August 2006 Archives

Newsom Declares Aug. 31 ICCE Day

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The social activism with which SF State has become synonymous was reinforced on Thursday with the launch of a new foundation on campus that will offer students, faculty and community organizations a chance at civic service and research.

Held at the Towers Conference Center on campus, the formal induction of the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement was scheduled to include Mayor Gavin Newsom, but he could not make the event.

The institute combines the resources of two previous SF State programs, the San Francisco Urban Institute and the Office of Community Service Learning, including the California Campus Connect.

“This institute expresses all that is most deeply significant to SF State,” President Robert Corrigan said. “A college with a conscience.”

Mayor Newsom, though not at the event, declared Aug. 31 SFSU Institute for Civic and Community Engagement Day in San Francisco.

Corrigan told an audience of about 200 faculty, staff and city leaders that the institute will build upon the infrastructure already at SF State and help students develop a “moral compass” and it is set on “giving the students the tools they need to think.”

The new foundation is already working with organizations such as Whirlwind Wheelchair International and the RET Project, which serves the needs of people with disabilities through assistive technology.

“This is a call to action,” said John Gemello, vice president of academic affairs at SF State, “and to use the resources of this university.”

In the 2005-2006 academic year, 8,463 students volunteered 332,348 hours in agencies and nonprofits through SF State’s two programs, which merged into the new institute, the Office of Public Affairs said.

“We envision the new institution serving as a centralized research lab,” Gemello said.

This fall the institute will work with San Francisco Department of Elections and register young, student voters.

“We prepare our community to lead a new world of hope,” said Susan Alunan, the founding director of the institute and former director of the Urban Institute.

19th Avenue Collision Delays Rush Hour Traffic

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Two vehicles collided at the intersection of 19th and Holloway avenues at around 5 p.m. Thursday.

After delaying northbound traffic for half an hour, the two cars were towed to the 1400 block of Holloway Avenue.

No injuries were reported at the time of the accident.

Far From Home

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Katrina evacuees are still hurting a year later.
A Photo Essay by Justin Maxon.

Be sure to view the photo captions by placing the cursor on the slideshow while it is playing.

Letter From the Editor

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The start of a new semester means new classes, new people and new challenges. At [X]press, the start of this semester means new beginnings as well.

Our vision this semester is to increase the coverage of SF State and to move toward the online medium. Because of this, we are excited to announce we will now have a daily publication, where
stories will be posted on our Web site,, in addition to our weekly newspaper.

[X]press magazine is also moving to the Web, publishing weekly online issues in addition to three print issues throughout the semester. The magazine link can be found at

Last year’s newspaper staff left us with big shoes to fill, having won the General Excellence Award in the four-year university division. Two of our photographers won the Society of Professional Journalists 2005 Mark of Excellence Award, a national honor that was given for their photos of Hurricane Katrina.

We are looking forward to taking [X]press to the next level. While this semester will undoubtedly come with challenges, we come with fresh ideas and a large staff to bring these ideas to life.

With a daily publication, we strive to cover SF State at a whole new level. We want to cover the diversity of this campus to a greater extent than what was covered in past years.

We also want to make this experience a real world, working newsroom for our staff that responds in real time to news in our community. Visually, we hope to have evocative photos that reflect what is truly happening on our campus.

Most importantly, we want to bridge a better connection with you, the reader. We want to hear about the interesting professors on campus, the issues that may arise, and the great things that individuals are doing to change lives in our community. We want to know what you would like to see in our publications, so please contact us with comments you may have.

We also plan to create consistent features in the newspaper that include restaurant reviews, a sudoku and an “SF State Speaks Out” section.

I would like to say on behalf of all [X]press publications, welcome to the new semester. We look forward to being the watchdogs of SF State and serving as the voice of this campus.

Paulette Bleam
Editor in Chief

New CA Law Protects College Newspapers

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A state bill that protects college newspapers in California from censorship became law on Monday, essentially giving them the same rights as major, independent newspapers.

The bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, AB 2581, was authored by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/Daly City, and introduced Aug. 18 at the SF State Journalism Department

It is the first bill of its kind in the nation.

“Today, California is leading the way in making sure true freedom of the press is alive and well on our college campuses,” Yee said.

The legislation specifically says that college newspapers, including broadcast journalism, at UC, CSU and community colleges cannot be subjected to prior restraint. In addition, it prohibits university officials from disciplining a student for activities related to speech or press related endeavors.

“Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Schwarzenegger said in a press release. “Students working on college newspapers deserve the same rights afforded to every other student journalist.”

News of the law was welcomed at the SF State Journalism Department, though the campus publication Golden Gate [X]press is already mostly an independent publication because its content is edited by students, not professors or university officials, said Professor Erna Smith, chair of the Journalism Department.

“Our policy has always been no prior restraint,” Smith said.

Smith said that prior to the law California already had a good track record when it came to student press and censorship issues.

“This law underscores that this is the way it goes,” Smith said. “It’s the best way to teach responsible journalists.”

The bill is a preemptive measure to protect California college newspapers in the wake of a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier this year, which ruled that a college administrator could require student editors to submit articles for review before they are printed.

The case, Hosty vs. Carter, involved two student editors and a reporter at the Innovator, a college paper at Governor’s State University in Illinois. The newspaper published a series of stories about the school’s decision not to renew a contract for one of the Innovator’s advisers.

As a result, the dean of student affairs at the school adopted a new policy that required the Innovator to submit articles for review by administrators. The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to consider the case.

“Although we will continue to push for the Supreme Court to validate the rights of college newspapers in California through AB 2851, we are taking the proactive steps to make sure similar censorship does not occur at our college and universities,” Jim Ewert said, Legal Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The law will officially go into effect Jan. 1, 2007.

Upset Faculty Members Protest Corrigan

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Professor Linda Ellis had a speech prepared for the annual gathering of SF State faculty before the school year, but she wasn’t allowed to give it.

President Robert Corrigan’s annual speech on Monday discussing the state and future of the university, including a formal introduction of new faculty, was overshadowed by California Faculty Association protesters holding up signs reading “fair contract now” and “CFA silenced” in front of the stage at McKenna Theater.

“They have denied faculty information that effects working conditions,” Ellis said.

Ellis is the chairwoman of SF State’s CFA contingent, the faculty labor union for all 23 California State University campuses and director of the Museum Studies Program. When Corrigan finished his speech, she, along with a group of 11 others, marched up the aisle and chanted, “Let us speak.”

Prior to the last two years, a representative from the CFA gave a customary five-minute speech before Corrigan at the annual reception to update SF State faculty on issues they otherwise would not know of, Ellis said.

“This is the second year in a row that we have been locked out,” Ellis said. “It’s a 20-year tradition.”

The demonstration illustrates the current frustration surrounding the nearly two-year-long contract negotiations between the faculty union and the CSU chancellor’s office. Just last July, a marathon five-day negotiation on workload and salary issues ended without a deal. Currently, faculty are working under a temporary contract that ends on Sept. 1, Ellis said.

If the CFA does not approve to re-extend the temporary contract for another month, which Ellis said they have yet to do, faculty would be working, in effect, without a contract.

Professor David Meredith, chair of the Academic Senate, the body largely responsible for scheduling the CFA to speak at the reception, said he didn’t specifically know why the CFA was not allowed to speak at the reception, choosing not to comment on it.

“I am aware of the issue,” he said.

It is unlikely that the contract negotiations between the faculty and the CSU is the sole reason why the CFA was not allowed to speak at the meeting, but what is clear is that it is not fostering an amicable relationship with the administration.

“I suspect that the CSU and the SFSU administration are always on the look-out for ways to silence the union,” Ellis said.

“There is just excuses,” she said. “They have never really given me a valid reason.”

