November 2007 Archives

Californians concerned by cost of school

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While politicians at the state Capitol study the state budget and decide how much to allocate to the California State University system, a recent survey of Californians shows that their esteem for higher education is only equal to their worry of how to afford school.

On Nov. 14, the CSU Board of Trustees signed off on its request for funding from the state for the 2008-09 school year. In contrast to past years, it included a request for an additional $73.2 million that would eliminate the need to raise student fees another 10 percent.

Now, the California Department of Finance and the governor's office must take into account every state agency's request for funding, weigh in a large projected deficit for 2008, and have a budget ready for legislators on Jan. 10.

That will give the parties time to mull a report by the Public Policy Institute of California, issued on Oct. 31, that while 92 percent of Californians think that getting a higher education was "money and time well spent", over half (56 percent) think that getting a college education is more difficult than it was 10 years ago.

"Our state's public universities promised California a high quality and affordable education," said Assembly member Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada) in an e-mail statement. "Unfortunately, we are putting that promise in jeopardy."

As Chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, Portantino is in an influential position to help fully fund the CSU budget, which also includes an $155.2 million request above what normal funding to pay for an increase in employee pay, increasing the number of tenure track faculty, various student services initiatives and for research in scientific areas.

For PPIC, the goal of the survey—the non-partisan group's first on higher education—is to start a "discussion" about how California values education.

"The hope is that, with this report, different lawmakers would be able to talk about what the public expressed concern in," PPIC Survey Project Manager Jennifer Paluch said. "It could help shape the debate."

Over the next two months, the state will be meeting with CSU officials over the budget request. Representatives from both sides, including CSU trustee Melinda Guzman, will also be in attendance when the survey results are presented to the California Postsecondary Education Commission on the Dec. 4.

"We'll have negotiations," CSU spokesman Paul Browning said. "Our people are there working and they are working with legislators. They'll push. They push the entire budget."

The most telling sign of the public's concern came from a general question about what major issues are facing California's public school today—35 percent said it was student costs, affordability and tuition.

"It was really a surprising choice," Paluch said, "because when we ask [that type of question in other surveys] we don't have anywhere close to that percentage agree on one issue."

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi has been getting increasingly involved in higher education, widely criticizing CSU top executives for giving themselves as much as 18 percent in raises last month, all the while mulling another fee increase.

"We have seen a dramatic shift in our state's priorities over the past decade, reducing state funding for higher education and balancing the state's budget on the backs of our student," he said in a press release.

As an ex-officio CSU boardmember, Garamendi proposed unveiled a resolution at the trustees' meeting in Long Beach this month to cap student fees at current levels, with future increases limited to the rate of inflation. It will be voted on in January.

In the past five years, CSU fees have risen from $1,428 to $2,772 for undergraduate students and have more than double for graduate students, Garamendi said.

Evident in the survey was an expectation, across racial, ethnic and regional demographics groups, that today's children are expected to earn college degrees and even go beyond undergraduate studies.

"A college degree is like the high school diploma was 30 years ago. You have to have one to compete in this job market," said California Faculty Association vice president Kim Geron, arguing for more state support of public colleges. "Why does public school end at K-12? Why not K-16?"

In the survey, Californians overwhelmingly favored more government funding to work-study programs, student loans, scholarships and to keep tuition and fee costs low.

But this comes at a time when legislative analysts are expecting a $10 billion deficit for 2008 and Schwarzenegger is calling for state agencies to cut their budgets by 10 percent, not raise them.

"I would like to see both systems [CSU and UC] better utilize limited dollars," Portantino wrote in an e-mail. He criticized them for increasing executive compensations and "taking important focus away from our children."

When asked where increases in state funding for higher education should come from, those surveyed favored raising income tax for the wealthiest but vastly opposed raising sales taxes. The PPIC's Paluch called this a "disconnect."

"In this case we find that Californians are not as inclined to say that everybody should have to pay," she said.

SF State Masterplan approved for funding

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SF State’s Master Plan to increase enrollment and renovate buildings was approved by the California State University Board of Trustees Nov.13 at its meeting in Long Beach.

Now that the Master Plan has been approved, SF State can go forward with detail planning, said David Rosso, the chief of land use planning at the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

According to Rosso, SF State does not need more approval on the plan itself except regarding individual buildings as they come up for renovation.

“It allows us to plan for the projects outlined in the plan,” said Ellen Griffin, SF State spokesperson. “We can request funding.”

In addition to calling to increase enrollment by 25,000 by 2020, the plan also involves adding new buildings, including a new Creative Art complex, a new gym and a university conference center.

To pay for the project, funding would come through the California State Legislature, bonds, donations and income through rents. This revenue would pay for the bonds.

Part of the Master Plan falls outside of the property that SF State owns. The school was interested in buying the former School of the Arts site at 700 Font Boulevard.

SF State bid on the property last year, but below the price desired by the San Francisco Unified School District, who own the property. The Riding Group bought the property for $20.1 million last week on a two-year contingency basis, meaning they can forfeit their deposit and the property will revert to SFUSD ownership. The $100,000 deposit The Riding Group had to immediately pay to secure the property will have grown incrementally to a non-refundable $1.25 million by then, according to Philip Smith, Director of Real Estate and Asset Management for the SFUSD.

If the property is sold, the school would look for alternative locations for the Clinical Science Building that was to be placed in that location, according to Griffin.

To view the SF State Master plan, go to or visit the campus library to view the final environmental impact report.

Students savor the international flavor

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The aroma of himbasha bread and samosas from Eritrea, the tang of honey biscuits from an ancient Roman recipe, and whiffs of Japanese curry drew hundreds of students to the tables of CultureFest in front of Malcolm X Plaza.

“I’m speechless. I want food,” Shareen Singh, 22, said. “I just had a La Raza tostada and I want some Japanese curry. This is too much fun, I love it.”

Singh, the president of the Indian Student Association (ISA), wore a bright blue and yellow saiwar kameez, a traditional Fijian Indian pants and top. From her ISA table, she joked with her neighbors at the Asian Student Union (ASU) table.

“The ASU and the ISU get along very well,” Singh said.

CultureFest was one event among many that celebrated different cultures during the eighth annual International Education Week (IEW), which began Nov. 13 and ran until Nov. 16.

IEW happens across the country at all grade levels. Teaching students about different cultures and encouraging them to study abroad prepares them to tackle global issues, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a statement.

More than 20 state governors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, the U.S. Secretary of Education and President Bush endorsed the IEW.

“International Education Week is an opportunity to raise awareness about cultures beyond our borders,” Bush said a statement released Oct. 31.

The IEW at SF State is a way to introduce students to the possibility of studying abroad, said David Wick, coordinator of the Study Abroad Services. Wick said he hoped students would get a positive glimpse of foreign cultures through such programs a World at a Glance: Country Culture Series, a string of question-answer sessions with locals of various countries.

“The presentations were useful,” said Sarah Chase, a 19-year-old journalism major who attended the Danish and Dutch culture shares. “All in all I did learn a lot, and now I’m excited to go fill out an application and pray that I’m accepted.”

By the numbers, it seems SF State students hardly need encouragement to study abroad. According to Wick, SF State is second in the nation for sending students on year-long study abroad programs. Wick said he expects SF State will reach first by next year. Every semester about 250 SF State students leave for study abroad programs, he said.

A report on the Institute of International Education Web site indicates SF State was behind only New York’s Touro College in the 2005-2006 academic year for sending Master’s students abroad, with 177 and 345 students enrolled in each school’s respective program.

The IEW is also a way to help foreign students share their culture with Americans. Across the path from Singh, Yuka Tachiri, 19, stood with the Japanese Student Association, serving curry vegetables and rice to passers-by. He’s been living in the U.S. and studying at SF State for one year.

“The American people are very kind and very open,” said Tachiri, a computer engineering major. “We are welcomed by them.”

For the third year in a row, SF State has hosted the most international students of any master's degree-granting institution in the country. This semester 2,496 international students are attending SF State.

SF State has a long history with international education. The university established an international program in 1938, nearly 20 years before President Dwight D. Eisenhower instituted the national study abroad program called Friend to Friend.

Today, SF State offers exchange programs for nearly every major to more than 30 countries.

There are ongoing study abroad information meetings Monday through Thursday in the Office of International Programs in the Administration Building.

Overall, Wick said the cultural events and the informative events of the IEW were a success.

"To see that much happening was really inspiring," said Wick, "It helped with exposure."

Diplomats share hardships on the job

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The nation’s eighth annual International Education Week (IEW), held Nov. 13-16, was celebrated at SF State with presentations by career diplomats, workshops on immigration law, and cultural exhibitions from nations around the globe.

Campus events were orchestrated by the Office of International Programs, which runs the school’s study abroad programs.

“We’ve been coming out here for several years,” said immigration attorney Clark Trevor. He and Bill May, another lawyer specializing in immigration law, spoke with about 40 students about obtaining student visas, worker visas, and permanent residency in the U.S.

“Basically what we do is help employers and foreign students find each other.”

The process of obtaining an H-1B visa, which allows a foreign national to stay in the U.S. to work, is rife with deadlines, special conditions based on nation of origin and yearly changes in the kinds of work in high demand.

IEW was initiated by the federal Departments of State and Education in 2000 to highlight international education and awareness efforts. SF State, which has a nationally recognized study abroad program, has used the national event to broaden Gators’ knowledge of the world and provide practical advice to international students.

Hanna Sjostedt, a senior in the BECA program, said she was glad she attended the presentation. Originally from Sweden, the 29-year-old student has been in the U.S. for almost five years.

“I have, like, a basic plan," said Sjostedt. "I knew I’d have to get an OPT [Option Practical Training, an extension of a student visa] but I didn’t know how I’d go about it. This was very helpful.”

For U.S.-born students interested in an international career, a panel of professional diplomats based in San Francisco shared their experiences with students. Consulates from eight countries participated, including Canada, Egypt, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, and the Philippines.

In a nod to the U.S.’ problematic international relations surrounding the Iraq war, several diplomats stressed that, whatever political disagreements might exist between nations, their citizens can still view each other favorably.

“We don’t have a problem with the American people,” said Egyptian diplomat Attiya Shakran.

Most of the discussion, however, focused on diplomacy as a career choice.

“Being a career diplomat is not the easiest thing in the world,” said Greek representative Polyxenia Stefanidou. “Many of my colleagues internationally are divorced. You make many sacrifices for this job.”

Individuals who serve in their country’s foreign service as consular diplomats work to maintain good relations internationally and to help compatriots in a foreign land.

Émer Deane, consul-general from Ireland, said much of her duties consist of helping Irish people in San Francisco obtain passports and visas, and filing citizenship applications. Diplomats also lobby to increase investment and immigration.

Antonio Morales, of the Philipines consulate, said that consular work is “not just glamour, it’s also about doing social work.”

The process of becoming a diplomat varies from country to country, but all nations require applicants to pass a test. The panelists said that no specific course of study is necessary, but an interest in international relations is vital.

“You don’t have to have a graduate degree to be a diplomat,” Stefanidou said.

Deane added that education isn’t the problem.

“The hard bit is finding out if you yourself are suited to the career,” she said. “When you’re a diplomat it’s very much about you as a person.”

Katria Melzer, an exchange student from Germany who is considering working in diplomacy, said it was interesting to hear the diplomats’ views on the difficulties of the job.

“I know a little bit about it already,” said the 23-year-old grad student. “It’s very important to me to have a work-life balance.”

Students can learn more about the Office of International Programs by calling (415) 338-1293 or visiting the Web site at

CFA pleased by budget request

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Though often criticized by the faculty union, the CSU Board of Trustees did fulfill its promise to ask the Governor for funds to increase the number of faculty on tenure-track at the Nov. 13 Long Beach meeting.

"We have been pushing this issue for years," said John Travis, Political Action/Legislative Chair of the California Faculty Association.

Back in 2002, the CFA had won passage of a resolution to fund hiring of more tenure track faculty, called ACR 73, in the State Assembly. Concerned over the CSU's increasing reliance on temporary faculty, the Legislature created an eight-year plan to have tenure-track faculty reach 75 percent of the teaching corps.

Up until now the resolution has been mostly ineffective because it has been vastly underfunded by the state legislature.

But the new contract won by faculty in May changes everything. It includes language that university officials and the union will "jointly request from the Legislature the amount of monies necessary to fully implement" ACR 73.

$42.9 million has been earmarked in the support budget request the CSU Board sent to the state on Nov.14.

"At this stage we are pleased that they've made this a priority as the contract requested," Travis said. "We are hoping that they are going to follow that up with an advocacy program."

The tenure status means faculty make more money, cannot be fired at will and are guaranteed to teach all their classes at one campus, instead of stretching across the Bay Area to teach.

Only tenured faculty can join personnel committees and hold governance jobs that are necessary in universities. Hiring more of them, Travis said, relieves the administrative workload of each one.

Students benefit by having faculty members that can not just teach but can advise them, by ensuring that these teachers will be back year after year, according to the CFA.

Students fight ever-mounting fee hikes

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Students fighting the rising cost of public higher education filed a ballot initiative with the state attorney general to freeze mandatory resident undergraduate fees in the California State University and University of California systems.

Students & Families for Tuition Relief Now filed papers for the College Affordability Act of 2008 on Nov. 14. The act would block fee increases for resident undergraduates for five years beginning in July 2009, and prevent future tuition hikes from exceeding the annual change in the cost of living. The act also mandates that California residents pay an additional 1 percent tax on every dollar over $1 million earned, which would provide a new source of revenue, said lead organizer Jeremy Bearer-Friend.

“There’s something wrong with funding for higher education,” said Valeria Fike-Rosales, a lead organizer of Students & Families for Tuition Relief Now. “We need to fund education, but we need to stop creating barriers on the access students have to higher education.”

The filing comes the same week the CSU Board of Trustees and UC Board of Regents voted to oppose Proposition 92, which would change the way money is allocated to state community colleges and lower fee caps from $20 to $15 per unit.

The state attorney general will review and return the documents in 45 days. Students will then have until mid-April to gather at least 400,000 signatures from registered California voters to qualify for the November 2008 ballot.

Greenlining Action provided the infrastructure for Students & Families for Tuition Relief Now. Greenlining Action’s mission is affordable higher education for all, and is a separate but related entity of the Greenlining Institute, which is a multiethnic public policy and advocacy organization based in Berkeley.

“What we do is we create language and submit it to the attorney general,” said Fike-Rosales, who is also a Greenlining Action staff member. “Students are the ones on the campuses and they’ll be the ones collecting the signatures. Greenlining Action helps provide a Web site and connect with students. It’s a lot of financial support we provide.”

The College Affordability Act of 2008 focuses only on undergraduate California residents because “the institution has a priority to serve the people of California,” Bearer-Friend said.

“It’s the children of California citizens who want to know that they can go to schools and the business owners that want to know they can count on an educated work force,” Bearer-Friend said. “The vision is that California parents should be able to know that they can afford a college education. Right now, they can’t trust that.”

Pre-nursing student Alfred Bautista, 19, said that the tuition hikes "make students think twice about wanting to go to a CSU."

"I have a lot of friends that want to go [to SF State], but they may go to a community college to save money," Bautista said. "For fees to increase, it makes me regret going to a CSU right away."

If the act is approved by voters, it would become statutory law – which is not legally binding to the UC Board of Regents, Bearer-Friend said. If the UC rejects the act, they will not receive any funding generated from the act, and the money will be passed on to the CSU.

“The UC is constitutionally autonomous, so that means unless there’s a constitutional amendment, you can’t pass laws the regents are bound to,” Bearer-Friend said. “But they have a strong interest in abiding by [the new act] because they would gain access to the revenue it generates.”

UC spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said that the ballot initiative may be reviewed by the Board of Regents.

“There’s nothing much I can say about that except that would be something that the University of California and the Regents would likely take a position on, but it’s just something that is brand new,” Vazquez said.

Students & Families for Tuition Relief Now met with CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and other executives to discuss the ballot initiative on Nov. 27.

“We always applaud the students for taking an active role and making sure fees stay affordable, but it’s tough because the CSU only has two sources of funding – the state and students,” said CSU Spokesman Paul Browning. “We’re going to ask for another $73 million to avoid increasing student fees. We’re worried. It’s kind of like a rock between a hard place.”

Yahoo! offers $25k for alumni signups

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Yahoo has offered $25,000 to the alumni association whose college has the most alumni members sign up for its new networking site by the end of the year.

Seeking to combine a social networking Web site like MySpace or Facebook with a professional networking site like LinkedIn, Yahoo began this month offering a preview of Yahoo Kickstart. The new Web site is intended to connect college students, alumni, and professionals, helping them to exchange job and internship information.

As of Tuesday evening, SF State had 47 alumni signed up, just two fewer than Harvard and more than twice as many as Yale. UC Berkeley had 251 sign-ups, and City College of San Francisco had only one.

“College students are about to go through a major life transition, finding their first job and career. For them, submitting resumes to job sites or companies seems like a black hole,” said Scott Gatz, Yahoo's senior director of advanced products.

“So, enter Kickstart. It’s based on the premise that everyone does have a network: the school you went to, the frat/sorority you were in, the professional/interest group you are in, the companies you interned or worked at. Kickstart makes it easy to create and browse that kind of network,” Gatz said.

Unlike other networking sites, users can log in with an existing Yahoo account, so their stored name and contact information in the Yahoo account can be transferred directly to their Kickstart account.

They then add their college information, affiliations, and companies they have worked for or are considering applying for. Their personal profile, which resembles a resume, includes their skills, languages, certifications, role models, and who they would like to meet. And of course, photographs.

When users click on their profiles, Kickstart also offers reminders and tips on areas that the users should consider beefing up to make their profiles more appealing to others.

Like with Facebook and LinkedIn, users can browse through profiles of others who share common education and work information. However, Kickstart is more similar to LinkedIn, in that it stresses work and internship networking.

The Web site is now only in its preview stage, allowing users to log in at, test out the site, and offer feedback so that Yahoo can work out the kinks before the site’s yet-to-be-determined official launch date.

So far, opinions of the Web site have been mixed.

“They might just be trying to cash in on the MySpace craze,” said Hanh Nguyen, 22, who graduated from SF State last year. “It sounds useful, but I’ve yet to see how it differs from any other networking Web site.”

“I think it sounds interesting,” said James Smith, 19, an SF State business major. “Maybe it’ll help me get a job when I graduate.”

"Depending on what you're looking for specifically, it could be useful to find all these people who offer jobs and internships, and they can find out what you can offer them," said Sandra Lee, 21, an industrial arts and sociology major at SF State.

"It's certainly faster and more convenient than [job listing] sites like," she said.

Sipping, toking, snorting, shooting on the rise

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In the time it takes most students to complete their bachelor's degree at SF State, the campus has seen an overall rise in drug use.

Although previous reports on drug and alcohol use in the California State University system indicated that negative consequences associated with drinking are on the decline at campuses, a recent survey taken by about 5,000 SF State students suggests otherwise. In fact, the amount of SF State students consuming alcohol is at roughly the same level as it was five years ago and the use of marijuana, heroin and cocaine have gone up.

"I think numbers can be helpful to see where we need to concentrate our efforts," said Bita Shooshani, a clinical counselor at SF State’s CEASE (Creating Empowerment Through Alcohol and Substance-Abuse Education.)

According to the National Core Alcohol and Drug Survey created by the Southern Illinois University and conducted at SF State by CEASE, 73 percent of the students surveyed reported consuming alcohol within the last 30 days in 2007, up from 71 percent of SF students in 2002. Marijuana use among students also rose 2 percent in 2007, with 23 percent of students reporting smoking marijuana in the last 30 days compared with 21 percent in 2002.

SF State's alcohol use is consistent with the national average of 72 percent of students who reported drinking in the last 30 days. However, only 17.5 percent of college students nationwide reported smoking marijuana in the last 30 days—about 5 percent fewer students than on SF State's campus.

Michael Ritter, coordinator of Prevention Education Programs at SF State’s CEASE said this may be reflecting San Francisco’s drug culture.

“I think that has mirrored the development of more of a common acceptance,” he said.

Cocaine and heroin use, although at much lower levels than alcohol or marijuana, has seen an upswing at SF State since the 2002 survey.

In the 2002 survey 1.8 percent reported using cocaine compared to 3.4 percent in 2007, and heroin use rose from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent. Ritter said the rise in these numbers is consistent with the national level.

Ecstasy and methamphetamine usage is declining. According to the 2002 survey results 2.9 percent of SF State students were using ecstasy compared with 1.7 percent in 2007. Methamphetamine use at SF State was at 3.4 percent in 2002 and at 2.1 percent, five years later, according to the 2007 statistics.

According to Shooshani this year's higher freshman population may account for the increased drug and alcohol use, and Ritter cited the school’s transformation into a more residential campus as another possible explanation.

Although SF State is right on track with other U.S. colleges in regards to drug and alcohol usage, the school does have fewer substance-related incidents such as drinking and driving. Twenty-three percent of SF State students reported driving a car under the influence compared to 26 percent of all U.S. college students and just 7.5 percent of SF State's students reported having been in trouble with the police, residential hall, or other college hall authority for drinking compared to 14 percent of the students in the reference group representing all U.S. colleges.

