February 2006 Archives

LARC Celebrates 20 Years

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About 160 people attended the 20th Anniversary of the SF State Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC) at Plumber’s Hall on Market Street.

"Who will tell it like it is if labor doesn’t do that?” said the President of the Labor Archives Advisory Board Judith Goff at the celebration on Feb. 24, which kicked off at about 7 p.m. “SF State provided a strong foundation by providing the space for the Center,” she said.

Founded in 1985 by trade union leaders, historians, labor activists and university administrators, the Labor Archives are a collection of Bay Area labor activity, which date back from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. The Center was created through a series of events, first of which began after previous success with local labor studies programs in the 1970s.

The collection includes materials from the counties surrounding San Francisco Bay, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. More than 6,000 feet of primary source material is available for research, and many unions have made the Labor Archives the official storehouse for their historical records, according to the SF State Web site.

The LARC is a unit of the J. Paul Leonard Library at SF State, but is currently located near the university at the Sutro Library on 480 Winston Drive in San Francisco.

The anniversary celebration included an introduction by Goff, and a short speech given by Lynn Bonfield, the Center's first archivist and director, who will be retiring this May. A special performance by the Labor Heritage/Rockin’ Solidarity Chorus also took place, followed by an hour-long speech given by Grace Palladino, the Center’s 2006 distinguished labor history lecturer and author of the book entitled, "Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits: A Century of Building Trades History."

Guests in attendance varied in age range from 18 to 80. One SF State student said she came because of her interest in the study of symbolism and hidden meaning in organizations such as the labor movement.

“I ran a program called 'Battle Emblems,' which is about the symbolism in such traditions, like the handshake and the peace sign,” said Kim Munson, who plans to fulfill her master's degree in art history. She just completed her bachelor's degree this past year.

Others attended because they wanted to learn more about the LARC.

“I’ve never actually visited the Labor Archives and Research Center," said Tami Bryant, a member of
of the Service Employees International Union. "But now, this has made me very interested in it, and I want to go see it.

"I came here tonight to find out more about the historical and cultural perspectives. You don’t find much about it in mainstream media,” she added.

Carol Cuenod was an archivist for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for many years and has since retired. She has been working at the LARC four days a week for the last 14 years. She said she is half paid and half volunteer.

“The event covered a lot of territory and culminates our fund drive, which is how (me and the other volunteers) get paid,” said Cuenod.

Goff stated that there had been a recent loss of staffing, and he plans to render this problem as soon as possible.

There are also plans to move the archives into a new home later this year - the J. Paul Leonard Library.

For more information on the LARC, visit www.library.sfsu.edu/special/larc.html, or call (415) 564-4010.

Robot Sumo Wrestlers Compete at SF State

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Have no fear. Despite appearances last week, the student center has not been taken over by battling robots.

In an effort to reach out to potential engineering students, SF State sponsored a morning of mini-robot sumo wrestling and a scholarship award ceremony for local high school students Feb. 24.

The School of Engineering provided robot kits to high school students and rewarded the winners with cash prizes. Though only a few schools came to the event, the ones that competed were able to bring large teams of one to three robots. Twelve robots and about 40 students competed in the event. This was the third year SF State has hosted the event in Jack Adams Hall at the Cesar Chavez student center.

The matches follow the rules of the Robotics Society of America’s RoboGames, and the competition was hosted by RoboGames founder David Calkins, a professor of robotics at SF State School of Engineering. Each individual match is a contest of two robots trying to push the other outside of a ring. Using light sensors to avoid rolling outside the ring, they move and spin based on programmed commands.

The real challenge for the students was keeping their robot functioning through multiple matches. Although a few were modified with extra parts, some failed at the basic objective to stay inside the ring. Many students were reassembling their robots seconds before competing.

“The first law of robotics: robots never work when you want them to work,” said Calkins.

The winning robot, Gizmo, also took second place in last year’s competition. Fighting for Bridgemont High School, Gizmo and his two teammates sported the most practical innovation in the competition – a simple carrying handle on top to prevent damage to fragile components when lifting the robots.

“I really like the handle idea. I’m going to put that on my robots,” said Calkins.

Jacob Correa, Jonathan Tropper, Kevin Chow, and Rochelle Caledon worked on the winning robot, and said they might donate their $300 prize to the Bridgemont High School physics department.

Second place went to a one-person team, 17-year-old Thomas Scally from San Francisco’s John O’ Connell High School of Technology. Scally and his school won the 2005 regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) championship, and went on to the finals in Atlanta. He said that building the one-pound mini robot for the SF State competition was easy compared to the weeks spent working on a 120-lb fighting robot for the FIRST competition. Scally said it only took him 30 minutes to assemble his robot.

After the competition, a luncheon was held in the science building meeting room where local technology firms rewarded high school students with engineering scholarships. ShyShenq Liou, director of the School of Engineering, believes that this outreach is helpful for drawing students into the program, even if they do not choose SF State.

“This is great motivation for students to get involved in the practical aspects of science,” said Albert Jou, a science teacher at Philip and Sala Burton High School in San Francisco.

Calkins hopes the students bring their robots back for the 2006 International RoboGames, which was scheduled for spring break but will now take place from June 16-18. The games will be at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Festival Pavilion and are sponsored by SF State.

“We needed more space,” said Calkins. “It is impossible to do combat in the gymnasium here. It took 20 extra people to run it here.”

Unlike Africana Studies professor Antwi Akom’s past court appearances, there were no supporters at the Feb. 22 hearing. SF State graduate Ashley Moore sent an email urging friends, SF State students and faculty to attend the April 14 trial instead.

Members of the campaign supporting Akom, are selling tan-colored T-shirts with bold orange prints, “Danger: Educated Person of Color” on campus. The organization wants charges against the professor dropped, and encourages students to write to President Robert Corrigan and District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Moore, who moderates the campaign Web site, “Justice4Akom,” said the organization intends to run a series of workshops at SF State on racism and the criminalization of black males.

Retired San Francisco police officer, John Mindermann, volunteered to help the Department of Public Safety counter “Justice4Akom.”

SF State students and faculty say Antwi Akom’s arrest on Oct. 25, was racially motivated. He is charged for battering a police officer and resisting arrest.

“The allegation that he was a victim of racial profiling is bogus,” said Mindermann, president of the San Francisco Veterans Police Officers Association. Mindermann, who is an SF State graduate, said he is impressed by the Web site that Akom supporters launched on Feb. 6.

At last year’s hearing, Mindermann said he offered to help campus police advocate their position on the incident.

“They should get their message out there,” he said in a phone interview, adding that campus police should also launch a Web site. Calls to DPS were not returned.

Moore, 21, said the group is concerned about racial profiling in the country, and not just the incident.

“Once it’s over, we’re not over,” said Moore, who was Akom’s teaching assistant last fall. The group has the support of 31 organizations, including the San Francisco NAACP chapter and the ACLU in Northern California.

“I feel really fortunate that I have supporters,” said Akom at the Hall of Justice.

Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, Kenneth Monteiro, said the incident should have been contained within the university.

“The situation should be out of the courts and back on campus,” he said.

Grammy winning SF State professor dies

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Dr. Luis Kemnitzer, a retired SF State anthropology professor, radical activist and Grammy award-winner, died peacefully Feb. 17 after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 77.

Kemnitzer taught the first American Indian Studies class at SF State in 1969 and was a supporter of the occupation of Alcatraz Island.

He was also a founding member of the Needle Exchange Program - which began in the Tenderloin - aimed at HIV prevention. Illegal at the time, it now continues to save thousands of lives.

Kemnitzer was active in the Bay Area anarchist and peace-activist communities and participated in various non-violent protests. Before his death, he worked toward justice in East Timor.

He received a Grammy with other authors in 1998 for Best Album Notes for “Anthology of American Folk Music,” which won a Grammy for Best Historic Album that year.

Kemnitzer received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, and joined SF State as a professor of anthropology until his retirement in 1995.

Some of his former students remember him for sitting cross-legged style on his desk, smoking his cigarettes and for having a wide range of knowledge on various topics.

Kemnitzer was a brakeman on the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1940s and continued to be a railroad aficionado. He liked various styles of 20th century railroad songs, traditional jazz and political tunes. His family and friends also called him an amateur chef and gifted storyteller.

Kemnitzer’s memorial will be held Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Martin de Porres House in San Francisco, where he was a dedicated soup kitchen volunteer. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the de Porres House or to the War Resisters League.

A wake was held Feb. 18 in his honor at his home at 97 Miguel St. in San Francisco. He will be cremated Feb. 22 at Pacific Interment Service at 1094 Yerba Buena Ave. in Emeryville.

Kemnitzer is survived by his wife, Moher Downing of San Francisco, and his former wife, Brandi Apana of Honolulu; children David Kemnitzer of Oakland, Lucy Kemnitzer of Santa Cruz and hanai daughter Ch’asca Morse of Los Angeles; two stepchildren; six grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and four siblings. A close family friend, Rosemary Prem, took care of him during the final stages of his illness.

Students get Poetic

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The Velvet Revolution put SF State students on the mic to showcase their poetic and written talents.

Everyone from poets, playwrights and authors were invited to sign up and share their work with an audience of about 30 people at the Poetry Center (HUM 512) at around 5 p.m. on Feb. 21.

“The Velvet Revolution is about gaining a sense of community and bringing together students,” said Britt Foster, a creative writing senior and host of the event.

The program was created by SF State students Chad Sweeney and Rose Haynes, who named it after the political revolution that occurred in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

Mako Matsuda, a graduate student in poetry, explained that the Velvet Revolution is a beneficial addition to the Creative Writing program.

“It’s a chance to showcase writers…it’s all very casual, we meet in the Poetry Center and people present their work and help themselves to some wine,” said Matsuda, who also served as a host.

The featured guests included Paige McBee, a writer and lesbian activist, and Kevin Hobson, a graduate student in creative writing.

Hobson, who moved to San Francisco from Santa Cruz, read a piece called, “Advice for the Small Towner who has Moved to the City.” He gave a vivid description of how to carry oneself and what sights to notice in San Francisco while emphasizing that one should count the number of Starbucks as well as the number of trees.

“It’s a major change moving from Santa Cruz to San Francisco,” said Hobson. “But I like it here, and I like the focus on writing and being able to share with others.”

Ten students ended up reading during the open mic session, and this included everything from poetry to Eve Gross’ “Portrait of a Lunch Man,” a description of a dork, who meticulously inspects his lunch, leaving listeners to wonder who is more intricate, the lunch man or the author who spends her time intently watching him.

“The quality and variety of work was really on par last night,” said Foster. “I am hoping we get more playwrights in, however, because there is such great work going on in that section of our [Creative Writing] department,” said Foster.

The Velvet Revolution is held every Tuesday at 5 p.m. and features an undergraduate and a graduate student while the rest of the evening is reserved for open mic.

Unisex Restrooms Make Doing Business A Little More Comfortable

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To help some students feel more comfortable while taking care of business, four on-campus restrooms have recently been converted into unisex restrooms.

“Some people are worried about what they don’t understand,” said Ethan Harriger, a 22-year-old SF State student who gets odd looks when he goes to the women’s restroom. It can make for an uncomfortable situation. Harriger is a pre-operation transgender who was born as a woman but identifies and dresses as a man.

“When people see me from behind they wonder why there’s a man in the women’s room,” said Harriger, who does not use the men’s room since he hasn’t yet had the operation.