The invalid reason, according to Ellis, is that the Academic Senate said last year that the union’s check to help pay for “donuts and refreshments” was not received on time.

A primary obstacle so far in contract negotiations, Ellis said, revolves around faculty salary and if it adequately addresses what is known as the California Postsecondary Education Commission pay gap. According to the commission, CSU faculty earn as much as 14 percent less than their counterparts at similar institutions.

“This has been a long-standing problem,” Ellis said. “We are not asking for anything unusual, we are just asking for what other professors get.”

At one point during Corrigan’s speech, he acknowledged the protesters and said he embraces the “feisty” activism of not only the student body, but also the faculty.

Corrigan announced that the university is beginning the academic year with a $6.5 million budget deficit, caused by declining international student enrollment and the tuition revenue they generate. He also said rising utility costs to the university have contributed to the deficit.

A greater chunk of Corrigan’s speech was about the university’s long-term strategic plan. The plan encompasses things such as new building infrastructure in the next 10 years and guided academic philosophy.

Corrigan called it a “bridge between ideas and structure,” and “looking at new ways of addressing new problems.”

Last time a master plan was conceived and adopted by the university was in 1989, Corrigan said. He hopes to submit the plan to the Board of Trustees for approval in the early part of next year, he said.

Corrigan did not take questions from the audience after the speech.

Monteiro Named New Dean of College of Ethnic Studies

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SF State has named Dr. Kenneth P. Monteiro as the new dean of the College of Ethnic Studies. He brings with him nearly two decades of experience and leadership in areas of diversity and civil rights.

Monteiro, who served as acting dean of the college since 2004, has been an SF State faculty member since 1987 and has held a variety of positions throughout his career at SF State.

In his newly appointed position, Monteiro intends to recommit the College of Ethnic Studies to its fundamental values and principles, while expanding and reinventing the ways it expresses them.

“The college remains committed to social justice for and the liberation of people of color — those
referred to in 1968 as ‘third world,’” Monteiro said.

As the College of Ethnic Studies approaches its 40th anniversary in 2008, Monteiro wants to include more courses in Arab American Studies, classes that focus on the diversity within the traditionally represented ethnic groups, such homosexuals and feminists of color, as well as those of mixed race
or creole heritage.

“My own teaching, research, and personal histories are anchored in the civil rights struggles that created the College of Ethnic Studies, and also span some of the areas of diversification of scholarship,” he said.

A second-generation American, Monteiro’s grandparents emigrated in the early 1900s from the Cape Verde Islands. He attended public high school and then Dartmouth College and Stanford University, on scholarship, where he earned his Ph.D. He applies cognitive psychology to the social and cultural context and has conducted research on literacy and health coping with HIV/AIDS in the African American community.

Monteiro arrived at SF State in 1987 as an Associate Professor of psychology and in 1994, he became chair of the psychology department.

In 1998, Monteiro took on the role of university dean of human Relations, a position that has since been phased out. He said he was very proud of its accomplishments and was disappointed with the office’s closure due to university cutbacks.

“Dr. Monteiro has a lot of the historical and cultural understanding that I believe is necessary to help lead Ethnic Studies into a new era,” Ethnic Studies lecturer Matthew Shenoda said.

One Year from US Worst Disaster, Gulf Reels

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Slightly more than one year ago the indelible images of the United States' worst natural disaster were forever seared into this nation's history.

Horrific clips of people clinging to floating debris, left stranded by a chaotic cocktail of floodwater on the tops of their homes and newly isolated stretches of highway recall the first days after the storms. Memories of the improvised messages of distress from those perches still haunt Gulf Coast residents at the one-year anniversary.

As President Bush cites progress in his recent visit to the Gulf Coast, residents of New Orleans are concerned about if and how they will experience a full recovery from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and the subsequent flooding.

And they wonder who exactly gets to define progress, what FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are doing to help, and if the American people remember them.

