February 2007 Archives
Student evaluations and a lack of scholarly work might lead to the termination of a popular teacher's career at SF State, despite student-generated petitions and rallies.
Dr. Benito Vergara Jr., an Asian American studies and anthropology professor, was denied tenure last spring by President Robert Corrigan and Provost John Gemello, after six years of teaching. Since then, SF State students have been campaigning to support Vergara.
“We’ve been writing letters to President Corrigan,” said League of Filipino Students Vice Chair Charm Consolacion, whose organization also set up a MySpace page to support Vergara.
The Asian American studies department also implemented a similar technique, asking supporters to submit letters containing “anything that would help the President change his mind.”
An online petition was composed to support the possibility of Vergara's tenure. Currently, 238 signatures indicate they are “united in their request that [President Corrigan] reconsider the decision to deny tenure and promotion to Dr. Benito Vergara, Jr.”
Vergara received a letter from Gemello that opposed his tenure on the grounds that he had not produced an adequate amount of scholarly work. The Provost also indicated in the letter that some of Vergara’s qualitative students evaluations were not satisfactory. They stated that he commonly went off topic.
The Asian American studies and anthropology departments, as well as the Tenure, Promotions and Retention Committee approved the tenure before Gemello denied it. Unless overturned, Vergara faces termination at the end of this school year. Student responses from the SF State community, particularly those involved in Filipino and other Asian student organizations, spawned from Vergara's rejection.
“The petition will add to our letter-writing campaign,” said Consolacion, a 25-year-old urban studies senior. “But we don’t know what the future holds.”
Anthropology office manager Sylvia Leng echoed the same sentiment.
“We don’t really know his status,” said Leng. “The committee and the chair have approved it, but it always has to go higher up.”
On May 27, 2006, the Asian American studies department, and other organizations like the League of Filipino Students, or LFS, Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavors, or PACE, and the Manalo movement publicly supported Vergara’s extension.
“There was a whole rally on 19th and Holloway, with banners and megaphones,” said Vergara. “It was pretty wonderful.”
Vergara is currently in negotiations with the administration and faces an arbitration date scheduled for April.
“I want to be able to stay,” said Vergara. “You can quote me on that.”
For more information, visit www.petitiononline.com/vergara or www.myspace.com/tenureforvergara.
Vibrant dancing dragons, a Chinese violinist, and Chinese folk dancers descended on Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco Saturday afternoon to celebrate the Lunar Chinese New Year. The festivities were co-hosted by the Asian Student Union (ASU) from SF State.
“It is a community event. An event for our shoppers,” said Keith Racadio, Assistant Marketing Manager of Stonestown Galleria.
The annual celebration opened at noon, with the performance of two dancing dragons that danced along with the traditional Chinese music around in the center court of the galleria.
“It is good to see these cultural events here,” said spectator Carlos Amador of Daly City. “I like the way the dragon danced around us.”
According to William Kwok, member of the ASU and student of SF State, this was an event with the purpose of sharing with the community a little of the Chinese culture.
“We are not making profit out of it,” said Kwok. “It is why our resources are limited, but our intention is to share with community our culture.”
The lucky color, “red” was also part of the celebration, where all the ASU members wore red color T-shirts and their game and activities tables were also covered with red tablecloths.
The activities were offered free to the public, and were mostly entertaining for the little audience. Kids enjoyed designing their own red color envelope with stamps of the twelve animals representing each Chinese year.
The arts and crafts table was the most visited by kids who made and designed their own colorful-paper basket.
The six-hour long event also delighted people who listened to Benjamin Sun’s Modern Erhu performance.
Applause and nice comments from the audience encouraged the Chinese violinist, elegantly dressed in white, after each piece he played.
Audience members said that these cultural events are good and important for the community.
“It would be great to have this for all races,” said Pricilla Lau, a spectator.
“This is important to understand different cultures and to pass it down to the children and to future generations,” said Joshua Hu, 12, who participated in the dancing dragon performance.
Many consumers choose to live a sustainable, environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Their choices, however, are limited to those areas over which they have direct control, which often doesn’t include how their food gets packaged.
Now, however, SF State customers who frequent some cafes on campus can alleviate their pangs of guilt over the waste they help create.
Allam Elqadah, owner of Café Rosso, Station Café, HSS Café, Village Market and Taza Smoothies and Wraps, recently made the decision to switch all of the plastic containers used in his venues to a new, sustainable form of packaging: plastic made from corn.
Distributed by a company called Fabri-Kal, the new containers will hold cold drinks such as smoothies, as well as to-go items such as salad, fruit and pasta. They are 100 percent compostable and sustainable because they are made from an annually renewable resource.
“I feel very strongly about running a socially-responsible business,” said Elqadah, who graduated from SF State in 1994 with majors in economics and international relations. “With all the information available to us now, we can easily see the effects our practices have on our daily lives.”
The cafes took two weeks to filter out the old, petroleum-based containers and the new ones went into use last Monday. Though there is an increased cost for Elqadah to carry the new plastic, he said it is worth it because his customers will appreciate sustainable business on campus.
“Many business owners want to satisfy their customer base, so the more consumer advocacy you get for things like this, the more responses you’ll get from businesses and industry,” he said. “Even though it costs more, we know the customers will be grateful for it.”
Though the technology for heat-sensitive containers (that would hold hot items, like coffee) isn’t perfected yet, Elqadah is shopping around, and hopes that in the future, his businesses can offer 100 percent environmentally-friendly products.
These socially-conscientious business habits are important not only to his customers, but also to members of his staff. Alia Fakhry, a junior in hospitality management who works at Cafe Rosso, sees the effects that decisions made now will have on future generations.
“If we take care of the environment, we’ll be here longer, and our kids will be here longer,” said Fakhry, 26. “I think it’s great that businesses like this are taking advantage of the opportunities to do what they can.”
Her co-worker Vanessa Cooper, a 22-year-old senior in psychology, agreed.
“We have so many customers, and we go through so many cups,” Cooper said. “It’s nice to know we’re being less wasteful, and it’s important to our customers.”
Elqadah has made other changes to his businesses, such as offering Fair Trade and organic coffee and tea. He has also put pressure on the companies he does business with to change their practices as well, with significant results. He said City Bakery, where his cafes get their baked goods from, announced last week that it will no longer use transfat in any of their products.
Elqadah’s assistant, Jessica Zeidman, said there is an industry-wide shift in sustainable business practices, due to pressure from consumers and environmental groups. Elqadah, however, made the decision to switch to the corn-based plastic on his own.
“We have been looking into it for quite some time now, and we just know it’s the right thing to do. I have three beautiful daughters at home, and I want a better world for them,” he said. “We wanted to be a leader in sustainability. It just doesn’t make sense to do it any other way.”
The largest higher-education strike in the history of the United States may become possible when the 23,000 members of the California Faculty Association vote in March whether to allow their Board of Directors to call a strike, according to CFA President John Travis.
The CFA Board of Directors unanimously approved sending the strike vote to its members, the first such vote in CFA history, Travis said in a conference call Wednesday.
An affirmative vote would authorize the Board to take “job actions,” which could include rolling statewide one and two-day strikes or a full walk out, Travis said.
A full strike is not certain, even if the vote passes. Travis said the Board’s first move would likely be to call rolling strikes in late March and early April.
“We want to minimize the negative impact on students,” Travis said. “Hopefully they won’t miss any more than one meeting of each of their classes, though this situation requires extraordinary steps.”
If CFA doesn’t see the results it wants from the California State University administration after the suggested rolling strikes, the board may then call a full strike without taking a second vote, Travis said.
CFA’s current demands include a 30 percent increase in faculty salaries over the next four years and controlled class sizes. Negotiations have been going on for 22 months.
Negotiations between CFA and the CSU administration are currently in a fact-finding stage. A three-person panel, composed of one representative each from the CFA and CSU and a neutral third representative appointed by both organizations, began work on January 29. They are expected to produce a new proposal in early March.
CFA has repeatedly emphasized that the boost in faculty salaries it demands must not come from increased student fees.
“We are convinced there are sufficient funds in the CSU budget,” Travis said. “It is a four billion dollar budget, after all. We don’t think it’ll take any additional money.”
The strike vote will take place in two stages, the first from March 5 through March 8, and the second from March 12 through March 15. SF State voting would likely take place in the latter round, Travis said.
The Educational Policies Council voted unanimously last week to discontinue three programs at SF State.
Among the programs cut were a certificate in educational therapy, a business administration concentration and a minor in human resource management. In addition, three Bachelor of Arts concentrations in communication studies were also discontinued.
The council said that student enrollment has decreased in programs like the concentration and minor in human resource management.
There were no opposing sides present at the meeting. Only one letter of protest was submitted regarding the human resource management program.
The Academic Policies Committee (APC) and the Curriculum Review and Approval Committee (CRAC) jointly make up the EPC. Both committees meet to discuss their agenda and the actions of the Academic Senate.
Special Education Chair Nick Certo said one of the reasons for discontinuing the certificate in educational therapy was that new faculty members were not interested in the program, which was designed to help teachers address learning disabilities.
When asked what the impact of discontinuing such a program would be, Certo said aspects of the program will be replaced by tutoring centers, such as Sylvan Learning Center.
“My son tutors kids on the SAT, his credentials are he’s good at math,” Certo said.
In a proposal to discontinue the program, the College of Education cited many reasons for its closure, such as low student enrollment and a lack of faculty interest.
A plan to accommodate all students by summer of 2006 had also been put in place.
Barry Rothman, biology professor and member of CRAC, said programs like those being cut are small and are stressful for faculty to deal with.
“Some of these programs have a small number (of students) trickling through,” said Rothman, adding that it was unnecessary to continue the programs.
In the College of Business' proposal, budget cuts and decreasing enrollment were cited as reasons for canceling the concentration in human resources management as well as the minor.
“Budget cuts in the 1990s and early 2000s compromised the concentration and minor when it became impossible to provide students with one-on-one faculty contact,” stated the proposal. “The number of declared majors and graduation rates indicate a significant decrease in demand for the concentration in HRM [human resources management]. Since 2003, no students have declared a concentration in HRM.”
The proposal also says the program is available at other Bay Area CSU campuses, such as CSU East Bay, San Jose State and Sonoma State.