Transgenders, like Harriger, do not identify with the sex they were born as. Sometimes they identify with the opposite sex more, or feel just right somewhere in between. For them, going to the restroom can be a big question mark. They have to decide which sex-specific restroom is the right one for them.

The new restrooms, located in the Humanities, Fine Arts, Burk Hall, and Business buildings, were converted a few weeks ago and aim to provide transgendered and other individuals with privacy and safety.

“Some students feel uncomfortable, due to various reasons: transgender issues, health issues, privacy issues,” said Albert Angelo, a health educator at the Student Health Services. Angelo serves on the Student Affairs Committee, which worked to have the restrooms converted.

The committee reviewed single-stall restrooms on campus and determined which ones could be converted easily. New signs and locks were then added, said Angelo.

“It’s about creating a safe space. People should have the right to pee in peace,” said Bradley Zeledon, 19, president of the Queer Alliance on campus.

“It’s also a matter of respect. They’re saying there is only man and only woman, when there’s more going on, more people in between,” said Zeledon.

“It filled a gap,” Zeledon said. “It’s just a bathroom, but way, way more.”

During the campaign for unisex restrooms on campus, Zeledon heard many stories about people being harassed or stared at for being in the “wrong” restroom. Several students had to borrow keys to use faculty restrooms in order to feel safer.

“It really did surprise me,” said Zeledon, a sophomore theatre major who said that he personally has never experienced this kind of harassment. “I just go in, do my thing. I don’t worry about getting beaten up.”

Both Zeledon and Harriger are surprised that it took SF State this long to have more unisex restrooms on campus.

“You think being in San Francisco, ours would be one of the first and leading, but it’s not,” Harriger said. Colleges in California that already had unisex restrooms include UCLA and UC San Diego, according to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.

Public places, like SF State, are required by law to make sure there’s no discrimination against anyone, said Chris Daley, director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco. Although there is no law that establishments must provide unisex restrooms, having them prevents students from being discriminated.

The Transgender Law center had been working in affiliation with the organization, People In Search of Safe Restrooms, to campaign for gender-neutral restrooms in San Francisco.

In 2001, PISSR surveyed 487 transgender, gender-queer, gender questioning, lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The organization found that 99 percent of the people surveyed wanted gender-neutral restrooms.

It also surveyed about 260 businesses in San Francisco and found more than half have gender-neutral restrooms. Most restrooms are single-stall, but some businesses are trying out multi-stall restrooms, Daley said.

“Generally you won’t see any problems, but there is usually some signage to explain to people that these are unisex bathrooms,” he said.

On campus there are no extra signs to explain the new functions of the bathrooms and some students do not even know that restrooms are there, or that the doors can be locked.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said William Lao, 23. “One time, I was using it and some lady came.”

Even after finding out the door can be locked, he still did not warm up the idea. Jasmine Mitose, 19, thinks that the restrooms should not have to be designated to either sex. When she wears men’s clothing, occupants in the ladies’ room sometimes mistake Mitose as a boy. She said people stare at her because they think she is in the wrong restroom.

“Why separate them in the first place?” said Mitose, a Theatre major who identifies herself as pansexual, meaning she will love anyone who is “fine.” She has only one concern about sharing a restroom with men.

“Boys have disgusting bathrooms,” she said. “But this might actually help with the hygiene ... boys are neater when girls are around.”

Changes to GRE Delayed Until 2007

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New grads have one more year to take the old version of the Graduate Record Exam. Originally slated to go into effect this year, the newly remodeled GRE has been pushed back to the fall of 2007, which is a relief for many prospective graduate students.

“This is a good thing because it gives students the ability to take the old exam, the exam students are used to taking,” said Matt Fiddler, GRE program coordinator at Kaplan Test Preparation. Many students are familiar with the old version and have taken pre-tests to get ready for it.

The GRE is a test required by all graduate students who plan to pursue masters’ degress. Although the new version is complete, Fiddler said the delay is due to distribution problems to the more than 400,000 students nationwide who will take the exam this year.

Fiddler said Kaplan Test Preparation recommends that students who prepared to take the re-vamped GRE this year not wait until 2007 to take it. Students who graduate this year or who will return to graduate school after taking some time off should also take the GRE before moving on.

“Think about taking the exam before you leave school,” Fiddler said, “while you’re still in ‘test-taker’ mode.”

According to Fiddler, the changes to the exam are significant. The allotted time for the exam will increase from 2.5 hours to four, the math and verbal sections will be restructured to include more elements of critical thinking, and the fee, currently $115 in the United States, will go up. The amount of the fee increase has not yet been announced.

CFA and CSU Bump Heads Over Contract

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The California Faculty Association (CFA) said that the bargaining to reach a contractual agreement with the California State University (CSU) has reached a crisis and has prompted them to set up demonstrations across all CSU campuses.

For at least the past year, the CSU and CFA have been intensely negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. It will replace the old contract, which has already been extended four times, to mid-March due to stalled negotiations. In a Feb. 22 meeting, CFA expressed that if no agreement is reached soon, demonstrations across all CSU campuses will start in March.

“If there isn’t an agreement, then there is going to be a real show of force,” said Barry Rothman, a biology professor who has taught at SF State for the last 20 years. “By and large the faculty has been pretty stable until recently,” Rothman said in reference to possible walkouts. He added that the faculty generally doesn’t partake in walkouts.

On the other hand, Clara Potes-Fellow, the CSU media relations director, said, “The most important mission of this institution is student instruction and we are confident the faculty will do nothing to harm the students.”

Despite a number of key disagreements between the CSU and CFA, Potes-Fellow said, “The CSU is interested in reaching a contract as soon as possible and will continue negotiating in good faith until a solution that benefits both sides is accomplished.”

When SF State CFA office manager Lauri Owen was asked how close they were to an agreement, she said, “Sadly, I think we are pretty far apart on most issues.”

“It certainly cannot be said that failure for CFA and the CSU administration to reach an agreement will help CSU students in any way,” said Owen.

A reason for the crisis is that CSU administration proposes to focus pay increases on top executives. The administration proposes to raise campus president annual salaries an average of 14.5 percent, which translates to about $30,000 a year. They also propose to increase their car allowances by $250 per month and their housing allowances by $30,000 per year.

CFA said that pay increases need to be focused on the faculty level in order to close the gap between CSU lectures and community college lectures.

Full-time CSU lecturer’s average salaries are lower compared to community college professors. The average CSU full-time lecturer earns $53,800 a year, while the the average professor in the San Francisco Community College District earns $75,545, according to CFA.

In response to this, CSU proposed to re-introduce the merit pay program in which “one third of the faculty would be eligible each year for a merit pay increase, using existing faculty review procedures.”
In addition, CSU proposed to provide small pay increases over the next few years.

Other key areas in the contract that CFA wants to improve on are job security and lower student-teacher ratios.

The student-teacher ratio had remained fairly steady until 2001 when the ratio rapidly began to increase. It went from 19 students per teacher in 2001, to a significantly higher 21 to 1 in 2005.
Kim Geron, a CFA treasurer at Cal State East Bay, said that CSU lectures are not compensated for having to handle more students per semester.

The CFA represents about 23,000 members, which include instructional faculty, librarians, counselors and coaches across all of California’s 23 State University campuses. There are approximately 405,000 CSU students enrolled for 2006.

Despite the whirlwind of disagreements and disputes, Rothman said that students don’t need to worry this very moment.

“I don’t think the life of a student will change unless the faculty gets a bad contract.”

CSU budget allows SF State to increase classes and labs

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave all California State University students a “big Christmas present” this year, according to CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

Reed praised the governor’s decision to buy out the proposed 8 percent fee increase for this year, which amounts to about $54 million, or $200 per student.

“The (higher education) compact is working,” said Reed via telephone conference with various CSU students.

Reed said the compact provided $215 million in new revenue for all CSUs and $2.8 billion from the General Fund this year. The new revenue in the CSU system will allow each CSU to bring in about 10,000 more students than previously allotted.

According to Ellen Griffin, director of public affairs and publications, SF State enrolled 28,945 new students this semester. The university is anticipating an enrollment of about 29,500 new students next semester.

For SF State, the operating budget was increased by nearly $16.9 million, allowing the university to add 133 sections of lecture and lab classes in the fall semester, and another 132 class sections this spring. Students who have been concerned in the past about program cuts from budget deficits won’t have to worry this year, according to Griffin.

“Colleges and departments are not being asked to make programmatic cuts, as occurred in 2004,” Griffin wrote via e-mail. “Given the current budget, there is no intention to force cuts for university-wide budgetary reasons, but discontinuances and new programs can and may occur as part of the cyclical academic review process.”

Reed said the governor recognized the importance of CSUs offering masters’ degrees, and there will also be more funding for science and technology major programs and nursing.

“I am very optimistic about the budget,” said Reed.

Feds Say Grads May Not be Literate Enough

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Members of a federal commission on higher education are looking at standardized testing as a possible way to measure the effectiveness of colleges and universities.

This arose in response to recent surveys asserting that college graduates are not as literate as they should be, and the need for tangible results in exchange for the money invested in higher education by both the state and federal government.

But faculty and administrators at SF State think that high-stakes standardized testing of graduating college seniors is the wrong answer.

“Part of the beauty of higher education is being able to explore, being able to think of new ideas, being able to take risks,” said assistant professor of education Jamal Cooks. “I think that would be horrific, to say that everyone has to learn in the same way.”

Kenneth Monteiro, dean of the ethnic studies department and psychology professor at SF State, shared similar concerns.

“I am worried,” said Monteiro. “Not because tests are bad, but because people can be bad with them.”
Standardized testing on a massive scale such as this has at least two major flaws, according to Monteiro.

The skills that the tests would be trying to measure would have to be well defined, which he argues has not happened with other standardized tests such as the SAT and IQ tests. Also, the motives behind the test are questionable.

“Is the standardized test about insuring the quality of the education or is it about controlling the education that the student gets?” asked Monteiro.

While everyone agreed that accountability is necessary, apprehensions were widespread.

“I am not against assessment or accountability, but large-scale, multiple-choice, individual testing won’t get any of the results they are looking for,” said Judith Kysh, a professor in the education department at SF State.

“Students take the test, they pass the test, and then they forget the material,” said Kysh. “Then when they need to use the information, it is not there.”

Linda Buckley, vice president of assessment and accreditation at SF State, agrees that standardized testing is a simplistic approach to a complex problem, and she sees other problems with instating a system similar to No Child Left Behind.

“The first problem is that it doesn’t give you a good measure of the value added,” said Buckley, referring to the fact that standardized tests do not take into account the skill level with which a student entered and left college. “The second problem is that institutions start to teach to the test.”

“You end up with a curriculum that is controlled by bureaucrats instead of by experts in the field,” said Buckley.

Despite these concerns, Charles Miller, the chairman of The Commission on The Future of Higher Education, commented in an e-mail that was printed by the New York Times this month that, “what is clearly lacking is a nationwide system for comparative performance purposes, using standard formats.”

The story goes on to say, “he said public reporting of collegiate learning as measured through testing ‘would be greatly beneficial to the students, parents, taxpayers and employers’ and that he would like to create a national database that includes measures of learning.”