Also, 15.3 percent of SF State students admitted to having a problem with drugs and/or alcohol while only 10.6 percent of the national reference groups did.

Shooshani said she sees this as a positive and attributes these statistics as reflecting a "greater consciousness" towards drugs and alcohol use at SF State.

"I think people are talking about it more," she said of drug use. "Although people are talking about legalizing marijuana [they're also discussing] what's a problem and what's not a problem."

SF State student Dan Neeson, 23, said he drank every day while studying abroad in France last semester. Now that he's back home, Neeson estimated drinking about three times a week. While Neeson admitted to binge drinking occasionally, he said it wasn't something he did that often or let get of hand. But Neeson said he had a friend in England who had a drinking problem that interfered with his college course work. Neeson said his friend's teachers helped him through the school work and let him off a little more easily because of it.

"Here I don't think that would really fly," he said of SF State.

"I don't believe that," SF State student Nancy Phu, 22, said of the survey statistic that stated that 23 percent of SF state students smoked marijuana. "A lot of them are liars."

Phu said she drinks, but not as often as she did when she was younger.

"I don't party a lot, maybe if I was a freshman or a sophomore, but I'm a senior and am focusing on graduating," she said.

Phu also mentioned that she felt as if SF State was beginning to take on the image of a "party school," adding that one of her professors told the class that SF State was right up with Chico State due to the amount of partying in the Park Merced area.

Regardless of whether the survey underestimated the amount of students smoking marijuana, it indicates more work needs to be done.

According to the survey 25 percent reported drinking three or more times a week in the more recent survey and 39 percent reported binge drinking—consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting—within the two weeks prior to taking the survey. Ritter suggested that students who fall into this category might benefit from seeking counseling from CEASE.

Ritter said students are often referred to the CEASE program by teachers when students come to them admitting they have a drug problem or when students are caught with drugs in the residential halls.

Shooshani said that they have seen an increase in the amount of students seeking counselors over the past few semesters and, at this point, all time slots to see a counselor are full until the rest of the semester.

For this reason, CEASE will be holding a group meeting that will deal with individual drug and alcohol assessment with a CEASE counselor on Dec. 4 from 3-4:30 p.m. in room 208 in the Student Services building. Shooshani said drop-ins are welcome.

In addition, SF State offers on-campus alcohol and narcotics anonymous meetings and students can assess their own alcohol and marijuana use by taking the anonymous e-chug and e-toke surveys at

At a glance: news briefs

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Campus selects new creative arts dean

The College of Creative Arts enters a season of change as it narrows down its selection for a new dean. Students, faculty and other campus personnel are invited to the interviews of the five remaining candidates. Ronald Compesi, the department's current interim dean, will hold an audience in Knuth Hall Thursday. On Nov. 29. Carol Richardson, an assistant dean from the University of Michigan School of Music, will speak on Dec. 3 in the same theater. On Dec. 7, James Moy, the dean and of the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong, will be evaluated in Creative Arts 146. Michael Hood, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Indiana University, Penn., will do the same on Dec. 10. Jonathan Estrin, executive vice president of the American Film Institute, will round out the proceedings on Dec. 12; both presentation locations are yet to be announced. All public interviews are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and will be followed by individual receptions.

SF State's own wins $1.3M in SEPA award

The National Institute of Health handed out this year’s Science Education Partnership Awards. The 10 winners included SF State's Kimberly Tanner, assistant professor of biology and director of the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory research group at SF State. Tanner said she intends to use the five-year award for the mentoring program "Spectrum: Building Pathways to Biomedical Research Careers for Girls and Women of Color," which is meant to create relationships among primary and secondary school teachers in the local biomedical community. SF State was the only California school to receive the award this year.

Semester-ending discounts at the Bookstore

Black Friday may be over, but the SF State Bookstore is putting up sale signs on Dec. 4 for their annual holiday reception from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Most prices will be cut 20% for the day, and computer hardware will also be discounted. Wine glasses and 300 goodie bags will be handed out to those who arrive early. Food will be available at the reception for all attendees, faculty and staff.

False alarm clears Burk Hall

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As Burk Hall was evacuated Tuesday afternoon and again Wednesday morning in response to reports of smoke and heat in the basement and in a computer lab, students struggled to exit through a handicapped door that has been jammed for some time, according to Alicia Jalipa, administrative analyst in SF State’s College of Education.

“It’s really not been working well and this morning when we evacuated the fifth floor and basement, the door did not open again,” Jalipa said. “The police have been reporting it to work control, and President Corrigan is aware of what’s happening in Burk Hall.”

The San Francisco Fire Department received the call at 3 p.m. Tuesday when the building was evacuated. A burning smell was noticeable Wednesday morning to the point that the fifth floor offices decided to evacuate as a precaution and warn those in the basement to follow suit out of the building.

“It smelled like an old heater and felt really warm, so I grabbed my book and I ran,” said Lizzy Lear, 19-year-old student assistant and communications major. “The associate dean didn’t even realize there was a fire, he was sitting in his office holding a meeting.”

Students remained outside for 25 minutes, and then were allowed back in as building engineers arrived.

Plant Operations found that the cause of both alarms was a fan belt that had been burning on a fan on which they were performing regular maintenance by stopping and starting the belts.

But as students were trying to exit through the emergency handicapped access doors and emergency responders were attempting to get in, the broken doors barred their way. Jalipa said that the left door never opens and is reported by the office almost every day.

President Corrigan had Charles Meyer, director of facilities for SF State, sent to tour the building’s electrical and mechanical rooms to explore the smell.

Meyer noted that the emergency doors were not hooked to the handicapped button latch that automatically opens them, but that one could push the doors open manually this morning as he walked the floors of the building, from the roof to the basement, checking the elevator room and exhaust pumps.

David Walter, the lead electrician for SF State, determined that the alarm originated from a pull station on the first floor, not a smoke detector.

“All of the exhaust fans seem to be working, but different things can go wrong, such as electrical smells—but usually they are pretty distinctive,” Meyer said.

Wednesday’s evacuation caused disruption, and while some classes were cancelled as the fire department explored the heat and smoke, others classes continued.

Campus Orientation Director Karen Kingsbury held her counseling class on the lawn outside Burk Hall. “We’re having a test on Thursday, got to keep going,” she said.

“There is heat in some of the walls, a truly tremendous amount, we know its located in the second floor in the computer lab and basement—but we don’t know where the fire is,” Jacob E. Perea, dean of education, said before the fire department determined the cause of the alarm.

Dean Perea was sitting in his office Tuesday afternoon meeting with a student in the College of Education’s fifth floor administrative offices when his eyes started to water and he thought it smelled of burnt coffee. His executive assistant, Patricia Joost, began to bang on the door, saying that it really was a fire.

“The smell started coming through the vents again, so we called the police and the Dean and the policeman found it was strongest in the south stairwell,” Joost said of Wednesday’s evacuation. “So we called the building engineers.”

[X]press staff contributed to this article.

Building at 700 Font sold to private developers

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The Board of Education approved a contingency bid of $20.1 million to sell the building at 700 Font Boulevard to private land developers Tuesday.

The building housed the San Francisco School of the Arts until 2002 and stands at the border of the SF State campus.

The Riding Group, which in past years converted the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital on 19th Avenue into town homes and is currently building a five-to-seven-story building on waterfront property in Mission Bay, made the winning bid approved by a four-to-one vote.

“It’s a surplus property,” said San Francisco Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh of the building at the corner of Font Blvd and Tapia Drive, explaining why it was up for bidding. “It has no educational purpose for us, and has been vacant at least two years.”

Leigh voted in favor of accepting the bid, together with Commissioners Kim-Shree Maufas, Mark Sanchez, and Jill Wynns.

Commissioner Eric Mar voted against the sale, citing concerns that development will serve to further gentrify the neighborhood and create homes that lower income students will be unable to afford.

“I can tell you for sure that [The Riding Group] will take those kinds of issues into account because the city will force them to,” said Philip Smith, Director of Real Estate and Asset Management for the SFUSD, who had encouraged the board to accept the bid.

Smith pointed out that the sale would be an “arm’s-length transaction” and that SFUSD would have no control over what The Riding Group does with the property. But he added that the developers have a history of developing land in San Francisco and so have an understanding of what local politics require when it comes to accounting for environmental and economic impact.

Smith said the buyers wanted to begin organizing a meeting with the local landowners – of whom SF State is the largest by far – and district supervisor Sean Elsbernd to “facilitate the best avenues the Riding Group can take pursuing entitlement.”

Thomas Quaglia of The Riding Group was present at the meeting but declined to comment, saying he needed a couple weeks to perform due diligence and prepare to discuss the sale intelligently.

The contingency period of the sale is two years, at the end of which The Riding Group may still back out of the purchase. They will have to provide SFUSD with $100,000 as a deposit, which will increase to $250,000 in 90 days. By the end of the two year period, the amount on deposit will have increased to $1.25 million and will be non-refundable, Smith said.

The Board of Education opened the bidding last October. Prior to that, SF State had participated in a joint appraisal of the property and made a bid to SFUSD, but the bid was below market rate for the property and the district was not obligated to accept it, according to SFUSD Communications Director Gentle Blythe.

Smaller "Smoke Out" trades smokes for prizes

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An annual event promoting SF State’s “smoke-free campus” policy and encouraging smokers to quit populated a solitary table Thursday, sharing the Quad with a larger and louder cultural festival.

SF State’s third “Great American Smoke Out” since the campus prohibited smoking on campus except within designated smoking areas enjoyed less support than in previous years, promoted by volunteers from Health Education Student Association (HESA) with materials provided by Student Health Service (SHS).

In past years, HESA joined other student volunteers and SHS workers in a shaded group of tables on the Quad, giving turkey sandwiches to smokers in exchange for their cigarettes, said Kelsey Branca, president of HESA.

This time, on a chilly, misty midmorning near a Malcolm X Plaza alive with colorful ethnic dancing and singing, a handful of HESA members handed out raffle tickets for a $25 gift certificate to Stonestown Galleria to smokers willing to part with a cigarette. 12 passersby did—one donated an entire pack, and two students smoked in front of the table while offering theirs. Those visiting the table could take numerous pieces of literature on services from SHS and others to help smokers quit, as well as free candy and T-shirts.

Christine Ballas, who put out her cigarette just before writing her name on a raffle ticket, said she will eventually stop smoking because “every time I go to the doctor, every time I talk with someone older than me, they say I need to stop smoking. My mom tells me to stop smoking.” The 19-year-old art major said she sees smoking as a “young fad thing” and would definitely quit before she thought about having children.

“It’s challenging to get [people walking by] involved. They assume you’re trying to sell them something,” said Branca, who estimated about 40 people visited the table between 11:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and was pleased with the event. Those who traded a cigarette for a raffle ticket will be “smoking one less cigarette. Small choices add up.”

Broken door stalls Mary Ward residents

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Mary Ward Hall’s front doors have been kept closed since November 9th.

"An analysis that evening determined that it was a mechanical problem and not a technology issue regarding card access," said Jim Bolinger, associate director of University Housing and Residential Services.

"Since we were unable to fix the problem, residents were given access to the end stairwell doors on both sides of the building. The front automatic doors remained locked and secured, yet could be opened with panic hardware during an actual emergency," said Bolinger.

A reason why the door malfunction could have been caused by residents said an Housing and Residential employee. “Residents kick the door open and sometimes actually use their hands to open the door,” said the employee.

This is not the first time the door has malfunctioned said resident Arturo Blazquez, a freshmen at SF State.

“This does happen constantly” said Blazquez, 18, an English major.

The part needed to fix the door did come in today. At around 4 p.m. mechanics were at Mary Ward Hall fixing the door. "The door is being installed at this time, after which we hope to have the system up and operating," said Bolinger.

Crude awakening will have long term effects

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More than a week after a Cosco Busan freighter hit the Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of oil into the water, facts are still in dispute over who to blame and just what the lasting effects of all that oil in the water will be.

According to Barry McFarland, the incident commander of the O’Brien’s Group—the private company responsible for the overall cleanup effort—as the tides ebb and flow through the Golden Gate, it becomes increasingly more difficult to recover the oil.

Click the link on the right to view multimedia...

To date, 26 beaches around the Bay are still closed. In harder hit beaches like Marin’s Rodeo Beach, the smell of oil was strong in the air as the first on scene hazardous material crews removed tar balls and globules from the shoreline.

“The cleanup will take at least a month,” said Jaime Kooser, a professor of environmental studies at SF State. Kooser manages the SF Bay National Estuarine Research and Reserve in the College of Science and Engineering on campus, which is partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Kooser has been participating in the NOAA Natural Resources Assessment, which documents damage around the bay caused by the oil spill, and seeks to identify oil found as belonging to the Cosco Busan. Kooser has also been participating in preliminary beach cleanup, which includes collecting the small globules that are easily picked up off the beach.

By Friday, in addition to the 9,500 gallons that had been cleaned up the days before, another 8,000 gallons of oily liquid had been recovered from the water. As of Nov. 11, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) reported that they had collected 12,271 gallons of oil from the water and beaches. The USCG estimated that an additional 4,060 gallons have evaporated.

All along San Francisco's beaches, a visible build up of tar has washed ashore and more and more birds are showing patches of oil on their feathers. According to the U.S. Department of Fish and Game, of the 1,226 birds collected, 715 live oiled birds are now in custody and, 183 have been cleaned. Of the collected birds, 66 have died. An additional 511 birds have been found dead on site. A trip to any of the area’s beaches will turn up many more oiled birds that were unaccounted for.

Volunteers who showed up over the weekend were frustrated because they weren’t able to participate in the cleanup, Bradley said of the initial crowd of around 100 people who gathered at Rodeo Beach last Saturday.

“I got a bag from one of the lifeguards and started cleaning up [oil] myself,” said Seychelle Bradley, a 20-year-old international business major at SF State.

According to Yvonne Adassi, wildlife director at the Department of Fish and Game, the public was asked not to clean up the beaches because they were not properly trained in the cleanup and disposal of oil.

In a Nov. 13 press release from the USCG said “well-intentioned members of the public have been cleaning up oiled beaches and placing the oil and oily rags in the trash.” They are asking that the public not clean up these beaches as civilians do not have proper tools to dispose of the oil.

Admiral Craig Bone of the 11th District Coast Guard said it was important “that volunteers need to be trained in how to handle oil and wildlife,” and to not approach oiled birds, but to report them to Fish and Game.

There are 162 wildlife volunteers at the Cordelia bird treatment facility near Fairfield, according to a Nov. 13 Fish and Game press release, and 11 beach cleanup teams are stationed in Marin and San Francisco as well.

The cause of why the freighter hit the western pillar of the Bay Bridge is still under investigation. Results of initial drug and alcohol tests of ship captain, John Cota, and his crew have yet to be released. Adm. Bone said at a press conference that the responsible parties are going to be held accountable for their actions.

At this time the responsible party is still Cosco Busan’s owner Regal Stone Ltd., according to spokesperson Darryl Wilson. Regal Stone is cooperating with the Coast Guard’s impending investigation.

Bone said the initial report of only 10 barrels of spilled oil in the bay, was not corrected until later on the evening of the crash, and that “bridge management issues,” regarding communication between the ship and the Coast Guard, caused the delay of wide-spread deployment of oil skimmers, boats that skim the surface of the water, cleaning up the oil.

Bone said in a press conference on Nov. 11 the two initial skimmers were in vicinity to the boat within 30 minutes of the 9:15 a.m. call from the ship to the Coast Guard command post.

The Coast Guard press release on Nov. 13 said, however, that skimmers were not deployed until an hour after the crash. A complete audit of the ship and crew will be completed in the following weeks, Bone said, in regards to the crash and initial deployment of skimmers.

And as clean up continues McFarland said skimmers would remain deployed. Eight were currently deployed as of Nov. 13.

“As long as [skimmers] are effective, they will be out there,” McFarland said.

Volunteer efforts along the coastline of the bay and ocean will continue as long as they are needed. According to the U.S. Department of Fish and Game, those who would like to be a part of the efforts to help clean up the affected areas are encouraged to visit their Web site:

CSU bosses reject prop to fund state JCs

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The California State University Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to oppose a measure that would cap community college fees at $15 per unit.

If Proposition 92 passes, community colleges would essentially cut its student fee revenue and possibly absorb more money from the state General Fund – leaving other educators weary. Community colleges currently receive two-thirds of its funding from the General Fund, and one-third from student fees and other sources.

The CSU opposed the measure because it would allocate an additional $300 million to community colleges “but at the same time provide no new sources of revenue,” said CSU spokesperson Paul Browning.

“The CSU said that passage of prop 92 could mean leaner times, less funds from the state, and a smaller pool of discretionary funds from Sacramento for higher education in general,” Browning said.

Chancellor Philip R. Day Jr. of City College of San Francisco said that the CSU’s position is “very short sighted.”

“I find that a bit surprising and disconcerting at a time when the community colleges are being asked by both the UC and CSU system to take on more of the burden of providing educational opportunities to larger numbers of students,” Day said. “I would think that they would be supportive of our efforts to take the pressure off of them by expanding access and accommodating the students they don’t want to serve.”

Present laws bundle K-12 schools and community colleges as a single entity when assessing minimum funding requirements, and disburses funds based on K-12 enrollment. Proposition 92 would make separate minimum funding guarantees for K-12 schools and community colleges. Approximately 40 percent of the General Fund is allocated to meet the requirement, but community colleges only receive 10 to 11 percent of those funds.

“We get penalized when K-12 enrollment decreases,” Day said. “Why should we be penalized or victimized by the K-12 system? [Prop 92] creates a separate system to isolate ourselves so we can do our job.”

The current $20 per unit at community colleges are among the lowest in the nation, and the CSU argues that Proposition 92 would “mean less money for the CSU and UC system” Browning said.

“At the community colleges, lower income students already get few waivers,” Browning said. “The passage of the proposition may mean higher fees for CSU and UC systems, who have been forced to pay more in recent times because the state has reduced funds. The proposition could make funding more difficult that what it already is, and we’re trying to boost pay for faculty for staff.”

However proponents state that Proposition 92 would alleviate the burden on community colleges at a time when other institutions are increasing their admission requirements.

“The CSU system admission standards are going up, and the UC recently said they need to make their standards higher,” Day said. “The only system going to be here to take care of students is community college. We’re the state’s safety net.”

State audit reveals little oversight for CSU spending

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An audit report of California State University system’s employee compensation practices was released Nov. 6 for the first time to the public, sparking responses from the faculty union and state legislators who hold the purse strings.

The California Faculty Association and higher education policy makers viewed the report as a long-awaited catalyst for administrative change, likening it to ammunition as the CSU prepares to submit its support budget request for the coming school year.

“The audit report confirms everything we have been saying for months,” said CFA Political Action Chair John Travis. “We have been asking for an explanation of the pay for years, and now we can make a budgeting time table.”

University officials have promised students that they would push for more funds from the state this year in order to avoid raising tuition fees. In many cases, State Auditor Elaine Howle’s report and the CSU’s response to it illuminated wide differences in policies regarding compensation, golden handshakes and how spending should be monitored.

In the time that the CSU had to study the audit before it was released to the public, it crafted a carefully itemized response that agrees with many of the recommendations.
Assemby Member Anthony Portantino, who is chair of the Committee of Higher Education, said he viewed the university’s reaction with skepticism.

“We can’t let them get away with loving the report to death and agreeing with everything,” he said. “They need to give us a plan of action for what they are actually going to change.”

In the 2006-07 fiscal year, the school system had a $4.2 billion budget and spent $2.6 billion of it on faculty, managers, presidents and high executives. Executive compensation increased by 25.1 percent since 2002.

Travis said the report reveals a “nonchalance in the use of public funds, especially in regards to executive pay.”

The audit said that university employment policy shouldn’t remain under the discretion of campus presidents or the Chancellor because it has led to “generous” and “questionable” post-employment packages.

For example, in July 2004, when Marvalene Hughes retired as president of CSU Stanislaus, she exercised a right in her contract to return to her previous position as faculty member only to immediately retire and take advantage of faculty retirement perks, Howle wrote.

The CSU reaction countered that the university believes in “administrative flexibility” and that delegation of hiring practices within campuses to individual presidents is “the best administrative practice.”

But Portantino expressed hope that the audit “gets [the CSU] to stop fighting oversight.”
The auditor recommends the CSU finds a way to generate “accurate, detailed and timely compensation data” if it wants to have better oversight over the way employee groups are being paid.

The CSU has also taken flack for using data from the independent Mercer Report, which some call shaky, to justify pay increases.

“The CSU is charged with shifting the public trust by using questionable data and methodology,” Portantino said.

For example, CSU administrators compared salaries of school systems only through cash compensation, leaving out housing and housing allowances—a practice the auditor warned against. The auditor said that the public school system should work with the commission on higher education and the legislative analyst—instead a private for-profit company—if it wants to compare its salaries to those of other institutions.

Asked during a Nov. 6 press conference what he felt was the “most egregious” discovery in the audit, Portantino cited the CSU’s practice of “disregarding coordination with the legislative office." The Board of Trustees has repeatedly shown that it is unable to watch over the Chancellor’s compensation policies in a way that is “prudent” and “cost-saving,” the auditor said.