Hillary Strobel didn’t forget, and she has a plan to help communities in New Orleans: plant free trees.

Strobel, 29, a recent graduate of SF State’s master’s program in Social Science and Interdisciplinary Studies, started Replant New Orleans.

The non-profit organization aims to provide volunteers, education and supplies to help residents in New Orleans plant trees and clean highly toxic soils in yards and parks left after last year’s storms with a goal to use environmentally-friendly methods.

One such method is bioremediation, a process of transforming toxins such as arsenic, mold and heavy metals, into carbon dioxide by extracting nutrient-rich microbes from compost and compost worm bins and then injecting them into the soil. This process will accelerate natural biodegrading, according to Strobel.

“New Orleans, one year later, is obviously a real disappointment to see how much needs to be done,” Strobel said at a recent fundraiser for Replant New Orleans at San Francisco’s Garden for the Environment.

In a city where more than half of the pre-storm population is still gone and half of its public schools are still closed, Strobel says she wants to help the people and their children to be able to play outside.

“They [the Federal, State, and Local Government] ask people with no resources to fix and clean their property. We see ourselves as the ones to come in and help neighborhood associations do just that,” Strobel said.

Louisianan Rick Callaway remains shocked at the government response a year after the storms and floods nearly obliterated his native St. Bernard Parish, just southeast of New Orleans.

He said that many still must travel 10-20 miles just to buy a loaf of bread, and he still regularly drives by FEMA mobile home parks with hundreds of trailers that are uninhabitable due to a lack of water, electricity, and gas.

“There are literally thousands of homeless people begging for a FEMA trailer, tens of thousands of people without gas, electricity, clean water, or phone service. I’d tell people not to come back here till the infrastructure is fixed,” he said recently in a telephone interview from his Metairie, La. home.

Callaway, a construction worker turned freelance videographer who runs a Web site documenting post-Katrina New Orleans, said he is sure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not adequately repaired the now infamous levee system because each time it rains the streets of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish are knee-deep in flood water.

“I think there’s an illusion when the rest of the country sees the Superdome, Mardi Gras, Jazz Festival, or the French Quarter on TV, but just two blocks away it’s a disaster. The reality is that most ‘ma’ and ‘pa’ businesses are goin’ under while the corporations like McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell leave their rotten meat and still have no problem stayin’ afloat,” said Callaway, 42.

He said the morale of his family and friends is no better than one week after the storms.

“There is no hope or trust down here, the suicide rate is out of control and it seems every day people call us corrupt,” Callaway said. “Maybe we are, but the whole nation is. It's the federal government that built the faulty levees.”

After Callaway pondered his next post-Katrina rent increase, which went from $350 a month to today’s $2000, he determinedly said, “It’s not over, don’t forget about us.”

Replant New Orleans:
Callaway Video:

Attempt Made to Improve Pedestrian Safety on 19th Avenue

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A bill that aims to make 19th Avenue safer for pedestrians has been introduced to state lawmakers, again.

Proposed by Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/Daly City, AB 2398 is essentially the same bill that was overwhelmingly approved by the state Senate and Assembly last year, but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If passed, the state will make 19th Avenue a double-fine zone for major driving violations such as speeding and drunken driving.

For SF State students who regularly use the crosswalk at the corner of Holloway and 19th Avenue, the bill may mean a less hazardous walk to school, as the pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco ranks it as the fourth most dangerous intersection in the city.

Joined by bicycling activists and family members of victims of automobile accidents, Yee announced the reintroduction of the bill on Friday, Aug. 25 in front of the Scottish Rite Masonic Center on the corner of Sloat Boulevard and 19th Avenue.

“The loss of human life and suffering caused by the staggering number of accidents along 19th Avenue clearly warrants this legislation,” Yee said.

According to Yee, over the past eight years there have been 1,676 motor vehicle accidents on the stretch of road, including 15 deaths, nine of which were pedestrians. In 2003, Srijaya Dalton, 22, was killed in a hit and run incident while crossing 19th Avenue a day after graduating from SF State.

