February 2008 Archives

Legislation protects advisers

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State Sen. Leland Yee unveiled new legislation aimed at extending protection to high school and college journalism advisers from disciplinary acts by administrators who wish to censor student press and speech.

“Several years ago, we were told administrators were using prior restraint on student newspapers,” Yee said in a press conference at the Associated Collegiate Press national college newspaper convention on Friday at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway in San Francisco.

“While we protected the students, the administration was going after teachers. I find it disconcerting that the administration is trying to silence our students. What [the bill] will do is prevent any administrators from retaliatory acts against advisers.”

Senate Bill 1370, also known as the Journalism Teachers Protection Act, comes two years after Yee helped enact a bill to protect students from discipline and censorship by administrators. In recent years, school administrators across the state, and in San Francisco, removed or reassigned journalism advisers in high school classrooms–sending a “chilling” message to students and teachers.

“We’re talking about students who wrote accurate, timely and newsworthy stories or editorials that embarrassed school officials,” said Jim Ewert of the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “After the publication of these articles that resulted in discussions, advisers were pulled from the classrooms. They threaten teachers to silence student critics. This type of censorship is hardly the cornerstone of the first amendment.”

SF State Asian American studies professor and San Francisco School Board member Eric Mar expressed support of the bill.

“I’m really proud to be here with courageous teachers,” Mar said. “SB 1370 is so important because of the horrifying things happening in the state. As a teacher, I believe there is no higher value than the freedom of speech.”

Katherine Swann, a longtime San Francisco high school teacher, was reassigned from her journalism duties at Mission High School after a new principal attempted to use prior restraint against the student newspaper. The paper at Mission won awards and was fair in its criticism of the school’s administration, Swann said.

“Other awards followed, but they weren’t enough to save journalism at Mission,” she said.

Swann, who began teaching at Mission High School in 1973 and was let go in the late 1990s, was reassigned to work at the well-established and award-winning newspaper at Lowell High School. After Swann’s departure, Mission changed the structure of the journalism program from a class to an after-school club.

“I expected to be at Mission until I retired. [Lowell] didn’t need me. I felt like I was making a difference [at Mission],” she said.

The Journalism Teachers Protection Act will be reviewed by the Senate in March.

Pollution continues to affect Bayview-Hunters Point residents

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Students and faculty filled SF State's Seven Hills Conference Center Thursday night for a teach-in titled, "Demand Environmental Justice." The seminar focused on how modern racism has pushed minorities into polluted communities.

"Ground zero" for the environmental justice movement is San Francisco's Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, said keynote speaker Minister Christopher Muhammad. Pollution left over from the area's industry continues to cause health problems for those who live there.

"It's San Francisco's 'dirty little secret," Muhammad said. "People are more concerned about losing [the 49ers] than a population of poor people."

SF State professor Antwi Akom explained how the industry takes the "path of least resistance" when choosing a place to build, leading pollution-creating industry to places like the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. He compared Marin and Oakland, asking listeners to consider the expected outcry for the upper-class suburban county and the relative response for the minority populations of Oakland.

Akom spent much of his time explaining how racism still manifests in modern society. While some have a "racism 900" level of understanding, Akom said he needed to address those who were still at the "racism 101" level.

"We need to be a more color-conscious society" he said. "By not talking about race, we end up making race matter more."

Muhammad also highlighted the importance of youth involvement in any revolutionary movement, encouraging the current generation to seek out and connect with the "civil rights generation."

"Young people have always led the movement," he said. "There is a disconnect between the civil rights generation and the hop hop generation."

One attending student, 24-year-old Dorian Jones, was passionately relaying the night's information through her cellphone on the way to the bus on 19th Avenue.

"He basically tied everything together," Jones, a psychology major, said of Muhammad.

"We can be using the skills of the civil rights generation and our technology. We grew up in globalization," she said.

SF State's Department of Africana Studies and College of Ethnic Studies sponsored the event.