As part of the bargaining agreement struck with the faculty union this spring, the CSU promised to push legislators for full funding of ACR 73, a hugely under-funded Assembly bill designed to help more faculty get on tenure track.

The auditor also suggested the need for “statutory change”—new laws that would force CSU leaders to implement compensation policy changes.

But with the audit, legislators are now in a better position to second-guess the CSU’s ability to make financial decisions, Portantino said.

“The assembly plans to raise some questions during budgeting process to introduce legislation that will bring accountability,” he said, “and to reaffirm that education is number one as opposed to enticing top executives.”

Brown center will train new leaders

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Former San Francisco mayor and SF State alumnus Willie Brown, Jr. is establishing a center for training future civil servants at the university.

Steve Kawa, who worked under Brown during his two terms as mayor and was Mayor Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff from 2004 to Jan. 2007, is in place as the executive director of the new Willie L. Brown, Jr. Leadership Center.

“There is a huge demand, and a growing demand, for well-educated and well-trained public servants in all fields,” Kawa said. “How does city government find those folks?
“Our hope is that through our work here we will help develop a curriculum that will…help [students] become public servants somewhere in California,” he said.

Brown, who graduated from SF State in 1955through internships that offer substantial experience, Kawa said. The program is slated to begin with 40 students in Summer 2008.

“Students have this great desire to have internship opportunities,” Kawa said. “But opportunities that benefit them. I am not going to send SFSU students into internship experiences that aren’t meaningful.”

It won’t be a hard sell, Kawa said, to get government offices to accept student interns. As the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement age, they are looking to the next generation for successors.

The center’s focus will be on local and regional government, making it the first such program at a major university, according to center promotional materials.

“Look how issues are being dealt with in our country,” Kawa said. Local governments, he argued, are taking the lead on major issues confronting the United States.

In addition to the interning program, the center plans on hosting a series of political leaders and commentators. This program will draw on Brown’s many contacts in the political world.

“We have an historic race next year for president, we have the odd-numbered seats on the board of supervisors—I want the Brown Center to be the place where people get involved in their democracy,” Kawa said.

Brown is also donating a collection of his papers and videotapes to the archives of SF State’s J. Paul Leonard Library. The collection consists of “about 200 boxes” of material, according to Kawa.

Due to a lack of space and funding, however, the Brown archive is not scheduled to be incorporated into the library.

“There is no space in the current library for the collection at this time,” University Librarian Debbie Masters wrote in an e-mail. “Library faculty and staff members are working on preparing the material temporarily housed in another campus building for off-site storage.” The process will involve taking inventory of the material and repacking it for archiving.

The former mayor may be teaching a course himself as an adjunct faculty member. Kawa said he is working “hand in hand” with university officials to make that happen.

“He definitely wants to come out here and teach,” Kawa said. “I had seven years with Mayor Brown and every day was like a semester to me. He is the personification of leadership.”

Joel Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, is assembling a “working group” of faculty to work with the center, Kawa said.

International Educational Week, a cultural change

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Denmark was the first country to legalize pornography. Courtney Oxxen, 21, wouldn’t have known this interesting tidbit if she hadn’t attended the World at a Glance presentation about that country on the morning of Nov. 13.

“I had no idea,” Oxxen said. “But I’m of the opinion that Denmark is kind of heaven, so it didn’t surprise me.”

The World at a Glance Culture Series is a sequence of presentations about various countries offered by locals of those regions. The series is part of SF State’s International Education Week (IEW), which runs until Friday.

Nanna Pedersen and David Flenstrup, two visiting Danes, fielded questions such as, “Is housing easy to find?’ and “You guys have 7-Eleven, right?” from the six-member audience during their World At a Glance session.

“[In Denmark] junk-food is expensive,” Pedersen said to the students gathered around the table. “I think a McDonald’s Meal is round $10. But, they have hot dog stands all around.”

Dozens of events during IEW are designed to teach students about the culture of other countries and, possibly, entice them into studying abroad, said Marilyn Jackson, who dressed in a purple Indian sari for the Office of International Program’s (OIP) open house on Tuesday afternoon.

“We are trying to get more Americans interested in international education,” Jackson said. “Less than one percent of the population has studied abroad.”

This is SF State’s 8th annual IEW, which occurs at campuses all over the country.

Thursday and Friday; cultural events include World at a Glance presentations on Mexico and Chile among others, CultureFest and A Night in Asia. Check out a bright orange IEW program booklet for more information.

And, yes, Denmark does have 7-Eleven.

Veterans get priority registration at all CSUs

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In an effort to ease the transition from active military duty to civilian life, a new California state law will give war veterans priority registration for college.

New legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger early last month requires all California State University campuses and community colleges to adopt the priority registration. The legislation becomes effective January 2008.

According to a statement put out by SF State, veterans will be allowed to register for classes on the second day of registration starting in the Summer 2008 semester. Currently, 119 veteran students, using federal Veterans Administration educational benefits attend SF State.

Jose Pardeneilla, 22, SF State student and active member of the Marine Corps, said registering for classes after returning from military service in Iraq was a challenge.

“I went through so much to get back to school,” he said. “It was a whole hassle just registering, period.”

Due to the unpredictable schedule that comes with being a member of the military, Pardeneilla said he didn’t know how effective priority registration might be if he was called to duty during the time period.

“Things can happen overnight,” he said. “You’re pretty much on standby.”

In order to take advantage of the priority registration, veterans must be either currently active members of the military or have left active duty within the last two years.

“I know several students [in the military] that are having real problems with getting into classes and making it to graduation in a timely manner,” said Ernie Scosseria, associate director of undergraduate admissions at SF State.

According to Scosseria, some California colleges implemented the priority registration for veterans before the legislation was passed.

Other students who have priority registration include disabled students and athletes, but Scosseria said he doesn’t know what the “pecking order” would be if there is one at all.

Jo Volkert, associate vice president of enrollment planning and management echoed Scosseria’s sentiments.

“I think it’s a good plan to get these students the classes they need,” she said. “It’s also the law, when the law changes, we respond.”

On the other hand, Pardeneilla said, the earlier registration would prove helpful for students who are called in for service after the usual registration dates.

“[Students in the military] might not be around for the regular registration, so having an earlier registration would be great,” he said.

SF State sciences want boost in female faculty numbers

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When Elahe Enssani attended UC Berkeley in the 1980s, she was one of two women majoring in civil engineering. By the time she received her Ph.D., she was the sole female in a class of over 20 men.

“In college, women are isolated [in science]. You can be a lone wolf,” said Enssani, currently an associate professor of civil engineering at SF State.

While women like Enssani have appeared more in recent years, many feel there are still not enough women holding university positions in science and recently the topic has garnered national attention.

Last month, hundreds gathered on Capitol Hill for a science subcommittee hearing led by Congressman Brian Baird (D-Wa). Although it was not yet considering legislation, the subcommittee delved into the issue of cultural and institutional barriers, hoping to explain why women are still underrepresented at universities in science and engineering departments nationwide.

This hearing coincided with the release of an updated report by the University of Oklahoma and the Diversity in Science Association, which provided data on female faculty members at the top 50 university programs in the United States, as ranked by the National Science Foundation.

The study, first released in 2004, analyzed 2002 data. This year the report was updated to include data from 2005 and included more universities in the study.

According to the recent report, women made up 12.9 percent of all faculty in computer science in 2005, including associate, assistant, and full professors. In math, women made up 11.9 percent. In engineering, which was broken down into civil, mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering, women made up 11.8, 8.6, 12.9, and 8.1 percent. Women in the biological sciences fared slightly better, making up 23.8 percent of the faculty members.

SF State, which was not included in the survey, has a higher percentage of female professors. Neither the college of science and engineering nor the Faculty Affairs office were able to provide official statistics of female professors and lecturers at SF State. However, based on fall 2007 rosters obtained from department offices, [X]press concluded the following: women made up 19 percent of the computer science faculty, 31.3 percent of the math faculty, 34.8 percent of the biological sciences, and 10.3 percent of the engineering faculty.

Reasons about why females are lacking in these academic fields varied on this campus.

“Starting from grade school, girls are less encouraged to go into science fields, not necessarily intentionally, but by the general mind-set,” said Sung Hu, professor and associate dean of SF State’s college of science and engineering.

“Girls from early on are steered away from math and science. It’s not right, but it’s been the tradition in some families or cultures,” he said.

“When I first graduated college in 1966 at Cornell University, I felt a tremendous amount of discrimination in general hiring,” said Mary Andrews, an SF State math lecturer. “Nowadays I don’t see discrimination, but there are no proactive solutions to solicit women. I’ve never seen any extra efforts to encourage women to enter teaching at the college level.”

When asked if she agreed with those who say women might be less inclined to enter university teaching jobs because they want to stay home and take care of their children, Andrews said, “I think that’s irrelevant. Whether or not a woman chooses to combine a career and a family is the same for a career in education or private enterprise. In one respect it might be easier for education because the hours have more flexibility.”

Though the report stated that a lack of female role models could be one of the main reasons why women do not enter these fields, some professors felt differently.

“It would be good if there were more female faculty members here, but it’s not necessary to find [female] role models in your field,” said Hui Yang, assistant professor of computer science at SF State. “There are role models everywhere, in different environments.”

Enssani thought the term “role models” was used too broadly.

“There are role models and then there are mentors,” she said. “Role models are for girls when they choose their careers. Mentors spend time with you, work with you, and promote you. Men have always had mentors, but women haven’t.”

Ying Chen, an SF State assistant professor of engineering, who attended Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of Minnesota in the 2000s, said her college experience was different from Enssani.

“I was studying biomedical engineering [at Tsinghua University] and there were about an equal number of male and female students, and my adviser was a female professor, so gender wasn’t a matter,” she said.

However, like Enssani, she credits the low number of female faculty members to a lack of social connections.

“Networking and relationships are relatively more important in academia jobs, and there are not sufficient resources for female faculties in a male dominant environment, which I think is the reason why women prefer industry jobs for science and engineering,” she said.

Andrea Chen, 21, an engineering major at SF State said although her classes are predominantly male, it doesn’t really faze her.

“I kept hearing that companies and other places don’t want women to work for them, but I think it’s changed now,” said Chen.

When asked if there are any extra efforts to hire more female faculty, Hu said, “We try to encourage women and minorities to apply. At the end, it’s still whoever is the best. We don’t select based on gender or ethnicity.”

In order to increase numbers of female faculty members, Enssani suggests that universities create more mentorship programs for women, and for middle and high schools to encourage girls who have an aptitude for math, science, and engineering to pursue these areas.

“I’m calling on everyone in the [science] profession to take on this responsibility,” said Enssani. “I am pretty optimistic about the future.”

Eco-themed contest marred by controversy, miscommunication

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KEEN, Inc, a Portland, Oregon-based footwear company stopped at SF State’s Jack Adams Hall Nov. 6 as part of its 50-campus college tour offering a $1,000 prize to support environmental efforts.

The Eco Students, Marketing Association (MA), Accounting Students’ Organization (ASO) and Information Management Systems Association (IMSA) all partook in the initiative, called “STAND,” designed to get students involved with projects dedicated to sustainability.

The college prizes are part of a larger, nationwide contest for all American adults, in which three $25,000 “first prizes” and 15 $5,000 “second prizes” are awarded to sustainability projects.

However, the SF State presentation revealed a communication breakdown between KEEN and the student groups involved when it ended before one of the groups had planned to speak and didn’t clarify who would receive the $1,000 campus award.

In addition to presenting a guest speaker and a documentary exemplifying such projects—from starting a local organic farm to making sculptures from scrap materials—”STAND” was supposed to give student groups time to present environmental projects on campus, and the audience would vote to award the best one $1,000.

But after speaker Mark Godley answered questions from an audience of about 50, students began filing out. No student groups presented, nobody voted for a winning project and the prize was never mentioned to the audience.

The Eco Students, SF State’s group of environmentally conscious students, had prepared something for the contest and intended to speak during the event on several upcoming projects that could use funding, including a community organic garden, making their Earth Day “stuff swap” a year-round activity on campus and online, and videotaping a bicycle trip from Chico to San Jose while visiting local universities’ environmental programs.

The group also helped promote the event and should have been recognized, said Janet Remolona-Blecha, who is assistant to the Dean of the College of Business.

“I was thinking, ‘Did you forget somebody?’ To me, they didn’t really get the point of it,” Remolona-Blecha said after some students introduced “STAND” and thanked the MA, ASO and IMSA.

SF State had more student groups promoting the event than other campuses. Unlike most of the other “STAND” events on KEEN’s campus tour, the company and some of SF State’s student groups agreed beforehand to split the campus prize, said Erika Bruhn, marketing manager for KEEN.

Rather than decide who should get what, MA Vice President Golden Ashby said “It would be easier to split it three ways.” The split signified that “it was all about working together,” and that the turnout “was good based on what we had to work with,” he said.
“The fairest way to compensate them was to reward all of them,” Bruhn said.

Foundation manager Chris Enlow said each group will be mailed a check for $250 in January 2008. None of the groups said what they planned to use the money for.

Some of the student group promoters, however, were not aware that the split had already been decided. And there were four groups, not three, that should have been accounted for.

Just after the event, members of MA, ASO and IMSA congratulated each other for promoting the event and said the prize would be split among themselves, leaving ECO Students wondering if it would receive anything at all.

“We’re disappointed about how it’s all turned out, but it’s not all about the money,” said Suzanne McNulty, a member of ECO Students.

Despite the incentive, “this event was about way more than money to those organizations involved. It was about working together as a team to help spread KEEN’s sustainability message throughout the Bay Area,” said Ashby, who added, “I had wished the Eco Group would have had more time to be involved.”

It was unclear when the group would get to present, however, and the event ended before McNulty and others could take the stage. Nevertheless, ECO Students will continue to promote KEEN’s contests.

“I hope the business students stand up, stand out or stand for something,” McNulty said, echoing the titles of the three contests for $25,000 each.

Ashby and Amy Wang, corporate relations officer, explained MA’s involvement in an event for sustainability. Remolona-Blecha asked the student group to promote the event and find other groups willing to help.

“Naturally, [MA] volunteered to lead promotions for STAND. We were given an incentive that the organizations participating would receive $1000 to divide upon completion of the project,” Wang said.

Astronomers find planet bigger than Earth

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After an 18 year search, a league of planet hunting scientists from SF State and afar discovered a fifth planet in a multi-planetary system much like our own.

The new discovery is the fourth planet away from the star 55 Cancri, making it the 2nd largest planetary system after our solar system. The new planet has a 260-day orbit and is 45 times the mass of the earth. The first planet orbiting 55 Cancri was discovered in 1996, and there are only four other known planetary systems with three or more planets, said astronomy professor Debra Fischer.

“The three things that are interesting is the scale, the planets are in circular orbits – and that’s important because that means there’s almost a constant but seasonal temperature, and the new planet occupies the habitable zone,” said Fischer, who teaches a course on Astrobiology that examines the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

The discovery prompts the possibility that other unidentified planets in the habitable zone may sustain life, Fischer said.

“This planetary system looks like it’s packed with planets, I bet there are some planets between [the new planet and the outermost planet],” Fischer said. “They’re too small to detect, but that gives us the possibility that lots of planets fill the habitable zone, and that gives a lot of chances for biology life.”

The team has a rich history of inviting SF State students to participate in the planet search. Former SF State professor Geoffrey Marcy leads the team, which includes alumni astronomy professors Fischer and Chris McCarthy, as well as graduate student Howard Isaacson.

While the new planet exists in the habitable zone—the distance from the star where liquid water exists without vaporizing away or completely freezing—the planet is mostly made of gas and does not have a surface or liquid water—making it inhabitable, Fischer said.

“To be in the habitable zone is not enough,” she said. “You need to have a rocky surface to have oceans of water, and it’s important for carbon-based life. Since this [new planet] is not likely to have liquid water, it’s not going to be suitable for life as we know it.”

The astronomers find planets by using the Doppler effect to detect the star’s wobble, which is caused by the gravitational pull of the planet. They then measure the change in starlight as the star moves toward and away from earth, Isaacson said.

“If you measure the change of the starlight precisely enough, you can make a good guess how big the planet is that is causing the change,” Isaacson said.

The team uses the technique to detect the planets without actually seeing them.

“The way you see the planets is that you see the star wobbling,” McCarthy said. “We can’t actually see the planet. We only see the wobbles.”

The team usually spends several nights a month at UC’s Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in San Jose and the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Fischer said. The team is scheduled to observe approximately 15 nights in November.

“We’re working during the day to set up the telescope,” said Fischer, who has been a part of the team since 1997 when she began managing the Lick Observatory Program. “Just before the sun sets, we’re pointing our telescope at the first star until the sun comes up, and then we have to quit. Then we sleep in the morning, analyze our data,and get ready for the next night.”

The team sends one or two people to the observatory, said McCarthy, who became involved in the planet search as a master’s student in 1993.

“We share the burden of doing all these runs,” McCarthy said.

While the team discovers new planets, they do not get to officially name them, Fischer said.

“There are [more than 200] planets that have been discovered, and every year we discover more than the year before - it’s very fast paced,” she said. “We talked about of course selling the naming rights for research funds, but we’re too busy finding them.”

After this groundbreaking finding, the planet hunt continues their quest on a tight calendar.

“I was scheduled twice at two different observatories over Thanksgiving,” Fischer said. “Isaacson will be [at Lick Observatory], and I’ll be at Keck observing in Hawaii. Nobody gets a holiday.”

At a glance: news in brief

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Universities to study hybrids

Toyota is giving prototypes of its new plug-in Prius to two California universities as part of it study into the future of hybrids, according to new Reuters reports.

UC Berkeley’s Institution of Transportation Studies and UC Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program will each receive one modified Prius, with larger and stronger battery packs, significantly reducing the need for gasoline.

Irvine students will focus on the more technical details of the Prius, while Berkeley will do studies on whether the vehicle would do well with consumers.

All of the research done by the two universities will help Toyota develop a car with low emissions and alternative fuels for cars.


CultureFest, sponsored by International Education Week today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will showcase SF State’s cultural organizations at Malcolm X Plaza. The festival includes performances and demonstrations from student cultural organizations. DJ Ben Binary and DJ Nica will perform at the event as well. The Classics Department will also be serving food inspired by ancient Greek and Roman recipes.

This event is apart of the International Education Week, sponsored by the Office of International Programs, that began Tuesday and runs through Friday. International Education Week is in its 8th year at SF State and includes, study abroad presentations, art-exhibits, and presentations from visiting diplomats.

For more information visit the Office of International Programs’ Web site at

Ninth Annual San Francisco Hip Hop Dancefest

The San Francisco Hip Hop Dancefest begins on Friday, Nov. 16 at the Palace of Fine Arts with two different programs. Program A will include the DS Players from San Jose, Elements of Montreal from Colorado, Mop Top from New York, Over The influence from Vancouver and SoulForce from San Francisco. Program A will perform Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

Program B will include Diamond from Oakland, Live in Color from Miami, Moving Shadows from Vienna, Austria, Soul Conspiracy from Hayward and U.F.O. Movement from San Francisco. Program B will perform Saturday Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $35 for one program and tickets for both programs are $60.

Obama rallies thousands in SF

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Standing before more than 6,000 people, presidential candidate Barack Obama electrified college students in attendance when he stepped on the stage Nov. 14 to rally supporters in the Bay Area for change.

Democratic candidate Obama made the appearance at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco to promote his "Countdown to Change" rally, part of a national tour during the countdown to the beginning of the democratic primary elections in February.

Obama gave UC Berkeley students a special shout-out for having the most supporters at the event, however when all the students at the rally wanted their area recognized, he gave his thanks to all Northern California students.

“The opportunity to hear Obama speak is important and I wanted to take advantage of it to make my decision on who I’m going to vote for,” said Spencer Koehler, a senior at SF State.

Sarcastically calling Dick Cheney one of his black sheep cousins who lived in the attic, Obama did not hesitate to let his supporters know of his dislike for who is currently in office. He constantly reminded the attendees that neither Cheney nor George W. Bush will be on the ballot next year.

Obama vowed to quit the pattern of telling America what they want to hear and start telling them what they need to hear. He said that he’s running for the president to make a change in policies and leadership.

"When I am president, we won't have a Jena 6, my opponent will not say I voted for Iraq because I didn't, colleges will be affordable and accessible, teachers will have higher salaries," Obama said. "As president, I will end the war in Iraq and the troops will be home in 16 months."

According to Obama, his presidential run is his chance to do something that America has not done in a long time, which is change the way things are being done in the White House and in the United States.

He said telling America what they want to hear just won't do and that the United States should never negotiate out of fear and at the same time, never fear to negotiate. Obama said he was tired of just talking and wants to start doing something for America, which is why he is running for the President: to make a change.

"America, San Francisco, our moment is now, I ask you to stand with me, work with me, mobilize, and vote for me," said Obama as he waved, gave a smile and walked off the stage followed by a roar of applause.

Tenants protest rent control initiative

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Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) hosted a rally in front of City Hall today, denouncing a potential ballot initiative that would eliminate rent control throughout the state.

