August 2007 Archives

State budget delays student aid

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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature on the state budget August 24 after a 52-day impasse finally secured funding for programs and services Californians rely on — including releasing almost $11 million in grants to thousands of SF State students, Financial Aid officials said.

The signing came just four days before the SFSU campus was set to open for the fall semester, a close call for students who depend on the Cal Grants to pay for housing, textbooks or transportation. At least, registration fees were deferred for those awaiting financial aid at most campuses.

"Decisions can't be made in a timely manner that are affecting people's lives? I don't agree with that," said Barbara Hubler, director of Financial Aid at SF State.

The impasse was caused by the refusal from all 14 of the state's Republican senators—two of which would have been enough—to provide the two thirds majority needed to pass the budget.

But the reason behind the impasse mattered little to Jerome Saddler, a 23-year-old Journalism student who said he relies entirely on financial aid to remain in school. All he knew was that the Cal Grant funds were absent from his bank account.

While the state delayed payments on his grant, what Saddler said mattered to him was the ability to pay his rent on time.

"My landlords needs the money by the first," he said.

In all, 2,836 SF State students waited more than a week after other grants went out before collecting their share of the school's $10,934,141 in Cal Grant funds, Hubler said. Because the length of time it takes to process the checks some students still hadn't received their grants by the time class officially began on Tuesday, Financial Aid officials said.

"What is the state budget?" Hubler said. "It's services, it's going to people, going in the form of support for their education. If the legislature can't work it out people are going to be affected."

While the governor, members of the State Assembly from both parties and Senate democrats voted to approve the budget on three occasions, republican senators held firm until Minority Leader Dick Ackerman (R-Tustin) and Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) finally provided the support for the $145 billion budget on August 21.

"Especially in light of the fact that what eventually passed as a budget changed so little, the suffering that was caused seems in vain," said Adam Keigwin, a spokesperson for Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).

At SF State, one financial aid adviser who did not want to be identified for fear of breaking ranks called legislators "criminals" and "outlaws" for holding up the budget and cutting off services.

While financial aid awards from the federal government, SF State or private institutions were disbursed, the California Student Aid Commission had to withhold Cal Grants to comply with state law, according to spokesperson Yvonne Stewart-Buchen.

"There might have been some delays," said Paul Browning, the media relations specialist for CSU. "But we're glad they will eventually get their funds and hopefully there isn't too much disruption in their education."

It took just one day for SF State's financial aid office to begin disbursing Cal Grants checks after the state budget was signed. A previous e-mail notice sent to grants recipients that it would take approximately two weeks for checks to be mailed out was just a precaution, Hubler said.

Services all over the state suffered from the temporary lack of funds. Over the course of the impasse the state controller's office accumulated more than 60,000 unpaid claims to run hospital, school and childcare programs.

"I am concerned not only about the fiscal hardship the delay has caused many vendor, small businesses and service providers, but also the personal toll on vulnerable Californians," wrote State Controller John Chiang in an August 21 open letter to state department directors, vowing to deal with the backlog within 10 days.

State education officials said that there was a contingency plan in place in the event that the impasse stretched into the semester. Campuses that had the financial resources were to loan out money to students to be repaid using the Cal Grants, Browning said for the CSU.

However, there was no such plan at SF State, according to Wayne Kuhaupt, manager of the school's Fiscal Affairs office which writes checks to student and employees.

"I don't know what we'd do," Kuhaupt said. "We're talking about a lot of money and our campus doesn't have that kind of money lying around."

State legislators have missed the June 30 budget deadline 13 times in the last 20 years, but this was only the second time in Hubler's 10 years working for the school that Cal Grants disbursements were delayed.

CSU budget escapes cuts, retains raises

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The California State University system was officially spared from funding cuts on Friday when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the 2007-08 state budget, preserving the state‘s funding compact with the 23-campus system.

“The CSU is still fully funded,” said Paul Browning, the media relations specialist for CSU. “Nothing has changed. Although, because of a 2.5 percent increase in student enrollment, the need for more funding than we currently have still needs to be addressed.”