Going for gold

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Try swimming in a pool for eight hours straight outside in rainy, cold conditions with only a large piece of metal overhead, keeping you safe from the elements. Then going straight to a night class at 7 p.m.

In class you’re constantly shaking your head trying to free the water still residing in your ears just to be able to hear the professor, as your shriveled fingers jot down every word he says.

For SF State alumnae and 2008 U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swim Team members, coach Tammy McGregor and captain Kim Probst, this was just another day in the life of scholarly Olympic synchronized swimmers. The dedication they exhibited showed the lengths they went to earn a degree while training to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“It’s a huge relief,” said Probst, who graduated in the Spring 2006 semester with a degree in psychology. “I could only take nine units a semester because I was training about 60 hours a week, so I was pretty determined to get my degree.”

McGregor took a slightly different route, but ended up with the same results. After winning gold in synchronized swimming at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, McGregor decided that taking a couple of years off to “live a normal life” was best.

“I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue swimming, so I took two years off,” said McGregor, who graduated cum laude with a degree in fashion merchandising in 1998. “During that time I went to school and got my degree. I was also coaching at the time, so I was still very involved in the sport.”

The idea of earning a degree was very important to the both of them. The only problem was finding time to go to school while keeping up with their careers as a coach and a swimmer on an Olympic-level team. Their training regimen was very intense with about six to eight hours, six days a week of practice in the pool followed by two more hours of land training, which included everything from strength and flexibility training to a little bit of acrobatic work.

“Yes, it was pretty difficult. I was training full time and trying to go to school, so I’m sure both aspects hurt a little,” Probst said. “Now that I have graduated I can train full-time, rest full-time and recover better. Doing both really makes you appreciate them for what they are.”

With school completed, Probst is now able to focus solely on swimming as McGregor prepares the team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Recently the team has been training at the Martin Luther King Jr. pool in the Bayview-Hunters Point District.

Currently ranked fourth in the world, the team hopes to follow up last year’s huge upset of No. 1 ranked Russia, in Russia. They are the first team to beat Russia in 10 years.

“That was one of my proudest moments. This year it’s going to be really hard to take down Russia, but if anybody has a chance to do it, it’ll be us,” Probst said. “We are going to go out there with a routine that nobody’s has seen before, nobody’s swam before. I like our chances.”

McGregor agrees with Probst that the key to victory this year is going to be their “creative and innovative routine” with some “very original choreography.”

In March the team will be traveling to China for training camp to prepare for their last meet before the Summer Olympics.
All the travel can eventually wear on a person doing this for the last 20 years. For Probst and about half of her teammates, the 2008 Olympics will be their last hurrah as swimmers.

“Yes, I believe this will be my last go around. After the Olympics I plan to retire from swimming and take over my club team, the Aquanuts,” Probst said.

Even after all the competing, traveling and training that it takes to be Olympic-level athletes, both McGregor and Probst decided that a college degree is a very important thing to have after they hang up their nose plugs and look to the future.

At the moment, however, McGregor describes Probst as “the engine of the team” and teammate Annabelle Orme, who was Probst’s duet partner and is one of her best friends on the team, believes Probst is a great leader.

“As a captain Kim is a natural leader. Everyone looks to Kim to see what she is going to do,” Orme said. “She’s very dependable and a great friend to everyone.”

Totems debut at Cesar Chavez Student Center

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Five aluminum “totems” now lean against a curving wall of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, a new sculpture unveiled in a casual ceremony today.

The sculpture, “Ode to Hank by Terry: Twenty After Midnight,” is a reincarnation of the similar structure that decorated the wall for 20 years, according to information from the unveiling.

The original work of previous resident artist Hank De Ricco, made mostly of wood, had deteriorated beyond repair, and officials decided that the only way to preserve the art was to recreate it.

“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” said Guy Dalpe, managing director of the student center.

Creator Terry Marashlian, an instructor and former student of SF State, said he wanted to take the previous work in a new direction while still preserving the original artist’s vision.