One survey, conducted by the American Institute for Research, found that roughly 20 percent of students attending four-year institutions have only basic math skills, which they define as, “those necessary to compare ticket prices or calculate the cost of a sandwich and a salad from a menu.”

In 1999, in response to dialogue between the California state legislature and the CSU system, the CSU Accountability Process was instituted. This process includes yearly system reports and individual campus reports submitted every other year.

“The CSU system believes that the citizens and taxpayers of California deserve to know how the university is doing at fulfilling its essential mission, and spending its state appropriations each year,” said Keith Boyum, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs for the CSU system. “This is simply strong public administration.”

In 1997 SF State released New Perspectives on Assessment at SFSU, which seeks to evaluate curricula and student outcomes, as measured by retention, percentage of graduates who continue their education and average GPA among other indicators.

Students Respond to Morales Execution

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The day after Michael Morales' execution by lethal injection was postponed indefinetly by the state of California, students voice their views about the death penalty.

Photos by Moorea Morehart

Trial Date Set for Akom's Hearing

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Unlike Africana Studies professor Antwi Akom’s past court appearances, there were no supporters at the Feb. 22 hearing. SF State graduate Ashley Moore sent an email urging friends, SF State students and faculty to attend the April 14 trial instead.

Members of the campaign supporting Akom, are selling tan-colored T-shirts with bold orange prints, “Danger: Educated Person of Color” on campus. The organization wants charges against the professor dropped, and encourages students to write to President Robert Corrigan and District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Moore, who moderates the campaign Web site, “Justice4Akom,” said the organization intends to run a series of workshops at SF State on racism and the criminalization of black males.

Retired San Francisco police officer, John Mindermann, volunteered to help the Department of Public Safety counter “Justice4Akom.”

SF State students and faculty say Antwi Akom’s arrest on Oct. 25, was racially motivated. He is charged for battering a police officer and resisting arrest.

“The allegation that he was a victim of racial profiling is bogus,” said Mindermann, president of the San Francisco Veterans Police Officers Association. Mindermann, who is an SF State graduate, said he is impressed by the Web site that Akom supporters launched on Feb. 6.

At last year’s hearing, Mindermann said he offered to help campus police advocate their position on the incident.

“They should get their message out there,” he said in a phone interview, adding that campus police should also launch a Web site. Calls to DPS were not returned.

Moore, 21, said the group is concerned about racial profiling in the country, and not just the incident.
“Once it’s over, we’re not over,” said Moore, who was Akom’s teaching assistant last fall. The group has the support of 31 organizations, including the San Francisco NAACP chapter and the ACLU in Northern California.

“I feel really fortunate that I have supporters,” said Akom at the Hall of Justice.
Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, Kenneth Monteiro, said the incident should have been contained within the university.

“The situation should be out of the courts and back on campus,” he said.

Filling the Void: The Pinoy Education Program

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SF State Asian Studies professor Alyson Tintiangco-Cubales believed there was a lack of culture being taught in Bay Area schools. She decided to start an ethnic studies program to fill that void.

In 2001, professor Tintiangco-Cubales started an educational program called the Pinoy Education Program (PEP), which teaches young Filipino Americans at the high school and elementary levels about their heritage.

She has taught at various schools around San Francisco, including Balboa High School, Burton High School and Longfellow Elementary. She believes PEP should be offered in many other schools because high schools in the past never had an ethnic studies program.

“Students in the high school level never had this opportunity before and this is why this program is important because it takes ethnic studies into where it’s needed,” said professor Tintiangco-Cubales.

Along with her student educators, she teaches many things about the Filipino culture, including issues about the Philippines during the colonial period and social justice movements.

Many of the long-time educators have gotten hands-on training in the field of education to help with the program. PEP educator, Nikki Magsambol, who has been with the program for three years, says this program benefits her because she is out their teaching what she loves.

She has been told that student test scores have risen since she has been an educator for the program by some school principals.

“The principal even told us that since PEP has been at Balboa High School, test scores have gone up dramatically of Filipinos,” said Magsambol.

Since SF State has been hit hard by budget cuts, PEP has not been able to receive the total amount of funds they needed. According to Professor Tintiangco-Cubales, the city of San Francisco has offered the program $25,000 dollars which Tintiangco-Cubales believes is not nearly enough to help fund this program.

“Our budget should be at $100,000 to $150,000 but we are running well with a small budget and we are trying our best,” said Tintiangco-Cubales.

Budget cuts have not been a major factor for Professor Tintiangco-Cubales to accomplish some of the programs goals. One of her main goals is for Filipino Americans to better themselves as individuals.

“Hopefully at the end of the day we end up with some Filipino Americans who are proud of who they are,” said Tintiangco-Cubales.

Protestors Demand Demarcation in Africa

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“If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention,” read one of the signs at the demarcation protest at the Civic Center in San Francisco.

About 2,500 people marched at City Hall on Feb. 13, according to Ruth Negash of the Mobilizing Committee. The protest was against the United Nations and the United States not enforcing the law of the Algiers Peace Agreement of 2000 which called for the demarcation of the border between Eritrea and Ethiopa.

Eritrea supporters want the U.N. and the U.S. to step in and enforce the law, but neither has yet to do so.

“Our main focus is to get Eritrea borders demarcated,” said Co-Chair of Demarcation Rally Committee Araia G. Ephrem. “Both countries signed the Peace Agreement, so both should abide the demarcation.”

For about six years, Eritrea and Ethiopia have been disputing over the border that separates the two countries. The U.N. issued the Algiers Peace Agreement after a two-year bloody border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998. The Agreement contained a series of laws that both countries would have to abide by to bring peace to the African Horn and keep the border disputes to a minimal, according to news reports.

The laws consist of both parties completely following and implementing the provisions which called for an end to the violence and the establishment of borderlines.

Ethiopia has not obeyed the law and will not give up territory that was awarded to Eritrea from the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) in a final and binding decision on April 13, 2002.

Eritreans and their supporters marched proudly around the Civic Center, yelling and chanting encouragements and demands. The protest began in front of City Hall and continued on to the Phillip Burton Federal Courthouse where protesters began chanting into megaphones.

“What do you want?” yelled protesters. “Demarcation.” When do you want it? Now.”

They marched down Golden Gate Avenue, stopping traffic. They continued on Hyde Street to hear what the speakers had to say.

“Our message to the U.N. is you betrayed us twice and we won’t have it happen again,” said Ambessager Berhane of Eritrea American Committee on behalf of the Southern California region.

“We are Eritrean before Americans, so be proud of where you came from,” said Sesen Ghebremedhin, a 19-year-old student at Merritt College in Oakland.

SF State students also took part in the protest.

“It was nice seeing my people get all together for their country and seeing small children praising our country,” said Meriam Gebregiorges, 21, health education junior. “We want people to understand the history and to learn that we are, are own country.”

“I think it was a beginning step for us because it’s the first time we had a demonstration in the western region,” said Ginbar Ketma, 21, urban studies major. “It’s been six years, and we just want to move on, but we can’t until the border is demarcated.”

Eritreans from all over the West Coast joined their fellow countrymen to voice their opinions about the situation. People from Arizona, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland and Las Vegas were in attendance.

“They (U.N.) need to be fair, do their job and get out,” said Negash, who also served as the keynote speaker. “Eritrea side is keeping our word and borders and respecting the law, but Ethiopia is just breaking the law and going across the border, killing my people.”

Negash wishes the U.N. or the U.S. would just enforce the law and sanction the Ethiopia for breaking the agreement of the law, like they have done with other countries.

“Our land is a strategic position for other governments,” she said. “That’s why it’s a stalemate. We just want this to end, so we can go on with our lives. “

The march ended where it began, in front of City Hall.


Student Voters Size Up CSA Candidates

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About 50 students attended a meeting that showcased four candidates running for the California State Assembly and the California State Senate.

The event was co-hosted by the SF State College Democrats and the SF State Political Science Student Association (PSSA) on Feb. 14 at 12:30 p.m. in the Rosa Parks room. It featured District 12 Assembly candidates, Fiona Ma and Janet Reilly, and District 8 Senate candidates, Mike Nevin, and a representative for Leland Yee. The meeting gave students the opportunity to ask the candidates tough questions and be familiar with their platforms.

“This was an important way for the candidates to get their message across to some of their most passionate constituents,” said Adrian Covert, president of the PSSA, and one of the organizers of the event.

Covert added that the event was a great way for students to get to know the candidates as neighbors and real people instead of “shadowy figures in Washington or Sacramento.”

Student questions ran the gamut from the budget deficit to Proposition 13 to the death penalty.

“I was really impressed with the knowledge behind all of the questions,” said Michelle Montoya, president of College Democrats and one of the organizers of the event.

Ma, however, received the toughest line of questioning when a student confronted her about her voting record on tenants' rights issues. Ma is currently representing District 4 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Her response was that her District is 70 percent homeowners and only 30 percent renters. “I do support tenants' rights, but I was elected to represent my constituents," she said.

Kevin Bard, an SF State student pursuing his master’s degree in political science, was particularly interested in hearing Ma speak because she represents the Sunset district in which he resides.

“I thought she was very well poised with the person who was drilling her,” Bard said.

Speakers touched on some of the major issues that will be addressed in this year’s election. While all the speakers touched on healthcare, education spending and budget deficits, all four emphasized certain aspects of these issues.

“I believe that fundamentally we need to change the way we manage healthcare in this country and in this state,” Reilly said. “I am a big believer in universal healthcare.”

Ma emphasized the need for increased employment to boost budget revenues. She also mentioned her own employment experience.

“Experience does matter in this job,” Ma said. “I have had seven years at the state level and four years at the local level.”

Nevin highlighted his work in advocating medical marijuana despite his previous job as a San Francisco police officer. He echoed Reilly’s call for healthcare for all.

“I want universal healthcare for everyone in California,” Nevin said.

Yee’s representative, Erich Albrecht, highlighted pushes for alternative energy sources, such as wind and tides. He pointed out that if Yee is elected, he will be the first Chinese American ever to sit on the California State Senate.

California primary elections will be held in June, and the regular election will be on Nov. 7.

Benefit Planned for Missing State Student

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Family and friends of former SF State student Wallace Richards will be holding a benefit for the missing man.

The “Bring Wallace Home” benefit will be held at the Phillips Temple CME Church on 3332 Adeline St. in Berkeley on Feb. 19. Its purpose is to raise money to help his family continue their search and raise awareness about the case.

“This case is definitely not closed,” said Belinda Richards, his mother. “We’ll take any information. You never know what’s important.”

Wallace Richards, a 23- year-old Berkeley resident, was last seen on the morning of Nov. 10 after dropping off a friend in San Francisco. The car he was driving - a gold 2002 Mercedes Benz C240 - was discovered less than a week later by police on Hesperian Boulevard at Embers Way in San Lorenzo.

His mother hopes that at least 100 people will attend the benefit. “If God is good, we hope for all 400 seats to be filled,” she said.

According to Wallace Richards’s girlfriend, Sabrina Ford, there have been no new updates in his disappearance. “We would love to get the word out to the SF State community (about the benefit),” she said.

Wallace Richards was planning on re-enrolling at SF State in January to finish his degree, according to his mother. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans, a lightweight hunter-green and a gray North Face jacket, according to www.wallacerichards.com, a Web site that his family and friends have set up. He is African-American, 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 235 pounds.

The Web site also states that the City of Berkeley has announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts.