The large number of SF State students who walk and ride bikes along 19th Avenue and frequent the crosswalk is just another major justification for the legislation said Adam Keigwin, a spokesman for Yee.

“They are especially vulnerable,” Keigwin said. “We basically have a thoroughfare through the university. Hopefully the bill will save some lives.”

Because 19th Avenue, which begins at Junipero Serra Boulevard and runs through Park Presidio to Lake Street, is essentially a segment of Highway 1, the state has jurisdiction over the stretch of road, not the city of San Francisco. As a result, any new laws or rules pertaining to the thoroughfare need to be approved by the state Assembly and Senate.

If approved, the double-fine law would apply to the stretch of 19th Avenue beginning at Junipero Serra Boulevard through Park Presidio to Lake Street.

The double-fine law would mean, for example, that a normal reckless driving ticket at $145 would automatically be doubled to $290.

On Sept. 7 of last year, Schwarzenegger based his veto of Yee’s first bill, AB 452, on a California Department of Traffic study that said double fine zones are not effective alone, and that they must be accompanied with stricter law enforcement, public awareness campaigns, and tougher safety regulations.

But this time around, Yee said he hopes recently approved Caltrans funding for 19 intersection upgrades, including safety lighting, pedestrian signals, vehicle detectors and crosswalk striping for the stretch of road will convince Schwarzenegger and push the bill through to law.

“We are going to see what happens,” Keigwin said.

The bill is likely to be approved by state lawmakers. Last time legislators approved the bill: 24-13 in the Senate and 55-21 in the Assembly. If the bill is approved, Schwarzenegger will have until Sept. 30 to veto it or it will automatically become law.

Palestinian Mural Hits Brick Wall

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The Palestinian-themed mural planned for the Cesar Chavez Student Center has encountered perhaps its most formidable obstacle.

On July 13, the Student Center Governing Board approved the mural in a 6-4 vote. But within hours of the vote, board members received a letter from SF State President Robert Corrigan expressing his displeasure with the action and placing an immediate moratorium on all new murals at the student center, in effect vetoing the board’s decision, said Mirishae McDonald, chairwoman of the project.

In a previous statement, just a week before the vote, Corrigan told board members the mural is “conflict-centered” and “its focus is on international issues, not on pride in one’s heritage.”

“In short, it is at odds with the most fundamental values to which San Francisco State University is committed,” Corrigan said.

The planned mural, primarily sponsored by the General Union of Palestinian Students, has been in the making for more than a year and would be what is believed to be the first Palestinian mural at a U.S. university.

It would appear next to the Filipino mural outside the SFSU Bookstore and honor the late Dr. Edward Said, a scholar, writer and activist for the Palestinian people and culture.

Both Associated Students, Inc. and the Student Center Governing Board set aside funding for the project in their budgets this year, McDonald said.

The student groups International Socialist Organization and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or Chicano Student Movement, also support the mural.

What exactly about the mural is “conflict-centered” is unclear, though GUPS President Ramsey El-Qare said there appear to be issues on certain aspects within the mural itself.

“It was something that came out immediately,” El-Qare said about the letter from Corrigan following the board’s approval.

ASI President Maire Fowler said they are drafting a collective resolution on Corrigan’s stance and plan on presenting it at their Sept. 6 meeting.

“The administration is acting very funny about the mural,” Fowler said.

According to the letter from Corrigan, he also rebutted the board’s approval of the mural because the Student Center Governing Board has not adequately adopted a policy to allocate the center’s limited amount of space and what standards and criteria any future mural for the Student Center should have.

Corrigan said the moratorium would not be lifted until the board creates such a policy.

In addition to the Palestinian mural, a Native-American themed mural is planned for the Student Center.