The decision puts California Faculty Association members at ease following a period of concern. It was learned in July that a 1 percent cut from the CSU-CFA “Compact” funding was part of a plan to resolve the state budget impasse. That cut may have re-opened contract negotiations between the CSU and CFA, which had lasted for two years and nearly culminated into a strike before ending in May.

“We almost fell off our chairs when we heard they might not honor our contract,” said Alice Sunshine, CFA communications director. “We are already behind in money we need, and the idea that we might have to re-open bargaining was daunting.”

The cut would have meant a $28 million loss for Cal State‘s general fund, which would have undermined the compact’s guarantee and renewed the possibility of a CFA strike, the faculty union said.

“It would be as though these contracts were never enacted and undo what has been resolved in the recent contract fight,” CFA president Lillian Taiz said. The CFA represents about 23,000 faculty members on the system’s 23 campuses.

Taiz said the CSU is particularly vulnerable to budget cuts every year.

"We sit at a part of the state budget that has no certainty at all," she said. "Along with welfare and the prison system, we are what is called the 'discretionary' section of the pie."

The funding compact was enacted in 2004 and is contingent on each year’s state budget. It is effective until 2010 and provides a 4 percent increase in base funding, largely to pay the costs of instructing students and faculty salary. Taiz said the compact locks the CSU into a certain amount of money, but it does not guarantee that the university system will receive it each year.

"It's more like a handshake than a signature," she said. "It's a promise, but one that can be easily broken."

Taiz credited union members with putting pressure on lawmakers to secure CSU funding. The university-union salary deal — just one part of the state budget — was sealed in July one day after CFA activists flooded the phone lines of state representatives.
Since the budget was signed only after 52 days of delay, faculty the payraises the CFA worked to ensure will not be until September.

Lawmaker support for higher education was strong during the budget impasse. Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi reacted sharply to the proposal to slash the CSU compact and said in a statement that cutting funding from the already stressed budget was “tantamount to a farmer eating — instead of planting — his seed corn.”

Over the next few weeks, the CFA Board of Directors and the CSU Board of Trustees will meet to discuss the 2009 budget before beginning bargaining with state legislators.

“We dodged the bullet, at least this year,” said George Diehr, who is a professor at CSU San Marcos and was the CFA Developing and Bargaining Strategy Director at the time of the contract negotiations in spring. “Now we need to focus on getting more funding and ensuring that the administration is using that money on overarching areas, like enrollment increases and salaries.”

Corrigan hushes union

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Faculty union members on campus expressed frustration and disappointment Monday after they were excluded from speaking at what they called the largest faculty meeting of the year.

For the third year in a row, the California Faculty Association was not asked to present at SF State’s Convocation, an annual meeting to which all faculty are invited. This year’s meeting included an address from SF State President Robert Corrigan covering several topics important to SF State, the presentation of three faculty awards and a presentation from each of the College Deans.

Corrigan vetoed a unanimous vote from the Academic Senate Executive Committee, which organizes the event jointly with the President’s office, according to Senate Chair James Kohn.

The denied vote was to request an invitation for CFA to present at the Convocation, which is designed for the faculty to meet new colleagues and share campus news, according to Kohn, who said he was “greatly disappointed” with the decision to exclude the CFA.

“I really think that for the benefit of the students, faculty, and administration we all have to speak together in one voice, especially at a time when we’re asking state legislature for help,” said Kohn. “But I respect Dr. Corrigan; he has every right to make the choice he made, and he has reasons for making it. I hope he’ll share them with us.”

Union officials said they were unsure of Corrigan’s reasoning, and had hoped to use the event to reach the whole faculty at once.

“We had important information for all the faculty about the new contract we were hoping to present, and this was the best opportunity to do it,” said local chapter CFA President Ramon Castellblanc. “We told (Corrigan) we didn’t want to attack anybody or point any fingers: we just wanted to inform the faculty about their new contract.”

Castellblanc said that in a recent meeting between Corrigan, a university lawyer and himself, he’d been unsure of the president’s explanation for his reasoning.

“He seemed to be arguing that what we had to say wasn’t germane to the purpose of the Convocation, but I couldn’t tell for sure,” Castellblanc said.

Corrigan was traveling and unavailable for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday according to his office staff, but SF State Public Affairs Director Ellen Griffin said that CFA is not a partner in organizing the event and therefore didn’t belong on the program.