“I meant them to be way more architectural,” he said, using his choice to expose the mounting at the base of the sculptures as an example. Marashlian consulted students and faculty to narrow down the bright, visible aesthetic for the piece.

Unlike the previous piece, called “Midnight Hour,” Marashlian said his sculpture focuses more on the forms themselves than telling a specific story. An observer might think that the previous sculpture was simply leaned against the wall by some character, but the new version is clearly attached to the student center.

“It brightens up the building,” said Joanne Sterbentz, 31-year-old graduate student in the Communicative Disorders program.

Most of the construction occurred in the SF State sculpture studio. The pieces are more than 20-feet long and took up much of the space said sculpture department head Francisco Perez.

“We worked around them,” laughed Perez.

Some of the work done outside of SF State included powder coating parts of the sculpture, a process that bonds paint to metal. The result was not without its problems, Marashlian said.

“I was under the impression that powder coating was bullet-proof,” he said, but a stain left by some bird droppings alerted Marashlian to the need for a highly resistant coating to the finished panels.

Using state-of-the-art materials like powerful bonding tape and special rivets, Marashlian said that he expects the piece to last a long time.

One observer, 25-year-old American Studies student Carly Tirre, has been at SF State since 2001 and said she remembers the old sculptures.

“It’s nice to think you’ve seen a bit of the history of these,” she said, approving of the new pieces.

Free hepatitis B tests offered on campus

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Free hepatitis B screenings at SF State next month are the latest effort to stop the spread of the cancer-causing liver disease among San Francisco's Asian population, according to information from a "Pre-Kick Off" event held at the student center this Monday.

One in 10 Asians living in the United States has the life-long hepatitis B infection, and the effects are most catastrophic in areas with high-density Asian populations like San Francisco, said Meredith Bergin, special projects coordinator at Stanford's Asian Liver Center. Non-Asians can also contract the disease, but the current number of those infected is much lower.

At SF State, where Asian students number almost 10,000, approximately 1,000 Asian and students are expected to have the disease. The number climbs to 24,000 people citywide, according to 2007 school enrollment data, the 2000 Census and the Department of Public Health.

Of those infected by the disease, which is transmitted via body fluids, one in four will die from the resulting liver damage, Bergin said.

"Because it's asymptomatic, many people don't know until it's too late," she said.

Many parents of Asian Americans come from countries with high rates of hepatitis B infection, and the most lasting version of the disease is usually passed from mother to child during birth. For those unaware of their own infection, measures to protect their children from the disease are never taken, said Erin Bachus of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"My dad almost died from it last year," said Kohei Nishida, a 24-year-old Cinema major. To be safe, he said he plans to participate in the free testing.

To be screened and vaccinated as an adult typically costs around $170, but the California Pacific Medical Center will be offering them for free to anyone from March third to seventh on and around the campus, said SF State health educator Ingrid Ochoa.

Screeners will take blood samples to test for the virus, and 30 to 40 percent of those present are expected to need the vaccine, said Jackson Wong, main coordinator of the CPMC.

"Nobody will be turned down," Ochoa said, though Asian students are the targets of the provided treatment.

Despite mandatory and free hepatitis B vaccinations for minors in the United States, some still manage to avoid the procedure. In California, many public and private schools are lax in ensuring that students receive their vaccinations in either kindergarten or seventh grade, Bachus said.

"All my life, I thought I was invincible," said 67-year-old hepatitis B carrier Bok Pon. "Then they said, 'Stop everything--you've got six months."

Commander of his American Legion post, Pon said he felt perfectly healthy when he was diagnosed with hepatitis B and liver cancer one year ago. He bragged that he can still do 100 pushups at a health center seminar earlier this month, but it has been painful chemotherapy that helped him survive for a year longer than expected.

"It's like your whole body goes into a microwave," Pon said of the treatments he has received.

Awaiting a liver transplant, the last chance for those with tough liver cancer, Pon said he spends his time helping to organize Chinatown-area meetings to educate others about the disease.