The communication studies department’s proposal cited quality and efficiency as the main factors in discontinuing its three B.A. concentrations.
According to the proposal, “The other two decision variables for program discontinuance, program quality and efficiency, are important in this case. With respect to program quality, our revised B.A. degree program is more current with our discipline’s theory, research, and practice."
Shawn Whalen, EPC chair and lecturer in communication studies, didn’t think there were any problems with the programs being cut.
“I don't think they’re particularly controversial proposals,” said Whalen about the discontinuance of the programs.
Bonus bucks might have saved the Villas residents thousands of dollars in the past, but now they might cost the housing complex a pretty penny.
The San Francisco Residential Board ruled that the Villas Parkmerced violated the city’s rent control laws with its use of coupons, called bonus bucks, and declared it unlawful for them to continue using the rebate system. The class action suit, filed in San Francisco’s Superior Court, is attempting to restore monetary losses on the behalf of previous tenants and is still in progress.
Prior to the Residential Board ruling in October, Dave Wasserman, defense for the Villas Parkmerced, expressed that the bonus bucks did not violate rent laws. After the ruling, Wasserman and the board made an agreement that the plaintiffs in the case would not be required to pay any further rent that the bonus bucks originally covered.
The two plaintiffs who head the case received monthly coupons worth $350 with a one-year lease. Their $1,675 monthly rent reduced to $1,325 throughout the year. However, the bonus bucks were not offered upon renewal and allegedly increased the cost of rent by $350. The Residential Board only allows a 1 to 2 percent yearly rent increase.
The use of bonus bucks by the Villas Parkmerced “exceeds the maximum increase of rent allowed by law,” according to the plaintiffs filing the suit.
The Villas Parkmerced no longer offers the bonus bucks or any other rebate system to new tenants, and the rent prices vary from home to home.
Brayton Purcell, the company representing the past and present tenants, is still trying to identify everybody the suit might affect.
“We’re pushing as hard as we can but these things move agonizingly slow from the point of view of tenants,” said Peter Fredman of Brayton Purcell.
The suit picks up new tenants almost every day. However, Fredman said the Parkmerced lawyers slowed the case down.
“The defense will try and slow things down,” he said. “If you’re going to have to pay money they’d rather pay it later rather than sooner.”
Wasserman could not be reached for an update on the suit by press time.
Justin Stambaugh, 22, lived in the Villas Parkmerced for three years and received bonus bucks the entire time he was a resident. He moved, partially because of the rent increase, when the Villas no longer offered the coupons.
“I refused to pay that much to live there,” said Stambaugh, a hospitality management major and senior at SF State.
Stambaugh and other residents said they were unsure the lawsuit applied to them.
The lawsuit, currently in its discovery stage, is scheduled to be heard within the next two years and was presented in front of a judge twice.
No monetary compensation will be granted to either party until the San Francisco Superior Court identifies the bonus bucks as an illegal rent increase or a legal renters incentive.
The Newman Club, a Catholic/Christian community at SF State, celebrated the traditional Ash Wednesday services on campus.
Over 100 devotees, including students and some faculty members, were marked with ashes on their foreheads to begin Lent season, the holiest season of the Catholic church year.
“Today is the day of reconciliation, means to come back to God and find his forgiveness,” said Father Rick Van De Water, who presided over the Mass.
After Ash Wednesday, fasting, abstinence and recollection will follow in the next 40 days as part of the observance of the Lent season. It ends on Holy Week, with the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, according to Father Labib Kobti from St. Thomas More Parish.
Ash Wednesday for devotees is the heart and mind preparation for Lent season.
“It is a wake up call,” said Gabriela Aguilar, 27, member of Newman Club campus ministry.
Sister Monica Cardona estimates that the Newman Club counts some 150 to 200 members from the campus.
“We help St. Thomas More Church trough Newman Club which has been in campus for about three years,” said Cardona.
“Fasting, praying and giving are the best ways to come back to God,” said Van De Water.
Penance for Catholic devotees is also an important part of the Lent season, and it goes from prayer to abstinence.
“I will pray for all the youth members of my church and I still need to think about any bad habit I need to avoid,” said Lizette Suarez, 19, a sophomore in communications.
Azadeh Motahari, 27, a second year graduate student of clinical psychology became Catholic last April after seeking a religious congregation at her own will.
"I will stop drinking alcohol as penance to become close to God and wait for his resurrection,” Motahari said.
In the Old Testament, ashes were signs of humility and mortality, and sins of sorrow and repentance for sin.
“Ash is an ancient tradition used as a sin to turn away from sins,” said Van De Water.
According to Pastor Labib Kobti, some tribes in Africa use ashes as a symbol of wrongdoing.
The practice of marking the forehead with ashes is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians. Some Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations have also adopted it.
“Ashes represent our humanity, our life in earth is limited, remember that you are ash and to ash you shall return,” said Van De Water during the Mass celebration.
The Educational Policies Council voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to discontinue three programs at SF State.
Among the programs cut were a certificate in Educational Therapy, a business administration concentration and a minor in human resource management. In addition three B.A. concentrations in communication studies were also discontinued.
The council cited that student enrollments have decreased in programs like the concentration and minor in human resource management.
There were no opposing sides present at the meeting. Only one letter of protest was submitted, regarding the human resource management program cut.
The Academic Policies Committee (APC) and the Curriculum Review and Approval Committee (CRAC) jointly make up the EPC. Both committees meet to discuss their agenda and the actions of the Academic Senate.
Special Education chair Nick Certo cited new faculty were not interested in the certificate in educational therapy as one of the reasons for its discontinuance. The program was to help teachers address learning disabilities.
When asked about the impact discontinuance would have, Certo said aspects of the program will be replaced by tutoring centers, such as Sylvan Learning Center.
“My son tutors kids on the SAT, his credentials are he’s good at math,” Certo said.
Barry Rothman, biology professor and member of CRAC, said programs like those cut are small and make it stressful for faculty to deal with.
“Some of these programs have a small number (of students) trickling through,” said Rothman.
Shawn Whalen, EPC chair and lecturer in communication studies didn’t think there were any problems with the programs being cut.
“I don't think they’re particularly controversial proposals,” said Whalen about the discontinuance of the programs.
Connie Marie Gaglio is the director of the Entreprenuership program at SF State's downtown campus. She has her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Chicago as well as experience as an entreprenuer. Connie joins [X]press Online to discuss why the program has been successful and some key factors on how to start a business and come out ahead.
California State Senator Leland Yee hopes to shed some light on the CSU Board of Trustees use of funds.
Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) recently proposed a bill that would expose how much of taxpayers' money goes to CSU administrators by mandating that all Board meetings pertaining to executive compensation be open to the public.
Yee publicly announced the bill, SB 190, earlier this month at a gathering of SF State faculty union picketers that cheered the proposed legislation.
"You can't begin to understand why this is such a serious issue," he said. "This bill, it is the bedrock of our democracy to have transparency in our government."
The senator's office portrayed SB 190 as a chance for true, open dialogue because it will also guarantee meeting time for public comments.
"For too long the UC and CSU has been acting in secrecy when it comes to determining high-level salaries," said Yee in a press release. "SB 190 will bring much needed sunshine to these discussions."
On March 14, the bill, which includes the University of California's Board of Regents and the California State University’s Board of Trustees, will be presented to the Senate's Committee on Education for review.
The original version of the bill applied to only UC executives. The Senate Appropriation Committee, who decides how taxpers' funds are spent, did not pass the bill that was introduced a year ago.
The university system aggressively lobbied against the bill then, fearing it would harm the process by which they hire executives. But the spokesperson for Lee's office said that that is not the case.
"We are not looking to have job performance or resume out there in the public, not any type of personal information," Yee’s press secretary Adam Keigwin said.
Yee's office is confident the bill will pass this time since a sweep of Democratic victories in the November election changed the legislative landscape. Former Assembly member Yee emerged as a Senator and political ally Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) became the new chairman of the all-important Appropriations Committee.
No public announcements have been made regarding the Cal State response to the bill. Although, a representative said that could come in a week's time.
"We feel (the executive pay) is a process that is open and transparent and open to the public," said Karen Zamarripa, Assistant Vice Chancellor of the CSU's Office of Governmental Affairs.
"The CSU likes to compensate all its employees at similar rates to what their counterparts are paid at similar universities. In fact, our school presidents have been underpaid."
A 2004 report by the California Postsecondary Education Commission stated that the average CSU president made $82,068 less than the national average, which was $299,132.
Since then, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger worked to close the gap of 37.8 percent, with SF State President Robert Corrigan's recent four percent salary increase bringing him up to $271,590.
Faculty members at the CFA rally thanked Yee for introducing the bill, adding that the overall heart of the issue was what they called "bloated" executive salaries.
"The CSU administration has stolen the money from the faculty, raised students' fees to make millionaires out of executives," SF State faculty union President Linda Ellis told the crowd with a fist in the air. "Hell, they are stealing from everybody!"
The new bill can be found through http://www.sen.ca.gov/.
David Calkins’ bartending robot Chapek now lies in disassembled shambles amid the electronic gadgets and robot body parts that clutter his office. The only remaining recognizable feature is the word "robogames" emblazoned, in capital letters, across the android’s chest.
The former Chapek, a robot bust with a tin, man-like head, red light-emitting diode eyes and an almost friendly gaping hole of a mouth, is nowhere to be seen. Before Chapek was reduced to an inanimate piece of machinery, he poured alcoholic drinks while flirting with those who dared to place an order.
“Hey, you ever date a robot?” was one of Chapek’s signature phrases before the inevitability of too much alcohol obliterated his ability to speak.
“Vodka spilled on his speech processor and it blew up,” said Calkins, director of the SF State engineering and design center. “Alcohol doesn’t just impair speech in humans.”
For the past two years, Calkins has taken Chapek to the Roboexotica Festival, a bartending robot convention, in Vienna, Austria.
Roughly 30 robots from all over the globe took part in last year’s festivities. At the Annual Cocktail Robot Awards the androids are entered into seven categories, including mixing and serving drinks, lighting cigarettes and speaking.
"Chapek won the award for best catch-all robot last year," said Calkins. "[For being] the only full human-like robot."
"But they try to divide the prizes so everybody wins eventually," he added.