“(CFA is) not a partner in joint governance,” she said. “They represent the faculty in bargaining.” She stressed that agenda decisions need to be agreed upon by both the president’s office and the Academic Senate, and that Corrigan’s disagreement with the senate committee was not a content based decision.

Corrigan had strong words for the union’s recent history with the California State University system in his speech to the Convocation in McKenna Theater.

He called contract negotiations between CFA and the university administration, which wrapped in April, “the most disputatious bargaining I’ve seen in a lifetime in union atmospheres.”

He went on to say, “Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot. . . we made it easy for legislature to deny us funding we desperately needed.”

Earlier this year, two years of CFA/CSU negotiations nearly broke down. Corrigan circulated an open letter to the union members statewide that criticized union leadership and encouraged faculty to accept the offer then on the table from the university. Instead, the CFA members voted for the first time ever in favor of authorizing a strike; with hours to go before the first strike was scheduled to begin, an agreement meeting nearly all CFA’s major demands was finally reached.

Unable to inform local faculty about the practical details of that agreement at the Convocation, the local CFA chapter held a meeting in Rosa Parks Hall on Monday afternoon. Castellblanc explained to about 50 attendees that they should expect their paychecks to go up on October 1, rather than the previously expected September 1 date.

Even though Corrigan himself made this year’s decision, the two previous omissions of the CFA from the program were not attributed to the SF State President, according to Mitch Turitz, former president of the local CFA.

Last year’s Convocation included a silent protest from the CFA in response to their denied presentation. In a letter to Xpress last year, Mitch Turitz, then president of the CFA, addressed the demonstration by saying the “CFA protest was not specifically against President Corrigan, as I do not believe he was directly responsible for the decision to exclude CFA from the Convocation.”

This year, however, the local CFA decided against a protest. The union had begun working together with Corrigan recently and “Many of us didn’t want to ratchet up the pressure,” according Jeff Rosen, vice-president of the local CFA.

By way of example, Castellblanc said that when the CSU budget was at risk in recent California state budget negotiations, Corrigan “sent me an email saying ‘we need CFA support to defend the CSU budget.’ And I’m glad he did. We were happy to help.”

Griffin told Xpress that Corrigan “looks forward to a collegial relationship between CFA and the administration, ensuring the faculty are supported in reaching their educational and research goals.”

Despite characterizing their absence from the program as a slap in the face, Rosen expressed a similar hope.

“We wanted the president to see that we’re trying to put the rancorous relations of the last couple years behind us,” Rosen said.

Convocation highlights

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President Corrigan’s address to the Convocation covered several topics relevant to the SF State campus. Highlighted subjects from the speech include:

New salary schedules based on April’s final contract with the California Faculty Association and resolutions on the part of SF State are beginning to kick in. Within three years, threshold salaries will increase by $10,000, setting those thresholds for assistant, associate and full professors to $70,000, $80,000 and $95,000, respectively. Where we have only 85 faculty members making over $100,000 now, in three years there will be 338 of them. The audience remained quiet while Corrigan went over the details.

The Children’s Campus at SF State is a new plan to build a childcare and education center for use by faculty and students. The center would also provide internship opportunities for students of teaching, nursing, child development, psychology, and social work. More information is at childrenscampus.sfsu.edu. When Corrigan announced this project, the crowd shouted their applause, to which Corrigan replied, “I love it – salaries you take sort of in passing, but kids, you love.”

The campus Master Plan continues along. Corrigan mentioned library expansion, building new bicycle paths, and building a Health & Wellness Center which he said “makes us a working laboratory for sustainable living.”

Continuing to examine emergency preparedness in light of April’s massacre at Virginia Tech, Corrigan said the task force had a plan for expanded means of communication with students and faculty in the event of campus danger. A plan for students will take advantage of cell phones and text messaging. A plan more focused on faculty involves an emergency preparedness website; more information is at www.sfsu.edu/~dps/emergency

Corrigan said the school’s “relationship with the city’s administrators is the best it’s been in 50 years.”