The measure, sponsored the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a conservative property rights group, is an attempt to reform the state constitution around eminent domain issues, but contains language that would phase out statewide affordable housing laws. According to Leno, the measure has been written to deliberately mislead the public.

“We’re here to oppose a hidden agenda scheme dressed up as a reform to eminent domain,” Leno said.

SF State student, Joana Allis, 21, a senior social work major, said rent control is a necessary part of living in San Francisco. She was at the rally with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, collecting signatures for a different measure that would reform eminent domain laws without abolishing rent control.

“For students that are living off student loans or their part-time jobs, it's impossible to pay market rate rent within San Francicso without rent control,” Allis said.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Foundation said the initiative is intended to protect the property of citizens from being seized by the government and given to “big-box” chain stores, or to build sports stadiums or hotels.

He said the foundation’s initiative plans to phase out rent control regulations, allowing current tenants to stay in rent-controlled units until they voluntarily vacate.

“Once a [tenant] vacates, the unit will permanently go off rent control,” said Coupal, “Nobody in San Francisco is going to be tossed out of their apartments because of these initiatives.”

Coupal added that landlord groups did not think the initiative went far enough, complaining it did not immediately end rent control regulations. However, Coupal said the intent was to gradually end the price-fixing over a period as a many as 30 years.

According to the San Francisco Rent Board, most residential rental units in buildings that were constructed before 1979 are covered by rent control. City law also requires 12 percent of units in newly constructed developments be made available at below-market rates.

Tenant's rights advocates argued that the rent-control clause would only exacerbate the gap between wealthy and poor and create a bigger homelessness problem in San Francisco.

“It’s a battle of education and letting people know what’s up.” said Powell DeGange, 22, a counselor at the Housing Rights Committee. “Eminent domain has nothing to do with rent control.”

The Howard Jarvis foundation is known for spearheading the campaign for the 1978 California ballot initiative Proposition 13, which put a cap on the rate in which local governments could tax properties.

Leno said the foundation’s new measure was “the son” of Proposition 90, a similar eminent domain ballot initiative narrowly defeated by voters in 2006.

In his speech before the crowd gathered at the civic center, Leno said the Jarvis initiative also presented a danger to environmental and fiscal stability of California by redefining how local and city governments can identify projects for public use.

“It’s a taking of our home and welfare from California citizens,” Leno said.

Coupal said his organization is very close to reaching the required number of signatures required to move the initiative forward and fully anticipates it being on the June 2008 ballot.

One candidate vies for Student Center seat

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Today is the last day to vote for two at-large positions for the board of the student center.

Although two positions are available, only one name, Sam Brown, was listed on the ballot, as he was the only person to meet the candidate requirements, which include a good academic standing and at least 100 signatures in support of running for the position.

Responsibilities for this position are somewhat of a long list, according to student center managing director, Guy Dalpe, but are mainly directing organization.

“The true responsibility is asking students to vote them in to office so they can become a representative on the governing body for this building,” he said.

Voter turnout has been low in the past; about 800 to 2,000 students usually participate.

“We usually put advertisements in the newspaper, and put up posters,” Dalpe said. “But the turnout isn’t there.”

Some feel the turnout is low because of the type of school SF State is known as.

“This is a commuter school,” said Erin Haywood, Liberal Arts major. “I know people that run and I like to be active, but candidates might not have the time to publicize and introduce themselves.”

Voting tables will be open in the Cesar Chavez until 4 P.M. taking ballots, which also include write-in candidates.

Obama rallies thousands in SF

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Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) made an appearance at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium Wednesday night to promote his "Countdown to Change" rally.

With a turnout of over 6,000 people, Obama electrified the Northern California college students in attendance when he stepped on the stage.

“Fire it up! I see the Universities of California are in the house!” screamed Obama as he walked on stage in front of his thousands of supporters.

Calling the high school students who support him “Barackstars” and stimulating the crowd by reminding them that George W. Bush will not be on the ballot this time next year, Obama received a standing ovation every time he made a point.

“You asked for a united and instead you got a president who couldn’t lead half of the country who voted for him,” said Obama.

Obama vowed to quit the pattern of telling America what they want to hear and start telling them what they need to hear. He said that he’s running for the President to make a change in policies and leadership.

According to Obama, the rally was to let America know that he is tired of talking and wants to start doing something for the United States of America.

“The opportunity to hear Obama speak is important and I wanted to take advantage of it to make my decision on who I’m going to vote for,” said Spencer Koehler, a senior at SF State.

Cleanup efforts continue after Bay oil spill

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With the smell of oil wafting through the air, the Coast Guard announced that 8,000 more gallons of oily liquids, a combination of oil and water, have been collected between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday during a press conference at Rodeo Beach. Additionally, the bird death toll is up to 28, and additional 22 birds from Friday morning's count.

As of this weekend, over 20,000 gallons of oily residue had been collected from the Bay.

Click on the link on the right to view slideshow...

Rodeo Beach has been considered a high impact and high priority area effected by the oil spill, according to Coast Guard spokesperson Anya Hunter. Earlier, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the San Francisco Bay to be in a state of emergency, allowing state funds to now be used for the cleanup, said Hunter.

US Coast Guard Captain William Uberti said the oil has flowed as far away as 10 miles off the coast from the Golden Gate Bridge, and has extended from San Francisco’s Ocean Beach up to Marin County’s Stinson Beach.

“We’re going to see rainbow sheens in a lot of areas,” said Capt. Uberti, in response to how the oil will spread and dissipate within the next week.

The cause and fault of the crash of the Costco Busan ship into the Bay Bridge Wednesday morning at 9:15 a.m., is still under investigation pending alcohol and drug screenings of the crew and logs regarding communications between the ship and area control.

Yvonne Addassi of the California Department of Fish and Game said that the dead birds were collected on site, and they have lost none of the 94 birds currently in captivity.

“It is important for people to stay away from wildlife,” said Addassi, in response to citizens’ concerns and willingness to volunteer.

Oiled wildlife and tar balls are being found as far away as the Farralon Islands and Marin and Sonoma counties.

Although there was quick response from the US Coast Guard (USCG), city officials were not immediately contacted, drawing criticism from the Mayor’s office.

The UCSG originally reported the spill to have been 140 gallons, which drew criticism from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Newsom said that legal action will be taken if necessary.

When asked what legal action could be taken, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said, “I don’t know that the mayor necessarily knows what he is talking about.”

Additional reporting by Angela Bacca, Opinion Editor

Willie Brown launches leadership center

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Former San Francisco Mayor and SF State alumnus Willie Brown, Jr. is establishing a center for training future civil servants at the university.

Steve Kawa, who worked under Brown during his two terms as mayor and was Mayor Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff from 2004 to Jan. 2007, is in place as the executive director of the new Willie L. Brown, Jr. Leadership Center.

“There is a huge demand, and a growing demand, for well-educated and well-trained public servants in all fields,” Kawa said. “How does city government find those folks?”

“Our hope is that through our work here we will help develop a curriculum that will…help [students] become public servants somewhere in California,” he said.

Brown, who graduated from SF State in 1955 with a political science bachelor’s degree, became San Francisco’s first African American mayor in 1996, serving until 2004. Prior to that, Brown held the office of Speaker of the State Assembly.

He has drawn both praise for his public works projects and criticism for what has been called a patronage system of appointments.

“I think anybody who had to live under the public microscope for 40 years would be deemed controversial,” Kawa said.

But even some who have been critical of Brown have indicated that the center is a good thing. “Frankly, it has been nothing but positive,” said Kawa. He also indicated that S.F. Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who unsuccessfully challenged Brown in the 1999 mayoral race and has been one of the former mayor’s critics, will visit the center as a speaker.

The Brown Center’s first goal is to connect promising upper division students with local governments through internships—and internships that offer substantial experience. The program is slated to begin with 40 students in Summer 2008.

“Students have this great desire to have internship opportunities,” Kawa said. “But opportunities that benefit them. I am not going to send SFSU students into internship experiences that aren’t meaningful.”

It won’t be a hard sell, Kawa said, to get government offices to accept student interns. As the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement age, they are looking to the next generation for successors.

The center’s focus will be on local and regional government, making it the first such program at a major university, according to center promotional materials.

“Look how issues are being dealt with in our country,” Kawa said. Local governments, he argued, are taking the lead on major issues confronting the United States.

In addition to the interning program, the center plans on hosting a series of political leaders and commentators. This program will draw on Brown’s many contacts in the political world.

“We have an historic race next year for president, we have the odd-numbered seats on the board of supervisors—I want the Brown Center to be the place where people get involved in their democracy,” Kawa said.

Brown is also donating his collection of papers and videotapes to the archives of SF State’s J. Paul Leonard Library. The collection consists of “about 200 boxes” of material, according to Kawa.

The former mayor may be teaching a course himself as an adjunct faculty member. Kawa said he is working “hand in hand” with university officials to make that happen.

“He definitely wants to come out here and teach,” Kawa said. “I had seven years with Mayor Brown and every day was like a semester to me. He is the personification of leadership.”

Joel Kassiola, dean of the college of Behavioral and Social Sciences, is assembling a “working group” of faculty to work with the center, Kawa said.

Syrian ambassador discusses relations with U.S.

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With chuckles from the audience, Syria’s Ambassador peeled off the axis of evil label and presented his version of the truth about Middle East politics Wednesday night at the Commonwealth Club.

“Syria is not an enemy of the U.S.,” said Imad Moustapha, Syrian Ambassador to the United States. “Syria has been put in the black books of this administration. They have decided that we are your enemies when we don’t believe we are your enemies.”

In addition, Moustapha said Syria is interested in fostering a dialogue with the United States, but he said his nation is resigned to the reality that it’s not going to happen with the current administration.

“(This) deterioration of relations is unprecedented in modern history,” Moustapha said. Until the last two terms, every major head of the United States visited Syria, including Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, he said.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) bucked that trend earlier this year, when she defied the White House, toured Damascus and spoke with Syrian heads of state.

“The level of engagement was very serious,” Moustapha said, adding that after returning home from her trip, Pelosi encouraged President Bush to speak directly with Syria instead of using foreign nations as intermediaries.

And despite reports from credible news sources in the U.S. that Syria has a bomb project in the pipelines, Moustapha said Syria is not acquiring nuclear technology. Syria refuses to let the U.S. use nuclear activity as leverage for invasion and occupation, he said.

“We understand the U.S. has double standards,” Moustapha said, “and we know the gates of hell will open on Syria (if we build a nuclear bomb).”

Syria’s political officials also believe strong ties with the U.S. are important, Moustapha said, because the United States is the only nation capable of brokering peace between Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

“There is hope in the Middle East,” Moustapha said, as he pointed to the pan-Arab initiative, a deal set forth by a coalition of Arab countries nearly a decade ago. The initiative recognizes the official boundaries of the Israeli state, he said, but it requires Israel to leave all of its occupied territories in the Middle East.

Moustapha also said there’s lot of talk about a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland later on this year, but Syria hasn’t been invited yet, he said. Rumors circulating among political officials indicate that discussing the Golan region would be off limits, he added.

Kristina Stangl, 22, an international relations major/Middle Eastern studies minor at SF State attending the forum, said it’s important for young people to take an interest in establishing diplomatic ties with the Middle East, to improve relations.

“There’s a lack of diplomacy…of dialogue,” Stangl said. “This is our key issue, diplomacy and negotiation. If two parties are not coming to the table, the problem can not be solved.”

Moustapha put it another way: “Let us evolve…let democracy evolve from within. Don’t export your values and your wonderful political system (to a nation faced with enough internal strife already).”

Biology computers stolen

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Thieves broke into the Biology department late Friday night, taking computers and hard drives from different laboratories as well as breaking into faculty offices.

The burglary happened sometime between 10 p.m. on Friday night and 7 a.m. Saturday morning, according to Michael Fong, biology operations manager.

The suspects took five iMac computers, a couple of hard drives and keys, Fong said. There is no cost estimate of the equipment taken.

University Police Captain Pat Wasley declined to comment on the case.

The burglary occurred on the 6th and 7th floors in Hensill Hall. The facilities are open 24 hours but no one was in the labs when the burglary happened, Fong said.

Fong said that the suspects broke into one lab, took a set of keys and used the keys to break into four research labs, a couple of faculty offices and attempted to break into four more offices.

“More people are angry,” Fong said. “The computers contained research thesis papers.”

The labs are being re-keyed and more security measures will be added, according to Fong.

“With any break in, you feel opposed upon,” Fong said. “We are working quickly to repair the damages.”

Restaurants oppose city’s health plan

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A city ordinance requiring employers to foot the bill for employee health care or help fund the Healthy San Francisco program may see some amendments before it begins on Jan. 1, 2008.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White is set to rule on a lawsuit filed by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association against the city on grounds that a 1974 federal law, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, prohibits state and local governments from regulating employee benefits. Judge White heard the lawsuit on Nov. 2.

“I think it’s really an elitist piece of nuisance litigation,” said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who drafted the Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO). “They’re [GGRA] fighting the inevitable.”

Kevin Westlye, executive director of the GGRA said, “This puts an industry upside down.”

Westlye said Judge White can make his ruling any day now.

Westlye added the GGRA is a proponent of the Healthy San Francisco mandate and that his organization is challenging only the employer mandated health care portion of the ordinance. Currently health care is provided for full-time restaurant employees, Westlye said.

The GGRA is concerned about paying for health care for part-time and seasonal employees, whom along with full-time employees, will cost restaurants more money than they earn.

“The problem is about affordability and small business can’t afford the Healthy San Francisco mandate,” Westlye said.

The HCSO, signed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in August 2006, mandates that employers fulfill a quarterly health care expenditure by providing health insurance for employees, or by making payments to fund Healthy San Francisco. Healthy San Francisco launched on July 2 and offers a variety of services such as preventative, emergency, and mental health care for uninsured residents within city limits, but does not provide vision or dental care, according to the official Web site. The program is available to all residents “regardless of immigration status, employment status, or pre-existing medical conditions,” the Web site said.

“Whether or not San Francisco employers contribute to the program, it will continue. It may, of course, be adjusted to bring people in more slowly than we wanted to,” said Bob Menezes, Director of Marketing & Communications of Healthy San Francisco.

To meet their health care expenditure, businesses with 20 or more employees are required to contribute $1.17 to $1.76 for each hour worked for each covered employee. The ordinance is effective Jan. 1, 2008 for employers with over 50 employees, and April 1, 2008 for employers with 20 to 49 employees.

Non-profits with less than 50 employees and businesses with less than 20 employees are exempt.
Under those restrictions, employees are eligible for coverage after the first 90 days of employment and if they work 10 hours per week.

“We are moving forward as if we won the lawsuit,” Menezes said.

“If [GGRA] loses the lawsuit, we have to have a system in place and bill employees, and if the judge made a decision in December, there would be no time to do it. It’s the only way we can be prepared for it.”

Dylan Coyle, a master’s student in music history, said that he supports the ordinance because businesses sometimes try to avoid providing benefits.

“I think that hiring employees part time is a loophole [for employers] to get around providing health care and other benefits,” said Coyle, 25.

Hannah Pult, 30, would benefit from the ordinance as a part time employee if she lived in San Francisco, but sees both sides of the issue.

“I think it’s a good idea. I don’t have health insurance,” said Pult, 30, who is in the teacher credential program. “I can see maybe a distinction between part time and full time employees, and I can see the side of the employers. It’s a complicated issue.”

Beware of the flu

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As students congregate in close quarters on the bus or in classrooms, some are prone to the exposure of the prevalent air-borne pathogen of the autumn and winter season—the influenza virus.

“[Influenza is] really transmitted to people you’re close to,” said Dr. Alastair Smith, director of Student Health Services. “You spread it on your hands or two or three feet away from you.”

Students can reduce their chances of getting the influenza virus—commonly known as the flu—by getting the flu shot or nasal spray vaccine. October and November are the best times to get the flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In most cases, the flu is a contagious virus that can cause high fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches.

According to the CDC, the flu can also lead to bacterial pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and the worsening of chronic medical conditions.

“It can be lethal. It can kill people,” biology professor Dr. Stan Williams said. “Some flu strains are more serious than others. It can be especially problematic with people with compromised immune systems, elderly people, and young children.”

The CDC reported that 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, which kills 36,000 Americans every year.

Cinema student Kevin Macias said that while he came down with the flu once, he does not intend to get the $25 flu vaccine this season.

“It’s expensive,” Macias said. “If you can afford [the flu vaccine], go get it. It’s just not my top priority."

Dr. Williams warned that, because of the make-up of the campus, every student should get the vaccine.

“With a campus like ours, with such a high density, if the flu virus were to come into our environment—it will just spread like fire. This is a commuter campus and students go home and then spread it over to other parts of the Bay Area.”

The CDC’s Influenza Division, which studies influenza from October to May of each year, found sporadic influenza activity was already occurring in California and 14 other states, according to Oct. 27, 2007 surveillance report.

Scientists analyze the previous year’s viral strain, and then design the flu vaccine by predicting how the strain may mutate, Williams said. If new strains are introduced this year, “sometimes the vaccine won’t give protection to those other strains,” he said.

There’s no guarantee, Williams said, that scientists can fully predict what strains of influenza attacks each year. “It’s the best prediction, but even if it’s not against every strain, partial protection will be given.”

While the flu vaccine is very effective, some people can still manage to get the flu, according to SHS health educator Albert Angelo.

“The flu shot doesn't cover every strain of the flu so it is possible, but unlikely, to become infected with a stain of the flu not covered by the vaccination,” Angelo said. “It takes time to make flu antibodies so a person could get the flu, even though hours earlier they were vaccinated.”

The flu shot contains an inactive virus and is injected in the arm, whereas the nasal-spray flu vaccine, commonly known as Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) or FluMist, is an active but weakened virus, according to the CDC.

People allergic to chicken eggs are not advised to get the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine manufacturers delivered 300 doses to the SHS, and there was a mass vaccination during last week’s SHS Haunted Health Fair.

Sophie Karan-Harwin, a child and adolescent development major, initially said did not think she would get the flu vaccine this year—until she remembered a bout of flu she had last year.

“I had the flu last Christmas and missed my family’s Christmas party, so maybe I should [get the flu vaccine],” she said.

While doctors recommend getting the flu vaccine, there are two things that can reduce the chance of getting influenza.

“I would say that it’s very important that people get vaccinated, but the only thing being shown in being most effective in stopping the spread of influenza is regular hand washing and covering your cough,” Smith said. “[That] will reduce the spread because that’s the way it gets transmitted to people who are two or three feet away from you."

Students can get the flu vaccine for $25 during drop-in hours at the Immunization Clinic in SHS on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Fridays at 8:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Breast cancer campaign on campus

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What looks like a bright pink bar on wheels is just the Susan G. Komen sponsorship tour bus serving breast exam information to students instead of drinks.

On Oct. 30, the “On the Way to the Cure - Komen on the Go” breast cancer awareness tour arrived at SF State to help engage students in the fight against breast cancer. According to Nick Blake, a Komen volunteer, the tour primarily goes to different universities around to world to empower college aged women and men about breast cancer.

“I think it’s great that they set this up on campus,” said Candyce Hubbell, a SF State student, “it was really helpful and I’m going to get involved next year in the 60 mile walk.”

According to the Deserved Health website, one of the most effective breast cancer awareness programs is the breast cancer walk which is a Breast Cancer 3-Day benefit. The fund raising program is participated by men and women who want to make a difference in the lives of these breast cancer victims. The program involves 60 miles of walking and is participated by millions of people nationwide. It is a chance for the participants to learn about cancer and at the same time help in promoting awareness.

The “Komen on the Go” tour bus is painted pink with pink video post on the outside of it and Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Komen Foundation, on the screen telling her story. The inside of the bus models a nightclub bar with an extended patio with lawn chairs to lure intrigued students to stop. On top of the tables and bar where there would usually be drinks, are 16 computers all including information on the most common cancer in women, breast cancer. Once the student is done with the interactive information guide, a Komen volunteer provides them with two promise rings, one for the student and a friend to join in the fight against breast cancer.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, it’s very beneficial and more students should get involved,” said Taylor Wiese, an SF State student.

According to the Komen Foundation website, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was founded on a promise made between two sisters—Susan Goodman Komen and Nancy Goodman Brinker. Komen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978, a time when little was known about the disease and it was rarely discussed publicly. Before Komen died at the age of 36, she asked Brinker to do everything possible to bring an end to breast cancer. Brinker kept her promise by establishing and becoming the founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 1982 in her sister’s memory.

According to Kim Kirchhoff, a Komen volunteer, 2007 marks the fourth year that the Komen Foundation has been on tour and the first year that it has come to SF State. Kirchhoff said there are currently 2 buses on the road, one big bus and a smaller one about 1/3 the size of the big one. The bus arrived on October 30th with 130 students who came on the bus and sat down at the computer and over 1500 pink ribbon stickers were given out.

“The students were very receptive and we were pleased with the outcome and how many students we were able to educate today,” said Blake.

Troubled medical center could flatline

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As the fate of St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco’s Mission District lies in critical condition with the looming closure of its inpatient emergency services, SF State’s nursing program risks losing an important satellite campus.

At a committee hearing before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Oct. 25, California Pacific Medical Center, the non-profit medical group that owns St. Luke’s, outlined their plan for transferring acute care services to a proposed $1.7 billion dollar hospital on the more affluent Cathedral Hill neighborhood at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard.