While Chapek is an interesting venture into the microcosm of cocktail robotics, Calkins’ android engineering interests extend further. Aside from acting as the center’s director, Calkins teaches classes on robotics and computer engineering. He is also president of the San Francisco Robotics Society of America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the exchange of information about robotics.
One need only set foot in this director’s office to get a sense of the dominant role robotics plays in his life.
Bedecked in floor to ceiling robot décor, the small room in the Science building has the appearance of an exploded erector set. A life-size, operable R2-D2 that stands immobile at the far end of the room appears to be an exact replica of the astromech droid featured in the "Star Wars" films.
While Calkins sits behind an informal desk, with his silent, male teacher’s assistant, whom he refers to as “the new girl,” seated to his left, it is clear that the director is in demand. He takes a call from the British Daily Telegraph newspaper and gives a fast-paced interview interspersed with personal anecdotes that all seem to involve a robot of some sort.
Calkins relays how he helped his mother cope with the emotional loss of a cat by purchasing her a robotic dog.
Despite being a prominent figure in the robotics community, Calkins has none of the self-important airs one might expect.
“The initial publicity paved the way for more recognition,” said Calkins. “There are a lot of far more brilliant roboticists than I who never get any press because they've never gotten any press."
"Although it certainly helps to show your stuff publicly," he added. "So whore yourselves to the man, kids!"
Calkins has starred in a Discovery Channel special, spoken as an expert for the History Channel and appeared as a recurring guest expert on robotics for Tech TV.
Although it is only six weeks in to the semester, Calkins has managed to captivate his students.
“When [Calkins] talks, you know it’s important,” said Jerald Burkes, 25, of his experience in Calkins’ introduction to computer engineering class. “I have to listen carefully so I don't miss anything."
Calkins plans to return to the Roboexotica Festival this November for the event's 10th anniversary.
Preparing Chapek is a lone effort that involves 72 hours of continuous labor.
"I put off working on him until the days right before [the convention]," said Calkins. "Similar to a student during finals week."
SF State President Robert Corrigan spoke Sunday morning to the congregation at the Providence Baptist Church in San Francisco's Bayview District.
His appearance was part of the California State University's "Super Sunday" program to encourage lower income African-American high school students to apply to one of the 23 CSU campuses.
“[Your Parents] and grandparents could only clean toilets of these schools and now you have the responsibility to earn a degree from them,” Reverend Calvin Jones Jr. said, addressing individual members of the congregation.
Rev. Jones welcomed Corrigan to speak at both the 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. services at Providence Baptist.
This is the second annual “Super Sunday” event. CSU representatives were in African-American communities all over the state including Oakland, Richmond, and Los Angeles. Featured in the talks were the availability of financial aid and the steps necessary to get a typical high school student the requirements necessary to be accepted at a CSU.
“Eighty percent of African-Americans have a high school diploma, only 17 percent [aged] 25 or older have a college degree,” said Corrigan. “That is a shame.”
The president's visit comes on the heels of a bolstered interest in the Bayview community and efforts made by the city to make it safer, cleaner, and more productive for the younger generations of children growing up there.
“We want to get them away from the street corner and let them know they can achieve… we will be with you at San Francisco State,” Corrigan said, beaming.
Reverend Jones embraced Corrigan and praised the message that he had delivered.
“Education is a means of triumphing over [obstacles],” he said.
After his speech, Corrigan left immediately for another San Francisco church. When asked about his experience at Providence, Corrigan said “It feels great, its terrific to see young people interested.”
“Last year we saw a 12 percent increase in [African-American] applicants,” Corrigan said.
San Francisco State students and members of an ASI run campus group called “Project Connect” were present to answer any questions and pass out information after the service.
“When students are here and see other students like us its encouraging,” said Sabrina Aranda, 23, a psychology major. Aranda, along with other students present at the service are enrolled in a class through the Ethnic Studies Department to do outreach projects around the city, including visiting local schools and events such as “Super Sunday”.
“I think it is interesting, I am surprised," said Renee Boyd, a member of the congregation at Providence for the last four years."It’s just something I have never seen before.”
Information about future “Super Sunday” events or other events sponsored by Project Connect can be obtained by calling the College of Ethnic Studies at (415) 338-1694.
A graduating class too large to host its ceremonies on the SF State campus may find itself without school funding for an off-campus option when the students are ready to cross the stage in May.
The broadcast and electronic communication arts department, which celebrated its 60th anniversary and was the fifth largest major at SF State in 2006, is in the middle of an appeal to prove that its off-campus graduation is a “historical event.” Without that proof, about 300 BECA students planning to graduate in May will have to rely on increased fees and fund raising efforts, such as donut and candy sales, to bankroll the ceremony.
“Graduation is a big deal. It’s the last time you’ll be with all your friends and your teachers and your family, and you’re closing a chapter of your life,” said Clara Benjamin, 23, a graduating BECA student.
“My mom told me, ‘The moment you graduate will be the happiest moment of my life.’ I have family coming all the way from Brazil. I want my name read out loud. I want those five seconds of recognition for the six years of hard work I put in,” Benjamin said.
For several years, Associated Students Incorporated provided funding to College Students in Broadcasting, the student club that organizes BECA’s graduation. But last year ASI’s Board of Directors made changes in policy that threaten to leave BECA students fending for themselves to fund the ceremony, which CSB is budgeting at over $4,000 – a budget that forgoes catering at the event.
As of this year, ASI is no longer funding student events that occur off-campus, unless they are classified as “historical events.” This change is intended to reduce liability issues and bring more money back onto campus, according to ASI Health & Human Services Representative John Bergman.
Until 2006, any event funded by ASI for five consecutive years was considered “historical.” The new policy requires 10 years of consecutive funding. If the BECA advocates can show their graduation was funded five years in a row before this policy change took place, they will still get their historical status.
Benjamin and Terra Fernandez, 21, also a BECA student, searched ASI’s records and found that, while they have been funded for five of the last six years, a paperwork error forced the BECA department to produce its own funding for the 2002 graduation.
“We took care of ourselves for one year, and now that’s going to cut off our funding entirely? That’s not fair,” said Fernandez. “We can’t fit anywhere on campus. Even if we could cram everyone into the gym, it’s already booked. We could hold the graduation two weeks earlier, but can you graduate people who haven’t even taken finals?”
Bergman said ASI is facing a deficit of $100,000 next year, and described the problem as a partially political one.
“Members on the board are elected, and if you want to be reelected and you cut programs you’re going to have trouble,” he said. “We can’t cut historical programs’ funding unless the organizers fail to file one year.”
With new student clubs and organizations proposing new budget items every year, and with more and more events reaching the budget-insulated historical status over time, ASI is faced with a fixed budget and regularly increasing expenses. But when the board cut $160,000 in programs last year to stabilize its spending, student groups fought back and much of that funding was restored, Bergman said.
“If we don’t develop a business plan, eventually we’ll have to cut all our programs and it will be devastating,” he said. “In the end, the students are probably going to lose if we don’t do anything.”
Her subjects counted all the president’s men, but Alicia Shepard investigated the process behind the groundbreaking reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Shepard, who is an author, journalism critic, and assistant professor in journalism at Washington D.C.’s American University, spoke at an intimate SF State gathering Wednesday with select journalism faculty.
The focus of her visit was a discussion about her new book on the two famed Washington Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, who uncovered the Watergate break-in in 1972.
The book, “Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate,” discusses the self-titled reporters’ lives outside the political scandal and more pointedly, the long lasting affect their work has had on the quality of journalism and the role of confidential sources.
Shepard said she believes that confidential sources can be instrumental to good reporting, but that they can also create negative publicity for journalists.
“Everything about the Libby case is bad for journalism and the real casualty is anonymous sources,” she said referencing the ongoing trial where a former White House aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, is on trial for obstruction of an investigation and perjury.
“It is definitely weakening journalism’s credibility. Certainly we need anonymous sources to do good journalism, but they need to be used much more judiciously.”
When asked what kind of event would elicit the same national outrage today that Watergate did nearly 35 years ago, Shepard mentions the ‘unwarranted wiretapping by the Bush administration.” She says that the proliferation of media outlets makes it difficult to attract and keep public attention.
“Multiple outlets make it very hard for people to focus on one issue,” she said. “Our society is so polarized that the choices we make just reinforce our own beliefs. That’s the difference now than from in 1972 when there were just three TV stations. America has (Attention Deficit Disorder).”
Many Americans accept the events that took place on September 11, 2001 as a foreign terrorist attack, nothing more, nothing less. Some, however, believe there's more to the story.
SF State international relations student Aaron Dames is one of these people. The 22-year-old junior screened the film “9/11 Mysteries, Part 1: Demolitions” in the Cesar Chavez Student Center Wednesday evening as part of his effort to encourage people to question the facts.
Dames has been committed to the cause of obtaining further investigations into the World Trade Center attacks for the past three years, ever since he saw a film called “Loose Change.” It piqued his interest in the idea that maybe what we’ve been told hasn’t been the whole truth.
Then, three months ago, he became aware of “9/11 Mysteries” on the internet and that solidified his dedication to disseminating the ideas of a handful of people who question what happened that historic day.
“This film to me offered irrefutable evidence that the official explanation of 9/11 is flawed,” said Dames. “I thought it was important that others see it, especially in the academic environment.”
That’s why Dames has been showing the film in the student center for anyone who wants to come. Last semester he showed it twice, and this semester it will be shown monthly until May.
Though Wednesday’s screening had a particularly low turnout (only one other viewer showed up), Dames said past screenings have had relatively high numbers of people, with as many as 10 showing up to see the film.
The film, produced by a woman in San Diego who chose to remain anonymous, and who Dames only knows as Sofia, explains how controlled demolition of buildings works and questions how the towers could have fallen in the way that they did by the force of the airplanes alone.
“A lot of people who question the government’s explanation get labeled as conspiracy theorists,” he said. “But the fact is that the government isn’t offering to look at the issues and is not answering the questions being brought forth. Their silence is indicative of guilt.”
Wednesday’s only other attendee, Stephen Leiper, 71, was glad to have a chance to view “9/11 Mysteries.” Leiper, who was a student at SF State in 1960, had heard the audio of the film on KPFA and when he heard it would be screened on campus, he jumped at the chance to see it.