The dean of each college was assigned a development fund raising goal for last year, and every one of them met or exceeded those figures, Corrigan said. The school has begun focusing more on “broadbased giving,” resulting in a 300 percent increase in the number of donors and a 70 percent increase in the total money given.

Born-agains back again

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A campus sight familiar to longtime SF State students resurfaced Tuesday afternoon when born-again Christians began shouting at students on the quad, calling them sinners and brandishing a tall sign proclaiming God’s judgment of fornicators, drunks and homosexuals.

The small group of evangelists stood yelling at the edge of the grass while various students sitting nearby responded by glancing over and laughing, turning away, lying down for naps or getting up and joining the confrontation.

“This ticks me off,” said Martin Rofael, 18, a student member of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at SF State who stood between the evangelists and the angry members of their audience and asked the crowd to ignore this idea of Christianity.

“They say they’re about turning to Jesus, and that’s the best choice you can make – as much as I agree with that, this isn’t the way,” said Rofael. “God loves a lot more than he judges. God died for us – that’s the ultimate show of love. All these guys are preaching is hate.”

At least two campus police officers stood near the scene, observing as a crowd of about 30 students eventually gathered to shout right back at the evangelists.

“The crowd was twice as big last year,” said Jacob Rule, 19, a mathematics major. “He’s just preaching God’s hate. It just pisses people off.”

One of the demonstrators said that was part of the point.

“We call this confrontational evangelism,” said Ken Farrer, 48, who held up the sign and did much of the shouting. “We don’t have enough time for friendship evangelism... People are offended, but that means they have to respond. They have to think about this.”

Some passersby disagreed.

“He’s been here before; it’s nothing new,” said Jenna Soiseth, 22, a business management major. “If anything, people get a little more angry. It’s not like he helps. Honestly, this just makes me embarrassed for him.”

Farrer expressed no embarrassment and smiled while students swore and shouted at him, flipped their middle fingers up to him as they walked by, and engaged him with vociferous and hostile debate. He said their anger was part of what brings him to the campus.

“You know how to get rid of a street preacher, every time? Ignore him,” Farrer said. “You know who’s best at that? Stanford. Everybody here gets mad at us – look at that crowd – but we go to Stanford and I can only get three or four people worked up all day.”

RIAA targets students for illegal file-sharing

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The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent pre-litigation settlement letters to 12 SF State students. While the RIAA has sent warning notices to the university in the past, the letters sent on July 18 marked the first time SF State has received pre-litigation letters, which allows students to avert a lawsuit for illegal file-sharing and copyright infringement, according to a RIAA press release.

The RIAA and university administrators would not release the names of the 12 students because of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regulations.

The RIAA pre-litigation letters are part of a deterrence program for college campuses launched in Feb. 2007. Students have 20 days to respond to the pre-litigation letters, but the RIAA extended the period to 40 days for letters sent in the summer. The company does not publicly disclose their settlement rates.

“The earlier on in the process that an individual settles, the lesser amount the proposed settlement will be and they can avoid a public mark on their record,” said a spokesperson from the RIAA. “If the student chooses not to settle, then we’ll go ahead with filing a lawsuit against the student.”

RIAA pre-litigation letters are commonly used to publicize and “scare people,” said James Wagstaffe, a San Francisco attorney and SF State professor who specializes in First Amendment and media law. Wagstaffe has represented a high school student that was sent a similar letter from the RIAA. In most cases, students will reach a settlement.

“The overall strategy for them is to have enough suits to make everyone afraid,” Wagstaffe said. “You don’t go to trial in these suits because, unfortunately, you don't have a very good defense. When you’re caught speeding and you say everyone else is speeding, it’s not a very good defense.”

Wagstaffe said the pre-litigation letters are also a warning to university administrators.

“[The RIAA] also do this to scare the university,” he said. “Students then receive notices from schools telling them to not download on the university’s Wi-Fi.”

The letters were sent to the Department of Information Technology, and then forwarded to the students via Residential Services, said Jo Volkert, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Planning and Management. Volkert said the incidents occurred in student housing.

While other universities block the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs, SF State’s university housing Internet network, Resnet, have no plans to block programs such as Kazaa and Limewire, said Philippe Cumia, Associate Director of Residential Administrative Services.