In China, one of the countries most affected by the spread of hepatitis B, the disease is often poorly understood, Bergin said. Those who are infected face discrimination and are sometimes barred from jobs.

"There's a certain amount of discrimination against carriers in China," she said.

In the United States, attitudes are better, yet misconceptions persist within Chinese and other Asian communities, according to a 2007 study by the Asian Liver Center.

"Hepatitis B is endemic to Asians as HIV is endemic to Africa," Bergin said, adding that the disease affects Asians not because of their genetics or habits but because of the disease's centralization in Asia.

While hepatitis C is arguably worse than B, the "B" strain is 100 times more contagious than HIV and has taken root and spread among Asian populations. "A," another common strain, is the only version that can be transmitted by casual contact but is much less severe. The "A" variant is rarely seen in the United States due to modern sanitation systems, Ochoa said.

Last year, state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma went public about her own hepatitis B infection and announced a bill that would allocate state funding to treating those with the disease. Currently, the State Assembly's Committee on Health is analyzing the bill.

At SF State, the California Pacific Medical Center is fronting $100,000 for the March vaccinations, providing its own clinical staff and equipment for the tests, said Health Center Director Dr. Alastair K. Smith.

The SF State Medical Center, providing services from optometry to HIV screening, is paid for entirely by the $108 included with regular student fees, Smith said.

"A lot of people don't even know where the health center is!" said Ochoa, an SF State alumnus with a master's degree in public health.

The screenings will begin on Monday, March 3, in the Health Center. Treatments will continue throughout the week, alternating daily between the center and the Tower Conference Hall, Ochoa said.

Gay marriage arguments head back to high court

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It has been four years since San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer issued his verdict on February 12, 2004 to legalize same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, March 4, the California Supreme Court will hear the final arguments in favor of and against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

“This is an opportunity for California to do what it’s done for so long,” said Melanie Rowen, 30, staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, "to show leadership on Civil Rights issues.”

Along with the NCLR, the plaintiffs in favor of same-sex marriage legislation include the San Francisco City Attorney’s office, Equality California, the American Civil Liberties Union and Our Family Coalition. The plaintiffs' official position is that “barring same-sex couples from marriage discriminates based on sexual orientation and sex and violates the fundamental right to marry as protected by the California Constitution’s guarantees of privacy, intimate association, and due process,” according to the NCLR website.

The defendants include Christopher Edward Krueger of the attorney general’s office and private attorney Kenneth C. Mennemeier, who will be representing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their stance is that heterosexual marriage is an institution of tradition and the ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the state Constitution. In 2000, voters approved Proposition 22, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Since then, the governor has maintained that granting same-sex marriage would violate the will of voters.

One year after Judge Kramer’s 2004 ruling, the Court of Appeal’s overturned his verdict, which nullified the marriage licenses granted to gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco. The legal battles between pro-and-anti advocates of gay marriage have since reached a legal fervor.

Specifically, it will be the last verdict given to determine the validity of the marriage licenses issued to over 4,000 gay and lesbian couples in 2004 and 2005. The justices will hear the final arguments and rule within 90 days. After that, the case will be closed.

“My own opinion is that the government shouldn’t have anything to do with gay marriage at all,” said James Kincaid, 22, vice president of external affairs of SF State's College Republicans. “Since there is a separation between church and state, and marriage is inherently a religious institution, then the government should only be dealing with civil unions.”

However, Kincaid thinks it is highly unlikely that the government will separate itself from marriage.

“It’s a really hot topic, there are religious and non-religious groups [on both sides],” he said. “I believe in the fundamental human rights and feel terrible for the people who don’t have the same benefits. At the same time, it is a religious ceremony and so the religious bodies that oppose it shouldn’t be denigrated either."

“We’re coming to a peak,” said Samantha Lee, a 21-year-old lesbian film student at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. “We’re about to get our rights. It won’t be about marriage, it’ll be about the government treating you like anybody else, like straight people.”