“I’ve been interested in this since the very first day,” he said. “When it happened, I immediately thought, hmm, something’s wrong here.”
As for Dames, he’s taking his dedication to the next level. Tomorrow, he’s heading to Washington, D.C. to ask for a reinvestigation of 9/11 by standing in front of the Capitol building and distributing flyers and copies of the film. He plans to do the same in front of the White House on President’s Day.
“Some people are dismissive of these allegations because there’s not really any visible action taking place right now,” he said. “I’m not even saying that I’m convinced the government was actually complicit, but no one will ever know until they agree to address our questions.”
For more information visit:
www.911scholars.org/ or www.911truth.org
Men and women from seemingly every walk of life gathered on Valentine's Day near San Francisco's Embarcadero to jubilantly beat the living daylights out of each other with pillows.
At 6 p.m., the second annual Great San Francisco Pillow Fight welcomed a mass of hundreds furiously using trickery and stealth to smack strangers and dates. Feathers blanketed the awesome scene as pillows arced and fell hard.
Frequently, a torn pillow would get shot in the air like a rocket, leaving behind a stream of feathers and down that floated down like snowfall. Every fifteen minutes a wave of cheer rumbled through the jubilant mob which triumphantly held pillows over their heads.
Sheer exhuberance drove one young shirtless man to exclaim to his friends that he had, in fact, "just thrown a pillow in Nancy Pelosi's face."
"This has been the high point of my life!" the unidentified man cried out "But, dude, she's tough."
Alas Pelosi, it was not. The woman in question, 47-years-old Gigi Benson-Smith, did look remarkably like the new Speaker of the House in a red two-piece tweed suit and pearl necklace.
"It's all fun and games," said Benson-Smith, who works at a law firm in the Financial District.
"Oh, I'm one of eight kids, the middle one so this brings me back," she said, while clutching a torn body pillow and digging her high heels into the ground soft and slippery with feathers and stuffing. "The heels help a little, to give me a better vantage point of view but they need to make more space so you can have more room to get a good swing."
Laughter and friendliness dominated the attitude of the pillow combatants. A well-placed headshot was always good for immediate retribution. Groups frequently ganged-up on some of the bigger pillow fighters.
In the light of the chaos, some took extra precautions. Glasses and watches were removed, except for a few who covered their eyes with goggles, and their mouths with t-shirts and bandanas in the air heavy with pillow innards.
Julia Baldassari-Hitchman, a 29-year-old recent SF State graduate, thought it might be a good idea to wear a bicycle helmet to guard against particularly nasty hits but the idea backfired.
"I heard that last year someone (was) packing way more than feather(s) in his pillow (but) it makes you an extra target and it hurts more," she said.
The second edition of the outdoor pillow fight easily outdrew and outlasted year’s event. Word-of-mouth and postings on blogs and websites like Craigslist.org alerted most people.
For Maureen Murray, 46, of San Francisco the occasion was a welcome relief from a difficult week and a chance to share a favorite childhood ritual with her daughter, Nora. The 10-year-old swung two pillows furiously, not afraid of hitting men and women twice her size.
“When I told my daughter about this, her eyes lit up and she said, ‘can we? Can we?’ I thought it was a perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and relieve some stress,” Murray said.
While couples taking turns whacking strangers’ heads seemed to dominated the crowd, single men like unemployed San Francisco native Don Kuhstoss, 41, came looking for a fun night in a youthful crowd.
“Just witnessing strangers having such a great time together, it’s good for people to act like proverbial children,” he said.
As the masses thinned out, workers from the Department of Public Works appeared, unhappily gauging the extent of the clean-up to come.
They had help from Amandeep Jawa, a San Francisco software engineer from Apple Inc., who used a megaphone to call on attendees to make piles of feathers. With the docks just across the street, here was an ordinary citizen having fun but also noting the impact of thousands of torn bedding.
"That's my fear," the 38-year-old said, "It contributes to the general pollution. The feathers are O.K. but the synthetics stuff is a bad idea for the bay.”
Then he grinned, turned to the crowd that remained on the edge of the plaza, safe from the pillow-wielding masses, and shouted in the megaphone, “This is not a spectator sport!”
Former Gov. Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said he is unfazed by his better-funded, better-known opponents.
“I’m not a rock star,” Vilsack told an audience in San Francisco Tuesday afternoon. “I’m rock solid.”
Vilsack used most of his speech at the Commonwealth Club to discuss America’s energy policy, the central issue of his campaign for the White House.
He started by asking the audience of about 100 if they believed in global warming, knew anyone who suffered from asthma, or knew anyone who served in Iraq. Nearly everyone raised a hand to at least one of his questions.
“We’ve identified all the people here who are affected by energy security,” Vilsack said. “It affects us every minute of every day. For more than 3,000 American soldiers, it has been a matter of life and death.”
Vilsack introduced a series of proposals designed to reduce America’s dependence on petroleum and to lower carbon emissions. He touted an increase in renewable energy production in Iowa, with more wind power plants and a large production of biodiesel.
“Energy security is more than a burden,” he said. “I see it as a great opportunity.”
Vilsack criticized the Bush Administration for using what he described as a “fear-driven policy.”
“We cannot live our lives, run our government or live the American dream if we are driven by fear,” Vilsack said. “Nor can we achieve energy independence driven by fear.”
Vilsack said that his campaign will monitor its own energy usage. To offset the carbon dioxide production of campaign planes and vehicles, the Vilsack camp will pay a Vermont company that invests in alternative energy.
Following his main remarks, Vilsack participated in a question and answer period moderated by John Diaz, editorial page editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. Audience members submitted questions before the event.
When asked about the Iraq War, Vilsack drew the most applause of the day by calling for a complete pullout of troops from Iraq. He criticized the non-binding resolution pushed by Democrats in Congress opposing President Bush’s plan to increase troop levels in Iraq.
“How many lives are going to be saved with a non-binding resolution?” Vilsack asked.
Vilsack also opposed calls for the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, saying that the time spent by Congress investigating the administration would be better spent focusing on serious issues like education.
He was vague when asked about gay rights, avoiding the issues of same-sex marriage and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military. Vilsack did say that the country needed to recognize “commitment.”
“In this day and age, where a rock star can get married for a short amount of time, and in that short amount of time, they’ve got all of the rights allowed under law,” Vilsack said. “But you’ve got a committed gay couple for five, 10, 20 years, and they don’t have those rights. Tell me how in America we value commitment.”
Vilsack faces some stiff competition for the Democratic nomination. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have garnered the most media attention and funds raised at this point in the campaign.
Following the event, Vilsack told reporters, “I’ve been in nine political races, and I’ve never been ahead in any one of those races when I started, and I’ve never lost.”
Francis Neely, a political science professor at SF State, said that smaller candidates such as Vilsack could gain notice and money with strong performances in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
“It gives people without national recognition a chance to meet face to face with voters in town meetings,” Neely said of the Iowa and New Hampshire races. “It scales the money down so that more candidates can run effectively.”
“In the early primaries,” Neely said, “if someone like Vilsack comes in two points behind Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, even though they didn’t win, the checks will start to swell in.”
This week, nearly a hundred SF State faculty members sat down for a session billed as another opportunity to gather information directly from the faculty union's state leaders about why contract negotiations have stalled and why a strike may be necessary.
Presided over by John Travis, CFA statewide president, and Andy Merrifield, the vice-president of northern campuses, a more intimate version of last week's informational picket was held on Tuesday afternoon in the Humanities building.
An explanation of the CFA's most recurrent rallying cry –– that the state's 24.5 percent salary increase offer is misleading –– was on topic.
"There is a lot of misinformation about what the CSU is offering," said Sue Pak, a staff representative for the school's CFA chapter.
As the chairman of a CFA state committee that developed the contractual goals and passed them on to the bargaining team, George Diehr has helped faculty digest the numbers.
He argued that many of the yearly salary increases are not guaranteed, but contingent on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration providing the additional funds, something Diehr said won't happen.
The CSU Board of Trustees' plan also allows for a one percent yearly increase awarded in a discretionary system that the union is wary of.
"It would go to a few people who are favorites of the administration as opposed to people who really have done a more meritorious job," said Diehr, a Cal State San Marcos professor.
The compounded value of the CSU's offer over four years comes to approximately 27 percent, a figure close enough to the 30.45 percent the faculty is seeking, if they believed it.
"They have said that four years from now the salary would have 27 percent more in it," Diehr said. "If that were true we would accept their offer in a heartbeat."
The meeting also helped clarify the timetable for possible work action.
The fact-finding panel has until the end of February to put forward its alternative offer. Labor law dictates that the CFA can't strike until 10 days have passed and the administration decides to impose its own “last, best and final” offer.
"That report put pressures on both sides because the state certainly doesn't want to have their faculty go on strike," Diehr said.
Work stoppage, meeting leaders explained, would most likely happen in the form of two-day strikes rolling through the campuses, Pak said.
Since many classes are offered on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, a two-day strike is seen as the best way to limit disturbing class schedules because most student would only miss one session of each class.
In response to a common worry among faculty, union leaders also explained how students would be aversely affected if the union accepted the CSU's current contract proposal. Stopping further student fee hikes is also one of the CFA's concerns.
"Happy faculty make happy students," Pak said.
The union is still collecting signatures for its strike pledges, something it has also been using "to energize and solidify members" in anticipation of the general strike authorization vote that may be needed, Pak said.
More meetings will be scheduled as the fact-finding report due-date draws near.
The biology department is planning to implement a two-year graduate program that will place SF State in the company of schools such as Stanford, UCLA and the Georgia Institute of Technology, which already offer similar programs.
Set to be introduced in 2008, the professional science master's degree is intended to integrate scientific research and business skills.
"Work force development is the direction we want to go," said associate professor Lily Chen, who will lead the PSM program. "That is why 25 percent of the curriculum will focus on teamwork and communication, not just science."
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided an $891,000 grant to 12 CSU campuses to start the programs. A portion of the donation will go to SF State, serving as the financial springboard for the endeavor.
Biotechnology and regenerative medicine will be the emphasis of the future learning environment.
The latest advancements in stem cell research make the tentative plans for the program all the more exciting for its creators; the most recent development being the discovery that stem cells may be obtained from amniotic fluid, not just from embryonic tissue.