If anybody has any information about Wallace Richards, they are encouraged to call the Berkeley Police Missing Persons/Detective Division at 510-981-5900.

Dyslexia Defined by Visiting Author

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The author of the book, "The Other Side of Dyslexia," gave a lecture on her own struggles with dyslexia and her holistic approach to treating the disorder.

Anne Farris spoke at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) , a division of SF State's College of Extended Learning on Feb. 14 at 12:00 p.m.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) Web site (www.ncld.org), dyslexia is a life-long language processing disorder that hinders the development of oral and written language skills. The condition affects 10 percent of the U.S. population, said Farris, who was diagnosed with dyslexia over 20 years ago.

Ten people (of which eight out of 10 are dyslexic) listened to Farris' methods of dealing with the disorder, which included a change in diet, educational kinesiology and meditation.

The biggest misconception about people with dyslexia is that they are not as intelligent as others, according to Farris, who identifies it as a "feeling-based disorder rather than intellectual." Dyslexics tend to think more in spatial terms than linear and see things as a whole rather than breaking them up into parts, she added.

Signs of dyslexia in adults include reading below expected level, poor memory skills, difficulty understanding non-literal language, (i.e. idioms, jokes, proverbs), avoiding reading aloud, difficulty organizing and managing time, trouble summarizing a story and difficulty learning a foreign language, according to Ncld.org.

Thirty-four-year-old massage therapist Sonya White was forced to drop out of SF State because of dyslexia.

“I just couldn’t handle the reading...10 to 20 books a semester was too much for me,” said White, who was studying for a master's degree in occupational therapy. White discovered she had dyslexia two years ago through a learning evaluation test. White said dyslexia causes her difficulty in carrying conversations.

White is now coping with dyslexia through a method called "Brain Gym," (educational kinesiology), which uses body movements to overcome learning challenges.

However, White is not the only SF State student with a learning disability. There are 200 to 300 registered SF State students with reading, writing or mathematical learning disorders at the Disability Programs and Resource Center on campus, according to Zi Hengstler, M.S., a licensed educational psychologist and learning specialist at the DPRC.

“We do not attempt to remediate the problem, but we help to accommodate students with learning disorders,” said Hengstler.

The accommodations include allowing students with writing disorders to use computers instead of writing with pen and paper and allotting more time to complete exams. Students with reading difficulties are offered books on tapes. The DPRC is located inside the Student Services building, room 110.

Farris said that people with dyslexia need to be in positions where they can express their creativity, or they can often become bored or frustrated.

“I’ve always been very hands on and involved in creative careers, said Roger Gamble, a 46-year-old hair stylist from San Mateo, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at 3 years old. "I’m very visual so I learn through images."

Gamble said that he always has problems with words and remembering what he reads. He is currently reading at the sixth grade level.

Farris said the most important thing to do is to encourage dyslexics because everyday is a struggle.

“Dyslexics are just as brilliant and advanced as everyone else, we just get to solutions in a different way,” she said.

For more information on the DPRC, visit www.sfsu.edu/~dprc/.
For more on "Brain Gym," go to www.braingym.org.


Feathers Fly at Embarcadero Pillow Fight

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San Franciscans celebrated Valentine’s Day in a variety of ways: roses, chocolates, cuddling — and others simply smacked complete strangers in downtown San Francisco with their pillows.

Any Cupids in the air had to divert their aim from the furiously flying feathers at Justin Herman Plaza Tuesday evening where a massive pillow fight took place. About 1,000 combatants waited for the Ferry Building clock to strike 6 p.m. so they could wallop away to their heart’s content.

“The whole thing rocked, start to finish,” said Rene Ravenel, 31, who organized the event.
Ravenel anticipated the fight to last about three to five minutes — but the participants didn’t tucker out until almost an hour later.

The scene almost resembled a blizzard, with feathers ankle deep on the plaza and sporadic pillows flying into the air.

“I thought San Francisco could totally have one of those and would totally have the energy for it,” Ravenel said.

The idea dawned on him to hold the fight in San Francisco after discovering similar events while surfing the Internet. After some research, he discovered that public pillow fights are held around the world. Ravenel e-mailed a few friends, and word quickly spread.

“The Internet has really changed how these kinds of events can be organized,” said participant Scott Beale, 37, who was surprised at how large the event became.

But as with any game, this one came with a list of rules. The first, Ravenel said, was to tell everyone about the event; secondly, wait for the clock before starting; next, don’t hit anyone without a pillow, unless they ask for it, and don’t whack anyone who is holding a camera. Most importantly, he said, was to have fun. This was not a problem.
Three men in hard hats and laboratory coats walked around trying to determine the formula of a pillow fight, while a man dressed in a kissing booth costume puckered up for 25 cents a pop, all the while dodging the swinging pillows.
The mayhem started with a countdown to 6 p.m.

“Every pillow fight has a starting signal,” explained Ravenel, a Web programmer. Not wanting to be the person in charge, he decided the Ferry Building clock across the Embarcadero would better sound off the start of the event.
Ravenel was initially concerned about how much the feathers would trash the place, but between the wind, some helpers and a few trash bags, the “snow” was soon whisked away.

Although this was San Francisco’s first public pillow fight, many other battles have taken place around the world. The U.S. holds the Guinness World Record for having the world’s largest pillow fight that took place at the University of Albany in New York on June 9, 2005.

While this wasn’t a record-breaking event, stay tuned for next year, as Ravenel has every intention of holding another fight.

“Thank you, San Francisco!” Ravenel said.

Batteries Classified as Hazardous Waste

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If you are among those who chuck used batteries in the trash you may be looking at some hefty fines and/or incarceration.

California’s Universal Waste Rule classifies batteries and many household electronic items as hazardous wastes. The law became effective in 2002, but for the last four years small businesses and households have been exempt.

However, as of Feb. 8, Californians may be prosecuted for throwing away batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones, and other electronic equipment.

“Electronic waste poses a huge problem globally,” said Raquel Rivera Pinderhughes, director of the urban studies program and a professor of environmental studies at SF State.

While some toxic materials are crushed in our dumps or leaked into our water supply, a huge amount of e-waste is shipped to countries like China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Pinderhughes said.

According to Pinderhughes, e-waste destroys the environment and exposes poor communities to dangerous metals and chemicals. Citizens of these countries have no protection from the toxic wastes.

“We don’t have producer responsibility,” she said.

Suzanne McNulty, a graduate student in economics and office coordinator for the Environmental Studies program, heads Eco-students, a campus environmental group. Eco-students is setting up battery collection bins in the Cesar Chavez student center, which will be available near the main entrances by March 15. McNulty says their ultimate goal is to have used battery receptacles in every campus department office by Earth Day, which falls on April 17.

“It seems so harmless, but there's a lot of harm packed into those little batteries. It’s so easy to bring them to school, I hope students make the easy and right choice,” McNulty said.

Eco-students has a team of six students working on recycling projects. They are involved in campus composting, clean transportation, and campus greening projects.

Last Earth Day, Eco-students set up a booth and collected old cell phones and batteries. McNulty said students discarded over 12 pounds of batteries and 30 cell phones.

“It was amazing,” McNulty said. “People just filled it up as soon as we opened the table.”

Eco-student member Kate Johnson, a 19-year-old sophomore, is considering switching her major from theater to environmental studies. She said her family has a few years worth of batteries at home.

“We didn’t know where to dispose them,” Johnson said. “This will be great and convenient to have disposal receptacles at school.”

The city of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment has made 60 recycling sites available.

Every Walgreens store in San Francisco, as well as Ikea and most local hardware stores, are participating in the recycling program. Computer equipment can also be brought to Goodwill stores. San Francisco Recycling and Disposal, Inc. operates the public Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility that accepts a variety of chemical and electronic items.

Gloria Chan, the public spokesperson for the Department of the Environment, said residents do not need to worry about state troopers digging through their garbage. The state will focus its enforcement efforts on businesses that dump these materials on a large scale, as well as those that collect electronic waste without proper permits.

This does not mean that the law has no teeth, only that municipalities have ample time to make their communities aware. Chan says penalties for throwing away e-waste could range from compulsory consumer education courses teaching residents how to identify e-waste, and fines of up to $25,000.

Feminism's Mystique

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The way women think about feminism has changed dramatically and it hardly resembles the message of women like Betty Friedan, author of the “Feminine Mystique,” which became a manifesto for the early women’s rights crusade.

Friedan, who died on Feb. 4 at the age of 85, wrote of the “problem that has no name,” which was experienced by suburban housewives who felt something was missing from their lives of chores and taking care of their husbands and children.

Although Friedan’s message spoke to many women and inspired a great deal of change, she is sometimes criticized by modern feminists for the exclusion of lesbians, non-white women, and lower-class women, according to Deborah Cohler, assistant professor of women’s studies.

“At SF State we are thinking about women, but also about race, class, gender, sexuality, social justice, and politics,” Cohler said. “No student has one single identity and the days of thinking about only one issue at a time are long gone and never coming back.”

“Feminism is far larger than the concerns of domesticity of the middle class,” she added.

The shift in attitude toward feminism is appropriately represented by the SF State Associated Students Women’s Center. According to Araceli Centeno, the 22-year-old director of the Women’s Center, the center is concerned with all women’s issues but particularly focuses on women of color in this country and internationally.

“The center is a safe place for women to come in and educate themselves, or just to get away from patriarchy for a while,” Centeno said. “It is a space where women can come to be organized and creative and educate each other and talk about our own realities.”

Centeno also believes that focusing on women’s liberation is not looking at the whole picture.

“There has to be liberation of all levels of society,” Centeno said. “For a lot of us it is hard to just be a feminist because we are so many other things.”

According to Cohler, over the years the word “feminist” has picked up some negative stereotypes inciting images of angry, man-hating women.

“The word feminist has created this mystique of shadowy figures that are hostile,” Cohler said.

Laurie Robinson, a 21-year-old English literature major, agrees that feminist may not be the best way to describe strong, independent women.

“I live with two males, so the issue of feminism is a cornerstone of my daily life,” Robinson said. “But I prefer to call myself an ‘equalist,’ not a feminist.”

Even though she is going into teaching, which is a female-dominated field, she recognizes that white men still generally hold the highest positions in education.

“I just focus on being the strongest woman possible and appreciate my opportunities,” Robinson said.

Centeno believes that there is still work to be done in society, not only for women, but also for people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientation.

“The two biggest myths are that racism is over and women are free,” Centeno said.

Bursar's Office No Longer Accepting Visa Cards

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The SF State Bursar’s Office hasn’t been accepting payment with Visa for several months due to a fixed service charge. However, many students may have missed the message.

“Now I can’t use my credit card,” said psychology major Peter Kim, 20. “I have to go back to my parent’s house to get a check. It’s too much of a hassle, I can’t even pay my tuition right now.”

The requirement to drop Visa went into effect in October 2005 due to a $20 fixed fee on all transactions, said Ellen Griffin, SF State director of public affairs.

“Visa USA requires charging a fixed processing fee for all transactions regardless of the amount,” Griffin said. “The university felt it was an unfair burden to ask the students to pay a $20 transaction fee for, say, a $20 credit card charge.”

Other students waiting in line at the Bursar’s Office were also unaware of the new policy.
Art major Becki Berumen, 20, had little time to comment as she ran back to the ATM to get cash. “It sucks,” she said.