It is a move that SF State school of nursing director Shirley Girouard said is part of a nationwide trend where hospitals in underinsured communities—such as the Mission—are forced to cut services because of the lack of adequate compensation.

“It’s particularly hospitals in low income neighborhoods,” Dr. Girouard said, “Because of the financial difficulties, they don’t have the clientele that pay at the same rate as wealthier neighborhoods that are highly insured.”
Coupled with hospital closures, a nursing shortage puts nursing schools in a precarious dilemma, according to Girouard. As Bay Area colleges continue to take on more students to fight the shortage, they are increasingly hard-pressed to find hospitals for students to take their clinical requirements at.

“It makes it very difficult to expand [the nursing program] at all because we have nowhere to take them,” Girouard said, “We send our students as far away as Stanford to get their clinical experience.”

Jena Barrios, 20, an SF State nursing student in her first semester in the program said that a possible closure would make it even more difficult to complete her training.

“It’s hard to find place places to go for your clinical rotation,” Barrios said, “We’re in competition with other schools’ nursing programs and it would be inconvenient [to go elsewhere] because [St. Luke’s] is so close.”

Diana Karner, chief nursing officer for CPMC, acknowledged the nursing shortage, adding that while more nursing students are being trained through school programs, many professional nurses are on the edge of retirement.

However, Karner said that while changes at St. Luke’s are likely, patient load and the need for nurses at its other San Francisco campuses would increase.

“If the nursing schools are flexible with when the students can get clinical rotation, we’ve been willing to do whatever we can to provide them that,” she said.

City officials, on the other hand, are weary about CMPC’s ability to close up the health disparity gap in the South of Market area.

Public health director Mitch Katz testified on Thursday that the move would leave San Francisco General Hospital as the only hospital with long-term inpatient care in the south-east side of the city.

“I don’t believe a simple closure of St. Luke’s, and closure of the [emergency department] could enhance our health status” Dr. Katz said. “We only now have nine acute care hospitals in San Francisco and we very badly need all of our emergency departments.”

During the hearing, city Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier grilled CMPC executives on rumors of sabotaging St. Luke’s numbers in order to justify the downgrading.

She asked if CPMC was referring patients with private insurance to its other campuses and holding on to billing statements for its Medicare/MediCal claims—ideas that Christopher Willrich, CMPC vice president of strategy and business development, categorically denied the accusations.

“There’s no understanding that this is the way things are done,” Willrich said, “This doesn’t not sound like CPMC.”

According to Willrich, St. Luke’s is currently losing $30 to $35 million each year while 60 percent of its acute hospital beds lay empty on any given day. He added that 85 percent of the hospital’s emergency room visits are for “low-level” emergencies such as asthma attacks and diabetes complications.

Still, Alioto-Pier expressed her concerned on the impact the closure would have on the neighborhood.

“You get rid of St. Luke’s and women who want to give birth to their babies in their communities all of a sudden have to go into Pacific Heights,” the supervisor said.

St. Luke’s doctors, who treat high number of patients on government programs, also had their questions about the potential loss of the hospital.

Michael Treece, chairman of the department of pediatrics at St. Luke’s has cared for children in the Mission District for over ten years. He noted that kids get sick at higher rates than adults and more serious conditions could develop into life-threatening complications if not dealt with properly.

“Do we really want to ask families to bring their sick children all the way across town on a bus,” Treece asked during open public comment.

33-year-old Jan Zimmerman, who recently delivered her baby at St. Luke’s, said the hospital should remain open as an example to the rest of the nation. She said that San Francisco should be home to hospitals that provide “the same opportunities and resources so that we have the best kind of healthcare available for everybody.”

The strong community reaction seemed to take stock with CPMC chief executive officer Dr. Martin Brotman, who stayed for the entirety of the three-hour hearing. He said while he found the medical redlining accusations to be insulting, he thought the dialogue was constructive.

“Everybody said we’re running a terrific hospital in there and they don’t want to lose it, that resonates,” Dr. Brotman said, “I heard what they’re saying and I’m going to reassess what the options are.”

Brotman said CPMC will continue to work with Dr. Katz and the city to determine the future of St. Luke’s and San Francisco’s medical system.

California Democrats propose health plan

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SACRAMENTO—Top Democratic state leaders unveiled on Monday a compromise version of a health care plan that would cover most Californians.

“I think the leaves are turning and so is the health care debate,” said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) at a press conference. “Today what we are announcing is a health care reform plan that is more comprehensive in scope and, we believe, more palatable to voters.”

The plan would mandate all Californians obtain health insurance but exempt those who cannot afford it; at the same time ensuring that low-earners and those near the poverty line would have few premiums, co-payments or deductibles.

While the new plan demands less of employers and increases the number of residents covered by the plan—backing down on two issues that led to the governor’s veto of an earlier Democratic health care bill this year—its funding still hinges on a controversial tobacco tax increase of $2 per pack.

“I am optimistic that a deal can be reached to provide almost all Californians with quality health care, but time is of the essence,” speaker Nunez said in a press release.

In an effort to get a vote on the bill before the end of the year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has convened the first extraordinary legislative session of 2007-08. Of the 18 assembly members appointed by Nunez, 13 are democrats, including Fiona Ma of San Francisco.

The proposal, which would cost about $14 billion, would require a separate bill to finance it.

As has been its custom, the governor’s office would not comment on unresolved legislative action.

Resistant infection carried by 25% of state’s population

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Across the nation, there is spreading fear about a bacterial infection that is resistant to most antibiotics and can turn deadly if untreated.

While staph—the common name for staphylococcus aureus—can weaken your system enough to put a human in mortal danger, it’s also been around for while. Health officials said there is little cause for concern on campus.

“It’s very common,” said Becky Reimer, a registered nurse in infectious disease department at Mills-Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame. “It’s more common than appreciated.”

According to the California Department of Public Health Web site, approximately 25 to 30 percent of the population carries the bacteria, which resides dormant in the nose. Reimer said 40 percent of the patients at her hospital are carriers of the bacteria.

The most common cause of a staph infection is when the bacteria comes in contact with a break through the skin, whether from another person or an object, like clothing, sports equipment or furniture.

In addition to the common staph infection is a strain of staph that is resistant to penicillins known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, also known as MRSA.

Some of the most common places for staph bacteria to spread are gyms and locker rooms. In these locations, the bacteria sits on exercise equipment as well as clothing or in showers and bathrooms, according to the California Department of Public Health.

SF State health education major Alicia Padillapaz and nursing major Tiffany Trujillo said they both do not like using the locker rooms inside the gym.

“They look unsanitary,” said Padillapaz, 20.

“The locker rooms look like they have not been properly cleaned out,” said Trujillo, 21. “I wouldn’t use them unless I had to. So many people use them.”

Mitch Wasik, the head athletic trainer in the SF State athletics department, said he had seen no cases of staph or MRSA under his watch.

“We have dealt with this proactively with education of athletes. We have been informing them on hygiene practices,” Wasik said. “[Staph] could pop up anywhere.”

Ajani Byrd, the director of the Recreational Sports program in the kinesiology department, which oversees the weight room and gym separate from the athletics department, has never seen an outbreak in their weight room.

“We keep it pretty immaculate,” Byrd said. “Every hour, my attendants are required to wipe down equipment. We require that anyone that goes into the weight room to bring a towel.”

Since places like the weight room have a huge threat of spreading the staph bacteria, keeping it clean is a huge priority. “The weight room is our biggest liability,” Byrd said.

Angel Olmedo said that the locker rooms in the gym look clean.

“I haven’t seen anything that’s unsanitary,” said Olmedo, 20. He uses the locker room to change for his swimming class. Olmedo brings his own shampoo to shower with and makes sure his shorts are dry and stored in a plastic bag.

Like the California Department of Public Health, Reimer of Peninsula Hospital said that staph infections, including MRSA, are treatable and preventable.

“People aren’t dropping in the street from MRSA,” Reimer said. Like most infections and colds, frequent hand-washing is key to stopping the spread. Using soap and scrubbing hands for 15 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday,” will kill the staph bacteria, according to the California Department of Public Health. Antibacterial soap is not necessarily needed.

“Anyone could die [from MRSA] but it’s being blown out of proportion,” Reimer said. “It’s always been around. The old-fashioned flu will kill more people.”

While MRSA is resistant to antibiotics, Reimer said that if it is caught early enough then it can be effectively treated.

“There’s no reason a young person should die from MRSA,” Reimer said.

Staff writer Christina Nguyen contributed to this article.

California youth aged 15 to 24 are spreading sexually transmitted diseases at 10 times the reported rate, according to a study published last month in the California Journal of Health Promotion.

The study, conducted by the Public Health Institute in Oakland, estimated that California had 1.1 million new cases of STDs among young people in 2005—the latest year for which such data was available. The Bay Area accounted for over 152,000 of these new cases with 13.8 percent, and San Francisco alone had over 30,000.

“The estimated number of new cases and their associated costs illustrate that the STD epidemic among California youth remains largely hidden,” said Petra Jerman, the study’s leading researcher, in a press release. “This epidemic is like an iceberg. What you see is a small part of what you have.”

In the report, Jerman and two other researchers, Norman Constantine and Carmen Nevarez, analyzed eight major STDs: chlamydia, syphilis, genital herpes, HIV, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Using an estimation method devised by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists in a 2004 study on STDs in youth, Jerman’s team extrapolated data for these STDs in the teen to mid-twenties age group.

Although the published version of the report did not break down the STDs by county, it revealed that statewide in 2005, there were 590,000 new cases of HPV, more than all the other major STDs combined. Trichomoniasis and chlamydia followed with 250,000 and 180,000, respectively.

Of the eight major STDs in the study, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis are curable with antibiotics. HIV, hepatitis B, genital herpes, and HPV can be treated and suppressed, but can still be transmitted and are never fully curable.

The report attributed the discrepancy between reported numbers and estimated actual numbers to inadequate availability of screening in certain populations (some infections are asymptomatic and therefore people do not get screened), underreporting by medical workers, and treatment of infections without confirmed testing. Also, medical and laboratory providers are not required to report most common cases of trichomoniasis, HPV, and genital herpes.

At SF State’s Student Health Services (SHS), which regularly conducts STD tests, staff members only report the cases that they are required by law to report, said Albert Angelo, health educator for the center.

Another issue is that while the tests are widely available not everyone is taking advantage of them, he said.

“If there’s a test out there for an STD, we can test for it,” Angelo said. “Anyone who thinks they are at risk for STDs should get tested.”

Statistics for the number of reported cases at the SHS were not readily available.

Blake Love, 23, a creative writing major, said that he thinks young people may be more concerned with avoiding pregnancy than preventing STDs.
“Some girls who are on birth control, only think ‘I won’t get pregnant.’ And among the gay community, [some people I know] use protection only half the time,” he said.

“I know a lot of people who have had testing,” said Kathy Kayhour, 31.

“Every time you date someone new, you should get checked out. The reality is that most people in long term relationships don’t use condoms and there’s a high rate of infidelity, and that’s how people contract STDs,” said Kayhour, a communications major.

“What does that statistic tell me? There’s a great deal of promiscuity and unprotected sex. People are enjoying themselves irresponsibly,” said Fakhra Shah, 26, a grad student in modern world history.

“People like to have fun, and it doesn’t come without a price,” she said.

To view the full study, visit

Staff writer Christina Nguyen contributed to this article.

Stress takes a toll on students

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Stress is no stranger to many students on SF State's urban campus.

As many students at SF State juggle school, work and commuting as well as the impending doom of midterms fast approaching this month, stress can build up and cause poor health and poor decisions. According to the stress management workshop conducted on campus by SF State’s campus health educator Albert Angelo, MS Ed., stress comes when we perceive we are in danger, feel worried and afraid or feel trapped, as if we have no choices.

“Only 25 percent of the US population has a college degree,” Angelo said. “Think about what were saying about each other when we think ‘I’m not a biochemistry triple major with physics on the side'- I must be doing something wrong.”

Angelo recommends breathing exercises where one takes four breaths in, releases two, then two more released breaths, and to close your eyes and imagine someone in your mind who has guided you and loved you. He noted that the more someone worries about something, the more likely they are fine, for they are obsessing over something they have most likely taken care of.

“Life comes with a 100 percent degree of mortality,” Angelo said. “I’ll be happy when, I’ll be happy when- I get a nice comfortable coffin, because I will worry until there’s no more life.”

A large stressor can be not honoring one’s biology, according to Angelo. Think about how your parents handled stress. If you flourish around a competitive environment, or if you prefer serenity and open space, even things like recognizing that you need a lot of coffee to stay awake and alert, Angelo says.

One theory the workshop teaches is the “What If Syndrome.” A student could be sitting in traffic, and then they start to panic that they will be late to class, miss the lecture, fail the next exam, fail the course, fail the semester, never get a good job and then live a life of misery.

He gives the humorous example of not getting a text back from a significant other, and how that leads to thoughts about him or her flirting with someone else, then cheating or having sex with someone else.

“Honor what you don’t know,” Angelo said. “Let the future be the future, if the little bully tells us its not going to work, tell the bully to get the hell out.”

One student, Anita Hegedus, an 18-year-old psychology major, inquired about conflicts at home with parents, and felt changed by Angelo's advice. She wants to move out, but they won't finance it.

"The commute from Castro Valley is more or less three hours out of my day to travel, and adds more stress to life in general" Hegedus said.

Angelo noted that if someone doesn't agree with your decision, thats their problem, not yours, and that one has to decide whats worth it, such as working full time to make rent.

Angelo's recommendations for big exams and large papers include breaking things down into manageable tasks such as, taking a whole week in the beginning of the semester just to pick a topic, or setting aside a week to go in the library.

He wants his students in the workshop to accept the things they cannot change, and have the courage to change the things they can as well as the wisdom to know the difference.

"We count our money more than we count what's going right," Angelo said. "We worry more about our money than our body."

It was noted that one can't study perfectly, and that a student should do the easy questions first, to not get stuck on one for 40 minutes, because your perceptions change, Angelo says.

For more information about the stress management workshop or the drop in meditation hour, go to

Family PACT offers free birth control to uninsured students

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California college students are well-informed when it comes to birth control planning, access, care and treatment. Adolescents in public schools learn about the reproductive system and are taught how to make informed decisions around sex.

SF State offers a program entitled Family PACT, a health service that provides free services for eligible uninsured men and women.

“Birth control can be $30 a month, and people on birth control are being responsible,” said Janine Ramos, a 19-year-old Art major and participant of Family PACT. “The program is an incentive to be responsible about having sex; it helps people do it safely and responsibly.”

If a student earns under $1,702 a month they qualify for the program’s free services. The services for women include birth control methods and supplies, education and counseling, annual exams, pap smears and emergency contraception, among others.

Services for men include: care and testing for sexually transmitted infections, HIV screenings, free condoms and supplies as well as education and counseling.

Due to students graduating and not taking advantage of the yearly renewal, the health center does not have an accurate numbers of enrollees.

Conan Tong, 31-year-old Family PACT enroller said he likes helping students save money, and said that they are working on having better communications with students around expiring enrollment cards. If you are enrolled in Family PACT, you have to renew your card each year. Many individuals have been coming in for recertification this fall; Tong sees 20 to 25 people a day, 40 percent to re-enroll.

Students can drop by the office with any questions or sign up for the PACT program in a little over 15 to 20 minutes.

“You can get free condoms anytime. People are having sex anyway, its better that it’s more controlled,” said Jeff Budd, a 23-year-old psychology major. “If they [students] can’t get it for free, they will take the risk—and they don’t care.”

The program also distributes literature around sex safety and what behaviors are considered risky.

According to the Family PACT literature, some of the biggest contributors to the cultivation and implementation of this program were glaring facts and statistics around STDs and unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. Eight of ten teen pregnancies are unplanned, and half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Up to 85 percent of women and 40 percent of men who have chlamydia—an STD that can cause of infertility—do not show symptoms.

The program adheres to a strict code of confidentiality between enroller and patient, Tong said. All information is 100 percent confidential, and the program is completely voluntary. A student can come down and cancel their card at anytime.

“A student would only do this if they fall down, hit their head and decide they don’t like free services from the state of California,” Tong said jokingly of the myriad of free services offered on our campus.

For more information around Family PACT, literature is available as well as program enrollers to answer student questions or sign individuals up in Area B of the Student Health Center. For a more confidential approach one can call (800) 942-1054.

At a glance: news briefs

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Computers stolen from campus building

Thieves broke into the Biology department on Friday night and took computers and hard drives.

The burglary happened sometime between 10 p.m. on Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday, according to Michael Fong, biology operations manager.

The suspects took five iMac computers and a couple of hard drives and keys, said Fong. The facilities are open 24 hours but no one was in the labs when the burglary happened.

Fong said that the suspects took a set of keys and used them to break into four research labs and a couple of faculty offices.

SF State to compete in pool tournament

San Francisco State’s Rack n’ Cue is holding their qualifying tournament for the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) 9-ball competition in Sacramento.

The men’s round is Saturday, Nov. 10 and the women’s round is the following Saturday, Nov. 17. Both rounds will run from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.

There are 10 open spots on both the men and women’s teams.

Qualifiers will compete in the spring ACUI tournament in Sacramento against other teams in SF State’s region, which include UCLA, Sacramento State and UC Berkeley.

Elevator Malfunction in the village

Residents in the Village at Centennial Square were evacuated for more than four hours early morning Nov. 4 following an elevator malfunction on the B-side of the Village, according to SF State spokesperson Ellen Griffin.

A brief power shortage set off the Village’s generator just before midnight, triggering the elevator failure and setting off the fire alarm a few minutes later.

Griffin also said nearly half of the Village residents were home during the time of the evacuation. These students waited around outside on State Drive, and inside the Mary Park Hall and the Science and Technology Theme Community lounges for the duration of the evacuation.

Low turn-out on election night

On Tuesday Nov. 6 voter turnout was low at the SF State campus polling station at the Towers Conference Center, and was expected to be low throughout San Francisco.

Over 30 people voted throughout the day. The few people that did come were voting for issues important to them.

Max McCumber, 21, voted to approve Proposition A, a measure to give the Municipal Transportation Authority to increase their revenue, while voting against the measure’s rival, Proposition H.

McCumber also voted for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“There isn’t anyone else who’s qualified,” said McCumber, an urban studies major.

Chris Samperisi, 18, also voted for Proposition A over Proposition H, because “there is no reason to have more and more garages downtown,” he said. “MUNI does need to be reformed."

CUS admin pay audit report released

The California State University’s executive pay and perquisites were open to scrutiny once again when the California State Auditor released a report Tuesday analyzing the practices of the university administration.

The report found there were policy inconsistencies in compensation given to top executives. “Questionable practices” followed in regards to CSU administration pay, which echoed claims made earlier this year by state legislators and the California Faculty Association.

“This audit confirms everything CFA has been saying over the past several years about the California State University administration’s proclivity to mismanage the system,” said CFA political action chair John Travis.

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said in a statement that the administration will be acting on some of the auditor’s recommendations immediately.

“The CSU agrees in nearly all cases with the auditor’s recommendations,” Reed said in the statement. “Many of these recommendations will be discussed with the Board of Trustees in order to determine whether policy changes will be made.”

Candidate visits campus on Election Day

On the evening of election day, David Wong, who is running for Sheriff, was the only candidate to visit SF State.

Standing on the corner of 19th Avenue and Holloway Avenue, Wong, 34, handed out pamphlets to last-minute voters going between campus and MUNI stops.

“I’ve been out on the campaign trail since 3 a.m.,” said Wong, of starting off in the Sunset District and ending the day at SF State.

Wong, who is currently running for Sheriff for his first time against current Sheriff Mike Hennessey, who has been Sheriff for 28 years. He currently is serving as President of San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.

“I’ve got real life experience working with the community, including youth,” said Wong, about why he would be a great replacement for Hennessey.

Long-awaited mural unveiled

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On Nov. 2 the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) unveiled the long awaited Palestinian Cultural Mural on the Cesar Chavez Student Center following two years of preparation and controversy.

Two hours of speeches, poetry, traditional dances, and hip-hop preceded the unveiling, which was greeted by applause and cheering from the audience of about 200.

The unveiling, which participants and audience members alike celebrated with dance, came at the midpoint of a day-long celebration organized by the GUPS and the Student Center.

“It’s interesting because Edward Said in his writings is first and foremost a humanist,” said David Tan, 30. Tan, who received his Master’s degree in Philosophy from SF State in 2004, said he was interested in the choice of Said as a figure for the mural. “What I’ve been able to pick up is that he wrote about the Palestinian issue not from an ‘Islamic jihadist’ perspective but from a humanist perspective.”

The mural was first proposed in 2005. However, disagreements between various student groups and administrators delayed the approval process for the project. A large portrait of Palestinian-American intellectual, Edward Said who died in 2003, dominates the mural, which also includes a skyline incorporating elements of San Francisco, Jerusalem (Said’s birthplace), and New York, where he taught at Columbia University. The painting also features portraits of several GUPS members performing a traditional Arabic dance, and an entwined pair of doves formed by Arabic calligraphy of the word “salaam,” meaning “peace.”