The latest discoveries are so thrilling for Chen that they have inspired her to set the goal of making SF State’s stem cell research comparable to the contribution made by UCSF within the next 10 years.
Aside from being compelled by the burgeoning field that beckons her, Chen feels she has an obligation to the community.
“San Francisco voters voted for stem cell research,” Chen said. “I want to give them what they want.”
The PSM is directed toward students who intend to get jobs immediately after obtaining their master’s, rather than successively going for a Ph.D.
According to Chen, the program might even replace the traditional master’s thesis with a three to six month internship or research project to better prepare students for what lies ahead.
The professional collaborators won’t be confirmed until the PSM is officially established. The staff aims to recruit students with a science-related bachelors degree, preferably pertaining to biology, such as biochemistry, microbiology and biotechnology majors.
The faculty predicts that the majority of the students enrolled in the new master’s program will be from City College of San Francisco, and returning SF State students.
But Chen remains uncertain about what the rate of enrollment will be.
“I think there are about 300 biotech students at City College,” said Chen. “I will be happy if even 10 percent enroll.”
In a press release, the Council of Graduate Schools said, “CSU anticipates producing more than 1,100 PSM graduates in the program’s first five years.” In the meantime, Chen and her colleagues are doing their own research to find the optimal course content to teach students.
“My goal is to find how we can provide the best quality curriculum,” said Chen. “We will do it right, we will do it well.”
The General Union of Palestine Students started an online petition last weekend, calling for support of a controversial mural that SF State President Robert Corrigan blocked last summer.
Ramsey El-Qare, a GUPS representative, hopes that strength in numbers will weaken one man’s veto against the creation of what is possibly the first Palestinian mural on any U.S. campus.
In July 2006, the Student Center Governing Board, or SCGB, approved a Palestine mural proposed by GUPS, but members from both groups said Corrigan shortly thereafter placed a moratorium on all new murals. In rebuttal, GUPS is spreading the word through Web sites, petitions and public announcements.
"As far as I can tell, Corrigan is the only person I can think of that doesn't approve of the mural," said El-Qare.
GUPS created a MySpace page and recently produced an online petition in addition to their physical petition, which has an estimated 1,500 signatures.
El-Qare said he anticipates a few thousand more signatures and hopes to present the community’s support to Corrigan by the end of the semester.
While petition numbers show support, some students, such as Phil Haggardy from the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity at SF State, do not.
"I would do anything in my power to stop the mural from going up," said Haggardy, 18, a freshman in political science and religion. "I can guarantee the rest of the fraternity feels the same way."
Fred Astren, a professor of Jewish studies, said the Arts Committee received letters of concern from the Israel Coalition about the mural’s content and presented them during meetings prior to SCGB’s vote. Astren said he believed the system was flawed because the letters did not receive response and were not reported to the SCGB during the voting process, but the mural has the potential to be a great opportunity for SF State.
Mirishae McDonald, a member of the Student Center Governing Board and chair of the Palestinian Mural Committee said the design's controversy might revolve around “Handala,” a cartoon character representing "the Palestinian right of return."
She said Corrigan indicated Handala was the contentious issue by sending SCGB letters with pictures of Handala throwing rocks that turned into bombs and she said he did not site sources. She said Corrigan lacked transparency from the beginning.
"How many letters have I written and how many responses have I gotten that don't even clarify anything?" said McDonald, 28, a senior in political science.
The minutes of an SCGB meeting in September 2006 showed that Hector Cardenas, a SCGB member and ASI vice president of external affairs, proposed that Corrigan’s concerns were based more on finite space in the Cesar Chavez Student Center and the process of acquisition.
Executive Director Alon Shalev of San Francisco Hillel wrote in an e-mail that he feels the vast majority of Jewish students do not object to the mural itself. He wrote that he feels the objections are focused on specific symbols correlated to Handala and the objects in his hands.
El-Qare also spoke at a Jan. 27 antiwar protest to raise awareness, and plans on making more public announcements. He said he hopes to show Corrigan that GUPS isn’t the only group that disagrees with his decision.
"What we're facing is a content-based discrimination, and we have a lot of community support,” he said.
For more information, visit www.myspace.com/gups or www.SFGUPS.org.
Students trying to catch a free ride on the corner of Holloway and 19th Avenue Muni, should beware. An additional 60 ticket checkers were recently added throughout the city to crack down on fare evaders.
Since December, the Municipal Transportation Agency has hired more people to check for proof of payment throughout the city and plan to hire more in the coming months, according to a Muni inspection official, who declined to give her name.
West Portal Station supervisor Dennis Wang said the Muni Agency, or MTA, which runs Muni, and the Department of Parking and Traffic, are strictly enforcing the proof-of-payment system on trains by hiring more officers to fine fare evaders since the city is losing revenue because of this situation.
The MTA public relations department would not respond to frequent calls and visits.
Since last month, the MTA has been dealing with a $15.1 million budget deficit that must be filled before the new budget cycle begins July 1, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report. The MTA has already increased parking garage and meter fees to cover the deficit, in conjunction with the increased effort to catch fare evaders.
Wang said that a first offense for not purchasing a $1.50 ticket is $100 fine with a possible court date and there are increases with each future offense. Fines also increase if a ticket or court date is ignored. More tickets handed out will help fill the deficit before the next budget cycle.
“It’s the honor system,” Wang said. “You’re subject to show your proof of payment on trains and while exiting the station.”
Wang said he has seen perfect replicas of Fastpasses –– $45 monthly passes good for unlimited Muni rides –– printed on laser printers. However, fake passes lack the magnetic strips that are read by turnstile scanners, so they now require everyone to run their passes through, no exceptions. He also said that anyone who tries to pass through the handicap door will be stopped.
But that system only works at Muni stations, not for outdoor platforms like the one at 19th Avenue and Holloway in front of SF State, where many students catch the train.
Niki Casaje, 19, a sophomore psychology major, admitted that she doesn’t always pay for her rides.
“I only pay the fare if I know I’m going long distances,” Casaje said as she waited for her train after classes. “If I get on and see a Muni ticketer I get off.”
Casaje said she has seen people getting ticketed on numerous occasions, and has a friend who got a ticket for using a youth pass. Even though she doesn’t like the idea of paying fines, she said it’s understandable.
“They raise fares and now they’re raising penalties,” she said. “It sucks but I guess it has to be done.”
SF State faculty member Paavo Allen, 33, a sign language interpreter for Disability Support Programs and Services, remembered the one time he was ticketed for not buying a new Fastpass on time.
“I didn’t expect to get a ticket,” Allen recalled as he waited for a train at SF State. “They were polite to me … I’ve seen them be pretty horrible to people.”
Allen added that the experience left a big impression on him and he now always carries proof of payment.
“I’ve definitely been a lot more careful since,” he said.
Allen isn’t the only one who has been scared by fare inspectors.
International student Keiko Goto, 25, a child development major, said she saw someone get ticketed at the Church Street Station. She was jarred by how the security officers treated the person who didn’t have proof of payment.
“Even though I had [Fastpass] it was scary,” she said. “It would never happen in Japan.”
Wang said students who use the Muni system frequently should make it part of their budget.
“Buy a Fastpass. Simple as that,” he said. “One hundred dollars is two months of rides with a Fastpass.”
Several activists from the “World Can’t Wait—Drive out the Bush Regime” campus tour urged about 25 students and faculty members to organize a student strike and join the fight to "drive out the Bush regime".
As people walked into Rigoberta Menchu Hall Thursday afternoon, an enlarged photo of an Iraqi detainee, as he lay naked on a bloodied cement floor, stood out among other photos that depicted the abuse at Abu Ghraib.
“How many of you all have ever been asked, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’” asked Liam Madden, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and co-founder of the Appeal for Redress, a group of active servicemembers appealing to Congress to remove U.S. troops from Iraq.
All raised their hands.
Then, Madden asked, “How many have ever been asked, ‘what kind of world do you want to live in?’"
No one raised their hands.
“We need to become more of a world that shapes its society, and move away from what Dr. King called a ‘thing orientated society’ to an us orientated society,” said Madden.
People need to ask themselves what kind of world they are making for future generations, he said.
Too many people remain passive, said the activists. It’s time for this generation to rise up, hold President Bush accountable for the Iraq war, torture, and "his attack on human dignity," said Sunsara Taylor, a co-founder of World Can't Wait.
“The country is starting to wake up, Bush is doing a horrible job, the Iraq War is wrong,” said Lacy MacAuley, 28, an international relations major. “I’m proud to be at an event that encapsulates those viewpoints.”
More than half the room said they would participate in a student strike on Feb. 15, if one was organized.
The attendees were more attentive than outspoken, but some did comment when they were asked if and why they would participate in a strike to impeach Bush.
One student, who refused to disclose his name, said that throughout history the way one person has made a difference was either by striking or boycotting. He said by striking, "we will be withholding from the system like they’ve withheld from us with budget cuts, immigrants…until they listen to us."
Leigh Wolf, 20, the president of the College Republicans, made an appearance but did not speak until Taylor expressed that she was disappointed that someone from the College Republicans had not yet “heckled” her.
Wolf accused her for espousing Communist ideology and criticized her for not including the word “communist” in her speech.
The open dialogue that took place encouraged about 14 of the attendees to adjourn to another room after the event and discuss a potential student strike on Feb. 15.
If SF State students decide to participate in a strike, they will be joining students at other colleges and high schools in the nation including UC Santa Barbara, Sonoma College, and Columbia University.
"100,000 Muslims died/sounds like genocide/George Bush and Cheney want World War III," sang a group of 12 singers led by a conductor near the Tapia Drive shuttle stop outside of the Humanities building.
Students who stopped by to listen to the congregation seemed amused by its lyrical content and swayed by messages like "Impeach Dick Cheney while you still can."
"This is fucking awesome," Chris Chegia, 21, a senior music major, said. "I'm really excited to see this kind of thing walking to class. They are against what is going on right now."
But few took the time to find out that the singers were members of the extreme political activist LaRouche Movement.
The group is the brainchild of Lyndon LaRouche Jr., 81, who has run as a fringe candidate for the U.S. presidency eight times despite having served six years in prison for fraud. According to a CNN report, he is also known as a conspiracy theorist who has claimed that Queen Elizabeth II was part of an international drug ring and refers to Cheney, a frequent target, as "Beastman."
