Campus Grounds, was unavailable for comment about the project’s total budget.
Chelberg said that in the past 14 years, the university has spent between $300,000 and $750,000 every year on barrier removal and new ADA-compliant construction.
Since the ADA became federal law in 1990, SF State has been operating on a transition plan to make the campus fully compliant with federal, state, and city laws regarding accessibility, said Chelberg. The first priorities in the plan were to make sure every building had one accessible entrance and one accessible bathroom. More recent changes on campus include standardization of the location of Braille signage, and placement of small, yellow rubber domes in the 19th and Holloway Avenue curb cut to help the blind head straight across the crosswalk.
Chelberg said that approximately 650 Holloway Avenue curb cut to help the blind head straight across the crosswalk.
Chelberg said that approximately 650 students register with the DPRC as disabled every semester. But the true number may be significantly higher.
According to a 1999 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, six percent of all undergraduate and four percent of graduate students have some kind of disability. At SF State, which according to the latest figures from University Budget and Planning has about 22,000 undergraduates and 8,000 graduates, the percentages would translate to more than 2,000 disabled students.
Chelberg said about 100 faculty and staff also register with DPRC.
More information on accessible routes, entrances, and other areas can be found in the DPRC’s Campus Access Guide and Map, which is available free of charge in the DPRC main office, room 110 of the Student Services building.
While some college graduates are preparing for 40-hour workweeks and the day-to-day grind, Nathaniel Tishman, a recent SF State journalism graduate, is about to embark on a new journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
According to the Peace Corps Regional office in San Francisco, there are currently 26 SF State graduates volunteering in countries such as Fiji, Honduras and Romania; there are a total of 7,533 volunteers worldwide. Tishman, 24 has been assigned to the Republic of Chad, a country in Africa with a population of almost 10 million.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Chad has many problems, including a high number of AIDS related deaths, inadequate drinking water and occasional locust plagues.
The question remains then, why would someone like Tishman and almost 8,000 others want to travel and live overseas for two and a quarter years in some of the world’s least-developed nations?
“There are a bunch of reasons,” Tishman says, after an 8-hour temp shift as a file clerk in the Financial District. “Some of them are noble, but others are more selfish. I have a legitimate desire to help out, but it’ll also look good on my resume.”
According to John Ruiz, a regional recruiter based in San Francisco, many college graduates volunteer overseas to gain valuable work experience that is not the eight-hour a day norm.
“It’s highly rewarding. You get to travel, learn a new language, gain hands on knowledge of another culture and develop a sense of purpose,” said Ruiz.
In 1960, President Kennedy unveiled his idea of an organization based on goodwill and volunteerism as well as understanding of other cultures.
Ruiz, 35, volunteered with the Peace Corps for two years and three months in Paraguay, where he was expected to eat and live with the community--just as Tishman will be required to do. “You have to be self-sufficient and vegetables can be hard to find, so volunteers have to learn to grow them on their own,” Ruiz said.
For Tishman, a former employee of SF State’s Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, the idea of joining the Peace Corps began earlier this year when he was contemplating post-graduation plans. Tishman had applied for a grant that would have sent him overseas to extend his higher learning, but was denied.
“I had applied for the [J. William] Fulbright, which I didn’t get. I read up on the Peace Corps and gave them a call to get a sense of it, and decide if I was interested,” Tishman recalls.
Tishman had an interview with a recruitment officer, he was offered a nomination to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Tishman, was offered nominations for programs in Africa, the Middle East and Central/Eastern Europe.
Prior to leaving for Chad, Tishman will most likely fly to Philadelphia for “staging,” where he will finish last minute paperwork, and receive immunizations and safety training. Once he arrives in Chad, Tishman will most likely live with a host-family for three more months of hands-on training before officially becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. Although the term of service is 27 months, a volunteer may resign at anytime.
On top of living and traveling abroad, Peace Corps volunteers receive benefits such as a small monthly stipend, paid vacation days off, a $6,000 “readjustment allowance” after the completion of volunteer duty as well as a 15 percent deduction per year off of federal loans such as Perkins Loans, a five percent low-interest loan granted by the university and the government.
There are many risks involved in Peace Corps service, which Ruiz has already faced and Tishman is preparing to deal with. According to the 2002 Annual Report of Volunteer Safety supplied by the Peace Corps, there were 87 reported aggravated assaults worldwide, six less than previously reported in 2001.
Though Tishman is aware of the risks, he still plans to leave for Chad in late September. “I’m getting as ready as I can. I should go into it as open-minded as possible and just be prepared for anything. Whatever happens, happens,” Tishman said.