The case, entitled “In re Marriage Cases” is an umbrella lawsuit for the cases that have come before the trial, supreme and appellate courts in past years such as Woo v. California, City and County of San Francisco v. California, Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund v. City and County of San Francisco, and Campaign for California Families v. Newsom.

The final arguments for the case will be held at 9:00 a.m. at the Supreme Court of California, 350 McAllister Street.

Slow response to false alarm raises concerns

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A recent string of false fire alarms and the subsequent response times of faculty, students and the University Police Department have frustrated at least one school administrator, who voiced concern about emergency preparedness.

In an e-mail sent to faculty in the College of Humanities, Associate Dean Elise Ann Wormuth wrote, “Had it been a real emergency, we would have had some serious difficulties in dealing with the situation.”

“Police were called to at least two buildings on campus at the same time, so their response to Humanities was very slow,” she added in the email dated Feb. 20, the day after a fire alarm was sounded in the building.

Despite student and administration reports of simultaneous fire alarms sounding in the Business and Humanities buildings last Tuesday, university officials confirmed only three alarms being triggered on separate occasions in a span of four days last week.

The recent false alarms and concerns involving SF State evacuation preparedness and emergency procedures come less than a week after the shooting tragedies at Northern Illinois University, in which five students were killed and 15 were wounded.

Aside from the Humanities building, fire alarms were triggered in the Village at Centennial Square and the HSS building in the following days, according to University Police Deputy Chief Patrick Wasley.

Students and faculty members expressed their annoyance over the false alarms.

"It was most inconvenient because I was holding office hours," said English Professor Paul Morris. "School security is paramount, but these false alarms are a fact of life."

"I was getting ready to take a quiz," said Jeanette Suelto, a financial services major who was in the Business building when a fire alarm sounded last Tuesday. "It seemed to go on for about five minutes before our teacher dismissed the class."

The fact that it was raining only made matters worse, she said. "It was all quite a hassle, but this isn't the first time I've heard the alarm sound."

Another student, Ashley Bergquist, an international business major, said that fire alarms sounding in the Humanities building is nothing out of the ordinary.

"Last semester, it seemed like an alarm sounded once a week at the exact same time," she said.

According to school administrators, it is vital that emergency evacuations be executed with precision and ease, even though this particular incident was only a false alarm.

“Faculty and students alike need to understand that even though we have had many false alarms, we must treat each one as if it's real,” Warmuth said. “Until we develop information about what's going on and why the alarm went off, we just don't know whether it's real or not.”

University officials did not comment on the source for the alarms, saying only, “Tampering with fire equipment is a misdemeanor, and in addition to criminal charges, students caught tampering with fire alarms are referred to student judicial affairs.”

“At the time each alarm is sounded, all faculty, students, staff and visitors should assume a genuine hazard, and evacuate quickly and orderly. Do not return until safety personnel have determined an 'all clear,'” Wasley said.

Reports of students being required to stay in class by faculty during the evacuation could not be confirmed by administration officials.

“It's unfortunate, but not all that unusual for a couple of people to assume an alarm is a drill or a false alarm and stay in the building,” Wormuth said.

Matt Gonzalez is Nader's 2008 running mate

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Former San Francisco Supervisor and Board President Matt Gonzalez will be Ralph Nader’s vice presidential running mate in the 2008 election. Nader, an independent presidential candidate, made the announcement this morning from Washington, D.C.

“I found him to be unwavering in his principles and committed to his politics with clear eloquence and humane logic,” Nader said in a press release. “I wanted someone who served in government and who knows what kind of challenges our cities face and who has a record of accomplishment in areas such as election reform, criminal justice, and the creation of the highest minimum wage in the country.”

In 2003, Gonzalez ran for mayor of San Francisco, but lost to Gavin Newsom. Gonzalez is currently a partner at Gonzalez & Leigh, a law firm in San Francisco.

Activists raise awareness on Darfur

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As genocide continues to plague the Darfur region of Sudan, local activists are devising new strategies and ways to raise awareness of the human rights crisis.