The LaRouche Movement has earned a place on the watch list of the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey, a nonprofit organization that studies and informs the public on what they consider destructive or controversial groups.
April Ricromer, an art student who was amused by the performance, said she assumed they were affiliated with the school.
"Kick, slap, dropkick, handcuff," the group went on, "Dick Cheney likes to play it rough/from his bedroom straight to Abu Ghraib/He's been torturing people since 1975."
Ricromer laughed at this and accepted a booklet of LaRouche literature from one of the activists. "It's hilarious, it's so clever and true," she said. "It's entertaining, but they are also getting their message across."
Earlier in the day the LaRouche activists had been singing on the other side of campus, near the Health and Social Services building, but a noise complaint was lodged and the University Police asked them to move outside of campus limits, according to the Director of Public Affairs Ellen Griffin.
They moved to just outside the boundaries, by the bus stop. As soon as they were done, they scattered without a word and refused to make a comment. While they were only asked to move due to the complaint, there were indications that the demonstrators hadn't gotten prior approval.
"Generally speaking," Griffin said, "a political group does need to be invited by faculty or the administration or a student group to be on campus. Or they can request a leafletting permit."
Freelance journalist and SF State alumnus Josh Wolf stepped into an unlikely chapter of the record books Tuesday, becoming the longest jailed journalist in United States history for refusing to consent to a grand jury subpoena.
Tuesday was the 169th day that Wolf, 24, of San Francisco, spent in federal prison in Dublin after declining to turn over unpublished video footage he shot of a 2005 anti-globalization protest in the Mission district.
Politicians, journalists, his attorney and activists gathered at San Francisco City Hall to call for his release.
“Josh is in jail for every one of you holding a camera … a notepad … a microphone and for all of those who are readers and listeners,” said David Greene, one of Wolf’s attorneys and a lecturer in Mass Communications Law at SF State. “This is not a selfish act, he has nothing to gain personally from being in jail … He sacrificed his freedom for the free press."
“Surely 168 days is enough for the government to send the message intended," he added.
San Francisco Bay Guardian publisher and editor Bruce Brugmann called Wolf a “hero” along with most of the other speakers. He also alluded to a time when he traveled to South Korea to lobby for the release of journalists there.
“This is worse. I’ve never seen anything like this. Where are we, in Bulgaria, in Korea,” Brugmann asked.
Brugmann said that Wolf was targeted by the Bush Administration in order to intimidate the antiwar community in San Francisco and to chill freedom of speech and journalists nationwide.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi angrily denounced what he called the “thuggery of the federal government, the Bush Administration, and federal Judge [William] Alsup,” for holding Wolf in contempt of a federal grand jury.
“Alsup called Wolf an alleged journalist, well Judge Alsup is an alleged judge and should not be on the bench,” said Mirkarimi.
Mirkarimi continued to castigate embattled San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and other officals for not supporting the coalition to free Wolf.
“It bothers me that our local officials do not support Josh Wolf. I am angry as hell about this,” he said.
Julian Davis, 28, of the Free Josh Wolf Coalition insisted that those that call for Wolf’s release are not a “fringe” movement.
Davis said he recently returned from Washington, D.C., where met with Senate and Congressional staffers to lobby for support of Wolf’s release and a federal shield law that would include freelance journalists.
He said he spoke with staffers for Democratic California senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, and staffers for representatives Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., John Conyers Jr., D- Mich., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and others.
The case centers on video footage Wolf shot of a protest against the G-8 Summit on June 8, 2005 where a police car was allegedly vandalized by protesters.
Prosecuters contend that because SFPD recieved federal funds the stringent California Sheild Law does not protect Wolf from federal grand jury demands.
Wolf, who graduated from SF State's psychology department, and his supporters say that turning over the footage will allow the federal government to force reporters to become agents of investigation.
Wolf and his attorneys said his footage is materially uselesss to authorities.
The case also asks who is considered a journalist--freelancers, bloggers, "citizen" journalist and other emerging distinctions of people who report the news.
Wolf can remain in federal prsion until July on charges of contempt, according to his supporters.
The Society of Professional Journalist granted Wolf $30,000 for his legal defense, the largest donation in legal history for a journalist in the United States, according to the organization.
"I will not and cannot be coerced," Wolf said in a prepared statement read by a supporter.
Alex Tourk stepped down from his position as campaign manager to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. His decision, acknowledged on Jan. 31, to resign came shortly after discovering his wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, had an affair with the Mayor more than a year ago.
This comes just days after it was revealed through numerous news outlets, such as the San Francisco Chronicle and local news stations, that Newsom's chief spokesman, Peter Ragone, posted comments on a local news-oriented site, SFist, using aliases. The comments were pro-Newsom and sparked great controversy after establishing postings were made from the same computer. To date, Newsom has made no decision asking Ragone to resign.
SF State students and faculty share their thoughts on Newsom's character and his future as the Mayor of San Francisco.
Associated Students Incorporated, or ASI, elections are coming soon to SF State, but some students are unaware of ASI and what its function means to them.
Senior Edward Lee, 22, said he has never heard of ASI or noticed it. Lee, a Psychology major, said knowing the benefits and incentives would encourage him to vote.
“Let the students know in order for the students to know what they do,” said Lee.
ASI is the campus student government, an organization that allocates money for student activities throughout the academic year. ASI provides funding school clubs, scholarships and services like the Legal Resource Center, Health Insurance and the Women’s Center.
Every SF State student is connected to ASI paying $42 from their tuition fees to the organization.
ASI managed a budget of over $3.2 million for the 2005-2006 year, according to ASI financial documents.
“The general purposes of the Associated Students are to promote student awareness of and competence in the practices of democratic citizenship among the members of the Associated Students, to ensure the full and equal representation in the affairs and government of Associated Students and all its members to provide facilities and programs capable of satisfying the needs and interests of all the members of Associated Students, and to promote free and open means of communication between all members of Associated Students,”said ASI in its website.
ASI elections start on March 19, while candidates should currently be getting ready to file for a position. The last day is Monday, February 12 for candidates to submit their applications for election. Along with their applications, potential candidates are expected to have a petition of 25 or 100 student signatures depending on the position they are vying for.
Some positions run unopposed while others remain empty for lack of anyone running for them.
Abtin Forghani, 23, the Junior Representative for ASI, is running for Vice President of External Affairs for the next academic year.
Forghani, a BECA major, says he will get students to vote for him by going into classes and making announcements.
“I’m energetic, I’m very believable… I trust my fellow students and I hope they trust in me to protect their interests,” Forghani said.
Lee suggests fliers and notifying students in class would keep students better informed.
Dominique Guerrero, 19 said she saw one poster about student elections, and blames students for not knowing what ASI does.
“I think it’s basically our school, people don’t get involved,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero, an undeclared sophomore, said she would like to know what candidates will be doing differently.
“For the people that are running, tell us a little about them and what they plan on changing,” she said.
ASI Vice President of Internal Affairs, Isidro Armenta, 21, says this is an issue for ASI every semester. Armenta, a marketing major, says ASI sponsors events to promote student awareness and participation.
“For me, I’ve been here constantly making announcements about ASI programs and services. And also attending several events sponsored by ASI, such as Alpha Phi Alpha Step that happened this weekend,” Armenta said.
SF State College Republicans face allegations of attempting to incite violence and of actions of incivility following an investigation conducted by the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development, or OSPLD. The matter was passed to the Student Organization Hearing Panel, SOHP, to determine if the College Republicans will be reprimanded and the magnitude of the possible repercussions.
The SOHP, a functionary of the university that can only be enacted upon the conclusion of an OSPLD investigation, can ratify one of five sanctions on an affected organization.
The sanctions range in severity from a forced apology to full removal of the club. It is comprises a chair, two Associated Students Inc., or ASI, representatives, and two Academic Senate representatives. The panel met once, on Jan. 24, and has yet to schedule the next meeting.
Joicy Serrano, 20, an ASI member and representative on the SOHP, said the proceedings are just beginning.
“The first meeting was to get people familiar with the panel and how it works,” said Serrano, a RAZA major. “The next meeting we will decide who can be there and who can’t.”
OSPLD Director Joey Greenwell declined to comment on SOHP proceedings.
The OSPLD investigation stemmed from student complaints that prompted a resolution passed by ASI after the College Republicans stepped on the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah, resulting in heated discussion among members of the College Republicans and those at the event.
The Oct. 17 incident sparked emotions in Muslim students and others who argued that it was disrespectful and inappropriate to step on flags that contain the Arabic symbol for “Allah.”
The College Republicans argued that they were protesting the actions of terrorist organizations, not the sanctity of religion, and agreed to let some of the Muslim students alter the flags.
ASI cited a campus rule that stressed “equity and social justice within a respectful and safe environment” and indicated that ASI felt “they should be held accountable by the University for their actions” in the Nov. 15 resolution.
ASI and General Union of Palestinian Students, GUPS, member Brian Gallagher, 24, said ASI was fair in its evaluation.
“As an ASI member, I can tell you that there were no threats,” said Gallagher, a political science and history major.
Dalton Blanco, 19, said he was offended by the College Republicans’ display, even though the flags were altered.
“I guess they have right to protest,” said Blanco, a sophomore and music major. “But that shit means something to people, and stomping on it is disrespectful.”
The issue still conjures up great emotion among the student body at SF State, particularly the organizations involved. Leigh Wolf, the president of the College Republicans, demonstrated his opinion when he stepped on an Al Qaeda flag during a rally in support of Corporate America Appreciation Day on Jan. 31.
“After yesterday they can’t possibly sanction us for anything,” said Wolf, 20, a BECA major. “No one will condemn us for protesting Al Qaeda, but the Al Qaeda flag contains the same symbolic misrepresentation of Islam.”
Annette Heully, 21, said a group’s right to protest is covered by the First Amendment, no matter the controversy of the group or its methods.
“It’s a First Amendment issue,” Heully, a junior art major, said. “I mean, chick flicks are offensive, but people are still allowed to make those.”
Wolf said while the OSPLD just did its job, he was disappointed with ASI’s reaction. He is, however, confident that the College Republicans will not be punished.
“ASI’s handling of the situation has been a black eye to the school,” he said, adding that he has “full confidence in the Constitution, the First Amendment, and that the College Republicans will not be sanctioned.”