“The proposed mural runs counter to values that we hope have taken deep root at San Francisco State, among them, pride in one’s own culture expressed without hostility or denigration of another,” Corrigan wrote.

But McDonald disagrees, saying the Palestinian mural aims to break negative stereotypes not just about Palestinians, but also Arab-Americans.

“It’s about Palestinians and their culture,” McDonald said. “This mural is potentially one of the most important murals in the post 9/11 world.”

On the same day ASI will meet and present its resolution, McDonald, along with other project committee members and some board members, will personally meet with Corrigan.

“It’s still very vague right now,” McDonald said.

Feds Step into Textbook Price Issue

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Stacked on a shelf in the SFSU Bookstore is a textbook “bundle” that costs $237. Despite the price, students will flock to snap up the books during the next two weeks of the semester said Robert Strong, the bookstore’s general manager.

The textbook bundle, “Organic Chemistry” published by Thomson Brooks and Cole, is in its newly minted sixth edition. That means last semester, when students attempted to sell back their fifth editions, the bookstore would not buy them.

Coincidentally, Strong said, it is essentially the same book he used when he was an undergraduate.

“The actual chemistry has not changed,” he said.

But the price of the book has.

Expensive textbooks are nothing new for college students, but now, after a barrage of reports and studies on textbook prices and the publishing industry in the last three years, the federal government is getting involved.

Last May, in the wake of a 51-page General Accounting Office report on textbook prices, a congressional committee asked an independent federal panel, The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, to conduct a year-long investigation into textbook prices and how they impact the cost of a college education.

A letter sent to the panel from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce highlighted the need to “continue to shed light” on textbook prices, and to “make recommendations for Congress, the Secretary, and other stakeholders on what can be done to make textbooks more affordable.”

The GAO report concluded that textbook prices have increased an average of 6 percent each year since 1987, but average annual inflation has been just 3 percent.

The report also said that in the 2004-2005 school year, students at 4-year colleges spent an average $900 on books and supplies.

Since May, when the panel started its investigation, its office has been inundated with inquires from the public and stakeholders, said Erin Renner, director of government relations for the panel.

“We have been overwhelmed by the amount of interest in this study,” she said.

Renner said the investigation, using the GAO report as a base, will entail meeting with publishers, public interest groups, economists and college bookstore representatives over the course of the year and then presenting findings to legislators in May 2007.

The panel also plans on holding public, town-hall-style forums across the United States - including the Bay Area - though locations and times have yet to be determined, Renner said.

“Our goal is to highlight actions and steps,” she said.

The issue has been spearheaded by Congressman David Wu, D-Ore., who initially requested the GAO study in March 2004 and presented its findings in a press conference last year at Portland State University.

According to the GAO report, textbook prices are being affected by what publishers say is an increasing demand for, and investment into, supplements such as CD-ROMS, Web sites and instructional material.

“Investment in all our products is what drives our prices,” said Stacy Scarazzo, assistant director for higher education at the Association of American Publishers, the trade group that represents major textbook publishers such as McGraw-Hill. Scarazzo said as much as 40 percent of the price of a textbook comes from the investment into it.

“Going online raises the cost of a book,” Scarazzo said.

The AAP supported the study and plans on working with the advisory panel, but in the end, Scarazzo said, some aspects of the GAO report were misleading.

“Our biggest concern is for people to misconstrue the numbers,” she said. For example, the $900 students spend on average each year goes to books and supplies, not just textbooks alone.

“The industry is very transparent,” she said. “We are not trying to hide anything.”

But some argue that additional supplements, frequent revisions of a textbook, and expensive technology may not be necessary at all.

“Rip-Off 101: How the Current Trends of the Textbook Industry Drive-Up the Cost of College Textbooks,” a study published in January 2004, says half of all new textbooks come “bundled,” and that 65 percent of faculty surveyed never or rarely use the bundled material.

Also, 40 percent of faculty felt new editions of textbooks are rarely to never justified, the report said.