Although the change doesn’t affect all students, some recognize the possible inconvenience.
“I have both major credit cards and receive financial aid, so it doesn’t really affect me ... but it doesn’t make sense,” said Zed Batshoun, a 26-year-old electrical engineering major.

Griffin said at one time the university used to absorb such fees.

“The last time we were doing that we were paying about $800,000 a year in transaction costs,” she said, estimating that at today’s rates that figure would be between $1.5 million to $2 million a year.

“The university decided it could no longer subsidize the cost of these transaction or convenience fees,” Griffin said. “In the case of Visa, their requirement of a fixed fee of $20 no-matter-what did not seem appropriate to the university. Especially since there are other credit card options that people can use.”

Griffin said some vendors - as well as the campus bookstore – are still able to accept Visa since they are separate entities.

“They are independent business units,” she said, “they can decide how to absorb those transaction costs and work it into their fee structure.”

Visa’s famous slogan: “It’s everywhere you want to be,” may be less true after Washington Mutual announced that they have also dropped Visa from their client list.

“In the first quarter of last year we changed the provider of our debit cards from Visa to MasterCard,” said Tim McGarry, Washington Mutual’s vice president of corporate public relations. Although McGarry indicated that the actual conversion of cards had just recently gotten underway.

Inquiries to Corporate Visa’s media relations department about the fees were directed to their Web site, which explains only how the payment process works and not the rationale behind the exorbitant transaction costs.

The Bursar’s Office still accepts checks and credit card payments with MasterCard, American Express and Discover with a transaction fee of 2.5 percent on the amount charged; and has set up an online electronic check payment system, which charges a fee of 50 cents.

Akom Case Still Not Resolved

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Supporters of an Africana studies professor, charged for battering a police officer and resisting arrest last year, are frustrated that the independent commission investigating the incident has not concluded its report.

They say the possible racial profiling episode involving professor Antwi Akom and campus police is not a priority to university administrators.

“They are just waiting for it to be swept under the rug,” said Jeannine Villasenor, 24, who moderates “Justice4Akom,” a Web site launched on Feb. 6. “I don’t think they really want to address the issue.”

Villasenor said more than 1,200 people have signed online petitions requesting that charges against Akom be dropped.

On Oct. 25, Akom was arrested by university police after retrieving a book from his office at 11 p.m. A scuffle broke out and an officer was injured, police said.

A week later, President Robert Corrigan appointed former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and former City Attorney Louise Renne to examine the case. Brown was unavailable for comment.

University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said the administration did not fix a deadline for the report, as it wants to give the commission enough time to conduct a thorough investigation.

Faculty members, who were interviewed by the commission, said they are not sure when the report would be launched.

“Knowing how long these processes could take, this is not unusual,” said Kenneth Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies.

Associated Students Inc. President Christopher Jackson said he is upset that the administration was not updating students about the commission’s findings.

“There’s been a lot of closed-door meetings and backroom deals that students have not been notified about,” said Jackson, 22.

He also said the delayed report was costing students and taxpayers money.
Monteiro, College of Ethnic Studies dean, said SF State students and faculty have not forgotten the incident.

“People are still thinking about it and caring about the outcome,” he said. “People are being patient, but they are still interested.”

Akom’s next hearing is on Feb. 22, 2006.

Russian Program Reaches Out

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In the wake of budget cuts and the elimination of their major and graduate programs, Russian language faculty members at SF State are now focusing on solidifying Russian as a minor and attracting new students to the program.

“We have excellent support from the (department) chair, excellent support from the dean,” said Russian program coordinator Professor Catherine Siskron. “We’re regrouping as a minor.”

One of the strategies the Russian program plans to use to attract new students is offering two of its core courses – Russ 401 (Russian Culture and Civilization) and Russ 511 (Russian Literature II) – in English. Required reading for the courses, which was previously in Russian, will now be in translated to English. This way, students who want to take these courses no longer need prior knowledge of the Russian language.

“We want to reach out to more students,” said Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Professor Midori McKeon, Ph.D.

McKeon said this is how most universities offer such courses that teach culture and history supplemental to foreign language programs.

“We are not ‘watering down’ to an unacceptable level,” McKeon said. “Students will still get solid language training since we offer the language sequence up to the advanced level.”

Even though sections of subsequent Russian classes had to be reduced to every other semester, students will still be able to advance efficiently through the minor program, as McKeon formed a system to calculate which class should be offered each semester.

“She did her best,” said Russian lecturer Svetlana Kristal about McKeon’s efforts to convince the university to keep the Russian B.A. program. Kristal said McKeon was very disappointed when the program was cut.

According to Kristal, one of the challenges faced by the program is that Russian is a relatively difficult language compared to other foreign languages. “But the students we have by the fifth semester are really motivated,” she said.

Kristal said she particularly enjoys working with “heritage students,” or students who are of Russian descent and speak it at home, but were born in the U.S. or immigrated when they were very young. Kristal said these students often study Russian in order to get back to their roots.

“I feel like I can help them,” she said.

Ilya Gershov commutes to SF State from San Jose every day because San Jose State has no Russian program.

“I was really happy to see they offered it as a minor,” said Ilya Gershov. “I wanted to major in it.”

Gershov, a 23-year-old junior, came to the U.S. from Moscow when he was 6 and he speaks Russian with his parents, but never learned to read or write the language.

Stacey Burge, an 18-year-old freshman enrolled in First Semester Russian, didn’t know the Russian program had been cut.

“I don’t understand why they would do it,” Burge said. “Why don’t they keep it?”

Burge, who is majoring in social work, said she’s considering minoring in Russian.

Joe Herlicy, a 22-year-old senior, assisted professors on the Russian faculty during the hearings on the proposal to cut the Russian bachelor’s program in late 2004. Herlicy said he was considering pursuing a graduate degree in Russian when the program was discontinued.

“I was thinking about staying, but they cut the program,” he said.

Herlicy will be one of the last students to graduate from SF State with a bachelor’s degree in Russian.

Siskron said she hopes the bachelor’s degree program will be reestablished in the future, as students who wish to continue their education in Russian or Slavic studies in graduate or Ph.D. programs usually need a bachelor’s in Russian, but the current focus needs to be on getting more students to be interested in Russian.

“From a practical standpoint, Russia is a very important country. It has political importance, natural resources. It’s important to maintain good diplomatic relations with Russia,” she said. “We can learn from each other."

Siskron said it's important for the Russian program to continue offering courses that spark students' interest in Russian just to keep students aware that the Russian program is still there and is not going away.

"We love teaching our students," she said. "I love sharing my culture and my language with other people."

Professors React to Muslim Cartoons

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Controversial caricatures of prophet Muhammad, published in the Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September, have sparked outrage in many Muslim nations from Afghanistan to Nigeria. Violence erupted in Iran last week whan some Muslims, angry at the political cartoons, threw stones and firebombs at Danish, French and Austrian embassies.

Mohammad Salama, SF State assistant professor of foreign language and literature, said most of the pictures were distasteful. But the picture depicting Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban was the most offensive, Salama said.

“It says ‘you are all Bin Ladens'", said Salama. "In Islam, if you do not defend your religion then there is something wrong with your faith".

Salama calls for cultural sensibility and a dialogue between religions. He said violence and flag burnings are snap reactions, and that Muslims should avoid such responses.

“Muhammad during his time was persecuted, his friends were persecuted, but he reacted peacefully and only resorted to violence when necessary,” Salama said. "Islam is a religion of peace. It is time we prove to the rest of the world what this religion is made of."

Fred Astren, director and professor of Jewish Studies at SF State, teaches a class on Judaism, Islam and Christianity. He said the conflict stems from the differences of each value system.

“With the printing of these cartoons a very tough question emerges in the space between these (Muslim and liberal) points of view,” said Astren. “In western liberal societies freedom of the press has sanctity; the press is understood to have an important function. Freedom of speech does not mean you can yell ‘fire’ in a movie theater.”

Nicole Watts, who teaches comparative and Middle Eastern politics, said, “When you see these headlines (of violent protests), they are the tip of a wave, on an ocean of ordinary peaceful people.”

Watts says the setting for these protests are repressive regimes where the limitations on the way that grievances can be expressed builds frustration. While criticism of their local governments is suppressed, protest against the western world is allowed.

She says that cultural understanding is important, but the root of the anger is political.

“There is a pervasive sense of lack of respect which stems from U.S. policies in Iraq and in Israel,” said Watts. "Public relations will not do the slightest bit of good until we are seen as actively resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a way satisfactory to both sides."

Both Salama and Astren have stressed the historical prohibition of representing the prophet in art and film.

“Islam is vehemently against visual representation," said Salama. "Idolatry or image worship represents all the dogmas that Muhammad taught to work against.”

Salama explains that although historic pictures of Muhammad from Islamic cultures show respect in the representation, they also were a religious mistake. As Islam quickly spread through Asia, new followers could not read the Koran and innocently made illustrations of the prophet to approximate the religion.

Salama said the negative stereotypes in the west began during the renaissance in Europe, in Dante’s Inferno, where “Muhammad is receiving the worst torture ever.” After Dante, this written description was adapted by William Blake and Salvador Dali into paintings.

Salama said European writers and artists undermined the validity of Islam, but it went unnoticed by the Muslim world.

“Now that we are in the post modern era, and post 9/11 -- and given globalization, it was not an innocent mistake,” said Salama. “At a time we are trying to rid ourselves of terrorist misinterpretations of Islam, this is reinforcing stereotypical misunderstandings, and the (Muslim) reactions are reinforcing them as well.”

In March of 1977, during a period of fundamentalist Islamic revolution in the Middle- East, a group of black Muslims took 149 hostages in Washington D.C. demanding that the film “The Message,” an epic film about the founding of Islam be halted from release. The film, directed by Syrian-born Moustapha Akkad, was carefully scripted to avoid any image or dialogue representing the prophet Muhammad or his immediate family. The actors spoke directly to the camera and pretended to hear the commands of the prophet. The terrorists misunderstood this, thinking that an American actor was playing the prophet. The hostage crisis ended two days later, “The Message” was released as planned and was disappointing at the box office.

“Some used this incident to advance their own agenda of violence at that time,” said Astren.

He also pointed out that many offensive cartoons depicting Jews and Israel have been printed in newspapers in the Muslim world. An Iranian newspaper is responding to the Jyllands-Posten pictures with a contest for pictures demeaning the Holocaust.

Mayoral Candidates Score Partial Public Funding

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SF State student activists scored a major victory on Feb 14. when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to approve a measure that will provide partial public funding to mayoral candidates for the upcoming 2007 election.

Students from Democracy Matters, the League of Pissed Off Voters and other campus organizations worked closely with the legislation’s authors, Steven Hill and Rob Arnow. They showed their support for the bill by attending city government meetings, making public comments and lobbying Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who represents SF State in District 7.

“It is so amazing to be involved in all the steps,” said Julian McQueen, founder of the SF State chapter of the League of Pissed Off Voters. “In the end, it ended up being pretty simple and the legislation is going to totally transform politics in the city.”

Candidates who take part in the optional program will have a spending cap of approximately $1.38 million and have the potential to receive $850,000 in public funding if they raise $525,000. In order to qualify for matching funds, donations will have to be raised in small amounts and from individual donors.