“We had to go through at least 20 changes in layout,” lead artist Fayeq Oweis said. “We’re glad that we were able to come up with a design that pleases everyone. The hard work of the students is represented, the Malcolm X Plaza—as a center for student activism—is represented. That creates a connection with different communities, and we’re proud of that.”

Oweis, who previously taught Arabic at SF State and is now a professor of Arabic language and culture at Santa Clara University, collaborated with Susan Greene, an adjunct professor at the San Francisco Art Institute. The artists, who have worked together before, led a team of students in creating the mural.

The most controversial element of the proposed mural was the inclusion of a figure called Handala, a character created by Palestinian political cartoonist Naji Al-Ali. Al-Ali was killed in England in 1987. Handala was ultimately dropped from the mural design.

“Handala represents a refugee boy who has his back turned to the world,” said Loubna Qutami, a senior majoring in sociology and GUPS member. “The experience that Handala represents was important to us, because we are a country of nearly six million living in diaspora. To us, when they asked us to take that out, it was like they were asking us to deny our history or be ashamed of it.”

Many Israelis and supporters of Israel consider Handala representative of a threat to the continued existence of the Jewish state. The figure was to have been depicted holding a key and a sword-like pen, representing the Palestinian “right of return” to territory that is now part of Israel.

Substance-free dorm struggles to stay sober

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Although dorm parties are synonymous with on-campus residences, substance-free living has been an option at SF State for a decade. This semester and in recent years, however, adhering to that theme has been tricky.

“It’s not as successful as we had hoped,” said Resident Assistant Carlo Delgadillo of the substance-free floor located at the Mezzanine level of the Towers at Centennial Square. “But no floor is, really.”

Resident Ben Langholz, 18, attested to that.

“It’s not very substance free,” he said, and added that he was aware of smoking and drinking on the floor all the time.

The Towers have been home to those who wish to live drug and alcohol-free for four years. This semester, out of the 42 students who live on the substance-free level, only two chose to live there, which floor advisor Kevin Kinney said accounts for the problems the floor has had with broken policies.

“Not all residents on the floor necessarily wanted to live on a substance free floor,” Kinney wrote in an email. “But that was the option that was available to them and they knowingly chose to take it.”

Kinney wrote that students who live there must sign a written agreement indicating they will not consume or possess alcohol or illegal drugs on the floor or they will lose on campus residency. Students also agree to not to return to the floor under the influence of a controlled substance.

This semester, some students have been moved off the substance free floor due to violating the polices. Delgadillo added that they’ve been shifting people around in an attempt to cut back on the number of conflicts in the future.

According to Kinney, a number of students on the floor have had their contracts cancelled on the floor as well. To preserve confidentiality, exact numbers could not be given.

Substance-free resident Jamie Nickerson, 19, said although she doesn’t drink in the apartment, she does like to party on the weekends.

She did not choose to live on the substance-free floor and said she was upset when she found out she was placed there.

“I think it’s really lame that they have it,” she said of the substance-free floor. “No one seems to take it seriously.”

Kyle Noland, one of the two voluntary floor residents, said his reasons for choosing the floor were, in part, due to his mother’s influence but he also wanted to live in a quieter environment.

Noland said there have been two tense meetings in which the RAs “were just yelling at the residents for not being substance free,” but said overall he is content with his living arrangement.

Delgadillo said the people that live on the floor represent a diverse group of interests regarding substances.

“You get some people that want to be there, people that don’t and people that don’t care,” he said.

Kinney said that some students need a substance-free floor to succeed at SF State. These students may have a desire to avoid a drug and alcohol environment or they may have a history of alcohol or drug use and are working towards sobriety or overcoming addiction, he said.

The first floor of Mary Ward hall is also considered substance-free, and, like the Towers, has its own set of problems with maintaining the sober status.
Resident Erik Olea, 19, said he chose to live on the floor.

“I don’t want to be surrounded by people who party, do drugs, and that kind of stuff,” he said.

Olea said he didn’t have to sign an agreement as is done on the Towers' substance-free floor, but Olea said the floor seems much quieter compared to what he’s seen elsewhere.

Fellow resident Kyle Morris, 18, also cited silence as his reason for moving to the floor. Morris said he liked the fact that he could leave the dorms for the evening and not come back to a party.

Morris added that he has heard rumors of substance use on the floor, but he hasn’t seen it personally.

One freshmen on the Mary Ward floor substance free floor, who asked to remain anonymous, said he didn’t chose to live on the floor but said he didn’t think his neighbors took the substance-free policy very seriously.

“Sometimes I’ll be walking through the hall here and it smells like weed,” he said. “I think one of my neighbors got busted for it.”

Kinney acknowledged that while some students on the designated floors will “challenge the policy,” he said he didn’t see how that style of living should be too much to ask of students.

And Kinney claimed that the majority of the students living on these floors are living substance-free.

“On-Campus Housing is not a requirement for SF State students,” he wrote. “People who do not wish to live on a substance-free floor should probably look for other options out in the city.”

Newsom celebrates re-election

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San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said everything short of declaring victory during his re-election celebration speech Tuesday night, including thanking his opponents for entering the race despite his overwhelming approval ratings.

In front of a crowded room full of campaign volunteers and supporters at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, Newsom acknowledged the mayoral race as “anticlimactic” and offered his next term as moment of reconciliation with his critics.

According to campaign spokesman Nathan Ballard, Newsom had received 77 percent of the approximately 40,000 absentee votes as of 8:45pm.

“I’d like to thank my opponents for having the courage to actually put their names on the ballot and not sit on the sidelines and take shots,” Newsom said, “To those who may be disappointed tonight, I’m committed to working with you in the next four years.”

A handful of SF State students who volunteered for the campaign attended the celebration. Most expressed their eagerness to see the mayor do something about MUNI.

“I’m a student and I take MUNI a lot,” said Jennifer McCrea-Steele, a junior communications major. “It needs to be more on time and have better people running it.”

Mcrea-Steele, who moved to San Francisco last semester, interned for the Newsom re-election campaign.

“It’s a fun experience, I’m trying to get more involved in the city since moving here,” she said.

Mary Watts, 19, a sophomore political science major also interned with the campaign. In addition to fixing MUNI problems, she said the mayor should focus on homelessness during his next term.

“I’d like to see him tackle the homelessness situation and make sure they have the right resources are available for them,” Watts Said.

After his speech, Newsom said that he plans to concentrate on crime, particularly the increasing homicide rates, as well as the environment and quality of life issues.

“You just wait and see on the environment,” said Newsom, “I’ve been working for six months on some new environmental ideas that will reignite San Francisco.”

District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty made an appearance in the crowd to show his support for Newsom’s expected victory and acknowledged the mayor’s ability to overcome publicly chronicled personal issues.

“The mayor has been through a lot of rockiness over the past year, but no matter what San Franciscans have looked beyond the headlines and seem very content with the job he is doing.” Dufty said. “I look forward to him being engaged about the issues that matter.”

Matt Senekeremian, 19, a political science major, helped out during the campaign by phone banking and encouraging people to vote. He admitted it was a dull election year, but was excited to participate in a process that he said many people in other countries die for.

“It’s like a big family reunion here tonight,” Senekeremian said, “There are people here who couldn’t help out this time but helped out last time. We’re all sharing stories its kind of like a big happy family”

Mecke rallies supporters in losing effort

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As Mayoral Candidate Quintin Mecke walked into a dark bustling room lined with Christmas lights and orange streamers, a huge round of applause began to mix in with the loud background sounds of Caribbean music.

Mecke, considered by some to be Gavin Newsom's strongest opponent in this mayoral race, held an election party last night at the Peacock Lounge at 552 Haight Street.

Around 8:45 p.m., the club began to flood with supporters sporting orange, black and white “Quintin Mecke For Mayor” T-shirts.

The League of Young Voters spent the entire day campaigning for Mecke all around San Francisco.

“We’ve been in the office, [Mecke’s headquarters] since 6 a.m. and was at City Hall by
7:30 this morning passing out flyers and taking pictures,” said Ali Uscilka, a member of The League of Young Voters.

Mecke’s cheerful spirit and friendly smile were contrary to how campaign supporters felt about the way mainstream media was handling the mayoral election.

“I was upset because the media made [the candidates] look like clowns. Quintin is more for the serious things like crime and homelessness. I mean they put more attention on people like “Chicken John” and the nudity guy,” said SF State student Mk Nguyen.

“[Mecke] is aware of the issues in the community,”said Catherine Marroquin, a community organizer and Mecke supporter.

Mecke says his top issues are affordable housing, Muni, crime and homelessness.

“There are about 92 or 93 homicides so far this year[….]the main reasons for crime is disproportionate representation. There is a set record number of homicides especially in Bayview,” Mecke said.

Mecke lists education and poverty as other reasons for the high crime rate in San Francisco.

Henry J. W., who is on the Board of Directors for Acts of Love, a political group and grassroots organization for medical marijuana patients, said that even though he felt that the election was fair, his biggest concern is: “What is Newsom going to do now?”

“He can fix the Muni, but [we] still got homeless problems…he ran out of excuses. Somebody new and fresh [needs to] come in.”

Few turn out to vote on campus

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This Election Day, voter turnout was low at the SF State campus polling station at the Towers Conference Center, and is expected to be low throughout San Francisco.

Over 30 people turned out through the day. The few people that did turn out were voting for issues important to them.

Max McCumber, 21, was voting to approve Proposition A, a measure to give the Municipal Transportation Authority to increase their revenue, while voting against the measure’s rival, Proposition H.

McCumber also voted for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“There isn’t anyone else who’s qualified,” said McCumber, an urban studies major.

Chris Samperisi, 18, also voted for Proposition A over Proposition H, because “there is no reason to have more and more garages downtown,” he said. “Muni does need to be reformed.

Proposition H would increase the minimum number of parking spaces the City must allow developers build in developments and buildings in the downtown area of San Francisco.

Samperisi, a cinema major, also voted for Newsom because Newsom is already the mayor.

One student even turned up to vote, but could not because he was registered in San Diego.

Despite being turned away, Nicholas McCurdy, a music education major, said that it’s important to vote.

“I need to vote,” said McCurdy, 18. “It’s part of the republic.”

Coming by the polling station to pick up an “I voted sticker” after voting for Mayoral candidate Quintin Mecke via absentee ballot, James Sheldon said that he always votes.

“It’s important,” Sheldon, 26, said.

It wasn’t all traditional voters turning up to cast votes. First time voters were there too.

Jasmine LeBlanc, 18, was voting for the first time and voted for Lonnie Holmes for mayor.

“He seems to care about the kids,” LeBlanc, a journalism major, said. “He’s into raising money to help with crime, violence and education.”

LeBlanc said that the propositions were difficult to understand but voted against Proposition J, which would support providing San Francisco with free wireless internet. The proposition is non-binding.

“What’s the point of it?” she said.

LeBlanc said that she was raised with knowledge of what voting means to this country. “I was every excited,” she said.

Elevator malfunction evacuates Village

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Residents in the Village at Centennial Square were evacuated for more than four hours early Sunday morning following an elevator malfunction on the B-side of the Village, according to SF State spokesperson Ellen Griffin.

A brief power shortage set off the Village’s generator just before midnight, triggering the elevator failure and setting off the fire alarm a few minutes later.

Nearly half of the Village residents were home during the time of the evacuation Griffin said and these students waited around outside on State Drive, and inside the Mary Park Hall and the Science and Technology Theme Community lounges for the duration of the evacuation.

According to University Police Sgt. Emiliano Balistreri, who explained the situation to the roughly 40 residents and a few Resident Assistants sitting in Mary Park, the campus police and the San Francisco Fire Department were unable to re-set the alarm and an employee from the fire alarm company was coming from San Leandro to re-set it.

A representative from the company, Simplex Grinnell, said they received a call at 1 a.m. requesting this alarm re-set. According to Griffin, PG&E and the campus facilities also had a hand in resolving the issue.

Initial reports indicated that the generator was blowing smoke or fumes into the smoke detector, but Griffin reported that once the generator was turned off the alarm remained on.

“Until they isolated why they were getting that signal [the alarm] wasn’t going to turn off,” Griffin said.

After about 2 hours of waiting around, the RAs told the Village residents that while a risk of fire didn’t appear to be present, they couldn’t allow students back in the building until they re-set the continuously buzzing alarm.

If there was a fire, there would be no warning system in place as the alarm was already going off, they explained.

After evacuating her building for many false alarms, Village resident Rachel Duron, 21, was surprised to learn that this time the alarm had gone off for a legitimate reason.

“[I’m] tired of the alarm going off all the time,” she said. “I wasn’t going to come out but my [roommates] made me.”

Fellow Village resident Alex Soden, 19, felt the process could have been smoother.

“It seems a little disorganized,” he said of the evacuation. “Three and a half hours seems way too long.”

But Erin Rea, 18, also a Village resident, said she sympathizes with the Resident Assistants (RAs) that stood waiting with the students listening for reports of an all clear.

“It sucks that the RAs are getting such a bad rep,” she said. “They can’t help it.”

Many students took naps on Café in the Park’s floor or rested their heads on the tables. Residents were allowed back into their Village apartments just after 3 a.m.

Griffin reported that the campus facilities are currently making final repairs on the failed elevator and two fully functioning elevators are still available for resident use.

Palestine Mural unveiled

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On Nov. 2, the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) unveiled the long awaited Palestinian Cultural Mural on the Cesar Chavez Student Center following two years of preparation and controversy.

Two hours of speeches, poetry, traditional dances, and hip-hop preceded the unveiling, which was greeted by applause and cheering from the audience of about 200.

The unveiling, which participants and audience members alike celebrated with dance, came at the midpoint of a day-long celebration organized by the GUPS and the Student Center.

“It’s interesting because Edward Said in his writings is first and foremost a humanist,” David Tan, 30, said. Tan, who received his Master’s degree in Philosophy from SF State in 2004, said he was interested in the choice of Said as a figure for the mural. “What I’ve been able to pick up is that he wrote about the Palestinian issue not from an ‘Islamic jihadist’ perspective but from a humanist perspective.”

The idea of the mural was first raised in 2005. Disagreements between various student groups and administrators delayed the approval process for the project. A large portrait of Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, who died in 2003, dominates the mural, which also includes a skyline incorporating elements of San Francisco, Jerusalem (Said’s birthplace), and New York, where he taught at Columbia University. The painting also features portraits of several GUPS members performing a traditional Arabic dance, and an entwined pair of doves formed by Arabic calligraphy of the word “salaam,” meaning “peace.”

“We had to go through at least 20 changes in layout,” lead artist Fayeq Oweis said. “We’re glad that we were able to come up with a design that pleases everyone. The hard work of the students is represented, the Malcolm X Plaza—as a center for student activism—is represented. That creates a connection with different communities, and we’re proud of that.”

Oweis, who previously taught Arabic at SF State and is now a professor of Arabic language and culture at Santa Clara University, collaborated with Susan Greene, an adjunct professor at the San Francisco Art Institute. The artists, who have worked together before, led a team of students in creating the mural.

The most controversial element of the proposed mural was the inclusion of a figure called Handala, a character created by Palestinian political cartoonist Naji Al-Ali. Al-Ali was killed in England in 1987. Handala was ultimately dropped from the mural design.

“Handala represents a refugee boy who has his back turned to the world,” said Loubna Qutami, a senior majoring in sociology and GUPS member. “The experience that Handala represents was important to us, because we are a country of nearly six million living in diaspora. To us, when they asked us to take that out, it was like they were asking us to deny our history or be ashamed of it.”

Many Israelis and supporters of Israel consider Handala representative of a threat to the continued existence of the Jewish state. The figure was to have been depicted holding a key and a sword-like pen, representing the Palestinian “right of return” to territory that is now part of Israel.

Election '07: Electronic voting system overhauled

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The way we make choices is about to change.

A sweeping electoral security review commissioned by California’s latest Secretary of State found serious flaws in electronic voting machines, prompting a slew of new restrictions to the way every vote gets counted, beginning with next Tuesday’s election.

But critics such as the New America Foundation say the new regulations invite unnecessary costs, including an estimated $300,000 for San Francisco alone, and unduly erode the public’s faith in the electoral process.

“The order, to be honest, makes absolutely no sense,” said Steven Hill, a program director at the Washington D.C.-based non-profit public policy institute. “The electoral process in the San Francisco Bay Area should be considered a model for the rest of California and the rest of the country.”

Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the state’s chief elections officer, announced the new regulations in an Aug. 3 statement, when the findings of the statewide review she’d ordered were released.

“The systems we use to cast and tally votes in this state are the most fundamental tools of our democracy,” Bowen wrote. “Applying proper auditing procedures […] gives us the ability to begin rebuilding voter confidence.”

In March, Bowen ordered a two-month review of voting machines by teams of computer security experts from the University of California.

To address fears that the machines were not accurately tabulating ballots, every vote will now be counted at each polling place and then recounted at San Francisco City Hall election headquarters, where high-tech optical scanners can tally up to 10,000 ballots an hour.

In setting new measures, Bowen said she sought a system that had the highest level of “transparency” and “auditability” possible.

Hill estimated that implementing the new restrictions would cost an additional $300,000—a price tag that sparked debate.

Bowen initially argued to force manufacturers of the electronic voting machines to pick up the tab for the extra expenses, because it was their security failures that prompted the review. But when the vendors pointed that the secretary did not have the power to enforce the order, counties were left to pay up for themselves.

“I can’t say enough about how the Secretary of State has made a very poor decision,” Hill said.

The extra workload also means the city will be working overtime. Giannina Miranda, executive assistant with the Department of Elections, said that the city is prepared to hire new poll workers to work around the clock over the weekend to check the incoming ballots and count votes.

The conditional re-certification of the voting machines has spurred new restrictions that city workers must obey, according to an Oct. 2 memo sent by SF Director of Elections John Arntz.

For example, if the department receives ballots that have been filled using anything other than a #2 pencil or black ink, in some cases poll workers will refill the ballot by hand.

Hill criticized the new measures, saying that some open the door to fraud—more hands on the ballots and the additional time means yet-to-be-counted ballots sit in storage, where they are susceptible to security lapses.

“They are making decisions that really undermine the election, which is ironic because they set out to improve the electoral process,” Hill said.

Bowen’s team found the common problems in many electronic voting systems in use today include vulnerability to physical and technological attacks, the risk of spreading malicious software from one machine to another and a lack of overall accuracy and integrity.

The secrecy of balloting could also be in jeopardy, the reviewing team said, because both the electronic and paper trails contain private information that should remain anonymous.

The review process was lauded by Bev Harris, founder of Black Box Voting, a national non-profit elections watchdog group.

In online postings, she called the voting machines “junky” and “manipulation-friendly” and said Bowen had proved herself “one of the gutsiest public officials in the nation by tackling this thorny issue.”

First used during last year's election for city supervisors, the ranked-choice voting system will be featured on the Nov. 6 ballots used to vote for San Francisco's mayor, district attorney, sheriff and several city propositions.

The ballots will allow voters to choose their top three choices for each position. A candidate will be declared the winner if they receive more than 50 percent of the first-place votes. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-place votes is eliminated and votes are tallied again until a winner is selected.

"It's a good system," said Steven Hill, a director at the non-profit, post-partisan New America Foundation. "Overall, the election process [in San Francisco] works pretty well."

Ranked-choice has been the preferred system because it avoids the necessity of holding a second round of voting. This both saves the city "millions of dollars" according to Hill and ensures minimal drop off in voter turnout, which often "plummets" by 40 percent during secondary elections.

"You increase voter turnout by getting it over in November, more voters are at the polls, more people have a say into what the outcome is," Hill said.


Through the Embers

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As thousands of people survey damage and authorities uncover arson, the potential return of the Santa Ana winds threatens to turn smoldering embers into the raging blazes that have destroyed over 2,000 Southern California homes.

Nearly two weeks after wildfires began sweeping across more than 500,000 acres of Southern California, local residents and distant SF State students are still feeling the lingering effects of the fires.

According to, an official website dedicated to updated California fire information, 19 fires in seven Southern California counties were 100 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, including the Buckweed Fire in Los Angeles county, which burned 38,356 acres, causing $7.4 million worth of damage. Local officials believe a child playing with matches started the fire.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department identified a young boy on Tuesday as the cause of the blaze, which began on October 21 and destroyed 21 homes, according to sheriff’s officials. The child has been released into the custody of his parents and the case is being transferred to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The child’s age, name, and home community have not been revealed.

“We have identified a juvenile boy as the person who started the fire,” department spokesman Steve Whitmore said. “Arson investigators interviewed the young man, and he acknowledged he had been playing with matches and accidentally started a fire.”
The remaining Poomacha, Witch, Slide and Santiago Fires in San Diego, San Bernardino, and Orange Counties are 70 percent, 99 percent, 97 percent and 80 percent contained respectively, according to

The California Office of Emergency Services released 2,767 as the number of structures destroyed by the fires as of October 28. That number includes 2,013 homes, according to office spokeswoman Kim Oliver. Fourteen people have been killed by the wildfires.
National Weather Service forecasters predict that the Santa Ana winds will return this weekend, but in a much milder form than those that fanned the infernos of last week. This weekend’s hot gusts are expected to be around 15 mph. Last week they peaked at 70 mph.