“The programs have legal uses as well as illegal,” Cumia said in an email to [X]press, adding that “Residential Services is taking no actions other than notifying the students in writing about the RIAA letters.”

However, the Department of Information Technology (DOIT) is discussing the possibility of blocking P2P file-sharing software from the network in the future, according to Volkert.

David Middleton, a lab coordinator in DOIT, said other problems arise from the use of P2P file-sharing programs.

“At the help desk, a lot of folks come in with illegally downloaded music and they want to get their computers fixed,” said Middleton. “These programs are usually the cause of the problem,”

Middleton said the network also gets overloaded from the downloading of music and video, which causes the network to slow down, eliciting student complaints.

“It’s a copyright issue whether it’s music or video or plagiarism,” said Middleton. “Copyright has always been a problem at universities.”

While the RIAA sends out new letters monthly, music artists have commonly offered some of their songs for free, according to Greg Gaston, the program director of the music/recording industry program at SF State’s Center of Extended Learning. The center offers a course about how to retain the money and rights to songs.

“The recording industry is asserting that people in their 30s are not buying CDs,” Gaston said. “The trend is to give music away for free and put it on MySpace and then make your money through touring and t-shirts. I’m not sure what kind of luck [the RIAA] will have suing students for money. Most students are really savvy and have been finding free music for years.”

Volkert said when this has occurred in the past, the university would reprimand residential students that have received warning letters from the RIAA by immediately disconnecting the student’s internet access.

“It’s under discussion whether the penalties will increase,” she said. “[Students] are contacted and warned that we have received this letter, and then we reinstate their internet. If it’s the second incident, it’s referred to judicial affairs.”

Philosophy major Erendira Vallejo, 24, is in opposition to the RIAA’s position on P2P sharing.

“I don’t think [the RIAA] should take legal action,” Vallejo said. “I can see it if people are selling [music files] and making a profit, but if they’re sharing it, it shouldn’t be a legal issue. Record companies can’t tell us what to do once we buy the music.”

Most recently in August, the RIAA sent another batch of letters to 58 college campuses. SF State was not among the campuses listed. Since February, the RIAA has sent 2,926 pre-litigation letters and reached 1,000 settlement agreements, an RIAA spokesperson said.

Students may pay their settlement by going to www.p2plawsuits.com. They can then enter their case identification number and pay via credit card.

SF State welcomes freshmen

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The incoming freshman class was welcomed into the college community at SF State’s first annual Welcome Days on August 23 and 24.

Festivities included inspirational speeches by administrators and staff, educational skits, mini-classes, workshops and a social mixer game.

“When students feel isolated and lonely, they create prejudices,” said Stephanie Tait, who is part of Playfair, a teamwork seminar company at the event.

Tait said she led an estimated 1,000 students in a mixer game on Thursday with the goal of interrupting the student’s feelings of anxiety and fear.

Students are more likely to make judgments based on race, gender and sexual orientation when they are entering a new environment, said Tait. The exercise involved helping students to say to each other, “We’re more the same than different, I’m not going to judge you, I know you.”

Freshmen Laci Kringen and Linda Gorostieta, both of Santa Cruz, were giggling as they zigzagged around the quad in a human train, and stopped on Tait’s command to share embarrassing personal information with their new classmates.

Kringen and Gorostieta said they had a good time, but the whole thing was kind of weird.

In McKenna Theater, campus administrators and staff used statistics, skits, and short speeches to entertain and inform students on the campus resources concerning safety and wellness.

After a skit about students drinking in dorms, University Housing and Residential Services Director David Rourke stated that of 5000 students polled, 42 percent had not drank in the last four months, and of the others that had, most were not binge drinking.

“Getting wasted is not the norm,” said Rourke. “I’m not going to control your behavior, but I’ll hold you accountable.”

Student Health Center Director Kamal Harb used the topic of sex as a carrot-on-a-stick, dangling in front of student’s libidos and keeping them from leaving the theater.

After a skit on STDs, he informed students that, “condoms, in bags, are available at the student health center.”

SF State Alumnus and Director of the San Francisco Food Bank, Paul Ash, encouraged students to take on internships and volunteer. He said students help with all levels of his non-profit organization, from business to computers and inventory.