“What has always distressed us as progressives is the influence of developers over election,” said Amrah Johnson, campaign coordinator for Democracy Matters, and member of numerous other on and off-campus groups. “They have been able to change the face of the city and they pretty much run the elections because they can buy the candidates.”

San Franciscans for Voter Owned Elections point to a number of instances when San Francisco mayors and the mayorally-appointed Redevelopment agency made decisions favoring major campaign donors that cost the city millions. This included an $18 million ‘discount’ given to Chairman of the Gap Don Fisher on a purchase of waterfront land in 1997.

This situation is mirrored in our national government as well and can be seen in the recent campaign finance scandals rocking Congress, said Rob Arnow, campaign coordinator for San Franciscans for Voter Owned Elections.

The ordinance was presented to the Board by District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and benefited from wide bipartisan public support. Political organizations, voter groups and labor representatives all joined together to back this piece of legislation.

“We absolutely believe that big money is destroying our democracy,” said Conny Ford, vice president for political activities for the San Francisco Labor Council, one of the bill’s backers. “Cleaner elections promote a healthy democracy and that’s what labor is all about.”

In 2003, Mayor Gavin Newsom spent a record-breaking $5.7 million. Many fear that the need for massive fund raising efforts doesn’t give candidates enough time to address the issues and makes them beholden to large contributors.

This measure will also encourage more women, minorities and low-income candidates to run for mayor, said Jody Sanford, president of thr League of Women Voters of San Francisco.

Even the two dissenters on the Board of Supervisors, Michela Alioto-Pier representing District 2 and Sean Elsbernd representing District 7, and Mayor Gavin Newsom, agreed that campaign finance reform is important for lessening the influence of big donors. However, they worried that the method and the price of the legislation were flawed.

Elsbernd said that on his list of budget priorities, money for beat cops and fixing streets was more important than public financing for mayoral campaigns.

He added that there may be a conflict of interest in having the Board of Supervisors vote on this proposal when some of them may have aspirations to run for mayor in the future.

“Inevitably what we are doing here is voting to maybe pad our own campaign coffers with tax payer dollars,” said Supervisor Elsbernd.

Supervisor Alioto-Pier voiced similar concerns and suggested that it is the voters who should decide if this is a proper use of $6.5 million, as they did with Proposition O which called for partial public funding for the Board of Supervisors campaigns that passed in 2000.

Supporters of the ordinance were unimpressed by these objections.

“I find that laughable,” said Erika McDonald, spokesperson for the San Francisco Green Party. “It’s not like we the voters vote on every dollar they spend.”

McDonald added that San Francisco has a $5 billion annual budget so $6.5 million over four years, roughly $1.6 million a year, is hardly a massive expenditure.

Many of the supervisors who supported this bill echoed that assertion.

“Democracy is worth the price,” said Supervisor Sophie Maxwell. “People are concerned about this and I think it is important that we take a stand.”

From the Board of Supervisors the ordinance goes to Mayor Newsom’s desk where it will be signed or vetoed and sent back to the supervisors for final approval or tacitly enacted if the Mayor does not sign or veto it within 30 days.

Muni Rewiring Causes Delays for Students

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San Francisco Municipal Railway has closed parts of the Metro subway at night for re-wiring that will take at least two years to finish, leaving some SF State students waiting a little longer to get home.

It takes Sofian Neubauer, 24, an extra half an hour to get home.

Neubauer, a business major, takes classes every weeknight before normally catching a bus back to his home near the Embarcadero station.

"I'm here every night," he said. "And then I have to go to work during the day."

Now Neubauer can only go as far as the Castro with the M line.

MUNI will be closing the K, L, and M line stations between Church and Embarcadero on weeknights starting at 10:00 p.m. to work on the overhead-wiring system.

The almost 30-year-old system needs to be replaced to "bring state of the art technology to the subway, increasing reliability, and reducing maintenance costs," according to the SF MUNI Web site.

MUNI will begin the second half of the project next year, and replace the systems between Castro and West Portal stations. The Web site does not explain what changes will happen. MUNI spokeswomen, Maggie Lynch was not available for comment.

The underground system development is estimated to take two years. For now, MUNI has provided shuttle buses to take riders the rest of the way.

But these shuttle buses make frequent stops.

"It stops at every single stop on the way in," said urban studies major Joe Ruckus, 39, adding that the shuttle buses can't beat the underground train. He has opted to walk instead.

"It's only a 15 minute walk for me, so it's not the end of the world," said Ruckus, who lives on Church Street. "But I'm not happy about it."

Even though the buses seem more crowded, he said they usually arrive on time.

"As much as I'd hate to say it, it actually looks like MUNI solved this efficiently," said Ruckus, who is more worried about the second phase of the re-wiring development.

Another rider, senior Daniel Mui, 24, also didn't find the transition to the shuttle to be troublesome.

"As soon as I got out, there was a shuttle bus waiting and it left in a couple of minutes," said Mui, a marketing major, who said he had expected more delays. "Hopefully, it'll be the same tonight."

Although she hasn’t noticed a significant increase to her travel time, Emily Naud, 29, who lives in Japan Town, said the wait at night for MUNI in general is way too long. It usually takes her an hour to get home.

"It's not fair that we get stuck out here waiting, especially if you have night classes," said Naud, an interior design major. "This is the only bus that takes you downtown. I think I would be really pissed if I lived a little further."

Secondhand Smoke Declared Toxic by California

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California became the first state to designate secondhand smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant, placing it in the same category as arsenic and diesel fumes.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) announced this new distinction three weeks ago after a comprehensive report on exposure and health impacts of secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

The next step is for the ARB to review the scientific findings of the research and determine if there are possible regulations that should be imposed to control secondhand smoke exposure.

The report, conducted by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said that in California, 4,000 people die from the effects of secondhand smoke every year.

The ARB specifically raised concerns about ETS causing adverse effects on the health of women and children who are exposed to tobacco smoke. According to the ARB spokesperson, Dimitri Stanich, the report found that in addition to secondhand smoke increasing the likelihood of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma, asthma, young women’s risk of developing breast cancer increases by 68 percent to 120 percent.

The ARB cited that tobacco smoking releases 40 tons of nicotine and 1,900 tons of carbon monoxide into the environment every year.

The study also found that while only 16 percent of Californians smoke, 56 percent of adults and 64 percent of adolescents are exposed to secondhand smoke.

SF State already has a strict policy regarding smoking on campus and has prohibited the sale of tobacco products. In 2004, SF State became a smoke-free campus allowing people to light up only in designated areas.

According to Albert Angelo, a health educator with the Student Health Center (SHC) and a member of the SF State Smoking Policy Task Force, the new distinction of smoke as a toxic substance will hopefully help their cause. Angelo and the SHC offer counseling and advice for students who want to quit smoking.

“If I was a parent and I read that secondhand smoke was a toxic substance, it would be real hard to smoke around my kids knowing that,” said Angelo.

Regulations by the ARB may focus on smoking in cars and homes, although the details will not be known until after the board completes a risk management process.

“Secondhand smoke is a major concern in houses and cars due to the smaller space and smoke concentrating in fabrics,” Stanich said. “There is 30 times more nicotine concentrated in a car compared with the house of a smoker.”

However, some SF State students begged to differ.

“Regulating smoking in a car or in your home would be ridiculous,” said 23-year-old psychology major Dennis Woo. “That would be pushing it,” he added with a grimace.

Rachel Brunn, a graphic design major, also thinks that regulating smoking in people’s homes and cars would be going a little too far.

“There should never be regulations on people’s personal environment, unless it harms children,” Brunn said.

One student questioned just how California would go about enforcing a new smoking law.

“What are they going to do, have people on smoke patrol?” asked 22-year-old political science major Joseph Maniego. “It’s going to be really hard to enforce a law that limits smoking at a statewide level.”

Angelo said that he does not think that there will be much change to the current SF State smoking policy since it’s already quite progressive in terms of limiting the accessibility of smoking on campus.

Although discussion has started regarding these types of smoking laws, Stanich said that most likely, smoking laws would remain the same for several years. California, and San Francisco in particular, already set a worldwide example of a place where smoking is strongly discouraged.

Supes take heat for not condemning religious 'cult'

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The spirits at this weekend’s Lunar New Year Parade may be dampened by the political whirlwind that followed the banning of the religious movement Falun Gong, a religious practice that is viewed as a cult in China.

Last week the Board of Supervisors passed a seemingly harmless resolution condemning the discrimination of the Falun Gong religion in the name of civil rights, sparking criticism from the Chinese community.

Falun Gong is based on ancient practices, which use mediation and exercise to heal the body and mind, according to the official Web site. The group also boasts tens of millions of members in 60 countries.

Trouble started when the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce rejected the religious group’s application to participate in this year’s parade, Falun Gong accused the chamber of trying to polish business ties to mainland China.

The chamber said the decision was based on the groups past behavior. Falun Gong did participate in the 2004 parade, but handed out flyers, violating a parade policy that prohibits the distribution of political materials.

Although the chamber has turned down the group’s application in past years as well, this year’s rejection caused Falun Gong members to take matters to the political level.

Despite the publication of advertisements arguing that the Board is supporting a “homophobic cult,” Supervisor Fiona Ma still stands by her decision to support the resolution.

“As the only APA (Asian Pacific American) on the Board of Supervisors, there is a higher expectation level and many people in my community have urged me to change my position,” said Ma in a statement released by her office last week.

To appease the many Chinese residents she represents, Ma had amended a part of the resolution, which specifically cited China for discrimination. She has said she does not support the Falun Gong practice, but she does support human rights.

“The trouble is, I represent more than the APA community,” said Ma. “I took an oath to defend the constitution of the US and the constitution of the state of California and I am fulfilling it with this vote today.”

Some Chinese students at SF State don’t think it should be a political issue.

“Personally, I think that they are damaging Chinese culture and damaging the Chinese people,” said Pery Zhang, 20, vice president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association. He is originally from the city of Guangzhou in mainland China.

Zhang, a junior majoring in business, has heard that some Falun Gong members may not necessarily believe in the religion, but are just using their religion as a reason to stay in the country. He has also heard stories of Falun Gong members being paid to sit in during protests.

Several other members have expressed that Falun Gong should not make this into such a big deal, turning it into a negative thing, said Zhang. In an email, one member, Li Xue, called the Falun Gong text “nonsense.”

“The movement in China had a lot of followers, I think they got to the point where there was too many of them and the government didn’t like it.” said Egidio Choi, a 23-year-old Business major, who is originally from Macau, a city near Hong Kong. “But here, I don’t know. I don’t know why it is such a big deal.”

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Professor Links Iraq and U.S. Doctors

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A live teleconferencing project linking doctors in the United States and Iraq is expected to be up and running by the end of March because of SF State professor Gary Selnow and his non-profit organization WiRED.

Founded in 1997 by executive director Selnow, WiRED has 19 medical information centers in Iraq, with plans for 20 more. “(It) is the only countrywide organization providing healthcare information to Iraqi doctors and nurses,” a press release stated.

“While we can’t bring doctors there physically, we can bring them there electronically,” Selnow said.

Coordination continues on the telemedicine program, after a successful test of the audio and video equipment by SF State’s Marian Wright Edelman Institute technicians with doctors in Baghdad on Jan. 17.

“They filmed our activities in the room and transmitted them there over a broadband signal,” said Edelman’s graphic designer Eric Miller, who photographed the event. “It’s completely synched. The delay is like a second.”