The groundbreaking report published by CalPirg, a public interest research group, prompted Congressman Wu to request the more in-depth GAO study.

What impacts, if any, the new federal investigation will have on textbook prices is uncertain, though the AAP has already said any laws that attempt to restrict publishers will raise legal questions because it is a form of media, and therefore protected by the First Amendment.

“It’s a free market, and the government has limited power on what it can come in and do. It’s not like PG&E, books are not a monopoly,” SFSU Bookstore manager Strong said.

Meanwhile, SF State and its bookstore are dealing with the issue in their own way.

In response to the CalPirg report, the Academic Senate in April 2004 adopted a resolution denouncing publishers for what they called “mercenary publishing practices” and called for the bookstore to work with faculty to seek more affordable textbook alternatives for students.

But since then, change is slow and faculty are seemingly not grasping how big a role they can play in reducing costs, said Strong, who also teaches a course in marketing at SF State.

Just this year, only 52 percent of faculty at SF State turned in their book orders before buy-backs at the bookstore, said Strong. As a result, the bookstore could only buy back about half of the used books, therefore shrinking the size of the used book supply.

“We are trying to get to help them understand,” Strong said. “Sometimes faculty does not even know when it’s in a bundle.”

“Books that are used in class are chosen by the faculty,” he said. “As a faculty member, I know you can find cheaper books.”

Associated Students Inc. President Maire Fowler said their newly formed Project Connect program is helping out with a new book loan program for students who can’t afford new textbooks, but also thinks teachers play an important role.

“There is an amount of teacher accountability that can happen,” Fowler said.

Buying used books off Web sites like and is a well known alternative for students, but Strong said the fastest growing trend among students is to not even buy the book. He said about 40 percent of students are not buying.

“Students complain very frequently that they didn’t even use the book that they were told to buy,” Strong said.

'Smash and Grab' Theft Exposes Personal Student Information

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SF State is reminding staff to purge computers of unnecessary sensitive information after a car burglary this summer exposed the personal data of thousands of former students.

On June 1 a thief broke into a car belonging to a faculty member in the College of Business, stealing a laptop computer containing the Social Security numbers of 2,751 former SF State students and 65 current students, as well as the partial Social Security numbers of 219 others.

Some student phone numbers and grade-point averages were also on the computer.

“The laptop theft served as an important reminder to all that old, archived information in data systems needs to be reviewed to ensure it’s compliant with new regulations,” said Ellen Griffin, SF State director of Public Affairs.

There are currently no suspects in the case, and University Police have not received any reports of the sensitive information being used.

“San Francisco police described the theft as a ‘typical smash and grab,’ most likely focused on the value of the hardware itself, not on the data,” Griffin said.

SF State has not released the professor’s name or said whether any disciplinary action has been taken.

“All faculty received an e-mail reminding them of data security concerns and reminding them to delete old Social Security numbers from PCs, laptops, PDAs and computer servers,” Griffin said. “Prior to this, and on an ongoing basis, all faculty, staff and administrators are mandated to take Employee/Student Information Privacy training before they can access employee or student records.”

The university became aware of the break-in on June 6, and six days later SF State registrar Suzanne Dmytrenko sent a letter notifying all individuals who were possibly affected.

“There is no indication that the thief targeted confidential information or will use it for any unlawful purpose. Nonetheless, we suggest that you be on the alert for any misuse of your personal information,” Dmytrenko wrote.

According to its Web site, SF State is working with law enforcement to investigate this data breach and to develop safeguards against similar incidents.

Tips for preventing identity theft have been made available through SF State’s Web site at, which suggests that affected individuals “carefully monitor bank statements, credit card statements and any statements relating to recent financial transactions.”

If suspicious or unusual activity is encountered, the Federal Trade Commission recommends contacting the fraud department at one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, closing any accounts that have been tampered with or fraudulently opened, filing a police report with the local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission using their identity theft hotline at 1-877-438-4338.

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