“When you graduate, you will be wanted, but it is important to have social participation on your resume (and to) donate time to a nonprofit organization,” said Ash.

While some students attended workshops and lectures, others, like
Freshman Grace Sullivan spent most of her day socializing in the dorms with students. She said she looked forward to the workshops on healthy eating and dealing with stress.

"I'm hoping that I can get out on my own and create a home away from here," Sullivan said.

Sullivan sat with her parents, John and Mary Ellen Sullivan, outside the residence halls as the evening wound down. She is the last of nine children that the Sullivans’ have sent to college.

“I believe the campus is a new home for Grace,” said John Sullivan.

“She didn’t know what to expect, but it’s a great place where she can come to blossom,” said John Sullivan.

Joey Greenwell, Director of the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development, and the event's organizer said the goal is to give students resources and information so they may succeed academically.

“It's truly a university-wide event. The entire university has backed us up and put in a fine effort throughout the campus. It's been an opportunity for the university to come together," said Greenwell.

Paying cheaters may pay price

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SF State has barred six students from enrolling in classes and rescinded acceptance to another two after the university learned the students paid to have their transcripts falsified while attending Diablo Valley College, the Admissions Office said last Thursday.

The eight students — with only one identified by authorities — have been accused of paying hourly employees in the DVC Admissions and Records Office in Pleasant Hill to make the changes; an operation that ran from 2000 until January 2006 when a professor at the school uncovered the plot and alerted administrators, according to a complaint filed by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office on July 20.

According to Jo Volkert, the executive director of Admissions at SF State, five students used falsified transcripts to gain acceptance and take classes at SF State. Two students, who applied for the fall 2007 semester, had their acceptance rescinded and another student, who attended SF State prior to DVC will not be allowed to return, she said. The punishments were handed out by an executive order from the CSU Chancellor's Office.

Volkert received corrected transcripts from DVC and called the crimes "disturbing."

"The part that strikes me on a personal level the most and is disheartening to think of is the lengths students would go (to falsify grades)," she said.

Christopher MacAtulad, who paid more than $4,000 to change 15 grades, is the only SF State student prosecutors have identified. Volkert would not disclose the other identities of the alleged, but did ensure that the individuals have received a letter explaining that they will not be accepted to or cannot enroll at the university now or in the future.

The destinations of the transfer students were limited to the ones DVC sent to the District Attorney's Office and Dodie Katague, the deputy district attorney of the high tech crimes division, said his department is not concerned about which school students transferred to but what crimes they committed. Diablo Valley refused to release information on where students, who weren't already noted, transferred to.

MacAtulad, who is out of jail on bond, has been charged with one felony to conspire count, and is facing arraignment on Sept. 17 at the Contra Costa County Superior Courthouse in Martinez. MacAtulad could not be reached and did not respond to e-mails.

Attorneys representing twelve of the accused, who have already been arraigned, met at the Martinez Courthouse Tuesday to discuss a schedule for preliminary hearings. At the meeting, no dates were set and Katague said he suspects there will be dispositions with much of the alleged pleading guilty to their charges on the next set date, Oct. 10.

Prosecutors said MacAtulad used his falsified transcript to transfer to SF State in the fall of 2006 after taking out more than $4,000 in credit card cash advances to pay for 15 grade changes. In all, 34 students have been charged in the case. Alleged ringleader Julian Revilleza, who was an hourly student employee at DVC, is facing 23 felony counts and could serve up to 70 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

According to the complaint, MacAtulad met with DVC student employee Francis Antonio, who prosecutors say "knowingly and unlawfully" accessed a computer to alter grades, several times between June 2005 and January 2006.

At the meetings, according to documents, MacAtulad gave Antonio his student ID number and a list of grade change requests. Antonio then forwarded the information to Revilleza who accessed the computer system and made changes. Revilleza changed eight of MacAtulad's Fs to six Bs and two Cs. He also changed four Ws (withdrawals) to one A and three Bs, prosecutors said. Two of the Fs, in two different psychology classes taken in the fall of 2001, were changed to Bs in September of 2005. In the fall of 2005, MacAtulad's altered transcript showed he took seven classes and received four Bs, two Cs and an A. Those grades had been changed from three Fs and four Ws, according to prosecutors.