The California Faculty Association is considering a state-wide strike but for now they held an informational picket on campus at noon yesterday after contract negotiations stalled again.
A number of issues hold up the contract agreement between the university system's Board of Regents and the California Faculty Association, including a salary increase that union officials said is deceiving. The union, which has considered striking if it doesn't get a contract it deems fair, counts 800 of SF State's 1,500 faculty among its members.
"They claim that they are giving a 24.5 percent increase over three years and that's just not true. They use a lot of smoke and mirrors," said Mitch Turitz, who was president of the school's CFA Chapter for five years.
The picketing on Malcom X Plaza featured Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, who introduced legislation requiring the executive boards of UC and CSU to meet and discuss compensation in the open. The event is a part of a statewide labor movement that has been rolling through Cal State's 23 campuses to inform faculty, students and the public about negotiations and a possible strike.
Deeba Uddin, 19 and a freshman in business, said she was excused from class early to attend the picket and would support the strike if necessary.
“I don’t think it would be the best thing, but if it helps in any way, I would be willing to do it,” Uddin said.
On Dec. 18, after 18 months of negotiations, an independent mediator from the Public Employment Relations Board declared the talks at an impasse, leaving CFA officials feeling helpless. The sides agreed on healthcare and retirement issues, but no progress was made on the issue of class load and the administration's salary offer has not changed since July 2006.
"We haven't reached a contract and they look very much determined not to reach one," John Travis, president of the CFA, which represents 23,000 faculty statewide.
A fact-finder, appointed Jan. 29, has exactly one month to come up with an alternative offer. If it's rejected, the Board of Regent will most likely impose it's so-called "Last, Best and Final Offer."
"We are for the first time intending to seek a strike vote," said Travis. He added that the rolling pickets were scheduled early in the year out of the urgent need to “send the signal that we are at a historical point in the relationship with Chancellor Reed's administration."
For now, the pickets serve a purely informational purpose.
In order to gauge the amount of interest in a strike, the union has been circulating a pledge card to its faculty members. The latest tally read 470 signatures, 72 percent of CFA members.
"We certainly do not want a strike," wrote Chapter President Linda Ellis, the head of SF State union, in a Jan. 24 e-mail to faculty. "But we need to know your opinion so that we can pressure the CSU administration to come back to the bargaining table for a fair contract."
The faculty union has been reaching out for support from all sides. Turitz said it's in the students' best interest to support faculty.
"Our working conditions are the student's learning conditions," he said. "Our larger load is making it difficult for students. It essentially means that they are getting lower education while paying more in student fees."
The union focused much of its effort at the largest campuses, Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco State, where temporary workers were hired to help strengthen the campaign.
The Chancellor's Office remains optimistic. Spokesperson Paul Browning refused to talk about the possibility of the faculty striking, suggesting that doing so would send a negative message.
"Even though we have yet to reach an agreement with the California Faculty
Association, the CSU has eight other bargaining units that we have reached agreements with," Browning said.
CSU Employees Union President Russell Kilday-Hicks, whose group represents 1,300 non-faculty SF State employees, brought his own issues to the picket.
“We can’t trust the so-called trustees,” Kilday-Hicks said. "A healthy CSU means a healthy California. Don’t give up on us just because we have poor leadership."
He said the union had to "change the rules of bargaining,” in order to end a year of negotiations with a Jan. 12, 2007 agreement. He said they had to be “more effective," holding rallies, pleading with individual trustees and inviting bargaining members on campus to meet workers.
The union also carries a growing mistrust of Chancellor Charles Reed and the perception that he has grown too powerful.
"The CSU is supposed to be run by the board of trustees. In fact, the chancellor has been telling the trustees how to vote. He has control over the board," according to former CFA president Turitz.
Yee, who earned his master's and taught at SF State, appeared as part of his campaign to clean up the practices of those who lead California's higher education system.
“For too long we don’t know why high executives are getting astronomical salaries and benefits that we only dream of,” Yee told the crowd.
An earlier version of the bill he authored, AB 775, failed to pass in the last Senate session. Yee included the CSU regents in the new bill, SB 190, after the regents' recent pay raise.
“SB 190 is going provide you, hopefully, with a CSU and UC system that is finally accountable. By golly, we are going to get it out!” he said.
There are approximately 82,000 San Franciscans, between the ages of 18-65, without health insurance. SF State and UCSF students are hoping to do their part to alleviate the problem by opening a free primary care clinic in the Mission district.
Clínica Martín-Baró, an endeavor that has been in the making for the past two and half years, officially opened its doors on Jan. 27. The result is a cohesive undertaking where SF State Raza studies undergrads and UCSF medical students learn from each other while giving back to the community.
“Our mission is to provide free medical primary care services, in addition to social and mental services, to the uninsured and underserved people in the Mission district,” said Bonnie Hom, co-chair of the Pharmacy Committee and Grant Writing Committee member. “As well as train medical and undergraduate students in preparation for the health care field.”
The idea for the clinic spawned from a Latino Health Care Perspective class, taught by Professor Felix Kury at SF State, in the Raza studies department.
In his class, Raza 210, Kury teaches his students about the environmental and social factors that leave certain demographics vulnerable to health and mental conditions, such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Through his teaching Kury derived a sense of obligation.
“Healthcare should be a right,” said Kury. "We're not doing charity."
All participants in the program are volunteers. Undergraduate SF State students work the patient intake process, where they check blood pressure, glucose levels and vital signs. Along with performing these tasks, students get on-the-job training and exposure to the health care industry.
“First year medical students don’t know as much as some of our undergraduate volunteers,” said Kury.
The program thrives solely on grants, donations and fund raising efforts.
Council Connections serves as a liaison for Clínica Martín-Baró, helping the clinic get discount medical supplies from corporations such as Quest Diagnostics Incorporated.
“I don’t know what we would do without Council Connections,” said Tatianne Velo, CSU Fullerton alumna, and a long-standing volunteer with the project. ”Community centers would not survive without it.”
Volunteers also attend grant writing seminars at the SF Foundation Center, and do additional research to see what types of grants the clinic might qualify for. The writing process can be grueling, taking 40-50 hours to compose a single grant.
Students from the Raza studies department further contribute by hosting fund raising events, consisting of optional-donation movie nights in the basement of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, and an upcoming hip-hop night to be held on Thursday, Feb. 8. Through their fund raising efforts, students have raised over $10,000 in the past two and a half years.
Volunteers have gotten involved with the program for different reasons.
Clinic Co-Director Zoel Quinonez, who was a Raza studies student at SF State for one year, essentially grew up around the corner from Clínica Martín-Baró. As he attended medical school at UCSF he often wondered if other med students had philanthropic aspirations, knowing that he wanted to play a positive role in the area where he spent his youth.
“For me it was like coming home,” said Quinonez, in reference to the clinic. “It has always been a goal of mine to come back to the community.”
For social work intern Leslie Calhoun, who is a student at SF State, the premise of the clinic piqued her interest.
“I have a passion for immigration and immigration rights,” said Calhoun. “It is really important to me.”
Clínica Martín-Baró is located in the CARACEN building at 1245 Alabama St. and is almost obscured by the formidable black wrought-iron fence that stands before its entrance.
The clinic is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is free for those seeking its services; on the condition that they do not have insurance. The staff requests that patients show up at 8 a.m so that they can plan the schedule for the day accordingly.
A patient’s initial consultation is with at least one medical student. From there the students report back to the stand-in supervising medical doctor, describing any inherent medical conditions and ailments.
It may be too early to determine what impact the clinic will have on the community it aims to help, serving just three patients in the second week since its opening, but the staff hopes to build a rapport with its patrons so they will keep coming back.
“We want to earn the patients’ trust,” said SF State alumna and volunteer Veronica Grijalva. “The most exciting part is patient education.”
Roughly 500 volunteers were dispatched throughout San Francisco Wednesday night for the bi-annual homeless census. The results of the count determine the federal funding allotted to provide those living on the street with essential resources.
Mayor Gavin Newsom spoke briefly during the volunteer training session in an attempt to inspire the participants before they headed out into the cold for the unofficial tabulation.
“We give them dignity, that is an intangible thing,” Newsom said, referring to the thousands of homeless people that were to be counted. “That is a magical thing.”
Newsom maintained a positive outlook on the possibility of ending homelessness.
“The fact is we’re making progress and gaining momentum,” Newsom said. “We’re going to have a big number tonight, but don’t be distressed, be optimistic.”
The final report of the 2005 San Francisco Homeless Count recorded 6,248 people, which is a 28 percent decrease from the 8,640 counted in the 2002 census. The numbers from the count are just a fraction of the overall population, which also includes some who are in jail, emergency shelters and San Francisco General Hospital.
Angela Alioto, chair of the Homeless Ten-Year Plan Council, informed participants that over 2,500 people have been housed within the last two and a half years. While the results of the 2007 census won’t be available for a couple of weeks, Alioto estimates that federal assistance needs to be in the range of $16-$17 million to provide adequate help.
Equipped with a limited number of reflective orange vests, tally sheets and flashlights, groups of two or more were assigned to routes throughout the city, and either walked or drove to their various locations. Those dispatched were instructed not to interact with the homeless. Among the counted were those found sleeping on sidewalks, in back allies and, in some areas, clustered in large groups.
The event brought together an array of volunteers, transcending social status.
Tim Anderson, an employee from salesforce.com, which gives its workers four hours of paid time off per month to contribute to the community, felt the count was an ideal occasion to give back.
“I usually volunteer, through Homeless Project Connect, at the Bill Graham Civic Center, which hosts events every other month. They provide dental services, meals and blankets,” Anderson said. “But I thought the census was a good thing to do.”
Dave Seiler, the leader of a group dispatched to the Tenderloin, spent over 25 years being homeless, living in shelters and on the sidewalks of San Francisco. Seiler served as somewhat of a tour guide for the volunteers who helped him tally, identifying halfway houses, women’s shelters, and places where he used to live.
Reuniting with friends he formerly knew, Seiler embraced people he came across and called them by their first names.
Seiler stays active in the community. He attributes his involvement in various organizations with keeping him sober and sheltered. He works with the Salvation Army and serves as a liaison for the Next Door Shelter.