San Francisco, in addition to dozens of other cities and states, sent many firefighters south to help control the flames. Among them was SFFD firefighter Laverne Maliga, who protected structures in Los Angeles and San Diego between October 21 and 27.

Maliga and her team, which included 22 San Francisco firefighters and 10 from elsewhere in the Bay Area in addition to local firefighters, managed to save every house to which they were assigned, and the residents were grateful.

“Just our presence alone made a big difference to all of the people,” she said.

Other homes were not so lucky, as Maliga saw while fighting San Diego’s Witch Fire.

“A lot of houses were burned,” she said. “Chimneys were just standing alone, everything was burned. It was really bad, it was sad.”

Maliga said her scariest experience was while she was on a fire line, standing within 10 feet of the blaze behind a trench designed to keep the fire away from the fighters. But “the fire jumped the line and we had to bail out,” Maliga said.

Maliga was “released from the incident” on Sunday after being told that the fires were dying down and being contained. Maliga said she is “happy to be home, but if it happened again I’d go down there again.”

San Francisco was also home to two evacuees over the weekend, roommates Annika Gaar and Brittany Lynch, both 21, of Carlsbad. The Cal State San Marcos students received an advisory evacuation call and decided to drive to San Francisco to stay with their friends, SF State students Sara Draffin and Tina DiSano.

“It was honestly so relieving,” Gaar said of their trip. “[At home,] it was gross. We were cooped up inside, we did nothing but watch the news for three days. We couldn’t go outside or open the windows and we had no air conditioning. There was no circulation except for the smoke.”

The fires were especially difficult for Lynch, who said that about 30 of her friends from Rancho Bernardo high school lost their homes.

“It’s hard to deal with,” she said. “So many of my friends’ houses are gone, it’s like part of my childhood.”

Lynch enjoyed the vacation from Southern California, where she said “there was no sky, just smoke,” but became sad every time she got word that another friend’s house had been destroyed.

“It was nice to be away, to be safe. I was worried, obviously. And more and more every time I talked to somebody. It was mostly sad,” she said.

One SF State student who is trying to make an impact is Stacy Yip, 20, a Resident Assistant in the Towers. Yip and fellow RA Keir Johnson started the So-Cal Disaster Relief Committee in hopes of raising money and providing an outlet for students affected by the fires. Yip was motivated to start the group when the tragedy hit home by knocking on her dorm room door.

“One of my residents was telling me how she might have to drop out of school because if her house burns down her parents need support, and she just couldn’t go to school that day and she also felt very alone,” Yip said.

The committee, which formed on October 25 and also has a group page on Facebook, will have regular meetings on Mondays at 8:00 pm in the Mary Park Lounge and Wednesdays at 8:00 pm in the Mary Ward Cantina. They will discuss the fires, give updates, make cards for firefighters and paramedics, and offer students specific volunteer opportunities to become involved in over Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
The week-old group has raised $30 so far, and Yip plans to raise more funds for donation to the Red Cross by going to classrooms with collection buckets, collecting money at each meeting, encouraging students to donate meal plans—which transfers into money for the Red Cross—and by having each RA put a collection bucket at the front desk of the Towers during their shifts.

The Red Cross is accepting only monetary donations, and those donations can be made by calling 1-800-HELP NOW, by securely donating online at, by contacting your local Red Cross chapter, or by mailing a donation to: American Red Cross, PO Box 4002018, Des Moines, IA 50340-2018.

Any students who feel they need counseling to deal with the impact of the wildfires are encouraged to go to Counseling and Psychological Services in room 208 of the Student Services building.

[X]press Special Report:

As both a San Diego native and a photojournalist, I had a special interest in returning home last week to witness the situation that the TV media was labeling as the worst fires in American history.

With fellow photojournalists Brian Frank and Kristina Barker, I arrived in northern San Diego on Wednesday morning as a red sun rose to reveal a hazy brown landscape. It didn’t take long to see the blaze; by then, it was sprouting up on Camp Pendleton, causing the closure of I-5 and impeding our southbound route.

The course of the next five days took us from the 10,000 evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium to the head of the Poomacha Fire on Palomar Mountain, and finally to the devastated neighborhoods of Rancho Bernardo where residents were given 20 minutes to evacuate their homes after the Witch Fire jumped a 10-lane section of I-15.

The vast devastation that was present in so many areas was to be expected, but the absence of hopelessness came as something of a surprise. There was also the pleasant demeanor of the national guardsmen, the ceaseless yet somewhat jovial dedication of the firefighters containing the blazes, the compliance of insurance companies—possibly a repercussion of bad Hurricane Katrina press—and the mammoth outpour of community support. All these contributed to an aura that was grim, but by no means dire. --Steven Simonetti

Election '07: Props A & H offer conflicting transit fixes

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Public transportation, a hot-button issue for many San Francisco residents and organizations, is taking center stage in a debate to be decided with Tuesday’s election, as an ambitious reform proposal for city transit rides the ballot.

Proposition A, introduced in July by Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, aims to improve the Municipal Transit Agency by pumping an additional $26 million to the system and expanding the decision-making authority of the MTA, rather than the Board of Supervisors. It will also preserve the city’s current parking space limitations in some new development projects.

“Proposition A brings Muni up to the 21st century,” said District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd. “I don’t think any rider today is happy with the state of Muni.”

Prop. A, the first Muni reform measure in eight years, is seen by many as a sweeping transformation of the system and is countered by Proposition H, which seeks to build more parking spaces in the city.

Prop. A is endorsed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, transit-advocacy groups like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, environmental groups and several labor unions. If adopted, it would be added to the City Charter.

Elsbernd said only about 70 percent of buses arrive within four minutes of schedule, less than the target 85percent mandated by voters in the 1999 reform measure.

The ordinance would allocate approximately $26 million from the city’s General Fund to MTA, according to a statement by City Controller Edward Harrington. Under Prop. A, Muni would receive additional funding from the city’s parking fees and fines and from parking lot taxes.

Along with extra funding, the system’s managers would have more power over budgeting, hiring and firing mid-level managers and traffic control fixtures.

“Muni would have much more control in the day-to-day decision making,” said SF State professor Jason Henderson, who teaches Urban Transportation.

“It’s not a silver bullet to fixing Muni, but it’s a definite improvement, said Elsbernd. “It infuses Muni with much needed money.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Proposition H, which would drastically increase the number of parking spaces allowed to be built with some types of new development by changing the city’s Planning Code. The measure has received stiff criticism because of it contradicts the city’s transit-first policy.

Elsbernd said even if both measures are passed, Prop. A will trump most of Prop. H because of the way they are written.

Prop. H was funded by Don Fisher, the founder of Gap, Inc., who has opposed Prop. A, along with the San Francisco Republican Party, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and three city supervisors.

In a published argument against Prop. A, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick expressed concern over the expanded authority MTA would have over the “second largest department budget in the city.” He stated that Muni’s accountability to the public will diminish severely by shifting the control from the city to the Board of Transportation.

“The overriding concern is the displacement of the oversight ability of an elected governing board to an appointed board,” McGoldrick wrote.

Other opponents were concerned with a provision in Prop. A that would lift the current salary cap for Muni drivers. According to the text of the measure, drivers earn about $26 an hour and a city law mandates that they be the second-best paid transit operators in the nation. Critics say the management’s ability to raise wages could put the agency into debt.

The funding—obtained from the city’s parking fees and fines and from parking lot taxes—would provide Muni with about $26 million by next year, according to Harrington.

“Prop. A is not a panacea, but it does bring us in the right direction of bringing environment and labor together,” said Henderson. “We don’t have time to sit around and wait for the perfect solution, and this is a good start.”

Henderson said the challenge of reforming Muni is making the measure attractive enough to voters to show that it is actually a “viable solution to getting out of their cars.”

Muni reform is also difficult because of labor costs, said Henderson. “It’s unfortunate that labor cost is often pitted against Muni, but it is hard to work around. Prop. A brings together the environmental and labor aspects, which is tricky.”

According to the legal text of Prop. A, MTA would also be required to develop a Climate Action Plan every two years that would seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from San Francisco’s transportation sources to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2012.

Although the proposition would not require the MTA to adhere to Kyoto Protocol regulations, it would require the agency to conduct an audit to “see where they stand” in terms of pollution.

“Prop. A would force the city to talk about what it is doing about global warming,” said Henderson.

Prop. H has been not been popular with city officials, who fear the measure will encourage more people to drive to San Francisco, undermining the city’s efforts like Prop. A to reduce pollution and improve public transportation.

“I always have a strong opposition to amend the city Planning Code,” said Elsbernd.
“If H passes, conceivably, there could be parking spots all over downtown. Not only are they ugly, we’d be adding more and more cars to the city.”

Harrington stated the MTA is likely to experience higher costs under the ordinance due to increases in congestion, traffic management needs and construction expenses.

Proponents maintain that the increasing number of cars coming to the city every year necessitate more parking spots. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for the Bay Area, 1.8 cars per household is the projected number of cars in the city by the year 2010, up from 1.75 in 2000.

“This measure helps San Francisco respond to the reality that more cars are coming to the city everyday,” the SF Council of District Merchants Associations wrote in a statement.

Several sustainable transportation advocates, including the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and City CarShare, oppose Prop. H, stating that the initiative would lead to more traffic congestion and unsafe roads for cyclists and pedestrians.

“For one things, it undermines local control,” said Henderson. “Another, if you add more parking structures, you allow more cars to come to the city, but you don’t add more lanes on the streets or on the bridges, you congest traffic further.”

Opponents also wrote that the measure is “out of touch” and would reduce up to 10,000 on-street neighborhood parking spaces and eliminate up to 1,500 future neighborhood retail stores. Many say the city should deter, not invite, more cars.

Elsbernd said that the text of Prop. H contains “loopholes you could drive a Hummer through,” citing the allowance of unlimited parking for “low emission vehicles.” Elsbernd pointed that any car manufactured the year 2008 and later is now automatically labeled as low emission per federal regulations, including SUVs such as Hummers, Ford Expeditions and Cadillac Escalades.

Henderson also said the ability for property owners to install garages under Prop. H without the need for city approval could change the face of San Francisco’s storefronts and walkways.

“I think anyone who votes in favor of this just doesn’t understand it,” said Henderson. “Tourists don’t come to San Francisco to see Daly City.”

According to the MTA Web site, Muni is the Bay Area’s largest transit system and provides nearly 700,000 trips a day. It needs an additional $100 million to $150 million a year to make significant improvements. Its annual operating budget is around $670 million.


Despite a growing political lethargy evidenced by low voter turnout and limp TV ratings for public debate, many argue that voters are still engaged in the political process, though disheartened, and candidates are jumping through new and old hoops to capture their interest.

“There’s a spectrum (of voters),” said ABC7 political reporter Mark Matthews. “Some voters are apathetic and some are fired up…if there’s an issue they feel the candidate is responding to (they will go to the polls).”

Voter responsiveness usually depends on a person’s thought process as well as his or her location in the nation, Matthews said. National elections and issues, in particular, tend to drive people to the polls, he said.

Locally, voter responsiveness depends on the election too, said San Francisco mayoral candidate Josh Wolf.

“San Franciscans need a spark to energize them,” Wolf said. “They need a sense of movement and not politicking as usual.”

Wolf said the 2003 race between Matt Gonzalez and Gavin Newsom sparked the political interest of city dwellers, but he said that he and the other candidates have been unable to generate that kind of buzz in the current mayoral race, due mostly to financial constraints.

Wolf said he has focused on shaping policies and uniting candidates to stay afloat, more than trying to rally the vote.

As of October 29, with only a week to go before the election, just under 20,000 of the 145,000 San Francisco absentee ballots sent out by City Hall had been returned, according to Department of Elections executive assistant Giannina Miranda. She added that the turnout was well below usual figures that soon before an election.

Jackson McBrayer, 24, an SF State junior and cinema major said he feels hindered by the current political system too.

“It would be great if we had a third party system,” McBrayer said. “I think people are apathetic, because they saw the last debacle (the last two presidencies)…it was more a selection than an election.”

McBrayer said he resorted to absentee ballot voting, because he said it creates more of a level playing field for voters, and election workers count the vote differently, he added.
“It’s using politics to protest politics,” he said. “They (the absentee ballots) are the tie-breakers.”

Lee Denton, a SF State alumnus, agreed. Absentee ballots are hand counted to avoid machine “screw ups,” she said.

Promoting the Newsom campaign, Denton visited the SF State campus on Saturday, along with a group of campaign workers, to distribute the ballots.

“The best case scenario is that (Newsom will) win the majority through the absentee ballots,” she said. He hopes to avoid a run off, which would happen if he got less than 50 percent of the vote, she added.

Instant runoff voting is an option San Franciscans will have in the upcoming mayoral election, Wolf said. This means that voters can choose a second and third candidate, along with their first choice.

Instant runoff voting is great on a local level, said Wolf, but he said it would take time to determine how effective it is, in terms of getting candidates into office.

Katherine Houston, a San Pablo resident who attended an anti-war rally Saturday in Dolores Park said the idea of runoff voting would motivate her to go to the polls.
“My vote counts more,” she said, “because I am telling them who is more important.”


Election '07: Analysis of November propositions

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Proposition A: Transit Reform, Parking Regulation and Emissions Reduction Act

If Proposition A passes, the Municipal Transportation Agency’s (MTA) share of City revenues would increase from 40 percent to 80 percent of parking tax receipts from the General Fund. The MTA would also receive 100 percent of any new funds from future parking revenue increases. The MTA could seek bonds and other financial support with approval by the Board of Supervisors. Proposition A would fix the maximum number of off-street parking places allowed in new private developments in the City’s Planning Code as of July 1, 2007.

Proposition B: Limiting Hold-over Service On Charter-Created Boards and Commissions

This proposition changes the City Charter so upon completion of a board or commission member’s term, he or she would be able to serve for no more than 60 days before a replacement is named. The current system has no time limit after member’s term expires.

Proposition C: Requiring Public Hearings On Proposed Measures

If members of the Board of Supervisors or the Mayor want to place a measure on the ballot, they would be required to submit the proposed initiative to the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Elections at least 45 days before the deadline of ballot measure submissions. The President of the Board would then assign the measure to a committee of the Board, and the committee would hold a hearing to consider the measure within the next 30 days.

Proposition D: Renewing Library Preservation Fund

Proposition D would renew the Library Preservation Fund for 15 more years and it would allow the City to issue bonds without voter approval to construct and improve library facilities.

Proposition E: Requiring The Mayor To Appear Monthly At A Board Of Supervisors Meeting

Proposition E would require the Mayor to appear personally at one Board of Supervisors meeting each month to engage in formal policy discussions. This is different from a similar proposition last year, which was non-binding for the Mayor.

Proposition F: Authorizing Board Of Supervisors To Amend Contract For Retirement Benefits For Police Department Employees Who Were Airport Police Officers

If passed proposition F would authorize the Board of Supervisors to amend the contract with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) in order for police department employees who served as airport police officers before December 27, 1997, to end their participation in CalPERS and move their service credit to the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (SFERS).

Proposition G: Establishing Golden Gate Park Stables Matching Fund

If passed proposition G would commit up to $750,000 in City funds for the renovation, repair, and maintenance of the Golden Gate Park stables. One dollar from the City General Fund would be used to match every $3 in private donations to rebuild the stables, which have been closed since 2001 for structural repairs.

Proposition H: Regulating Parking Spaces

If passed H would amend the City Planning Code to allow more spaces in new residential and commercial developments in certain downtown zoning districts. This would also increase the minimum number of parking spaces the City must allow developers build in developments and buildings in the downtown area. This proposition also creates a new, more broad and less strict definition for what a “low-emission vehicle” is.

Proposition I: Establishing Office Of Small Business As City Department and Creating Small Business Assistance Center

Proposition I would establish the Office of Small Business as a City Department, create a Small Business Assistance Center, and provide $750,000 for its first year operation. It would have a staff of 100 or fewer employees and report to the Mayor and Board Of Supervisors twice a year.

Proposition J: Adopting A Policy To Offer Free City-Wide Wireless High-Speed Internet Network

This proposition would provide the entire city of San Francisco free wireless Internet through a partnership with a private company.

Proposition K: Adopting A Policy To Restrict Advertising On Street Furniture And City Buildings

This proposition would not allow any more advertising on items like transit shelters, kiosks, benches and newspaper racks and no advertisements visible to the public on city-owned buildings.

» Electronic voting system overhauled
» Pros A & H offer conflicting transit fixes
» Low voter interest will reflect in election final tally
» Letters from the mayoral candidates

Election '07: Letters from the mayoral candidates

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This year's race for San Francisco mayor has brought out a group of candidates with a wide range of ideas and viewpoints. As the campaign enters its final weeks, the [X]Press newspaper and website will provide special coverage of the 2007 races.

To gain a better understanding of what each mayoral hopeful has to offer, we have invited Mayor Gavin Newsom and his rivals to outline their goals for San Francisco over the next four years.

Nine of the twelve candidates for mayor sent us their essays. Shorter versions of the essays will run in the print edition of [X]Press. The longer versions of the essays are listed here at [X]Press Online, along with links to all of the candidates websites.


San Francisco is a beacon.

We are the first American city to launch universal health care. We are taking bold action on climate change, utilizing the greenest and cleanest new technologies. We helped lead the fight for civil rights and stood up for marriage equality when other cities backed down. We won the stem cell center in Mission Bay because the nation knows we are a capital of innovation. I’m proud of the last four years, and the facts show that San Francisco is making progress.

We have signed up 1,850 San Franciscans for phase one of our universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco, and now we’re on track to provide access to comprehensive high-quality health care for all 82,000 uninsured residents. We reconnected 2,280 homeless San Franciscans with their families through Homeward Bound. Another 2,062 formerly homeless residents have moved into permanent supportive housing as a result of Care Not Cash. We added 416 new police officers to protect our neighborhoods. And our new 311 Call Center has already answered over one million calls, making city government easily accessible to all residents. We’ve spent the last four years pursuing big ideas, while making sure that we address everyday quality-of-life issues too—like filling potholes and cleaning the streets.

But like all San Franciscans, I know we still have a lot of work to do.

We need free municipal WiFi to close the digital divide and bring Internet access to all of our residents. We need to reform and improve MUNI based on the findings of the Transit Effectiveness Project. We need a community justice court to continue the progress on homelessness sparked by Care Not Cash. We need to rebuild every public housing project and connect every San Francisco neighborhood with access to good jobs and great schools.

But to make those reforms a reality in the future, and to continue the progress of the past four years, I need your help.

The election is almost here and all indicators point to a record-low turnout. Please prove them wrong by voting on Tuesday, November 6th and send a clear message at the ballot box—that we want San Francisco to keep moving in the right direction.

I would be honored to have your support for another four years so that we can continue the work we’ve started.

Gavin Newsom campaign website


Brown did not turn in a response.


The goal of the campaign is to educate and bring about a Free Body Culture movement to make America more like Europe. The Free Body Culture (Freikorperkultur = FKK) is a century old political/social movement advocating nudism in sports, recreation, leisure and home life. The Free Body Culture has only been suppressed during periods of German militarism during World War I and the National Socialist (Nazi) periods. The Free Body Culture is the dominant philosophy in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, and other areas of Europe. My first act as mayor would be to make Golden Gate Park clothing optional like the major urban parks in Europe.

(Ironically, public nudity absent lewd conduct is legal in California by court decisions like in re Smith, except Golden Gate Park which has a nudity ordinance passed 40 years ago by an unelected Parks and Recreation Commission.)

By extension this campaign advocates social benefits that Europeans take for granted like 6 week vacations, sabbatical leave, universal health care, guaranteed incomes, and union representation on corporate boards. Agreed these are mainly Federal and State issues, but the reason that Americans don’t have these benefits is because the government is controlled by an billionaire oligarchic Demo-publican political machine which even reaches into the San Francisco mayor’s office.

On the ballot initiatives, I would encourage public transit first with a Yes on A and No on H. I always vote for money for the libraries. Yes, the mayor should have to answer to the Board of Supervisors and the citizens for administration acts and policies.

I support “free” Muni. We already have “free” transit at San Francisco airport. Seattle has “free” downtown transit. Las Vegas has a “free” monorail. Right now fares only pay for about 20% of the Muni budget. With no fare collection, transit operators can operate more safely, courteously, and timely. The remainder of the Muni budget can come from downtown and commercial transit district fees.

For maintaining diversity in San Francisco, I would not allow any big box, chains, or formula retail. The merchants would then represent the respective diversity of their neighborhoods.

For housing and once again this is a Federal tax issue, I would advocate making low and moderate income housing profitable to developers. There is certainly developable land available for housing on Mission Street (prior to 1950 the second busiest retail district in San Francisco), Van Ness Ave, Geary Blvd, Third Street, and underutilized Port and City land. Developers and Investors could be offered construction loan interest subsidies, accelerated front loaded depreciation schedules of 10-15 years, and passive loss on other income. Also, the HUD Section 8 housing program could be expanded.

You are invited to explore the blogs at for more campaign details and background.