DVC is the second biggest feeder community college to SFSU behind City College of San Francisco. The Pleasant Hill school sent 334 students to the university after the spring of 2006, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission's report on transfer pathways. According to CPEC, DVC accounted for 8 percent of SFSU's total number of transfer students after the 2005-06 school year. DVC has sent an average of about 280 a year to SFSU for the last 15 years, CPEC's numbers showed.

Documents show that alleged ringleaders met with customers in places like Sears and 24-Hour Fitness and that students handed over hundreds of dollars in white envelopes to pay for the changes.

The three-college Contra Costa Community College District uses the computer system Datatel to input and change grades. Before the alleged crimes, as many as 80 employees throughout the district had the authority to change grades, according to Diane Scott-Summers, Vice President of Student Services and former Interim President. She said that number has now been reduced to around 10 and the district is determining if it should be further lowered. Scott-Summer served during the time the plot unfolded and said the situation was "very difficult" and "very shocking."

"These employees were in trusted positions and other people in the unit trusted them," she said. "When some people are wanting to do wrong they can find a way to do (it)."

Volkert said SF State is not doing any of its own investigating to see if other transfer students are also involved. She said she is "confident" in DVC's internal audit and said the university will not act unless more students are accused of being involved.

"I'm not 100 percent sure that more students will come to light," Volkert said. She said similar consequences would be used if more students from SF State were charged in the case.

In her more than 30 years in admissions Volkert said this type of problem hasn't been an issue at SF State. Without giving an exact count, she said and that "not a very big number" of staff in the Registrar's Office have access to make alterations to grades. Even so, the department is now looking to tighten itself up to identify any possible changes that should be made to SF State's current policy, she said. The university's system, SIMS, has a grade audit program that is run periodically.

"As always," Volkert said, "(this is) a wake up call to look once again at your own system and see if there are any loopholes to tighten.

SF State Student health care under one roof

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Student Health Services staff members greeted incoming freshmen and their parents during Welcome Days, SF State’s first annual two-day orientation, and informed them of the variety of on-campus medical services offered to students.

From behind a table covered with brochures outside the Health Services Center, Barbara Salge, the program’s insurance coordinator, jests with a new student and her mother.

“Who’s the student here?” said Salge as a joke she likes to break the ice with. But mainly she is there to answer a question that lingers in parents’ minds as they send their ambitious young offspring off to their formative college voyage: “What happens if my child gets sick?”

She is approached by freshman Austin Granda’s mother, Elsie, wants to know precisely what is available if he runs a fever or has a stomachache.

Salge explains that Student Health Services has a staff of 60 that leaves it well-prepared to deal with such ailing. There are 10 physicians but also skilled nurses, lab technicians, educators and administrative workers.

The center, Salge said, has an urgent care facility and most of its services, such as doctor’s appointments, X-rays and lab work are included in the $103 health fee students pay during registration. Additionally, there is a full pharmacy to fill prescriptions.

Granda, who is worried about the portability of her son’s current medical coverage, said she feels put at ease.

“It seems like everyone is on the same page, watching out for our kid,” she said.
Salge is doing her part to spread the word to new students and provide some piece of mind for some weary parents.

“It’s important to inform freshmen what we have here and that it’s very comprehensive,” she says. “And Welcome Days gives us the chance to educate and comfort parents.”

The health center itself is a therapeutic environment with a plush garden that sits at the building’s core and lets in plenty of natural light. Located below ground across from Burk Hall and the Psychology Building, it has all the appeal of a high-end private practice complete with a computerized touch-screen check-in system.

The center even has a psychiatrist on staff to help students cope with stressful times of student life and deal with mental health.

Unfortunately, while many students know of the services provided, the center’s Health Educator Albert Angelo says that most students do not use it enough.

“We would like more students to take advantage of what we offer,” he said.

In an effort to raise awareness for the center’s resources, Angelo says that Student Health Services will hold 50 educational workshops throughout the fall semester. The workshops, which cover topics such as stress management, smoking cessation, and dealing with breakups, are offered in cooperation with faculty and give extra credit as incentive for students to attend.