“I wanted to do something positive by getting out here and counting,” Seiler said. “But I’m happy I don’t live out here anymore.”
The College Republicans gathered Wednesday afternoon in Malcolm X Plaza to celebrate what they deemed “Corporate America Appreciation Day,” a day to celebrate what they referred to as the “philanthropy of capitalism.”
The event ended with Leigh Wolf, 20, a BECA major and president of the College Republicans, calling out by name members of the student government who have condemned the group in the past for stomping flags representing Hamas and Hezbollah, which contain Islamic symbols.
Malcolm X Plaza was decorated with oversize bills and dollar signs. People, upon reading a sign that said “Corporate America Appreciation Day, Enjoy Capitalism,” began to gather to see what was going on. A lot of people did not know what they were about to witness.
“How many of you like money?” asked Wolf, kicking off the event. He followed up that statement by calling out the student-run group MEChA (Mouimiento Estudantil Chicanalo de Aztlan). “MEChA, this is what I think of your ban on Coke,” said Wolf as he opened a can of Coca-Cola into the microphone. The group is currently enacting a boycott on Coca-Cola in response to their alleged human rights abuses.
Wolf continued to sip on the Coke as he started a trivia game for prizes such as Starbuck’s frappucinos and mock oversize $100 bills. The questions ranged from “Who is the highest paid CEO in America?” to “Who owns Myspace.com?”
The trivia game was followed by a speech from member John Ashford, 26, a kinesiology major. The main highlight of his speech was the fact that private corporations and investors donate more money than the U.S. Government to nonprofit and community organizations.
“We want to promote diversity,” said A.J. Weissmiller, 26, a double major in international business and Chinese. He stated that if groups like the College Republicans weren’t publicly making themselves known, they would become lost in the shuffle of a campus that is notoriously left leaning.
The College Republicans said that today’s display was not only to celebrate capitalism, but also to practice their group’s right to freedom of speech. The event peaked as Wolf took the stage and publicly stomped on the flag representing Al Qaeda saying, “No matter how offensive you may find my stepping on this Al Qaeda flag, it’s my constitutional right, and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to tell me that I can’t disrespect America’s enemy during a time of war.”
Toward the end of Wolf’s speech, on behalf of the organization, he called out members of General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), the Associated Students, and the campus Socialists.
“I will not be pushed around by [AS members] Maire Fowler, Brian Gallagher, Kimberly Castillo, Maria Cortez, the Socialists or the GUPS,” he said. “So come down to the stage, anyone who condemned us for stepping on the Hezbollah and Hamas flags, come down to Malcolm X Plaza and tell me that I have no right to step on an Al Qaeda flag. All three flags have the same symbol, all three flags represent the same evil.”
No one came down to the stage in protest.
As Wolf walked off stage, he wiped his foot one last time on the Al Qaeda flag before Vice President Trent Downes ripped up the flag.
The event was heavily secured, as university police were stationed on the top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, lining the quad and on the sides of the stage. The event however, was not heavily publicized, and drew little crowd reaction.
Bystanders seemed confused and interested as the event began and continued to draw attention with the flag stomping.
“[The College Republicans] have the right to say whatever they want, but it is so fucking twisted you just gotta laugh,” said Carlos Gonzalez, an ethnic studies alumnus.
Other campus groups were critical, yet not actively participating in the event or publicly reacting to it.
“College Republicans are very cynically trying to support capitalist ideology,” said Michael Hoffman, 26, a mathematics graduate student who was standing at a table representing the International Socialist Organization, one of the groups that was called out by Wolf in his speech.
Representatives from the Muslim Student Organization and MEChA could not be reached for comment.
The College Republicans said the group’s goal with the public display of the desecration of the Al Qaeda flag was to make people choose sides.
“Who will stand with me? Not as a Democrat or a Republican, but as an American. Who will stand with me in sending a message to radicals?” Wolf said. “We cannot let ourselves fall prey to vitriolic, politically correct demands of the few. We must rise to the occasion and defend that which makes our country great.”
Dan Johnson loves burritos so much that he once ate 14 of them over 10 days as a coping mechanism.
“I was mourning over this girl that dumped me,” said Johnson, 31, a first-year master’s student in creative writing at SF State. “I wasn’t really old enough to go to bars and drink myself away, so I just ate myself to oblivion.”
Johnson’s craving for burritos helped him and two friends create Burritophile.com, a Web site listing locations and reviews of burrito shops all over the United States. Launched in July 2005, the site contains over 1,300 user-generated reviews and has been featured in publications like Investor’s Business Daily, the San Francisco Chronicle and the television show “Bay Area Backroads.”
The Web site seems to have found a niche, welcoming between 800 and 900 users daily and tallying approximately 24,000 visits in January 2007, Johnson said.
Although there are no reviews for burrito restaurants on the SF State campus, Johnson said Ethel Mae's on Randolph Street off 19th Avenue has a great breakfast burrito.
"It's like a giant southern breakfast, but in a huge burrito with a Mexican style taste," he said. "It's nine bucks but you won't have to eat for three days."
Johnson grew up in Los Altos, Calif. and currently lives in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood. But it was his time living on the East Coast, where he attended Duke University and spent time in New York, that left him burrito-deprived.
“You would think they’d get their act together,” Johnson said about New York City. “It’s a good place for bagels and pizza, but run away if someone offers you a burrito.”
The idea of Burritophile.com was conceived in 2003 while Johnson and his two friends, Cate Czerwinski and her boyfriend Aaron Best, were driving from the Midwest to live on the West Coast. Johnson suddenly found himself craving a burrito in Lincoln, Neb., but without knowledge of the city, he was left tragically burrito-less. This sparked an idea for a Web site that would allow users to track and rate burrito places regionally.
A year later, Johnson said the trio decided to launch the site because they all suddenly found the free time to do it. Johnson did most of the early content writing and generated over 100,000 words for the site. He said that he doesn’t write as much now because enough users write reviews on the forums.
“People are very emotional about their food in general,” co-founder Czerwinski, 30, said. “It’s natural for them to get fired up over their regional food source.”
Anyone can sign up and post reviews at no cost. Johnson said the Web site currently makes enough advertising revenue to cover maintenance costs.
Czerwinski is the Web site’s editorial content manager and the self-proclaimed “girl about burrito town.” She said that people usually poke fun at Burritophile.com when she mentions it, but they eventually begin to voice their opinions on what makes a decent burrito.
She said that’s when she comes out and calls them a burrito-phile.
Californians argue about their favorite burrito places on the Web site like New Yorkers would argue over pizza joints, Johnson said, and he has even sought out burritos that users highly recommended.
“To a large point you got to trust your readership,” Johnson said. “They took the time to register on the Web site, gave us their e-mail address, went out and ate a burrito and spent their time writing about it.”
Johnson and Czerwinski agree one of their favorite places in San Francisco is Cuco’s in the Lower Haight. As a vegetarian, Czerwinski said she particularly appreciates their meatless offering.
“My favorite burrito is a plantain burrito,” Czerwinski said. “It’s great because many vegetarian burritos are just burritos without meat.”
This particular burrito was featured on the “Bay Area Backroads” segment with Johnson.
“It’s more than just a burrito, it’s dinner and dessert in one. It’s hot heaven,” said Erin Fleming, 27, a fan of the plantain burrito, and Johnson’s friend.
Fleming is a second-year MBA student with an emphasis in decision sciences at SF State, who admits to eating an average of two burritos a week, often with Johnson.
“He likes to take pictures of my burrito after a few bites,” Fleming said. “He calls it ‘burrito porn.’”
While the site is mainly informational, Fleming said she is entertained by features like a banner that runs famous quotes with the word “burrito” added in. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our burritos, it’s in ourselves,” is an example of a Shakespeare quote twisted on the Web site.
And Johnson has more fun things planned for Burritophile.com. “Our eventual goal is to make the burrito the dominant food group in the universe,” Johnson said. “I would like to go to Helsinki and find a good burrito.”
His dream is to have the site go international and that he has already received requests to submit reviews from places like Mexico and Finland.
Visit www.burritophile.com for more information.
On Feb. 5, all San Francisco employees outside of the CSU system were the first in the nation to acquire paid sick leave.
The law provides one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers who have a staff of less than 10 employees provide no more than 40 work hours of sick leave a year to each employee. Bigger employers will provide up to 72 hours.
Though the law affects most employees, it does not necessarily apply to everyone at SF State. People who work on-campus and are employed by the California State University system are exempt.
It was written and promoted by District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly, who cited public health as a main factor in the law. The law, which was passed with a 61 percent majority in November, draws heavy criticism from some and strong support from others.
"It would definitely take the stress off while I am out of town,” said Rosie Medieros, 21, and a BECA major. Medeiros works at Rasputin Records on Union Square and said, Medeiros's family lives in Virginia, and she said it is stressful to leave for more than a couple days at a time.
On the other hand, small business owners such as Gary Frank, owner of The Booksmith on Haight Street, are afraid that the new sick leave will be difficult to budget, especially with another hike in the city's minimum wage to $9.14 an hour-- the highest local wage in the country-- coupled with legislation that will also require employers to pay $1.11 an hour into a health coverage plan for their employee.
“We are locked into our prices,” Frank said. “[The law] is not good for us. I understand this law, they're liberal, but I am liberal too."
His business paid its employers sick leave and also had a healthcare package in place for employees who work over 30 hours a week. He said integrating the new law would be costly for him because it demands more than he is currently providing. He stressed that small business owners should be in control of delegating sick leave, not the city.
Kevin Timpane, a longtime San Francisco resident and parent of two said the law will ease the burden of single parents or families in which both parents work full time. Workers are permitted to use paid leave to care for a friend, family member or partner that they delegate.
Timpane said if one of their children gets sick, he can stay home without worrying. He said he voted for the measure because he thought it was beneficial to the city's economy.
"People who don't already have health care are usually the people who cant afford to take time off of work and see a doctor," he said. "This should ease the burden on them so that they don't get so sick that they end up in San Francisco General and the city has to pay for it."
Applicable employees accrued their first sick leave hours on Monday, Feb. 5. For those hired after that date, the accruement does not begin until 90 days after employment.
For further information contact the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement at (415) 554-6271 or www.sfgov.org/site/olse_index.asp?id=49389