WiRED is scheduled to give a presentation to Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C. on March 15.

“To date there is nothing like this, where physicians are able to have ‘face to face’ conversations with colleagues abroad,” Selnow said.

The program aims to connect UCSF Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C., with doctors in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Erbil.

It will allow joint diagnoses by physicians from various parts of the world, said WiRED spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford.

“The problems with their medical infrastructure precede the (current) war by a decade,” Ashford said. “During the mid-eighties Saddam Hussein… started limiting the kind of information that doctors could access in Iraq.”

According to Senlow, Hussein prevented Iraqi doctors from going to conferences and did not allow them access to medical journals and the Internet.

In February 2004, urologist Dr. Ira Sharlip, from the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, told the Marin Independent Journal that he witnessed doctors “hungry and desperate” for modern technology and education.

“The medical community touches the lives of all Iraqis,” Selnow said. “If we can improve their access to information, then we’re doing something that will benefit everyone in the country.”

While the non-profit organization has operated in a few countries, it is the first time WiRED is working with a country at war.

“The other places we’ve done work were considered post conflict,” Selnow said. “But here it is not post conflict… it’s conflict.”

WiRED does not have access to the Green Zone – a safe area – in Iraq, said graphic designer Miller.

“They have had to do it guerilla-style wherever they can find a spot,” he said.

Selnow – who was in Iraq in November locating computer hardware and building relationships - makes the dangerous trips in person and without government protection, Ashford said. “We’re always terrified whenever he leaves.”

The project benefits both Iraqi doctors and SF State’s Marian Wright Edelman Institute, Miller said.

“Because there’s been such a conflict, [Iraqi doctors] are really good at treating people on the spot of bomb injuries and shots,” he said. “So they are going to share that emergency information with us here, while we share our information with them. It’s kind of exciting, because it’s a connection to that world.”

Partial Birth Abortion Ban Under Question

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When President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 he vowed to vigorously defend it against any legal challenges. Less than an hour later the federal law was tied up by the first of three lawsuits against it.

Early last week judges in the two subsequent lawsuits upheld lower court rulings that the law, banning a procedure involving the partial delivery and medical extraction of a fetus, is unconstitutional. Those decisions, and the recent appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will review the case.

“First, the Act lacks the constitutionally required health exception. Second, it imposes an undue burden on women's ability to obtain previability abortions. Third, it is unconstitutionally vague,” wrote Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the 3-0 ruling for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

On the same day, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the law is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception for the health of the woman.

In July of 2005, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a similar ruling. That case has been appealed to the United States Supreme Court by attorney general Alberto Gonzales and has not yet been reviewed.

These two most recent rulings have led many to believe that the Supreme Court will hold hearings on the constitutionality of the law.

“I think there is a good possibility that they will review the case,” said Jennifer Dalven, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project in New York.

Dalven and her colleagues at the ACLU, which represented the National Abortion Federation in their lawsuit in New York's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, are pleased that the courts have decided to uphold the lower court rulings.

“We think that congress should stop playing politics with women's health and leave medical decisions to women and their doctors,” said Dalven.

But anti-abortion activists believe that it is the courts that are playing politics.

“I think our organization sees [the recent rulings] as a usurping of the democratic process,” said Danielle Huntley, president of Students for Life of America. “Seventy percent of Americans support a ban on partial birth abortions.”

Huntley added that the former United States Surgeon General C. Everett Koop concluded that partial birth abortions are never medically necessary.

While people's views on abortion are deeply personal, there is legal precedent in this case mandating that any anti-abortion law must include an exception for the health of the woman.

That precedent stems from the 2000 Supreme Court decision Stenberg v. Carhart in which a similar partial birth abortion ban established by the state of Nebraska was ruled unconstitutional.

But precedent does not necessarily regulate how Supreme Court justices will rule.

Because of the new make-up of the Supreme Court, they could overturn Stenberg and decide that the law is constitutional, said Beth Parker, a partner with Bingham McCutchen LLP who represented Planned Parenthood in their 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case.

Out of nine justices, there are four presumably conservative votes and four presumably liberal votes, according to professor Frank Askin, a constitutional law professor at Rutgers University law school in New Jersey and director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic.

Justices Scalia, Alito, Roberts and Thomas, who Askin refers to as “the four horsemen of the apocalypse,” are predicted to vote in favor of anti-abortion legislation. Justice Kennedy is widely believed to be the new swing vote on the court, a role previously held by retired Justice O'Connor.

“Kennedy is our only hope now,” said Askin.

Whether or not the Supreme Court decides to review the case is still an open question.

Often the court will not review a case unless there is a split in opinion, according to Paul Persons, a political science professor at Chico State University.

But so far, “the issue has not been taken up in the more conservative courts,” said Persons.

However, Dalven of the ACLU still believes there is a good chance the court will hear the case. “There are other considerations when the Supreme Court decides whether or not to review a case, one of those is whether there is a split, but when the lower courts strike down a federal law as unconstitutional, then the chances are good that they will review the case,” said Dalven.

Coretta Scott King remembered

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Coretta Scott King, a lifelong social activist, champion of human rights, and the wife and widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was laid to rest Tuesday next to her husband at the King Center in Atlanta.

She died last Monday at the age of 78 at the Hospital Santa Monica in Rosarito, Mexico while seeking treatment for ovarian cancer. She had been struggling to recover from a heart attack and stroke suffered last August.

“The death to me was a sort of a shock,” said Madeline Flamer-Banks of SF State’s Africana Studies department.

While studying music at the New England Conservatory in Boston she began dating the young minister who was studying philosophy at Boston College. Married in 1953, King and her new husband moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he soon gained national attention as the leader of the bus boycott.

A partner in her husband’s work, King joined him in civil rights demonstrations, and traveled with him until his assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis. The mother of four young children became an icon as a strong woman ready to continue Dr. King’s struggle for justice, peace, and equality.

Although many of her achievements were in creating a lasting legacy of her husband’s work, she soon found her own voice and urged women of all colors to unite to fight injustice and war. She spoke out on a wide array of international human rights issues, and in recent years made controversial remarks saying that if her husband were alive today he would support equality for gays in our society. Her support for gay and lesbian rights, including same-sex marriage, sometimes put her in conflict with family members including her daughter and niece.

“Family pressure, stresses of her legacy, and a struggle between her children, that has to be hard on a parent. To have to carry on his legacy from his death, and carry on his dream, and fight negative accusations of his indiscretions and (she was) still able to go on and be a strong person,” said Flamer-Banks.

King also shocked many people by campaigning for the retrial and exoneration of James Earl Ray, her husband’s convicted killer. She felt it would be "a tragic irony" if the man accused of assassinating a champion of justice were denied his day in court. Ray died in 1998 of liver failure before a trial could take place.

In 1986 King convinced Congress to designate the third Monday in January as a federal holiday in remembrance of the birthday of Dr. King. She also founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta.

A luncheon, memorial slideshow, and moment of silence was held at SF State by the Africana Studies department on Wednesday.


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Congress Approves Hike in Federal Loan Interest Rates

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Congress narrowly approved a bill on Feb. 1 that will cut $11.9 billion from the federal student loan program but some argue that this doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for students.

The budget cut was approved 216 to 214 with 13 Republicans, one independent and 200 Democrats voting against it. Starting July 1 the interest rate for both subsidized (government pays interest until student graduates), and unsubsidized (student pays interest) loans will rise from the current 4.7 percent to 6.8 percent.

Federal loans for parents, or PLUS loans, will rise from the current 6.1 percent to 8.5 percent. The student-loan cuts are part of a $40 billion deficit-reduction package that will slice federal funding from education and health plans.

The large jump in interest rates may seem like a lot, but these new rates are fixed for the life of the loan, while under the old program interest rates were adjusted every year.

“The interest rate increase is not as bad as it seems,” said Conwey Casillas, the director of public affairs for Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest paying-for-college company. “Even though a jump of almost 2 percent looks like a lot of money, interest rates could have possibly gone up that much and even more under the old way of changing them every year. This way you know the rate will not change unless Congress passes another bill, which probably won’t happen for another five or six years.”

However, according to political science professor Robert Smith, higher interest rates are likely to continue to have a negative effect on low and middle-income students.

“A slight increase in interest rates can still turn into quite a bit of money,” Smith said. “This might make it more difficult for some kids to go to school.”

Zoë Leonard, a 21-year-old film major, also sees how this interest hike will affect the lower-income students.

“It seems this is all part of the process of Bush keeping people ignorant,” Leonard said. “Higher interest rates decrease the likelihood of people getting educated and it just keeps the class system in place.”

There are a few things students can do before the increase is in effect to avoid paying more interest. According to Casillas, the best thing for graduating students to do is consolidate their loans before June 30 in order to fix a lower interest rate for the life of the loan.

Students can also get a private loan from a bank, but banks will generally not lend very much money unless the student owns a house or property, or something that the bank can secure the loan to. For instance, Wells Fargo will not give more than $8,500 for an unsecured loan.

According to SF State’s Director of Financial Aid, Barbara Hubler, college financial advisers do not generally recommend private student loans because banks give students interest rates that will be higher than even the latest government rate.

“The best option for students is still the federal loan program,” Hubler said. “We don’t encourage students to get private loans but sometimes it is the only way to get through school.”

Sallie Mae offers students a few monetary incentives if they choose to consolidate their loans.

According to Dawn Siddens, a Sallie Mae loan counselor, there is no fee to consolidate loans with Sallie Mae. They also offer a 0.25 percent lower interest rate if the student pays through a direct debit from their bank account. After making 36 payments on time, the student’s interest rate will go down 1 percent.

In addition to financial incentives, consolidation of loans also will help a student’s credit score. When the federal loans are transferred to a private lender the government loan will be seen as paid off on a credit report, even though the student simply opened up a new loan, said Siddens.

Students with loans should speak with a financial adviser to get advice on how to manage the debt as soon as possible. Applications for loan consolidation with any company need to be received by June 30 at the very latest to be eligible for the old interest rates.

Diversity makes a difference in the College of Business

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Student diversity at SF State might not be news to those who study here, but officials at the Princeton Review Board took a special interest in the SF State College of Business, ranking it number three in opportunities for minorities.

The results were based on percentages of minority students enrolled in the college, faculty members, and student surveys.

“We’ve known it all along,” said marketing chair, Professor Sanjit Sengupta. “I’ve always been impressed. The major thing was to be recognized for something by the Princeton Review.”

Sengupta said the SF State CoB makes a conscious effort to hire staff from underrepresented populations because a diverse faculty enriches the college experience, and prepares students to deal with a variety of situations.

Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences Sada Soorapanth said that diversity helps students to become good managers by giving them the opportunity to gain experience in working with others from a broad range of backgrounds.

“We’re very proud to have lots of international students,” she said.

Dean Nancy K. Hayes said positions on the business faculty are advertised nationally and internationally to ensure a broad range of candidates with varied expertise. The CoB also reaches out to African American and Latino populations by visiting high schools and community colleges.

According to the SF State College of Business 2003-2004 report, about 48 percent of the CoB’s resident undergraduate student body is Asian American. The next largest group is “White Non-Hispanic” at 19 percent. Filipino Americans come in at 10 percent, people of “Chicano, Mexican American, other Hispanic” heritage make up 3 percent.