“The stress and breakup classes were really useful,” says senior Health Education major, Zabrina Olivares. “They helped normalize my feelings and I realized that I wasn’t crazy.”

While Olivares admitted to attending the workshops because her instructor made them mandatory, she said that both the classes and services at the health center have met many of her needs.

According to Angelo, the center will continue to offer its popular Family PACT program. Offering an array of reproductive health services, including free birth control, the government-funded programs made a splash among students when it debuted last year.

“It was a big success,” he said. “They loved the free services.”

At a glance: news briefs

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Bay Bridge closed for Labor Day Weekend

The Bay Bridge will shut down in both east and west bound directions for the Labor Weekend beginning 8 p.m. Friday August 31 until 5 a.m. Tuesday September 4. This closure is a part of the Bay Bridge Seismic Retrofit Project, and Caltrans will be doing seismic safety work on an area of the bridge east of the Yerba Buena Island Tunnel. 511.org is urging commuters to use public transportation for their commutes across the bay.

Treasure Island residents, visitors and employees will be given access to the bridge by a special permit. For a comprehensive list of ways to avoid traffic bottlenecks visit 511.org for traffic information.

Opening this weekend

“Faust-A Shadow Pact”, based on the works of Marlowe and Goethe. Adapted and directed by Cecilia Palmtag, Playing August 30 through September 2 at the Studio Theatre, in the SF State Creative Arts building. Performances start at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. performance on Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, e-mail faust.sfsu@gmail.com.

Legal remedy for future law students

Although SF State has no pre-law program, it does have students interested in going to law school, and assistance in the lengthy and confusing application process was sorely needed. This semester, law school bound students will have the opportunity to get help with LSAT, applications, personal statements and research databases with the newly revamped Pre-Law Society’s club. Once at the risk of being lumped together with the Political Science Students Association, the new PLS board addressed the need for a specialized weekly workshop dedicated to helping students get into law school.

“We want students to have help on the things we didn’t when we were going through the process,” said board member Stephanie Zimmerman.

The club meets on Mondays in HSS 268 from 2:30-3:30, directly after the Political Science Students Association.

Dorm Residents Choose Their Roommates

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Two nights into the Fall semester, Talia Jacobson lay on her bed in one of the 15 X 12 rooms of Mary Ward Hall. It was around 2 a.m. She was reading from a compilation of dorm horror stories called "The Naked Roommate". Suddenly, the door opened and Jacobson’s roommate stumbled in very drunk and flopped onto the other bed.

“I thought she was sleeping, but then I heard her gagging,” said Jacobson, 19. When she got up to check on her roommate, she found her facedown in vomit on the elevated bunk.

“She was like choking, you know,” said Jacobson. “I didn’t know what to do. Do I tell the R.A.? Do I tell somebody? I didn’t know anyone.” The roommate was passed out and Jacobson couldn’t wake her.

“There was vomit all over the room that she didn’t clean up.”

That incident was almost exactly a year ago, but the craziness didn’t stop until the semester was over.

“Once she came home on a bad acid trip and kept me up until 6 or 7, thinking I was a man,” remembered Jacobson with a wince.

This year SF State is implementing a new option to reduce conflict in the dorms and improve rapport among students living on campus, hopefully rendering experiences like Jacobson’s extinct. Applicants for rooms in the residence halls had a selection of roommates to choose from weeks before they moved in. All they had to do was find them online, using networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace.

“The objective is to have a bond formed before they arrive at school, to make sure that the social bond is there,” said Phillipe Cumia, Associative Director of University Housing Administrative Services.

Dorm applicants finding their future roommates online and rejecting them without even speaking with them was a major problem, said Cumia.

“By looking at a Myspace page, you’re not going to know 100 percent what the person is like,” he said.

What’s different now, by providing contact information, the housing office encourages the applicants to communicate with each other before moving in. The housing office has received fewer complaints of bad roommates than previous years, said Cumia.

Andrew LaVallee, an incoming freshman from Fairfield, was contacted by Josh Zubia, another incoming freshman. They shared similar affinities for athletics and decided to move in together.

“We both knew what we were going to do, so it worked out,” said LaVallee, 18.

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