My name is Lonnie S. Holmes a native of San Francisco, in choosing the next Mayor, we face a clear choice: We can stay chained to the status quo, or we can move boldly into the future, a future that will embrace us all and not just a select few. In the few months since I announced I was running for Mayor, I've met thousands of people in every corner of this great city who've said to me, "I want to move boldly into the future. I want my city to continue to challenge itself to do better." This is why you will get more demonstration and less conversation from a Holmes administration.

I will be a Mayor who will reach out to all residents of San Francisco regardless of their status. I am asking all residents to join me in our journey towards a better future for all San Franciscans:

*A future where our school system is second to none – where children have the tools they need to learn and teachers have the tools they need to teach.

*A future where a college education is guaranteed for every high school graduate in our city who wants one and a future where excellent vocational programs leading to well-paying jobs are available for those students who choose that route to success.

*A future where there is a mix of housing options, including affordable housing, and housing for our poor, students and homeless, across our city.

It is a brighter future:

*Where quality health care is a right – not a privilege, and where citizens in all parts of San Francisco have access to primary care, and excellent hospitals.

*Where we develop partnerships between the government, the non-profit sector and our faith community to effectively battle the epidemic of STD’s and HIV/AIDS that is ravaging our people.

*A future where our business leaders and environmentalists work together to build our city while protecting our environment, and where developers and community activists can find common ground to build and strengthen our neighbors and provide well-paying jobs to support our families.

It's a future:

*Where we deliver balanced budgets that will still provide essential services to those in our city least able to fight for themselves – our children, our seniors, an our poor.

*And where we won't continue to build new high rises yet, we can't afford to fix our schools and pay our teachers a living wage.

• With 20 years of experience working in the Law Enforcement community, I have been known to address matters how large or how small in a very detailed manner. As a Manager for the SF Juvenile Probation Department, public safety, affordable housing, education, recreation, and the building of our neighborhoods are issues I deal with on a regular basis. As Mayor, I will do the same for our entire city and I will challenge professionals to build a dynamic administration, competent and ready to tackle our most pressing issues. This cannot be done without working with Black, White, Latino, Asian, straight, gay and others, this is our city, and it is only by working together that we will have a better San Francisco for everyone.

As a working class person looking for working class solution that will involve all of you, I again say, you will get more demonstration and less conversation from a Holmes! Please vote for Lonnie Holmes on November 6, 2007 as your next Mayor for San Francisco. Thank you. .

Regarding the ballot propositions, I would encourage you all to vote for what you believe is in the best interest of San Francisco. Some of the things I look for when deciding to support a proposition is accountability, affordability, and transparency.

Lonnie Holmes website


As a candidate for mayor there are many compelling issues that beg and tug for an opinion, a position or just time and attention. Candidates address issues and try to persuade any given audience to accept that candidate as their choice. That is the role of a politician. That is not my role. I am not a politician. What I seek to do in my career, first as candidate and later as mayor, is to present clearly and effectuate my vision of the better, more livable future that San Francisco deserves.

My vision for a better, more livable San Francisco includes all the traditional hot buttons: transportation, housing, safer and cleaner streets without undue burden on our businesses or residents. San Francisco can have all of those things without much more than sound management and visionary development. I hope you will read on.

The key to any city is a healthy environment and sound transportation. My vision includes the construction of subway light-rail on major corridors (19th Avenue Park Presidio, Geary, the Marina—by extending the proposed Chinatown subway, Van Ness and Potrero Avenues would be the first projects). As one might imagine, with subways come subway stations. Further, though, with subway stations comes the opportunity to build transit-oriented, mixed use developments. Not high rises, but rather, high value, envelopes of development entitlement to property owners in exchange for the accesses to the subways.

Those envelopes of development must include housing opportunities for public service employees (police, firefighters, teachers, etc.). With that we would have fulltime residents whose profession is to keep our streets safe… creating a buy-in to our city for our employees with the added value of keeping the city [taxpayer paid] paychecks of those employees from being spent in far flung suburbs. Hence, the value added without undue burden to business and residents as those very businesses and residents would benefit from the new infusion of previously lost city employee paychecks.

With a transit backbone of several subway lines crisscrossing our city, many residents would find they no longer need a car, relieving the need for the “parking space wars” that infest our ballot and our legislative and planning chambers. With our public workers resident in greater numbers, our streets and transit would be measurably safer (visualize off duty cops taking Metro to work). I believe my vision is clearer to you now.

Harold Hoogasian website


I, Grasshopper Alec Kaplan, am running for Mayor of San Francisco because I want to make our city a place where people can live.

My motto is housing, housing, housing. If you work here, you gotta be able to live here.

On November 6th, 2007, vote Grasshopper for Mayor. Vote Grasshopper for change. Peace, love, and Grasshopper. Let’s make San Francisco beautiful. Let’s make San Francisco a place where people can live – in office spaces, with eviction protection. In every part of the city there are vacant commercial spaces. Let’s make it legal to live, here in San Francisco, by making it legal to live in office spaces, and giving people eviction protection who already do. Let’s eliminate local Ellis Act evictions.

Let’s make San Francisco beautiful, with total amnesty for undocumented people. Let’s legalize prostitution and sex work, and encourage safe practices. Let’s make Gavin Newsom walk the streets.

A vote for Grasshopper is a vote to impeach George Bush. Dick Cheney, and Nancy Pelosi too. The only dope that should be illegal is George Bush and Dick Cheney. Vote Grasshopper to impeach.

Let’s legalize marijuana, with a greens for peace program. We can all get behind a greens for peace program here in San Francisco – I’m talking about a local tax on cannabis to help support schools, roads, parks, homes and hospitals, but not jails, and not wars. Greens for peace. Everybody chill out, smoke a joint, and vote Grasshopper Alec Kaplan for Mayor.

For free Muni for residents with a downtown transit assessment district vote Grasshopper. For separate pathways for bicycles – vote Grasshopper.

Let’s make San Francisco Beautiful. Let’s make San Francisco a place where people can live – with freedom of mind, thought, and expression. Vote Grasshopper Alec Kaplan for Mayor. Thank you for your vote San Francisco.

Over 10 years as a taxicab driver, and as a vegan Bay swimmer, Grasshopper is uniquely qualified to bring you a world-class transit system where you won’t need nor want to have a car. Vote Grasshopper for Mayor.

Let’s make our city one where not just the 21 billionaires, but the rest of us, working people, students, artists, musicians and just plain outcasts – where anyone is welcome, in a celebration of diversity and freedom. Stop the war. Stop the torture and terror. Vote Grasshopper Alec Kaplan for Mayor.


So far this election season, you have been bombarded by carefully scripted press releases from Gavin Newsom’s administration designed to make you believe that he is running unopposed in this year’s mayoral race. Newsom’s team has lots of money and media allies to reinforce that message.

At the same time, he has carefully refused to debate me. I am confident that once you have the opportunity to compare our respective positions, character and vision, you will cast your vote for change.

You are the one who gets to decide the fate of this city. You do have a choice. You can vote for change to send a message to our incumbent Mayor that you believe San Francisco can do better.

In recent years, San Franciscans have experienced a spike in homicides and violent crime, an epidemic of homelessness, an affordable housing crisis and a failed MUNI system. The next mayor of San Francisco needs to address these crucial issues head on, with bold and innovative solutions.

In 2004, the Mayor said he would sign his own recall petition if homicide rates didn’t go down. Homicide rates are up. The Mayor’s refusal to hold himself accountable for our public safety is just one of many examples of his failed leadership, and one reason I am compelled to challenge him on November 6.

The Mayor tried to sell San Franciscans a “free” wireless plan that will actually turn our public airwaves over to a corporation. He vilifies and criminalizes those who are poor and without a home, while refusing to take steps to improve the shelter system, to stop evictions that result in homelessness, or to advocate for those living in poverty in our city.

He consistently supports the construction of luxury housing over affordable housing options. He is giddy about the construction of housing that is unaffordable to nearly all San Franciscans, while consistently favoring real estate interests over those of San Francisco’s tenants. Mayor Newsom refuses to take a stand against Ellis Act evictions by real estate speculators.

His only successes are initiatives proposed and led by members of the Board of Supervisors. While the District Supervisors work tirelessly to represent their constituents, the Mayor places style over substance, press releases over action.

I am the choice for people who want to see real change, real progress in our city. I offer substantive solutions to real problems facing San Francisco. My campaign seeks to move this city forward, in a new direction that reclaims the best of San Francisco.

Please join me. Together, we will elevate substance over style, and show that San Francisco can do better.

Thank you for your support.

Quintin Mecke website


Campaign debates and promises have rehashed the same volatile issues over many election cycles. Let’s implement solutions with an integrated approach! As Mayor, I would coalesce professionalism in government to focus our resources on solutions. I am a consensus-builder with life experiences that resonate with a broad spectrum of San Franciscans:

-As a single parent: I have raised three college-degreed (one PhD) daughters through the SF school system.

-As a college professor: I have taught music, Citizenship and ESL at City College of SF for over 30 years. I am a SF State University alumnus.

-As a community activist: I am founder of ABCT (A Better Chinatown Tomorrow), a community based organization that preserves Chinatown’s cultural heritage. I teach citizenship courses to immigrants.

-As a person in charge: I have worked harmoniously with diverse ethnicities as a North Beach/ Chinatown Neighborhood Arts Organizer for the SF Arts Commission and abroad as an Australian Ethnic Arts Officer.

-As a business owner: I work with events planning and performing artists to showcase Asian culture.

-As a lifetime renter: I know first hand tenant issues and the challenges of affordable housing.

-As a Muni rider: I see daily the unfulfilled needs for quality, world class public transit.

EDUCATION: Integrated collaboration of public, nonprofit and private entities---linking parents, vocational education, juvenile delinquency, social services, recreation, language and neighborhood empowerment.

FAMILY INCENTIVES TO STAY IN SF: Refocus on fundamental public infrastructure, childcare, preschool programs and quality of life issues.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Integrated planning and permitting by government, nonprofits, builders, architects and communities, with a broader range of housing types.

SMALL BUSINESS: User-friendly public services with incentives for job creation, rewards for quality/ contributions to the community.

MUNI: Integrated Muni staff and community. Increased funding (Yes on Prop A’s additional $26 million). Reinforce transit-first policy; reduced greenhouse gas emissions (No on Prop H’s increased parking/ cars).

HOMELESSNESS: Assess existing public, nonprofit and private resources. Establish specific responsibilities; refocus funds to diversion programs and compact housing.

HOMICIDE: Focus public, nonprofit and private resources on building an interrelated community network, with a partnership of City Departments, the citizenry, schools, recreation, health/ family services…..

As an Asian-Pacific-Islander and the first Chinese-American woman candidate for Mayor, I also want to advocate the issues of API’s and the voices of women and minorities---to universally enable the American dream.

Wilma Pang website


As a candidate for Mayor it is my intent to accomplish the following tasks
for my fellow residents. I will:

-make Muni free and introduce a community bicycle program with 10,000 bikes as in Paris.

-protect our cities skyline through slow growth rather than our present program of Manhattanization.

-lower our crime rate by increasing the number of police officers we have on our streets by use of Lateral Transfer hiring and insisting that sworn personnel are not wasted on administrative duties.

-use our bike program to allow the homeless to become its supervised labor pool in their maintenance, thus teaching them a trade.

-encouraging the promotion of Harvey Milk's birthday as a national holiday.

Mike Powers website


Rinaldi did not turn in a response.

Chicken John Rinaldi website


Sumchai did not turn in a response.

Ahimsa Porter Sumchai website


Jello Biafra, the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys, once proclaimed, “Don’t hate the media, become the media.” And I did. After watching biased coverage of political protests on the news, I picked up a camera and began shooting what I saw. One of the videos I shot resulted in me spending 226 days in a federal detention center just two months after graduating from San Francisco State. The FBI demanded that I turn over my unpublished video and testify about the identities of the protestors; I refused.

In 1979, Jello ran for mayor of San Francisco, and while I can’t really say that he directly inspired my campaign or my decision to pursue journalism, the Dead Kennedys certainly influenced my life.

I am running for mayor to present an alternative to business as usual, to resist the machine politics that dominate the city, and to propose a model for real, direct democracy. Politicians buy and sell their influence like commodities on the stock market; backroom deals and empty rhetoric dominate, and it is the everyday people, people like you and me, who suffer. I’m running to change that. It’s time to open up government and create a society that empowers every man woman, and child to have an active voice in planning our city’s future.

Right now, there is no real way to enter a conversation with our officials. The mayor refuses to participate in question time at the Board of Supervisors’ meetings, and the voice of the community is often silenced. We can do better.

It wasn’t possible to create a direct democracy when our country was founded, the technical demands just couldn’t be met. With the advent of the internet and Web 2.0, we can begin moving toward real democracy. The idea is simple: every single issue that goes before our government should have it’s own node – it’s own web page – created that allows for people to comment about the matter, propose alternatives to the solutions already on the table, and take part in straw polls to get a feel for where the people stand. I’m calling it and I will be working to develop this project no matter who is elected mayor. I hope you’ll join me to help make it a reality.

On November 6th, please vote for me, Josh Wolf, as your first choice for Mayor of San Francisco. It’s time for a new democracy!

Josh Wolf website

» Electronic voting system overhauled
» Pros A & H offer conflicting transit fixes
» Low voter interest will reflect in election final tally
» Analysis of November propositions

Coalition, students tout bike benefits

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Yuki Terao, 21, looked down at his shiny red fixed gear bicycle and smiled. Dozens of other bicyclists milled around the SF State quad, gobbling free food and chatting about everything bike-related.

“I was tired of waiting a long time for public transportation like Muni,” said Terao, a sophomore criminal justice major at SF State. “So, I just got a bicycle.”

Now, a year after Terao got his bike, he rides it to school everyday.

Terao was one of hundreds of students who celebrated SF State’s first Bring Your Bike to School Day on Oct. 25.

The event, sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), offered free bike lights, free food and free parking on the quad lawn to anyone who rode their bike to school.

“I haven’t really ridden at night very much,” said 21-year-old Liberal Studies major Alex Araiza, as a SFBC bike tech attached lights to her purple bike. “Now, I feel much safer.”
Bring Your Bike to School Day was planned as part of the Ecostudents’ weeklong Every Day is Earth Day event.

“Cycling is a remarkable way for people to make an instant impact on the world and their own lives,” said Adam Greenfield, a member of the SFBC and a student at SF State. “There are so many reasons why bicycling is a central part of this special week, it’s easy, it’s fun.”

At the event the SFBC asked cyclists to sign a petition for bicycle routes through campus and fill out a survey about where SF State should place 100 new bike racks paid for by a pending grant.

“We need [bike] parking where it’s needed,” said Adam Thornley, program director for SFBC, noting the bikes illegally locked near the Student Center. “That’s something the SFBC and the administration are working on.”

Over the last decade bicycle use in San Francisco has increased tremendously, said Thornley.

He sites the coalition’s growth from 600 members in 1992 to over 7,500 members today as an example. No exact number of bicyclists in San Francisco is available.
Thornley said two reasons people don’t ride bicycles to campus more often are the lack of parking and the dangerous routes.

“Depending on where you’re coming from,” Thornley said, “there isn’t really a good way to approach the campus.”

The SFBC also lobbies for citywide bicycle-related improvements. In August, Mayor Gavin Newsom, in collaboration with the SFBC, set 10 bike milestones.

His milestones, to be completed by 2010, included the striping of 20 new bike lanes, the installation of 300 bike racks, and the reduction of bicycle collision injuries by 50 percent.

“Since they installed the bike lanes on Valencia, bike traffic has doubled,” said 30-year-old Tabitha Solomon, a senior industrial design major at SF State.

Bring Your Bike to School Day occurred at a seemingly awkward time for bicyclists, the brink of the rainy season.

According to the National Weather Service, between the months of November and March, San Francisco receives 80 percent of their 21 inches of average annual rainfall.
But bicyclists Bexie Towle and Katherine Spoeck, both SF State students, were undeterred.

“I always hope it doesn’t rain when I ride to school,” Spoeck, an interior design major said. “But if it does, then I have a set of plastic clothes.”

The SFBC has information on their Web site precautions cyclists should take when riding in the rain.

“Sometimes it’s really fun to ride in the rain, if you plan on getting wet that day,” said Towle, an international relations major.

Writers discuss book on CIA secrets

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Ghouls, witches and zombies were no match for the horrific tales SF State alum Regina Woodard heard on Halloween night in Knuth Hall.

Woodard, along with journalism students from Jon Funabiki’s Cultural Diversity and New Media class, listened to stories of how two Bay Area writers, A.C. Thompson and Trevor Paglen, exposed the CIA’s involvement in using planes to haul terror suspects to secret prisons around the globe.

“It is the scariest thing I’ve done on Halloween in many years,” Woodard, a 1995 graduate, said.

The result of the writer’s investigations, was the 2006 book “Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights.”

Thompson and Paglen, who first met in the East Bay’s punk music scene, began working on the project when Paglen approached Thompson in the Bay Guardian newsroom about some planes he thought were being used by the CIA. The two had read published reports in newspapers like the Washington Post indicating that the intelligence group secretly used some planes, but they wanted to uncover more.

“We began to reverse engineer this to figure out how the CIA makes this happen,” Thompson said. Using their different backgrounds, Thompson as an investigative reporter and Paglen as an artist and experimental geographer, they began tracking planes that had access to military bases around the country.

What they found was astonishing.

Examining the identifications of the CEOs of these companies uncovered that they might not actually be real people. Paglen told the crowd sometimes a CEO would have a birth date from the 1950s but was not given a Social Security Card until the 1990s. Many of them never owned cars, houses, and credit cards or took out loans.

“In other words you start to suspect these are not real people,” Paglen, a UC Berkeley graduate, said. “These are ghost in the business of making other people disappear.”

In one instance, the two visited Premier Executive Transport Services, Inc. one of the larger companies they suspected was a front for the CIA to run the rendition program. They traveled to the company’s headquarters in Dedham, Mass., and discovered the office for this large cooperation was on the second floor of a small brick building. What’s more, the address given was really the location of a law office.

“You can think of the relationship yourself between divorce law and rendition…,” Paglen said.

After the duo had pinpointed which companies they believed were secretly operated by the CIA, they began tracking those planes flight patterns and found destinations in Kabul, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay to name a few.

Their investigation broadened when they noticed many planes flying out of a small airport in North Carolina. The small airport turned out to be the headquarters for the CIA program and it was there they were able to talk with pilots, finding them through database programs, about working for the CIA. The duo has also spoken with suspects who survived the torture they endured in the secret prisons and their stories and descriptions helped Thompson and Paglen discover a secret base in Kabul.

Thompson said they discovered that “what we did was approved by the highest levels of government” and said he not sure why Americans haven’t voiced outrage of the allegations.

In the U.S., the writers said at the presentation, the book has done little to change policy or bring charges against the companies involved in flying the planes and allowing the CIA to use their addresses as fronts.

“Americans don’t care that their country is torturing people. Congress doesn’t care. Apparently it is OK. I hope what we did…at least gave information and ammunition to the people who are investigating this in Europe,” Thompson, who took classes at SF State in the early 1990s, said.

Thompson said that if Americans read the testimony of people who were tortured in the secret camps “you would feel like this should be a front page story everyday.”

Woodard, who knew Thompson before he wrote the book, said she is “fascinated with the idea that Americans are not interested in this.”

Andrew Altman, a junior journalism major who also heard Thompson speak in his investigative reporting class, ordered the book on before the presentation.

“I bought the book today,” he said after the event. “Four bucks, you can’t beat that. I felt bad buying it used.”

The aspiring journalist said listening to Thompson and Paglen has encouraged him to do a little digging himself. Altman has an uncle who both flies and owns planes, and he has recently been using information on the FAA Web site to look up his information and flight patterns.

“I just know he’s a pilot and it’s a simple thing to do,” he said.

New signal for dangerous intersection

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Improvements of the most dangerous highway in San Francisco are starting to begin. The 19th Avenue corridor, which saw four pedestrian deaths this year including SF State student Sandy Kim, is finally beginning to see improvements thanks to State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), SFMTA and Caltrans.

A new left turn signal is in place on the intersection of 19th Avenue and Sloat where Kim was killed last month.

“This intersection has been an ongoing problem and finally it is being handled,” said Yee.

Yee has been working with Caltrans and SFMTA to get plans going on several project improvements along the corridor. He has been working for many years since he has been on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors trying to improve pedestrian safety, “This new light is not the end all, be all, but this is the first step in pedestrian safety,” said Yee.

He was joined by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), Bijan Sartipi, Caltrans director for District 4, Director Bon Lee of San Francisco Parking and Traffic, and San Francisco Supervisor Carmen Chu.

“There are going to be a number of improvements along 19th Avenue and a step up effort to makes the changes as soon as possible,” said Chu.

Phase 1 of the improvements along 19th Avenue will begin next month with 10 intersections being worked on including 19th Avenue and Holloway.

“For SF State we want to separate the pedestrians and vehicles with a possible pedestrian walkway. But I am in talks with Caltrans to figure something out for SF State students because that intersection is also dangerous as well,” said Yee.

The next two phases of improvements will begin next year. “These improvements are not foolproof. Drivers and pedestrians need to be vigilant and watch out for themselves as well,” Yee said.

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