The national average for business majors, which places “Non-Hispanic Whites” at 79 percent, is significantly higher than SF State’s College of Business. The diversity of the CoB is a reflection of the population of the Bay Area, but not a completely accurate portrayal. For example, only 5 percent of business students are African American.

Business Communication Professor Catherine Siskron believes that the CoB should do more to encourage enrollment of minority groups.

“I think if we take the whole Bay Area, I would guess that Latino and African American populations are underrepresented.”

Dean Hayes said the mix of students at SF State was a key factor in her decision to accept the position as dean of the CoB. She sees the variety at the college is both a reflection of the local population and a result of efforts on the part of the university to increase its diversity.

“A diverse faculty is important because it reflects the business environment … the global population,” she said.

While there is always room for improvement, Hayes is proud of the diversity in the College of Business and that it is such a strong part of SF State’s culture.

Make Ends Meet with Project Connect

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Some paper work and a three page personal statement can make a full time student $1000 richer courtesy of Project Connect, the new program launched by Associated Students Inc.(ASI).

Project Connect was designed to promote academic success and financial support, particularly to low income and underrepresented minorities. Under the direction of Mario Flores, Project Connect is offering $28,000 in scholarships. These scholarships-worth $1,000 each-are being offered to 28 SF State students.

Full-time students for the 2006-2007 academic year that have at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA are eligible to apply. The deadline to apply is Feb. 16.

There are two scholarships for each of the 14 separate categories that students can apply for. Some categories cover specific colleges, such as College of Science and Engineering, College of Humanities, and College of Business to name a few. Other categories include Graduate Student, Disabled Student, Single Parent Student, International Student and New Immigrant.

The 28 scholarships are not new to SF State,but it’s the first time Project Connect oversees them. In past years, ASI received hundreds of applicants, but last year they received only 18, according to ASI office manager Hong Nguyen.

ASI tries to keep students informed through various advertising such as campus tabling, links to their Web site and handouts given to faculty to pass out in class. Oddly, ASI has put the most effort in advertising this year than any other, but so far has yielded the least results.

“Maybe students just don’t want a scholarship this year,” said Nguyen.

The scholarship program is just one of at least five other distinct programs and services under Project Connect.

As a direct response to the cost of textbooks, the program also offers a Book Loan service. The service is offered to any SF State student enrolled in a minimum of six units and receiving financial aid.

“We are trying to cater to about 50 studentsand so far only one student has applied,” Flores said.

Students can borrow up to two books for the semester without putting any money down. However, due to a small $1,300 budget, the Book Loan service is currently limited to students enrolled in ethnic studies classes. The deadline to apply is Feb. 10, and books are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis until Feb. 13.

Fourty-two dollars of student fees goes towards the programs and services ASI provides to students, automatically making all students members.

For more information on Project Connect, visit the A.S.I. offices in the Cesar Chavez Student Center, room M-113D, or visit their website at www.asisfsu.org.


Socialists at SF State

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Mostly boos and hisses filled the crowded room in response to a student saying that 2005 began with the reelection of President George Bush.

“We need to not give up power, we need to put up a fight,” said Alex Schmaus, 21, a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) at SF State. “Do we still have hope?”

Schmaus was part of nearly 40 students who attended the ISO's first meeting of the semester Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Rosa Parks Room A, which is located at the lower level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

The group discussed hot topics such as the war in Iraq, abortion and capitalism.

“Capitalism means racism, homophobia and war,” said Schmaus, who is also a member of Students Against War (SAW), another student organization at SF State. “We could have enough food and clean water for everyone in the world with the amount of money they have spent on the war. Who do we have to blame? The easy answer would be George Bush.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, $320 billion has been spent on Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Schmaus and the ISO are not alone in their estimation of the current administration's actions.

According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 42 percent of Americans approve of the president's performance, while 56 percent disapprove. Bush's bottom-line job rating is the worst for a president entering his sixth year in office since the Watergate scandal discredited Richard Nixon, according to the poll.

However, many members of the ISO are not pleased with the democratic party either.

"The Green Party has done more to raise people's confidence to demand what they want more than the Democratic Party could ever offer," said Michael Hoffman, 25, a graduate student in mathematics and member of ISO for two and a half years. Nonetheless, the organization is not officially affiliated with any political party.

The ISO was formed around 7 years ago at SF State, and it currently has 35 members. However, the ISO is not exclusive to SF State. The organization has branches and members in about 40 cities across the United States.

The philosophy behind the group is that the current economic system is inherently contradictory, serving as the root cause of poverty, oppression and racism. The group advocates the creation of a multiracial movement that replaces the current economic system with one that is run by the working class, not capitalism, according to Hoffman.

"This is very possible as demonstrated by the transit worker strike in New York," Hoffman said. "They serve as the symbol of the growing class anger against racism and oppression. Most of the workers were blacks and latinos."

"New York had a glimpse of the power of the revolutionary working class movement," said Schmaus.

While all the members share a unified vision of society, the reasons for joining the group varied.

Twenty-three-year-old physics major Leigh Smith joined the ISO because its members believe that abortion is a woman's full reproductive right. Smith's friend was harassed outside Planned Parenthood, which is a health center that provides affordable, reproductive health care and sexual health information to men, women, and teens. "We have to keep abortion legal," Smith said.

"Getting involved is empowering," said Jerald Reodica, 23, political science junior, who has been in the ISO for 10 months.

"I am angry about the war in Iraq," said Jeff Boyette, a cinema junior. "There are a lot of things that are not available today because of the economy.”

However, ISO members are not against war if it serves a great cause, according to Hoffman.

"Most of us would have fought the war against slavery and racism," he said. "We believe in the right to take up arms in self-defense."

The group will continue to meet every Thursday night in the Rosa Parks Room.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, Ahmed Shawki - the author of "Socialism and Black Liberation" - will serve as a guest speaker.

Contributing writer: Rania Tikoo

Despite the abundance of rain and lack of tents, an enthusiastic group of SF State’s International Education Exchange Council (IEEC) members participated in the “Around the World” Study Abroad Fair in the Malcolm X Plaza yesterday.

Both resident and exchange students answered questions to interested students, stressing the positive experience that will come out of studying in another country.

“They came as boys and they’ll be leaving as men,” said IEEC officer Osilone Abebe, referring to the exchange students she met through the program.

The California State University (CSU) International Programs and the SF State Bilateral Exchange Programs are official study abroad programs offered to SF State students of any major. The main difference in the two programs is the first lasts for the entire academic year, while the latter is one or two semesters in length. The Bilateral Programs are only open to already existing SF State students or incoming SF State students, and the deadline to apply is March 1.

The deadline to apply for the CSU program for fall 2006 was on Wednesday, Feb. 1, however, possible extensions will be given - depending on the program - making the final deadline on Monday, Feb. 6.

Since eligibility depends on individual students and the particular country or program of interest, the best ways to find out more about studying abroad are to either meet with an advisor, or attend an informational meeting. Study Abroad informational meetings are held throughout the day in the Study Abroad Office, located in the administration building, room 450.

Student grade point average, preparation and prerequisites will be considered, but most programs only require one semester of a language class in order to participate.

IEEC advisor Marisa Thigpen stated that money will not be an issue. There is no application fee or foreign student tuition to pay, making tuition fees exactly the same as they are at SF State, she said. Regular SF State financial aid is applicable and scholarships are also available. Thigpen emphasized that most countries have a lower cost of living especially compared to an expensive city like San Francisco.

Students concerned about the program delaying their plans to graduate in four years need not worry either – all credits received abroad will appear on transcripts as resident credit, according to Thigpen. Registration priority will be given to international students, which is especially beneficial to those with impacted majors, making it easier to take classes needed to graduate, she said.

Even though her abroad experience held her back some, one SF State senior did not mind the time lost.

“Regardless of how much time I may have lost, I know that I’ve grown as a person,” said
Racheal Kasule, a German major, who studied in Germany for two years. “After you study abroad, you know how much you can achieve.”

Traveling abroad is worth prolonging the college experience, according to Thigpen. “I don’t know why there’s this rush to graduate on time in four years," she said. “Unless you have a job lined up for you, then why does it matter if it takes a little longer?"

Another SF State student learned a great deal during her time as an exchange student.

“You meet people from all over the world and travel around, and then realize how things are really different but also similar at the same time,” said Kristin Anderson, 21, a liberal studies senior, who studied in Amsterdam. “It makes the world seem smaller.”

For more information about study abroad programs, visit www.sfsu.edu/~studyabr.


Armed suspects struck an SF State student in the face early Monday morning, and robbed him of personal items and electronic equipment worth thousands of dollars, police said.

The incident occurred around 5:30 a.m. at Buckingham Way and 19th Avenue.

The male victim, whose injuries were not severe, declined medical treatment, police said.

Police said three suspects threatened the student with a knife, after asking him for the time. They then struck the victim in the face and stole his backpack containing items worth $5,060.

The men were last seen running westbound Buckingham Way, police said.

SF State spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said there were no witnesses and that police were investigating the incident.

"There is no way of knowing whether the suspects are students or not," she said.

If you have any information about the incident, contact the Department of Public Safety at 338-7200, or call the anonymous tip line at 338-3030.

As President Bush delivered his State of the Union speech in Washington, D.C. Tuesday night, interested SF State students scrutinized it from televisions in the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

The President’s speech comes at a time when his approval ratings are at an all-time low. For some students, his speech was too much to handle.

Laura Peschkie-Zingler, a 39-year-old graduate student majoring in special education, muttered profanities throughout the speech, while sporadically shaking her head and dropping her jaw at a few of the President’s comments.

Zingler later expressed concerns of Alito overturning Roe v. Wade, the law granting a woman the legal right to an abortion.

She was also forthcoming in her views about Bush.

“He’s a total pig and a liar,” Zingler said of President Bush. “He spies on people and the American people.”

Andrew Sullivan, 27, junior, who is double majoring in both history and urban sciences said he is a registered independent, but said his views during the speech leaned toward the left.

“He didn’t seem really prepared,” Sullivan said, believing that Bush touched upon issues that he felt pressured to cover.

“He tried to appease both parties,” Sullivan said, citing that about half of the U.S. Congress did not stand up and cheer for the President during the speech.

Sullivan said he was most surprised that Bush didn’t talk about Hurricane Katrina relief efforts more extensively.

“They aren’t doing anything,” he said. “We are just kind of skirting around the issues.”

Sullivan also disagreed with President Bush’s plan for tax cuts, saying they would not help the middle and lower classes.

“Tax cuts only really benefit the upper echelons of society,” he said.

But not everyone was displeased with the evening’s discussion.

“I was rather pleased with his speech,” said 47-year-old John Johnson, who is a junior majoring in French. “I appreciate that he reiterates and continues to put in the forefront 9/11.”

Johnson explained that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center should always be kept in mind.

“Much of what America wants to be depends on its defense,” he said.

Johnson did disagree with some parts of the President’s message, however. One such issue revolved around the universal health plan, where Johnson questioned how the costs will be paid. “At whose expense?” he asked.

Other students commented about the President’s message about foreign oil, where he said, “America is addicted to oil which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.”

President Bush discussed the importance of education and making health care more affordable and available. He also declared the state of the union to be strong and claimed America to be successful in fighting the war in Iraq.

“He’s an untrustworthy … I can’t even listen anymore,” Zingler said over her shoulder as she dashed from the room.

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