The San Francisco Darfur Coalition, one of about 180 activism groups seeking to bring international aid and attention to the human rights violations in Darfur, recently met at the Northern California Holocaust Center to discuss the current dynamics of the tense situation.

Since 2003, the Sudanese government and private “Janjaweed” militias have been in violent conflict with rebel groups Sudanese Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement, according to Amnesty International.

In attempts to cease the rebel presence, the government military and Janjaweed militias have terrorized the civilian population with murder, rape and torture.

They have “burned and destroyed hundreds of villages, caused tens of thousands of civilian deaths, displaced millions of people, and raped and assaulted thousands of women and girls,” according to a Human Rights Watch press release.

Morgan N. Blum, a member of both the SF Darfur Coalition and the Director of Education for the Northern California Holocaust Center, believes learning from past atrocities is vital to understanding and helping to fight human rights violations today.

“Our mission is to teach about the lessons of the Holocaust with inclusion of increasing tolerance through human rights awareness,” Blum said. “Being informed makes one a stronger advocate.”

Having just returned from a national Darfur activists meeting in Washington D.C., San Francisco Darfur Coalition member Stephen McNeil stressed the importance of war criminals in Sudan being held accountable in the International Criminal Court.

“The government of Sudan will continue doing as they please as long as they don’t suffer any repercussions,” McNeil said. “So far they haven’t.”

The ICC has investigated crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Darfur in July 2005, but the Sudanese government refuses to cooperate, according to Amnesty International.

“I think the Sudanese government is the problem,” said SF State philosophy teacher Ann Robertson, 62. “They are supporting the militias that are so flagrantly violating peoples’ human rights.”

Robertson, a teacher at SF State since 1980, teaches international human rights issues in a class called “Human Rights in Global Perspective.” She said she challenges students to analyze and understand the motivating factors behind major world conflicts.

“What I want people to understand is why peoples’ human rights are being violated,” Robertson said.

Robertson believes the problems in Africa are derived from “inequalities in respect to wealth.”

“Capitalism ravaged Africa and created a small elite of very rich African people, and then left other people in a very desperate situation,” she said.

Another key point at the meeting was the importance of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan, said Esther Sprague of the San Francisco Darfur Coalition. She explained the CPA would “set up a framework for democracy in Sudan.”

“If there were free and fair elections, the current government wouldn’t be in power,” she said.

The CPA would ensure that Sudan has free elections in 2009, and southern Sudan can decide if it should separate from the rest of the country in 2011, Sprague said.

The nationwide Save Darfur Coalition is heavily protesting China’s economic, political, and military influence in Sudan.

In addition to giving millions of dollars in economic aid to the Khartoum government, China is the largest foreign investor in Sudan—the primary purchaser of the region’s oil—and also its main weapons supplier, according to The Save Darfur Coalition.

The organization also argues that since China is on the security council of the United Nations, it should use that position to influence change in the government of Khartoum.

“As host of the 2008 Olympic games, China has a special role to play in ensuring that its actions this year are commensurate with the Olympic ideals of peace and international cooperation,” wrote the organization in an open letter to China President Hu Jintao.

But instead of pointing the blame exclusively at China, Robertson suggested the entire UN be reformed. The UN is not a democratic institution and is not an effective mechanism to improve human rights violations, said Robertson.

“These people on the security council are not the human rights advocates of the world,” she said. “Many of them are big violators of human rights.”

Robertson added, “The countries on the security council all have a long colonizing history. They have a history of acting in their own interest, not in the interest of the masses.”

On a local level, SF Bay Area Darfur Coalition also discussed plans to organize a mass protest when the Olympic flame comes through the streets of San Francisco in April.

McNeil was careful to explain that this symbolic act is intended to protest the actions of the Chinese government, not the Chinese people.

“We’re trying to get China to act as a universal human rights protector,” he said.

The coalition devised many possible future strategies to protest China’s policies, including “die-ins” and other forms of civil disobedience when the torch is passed.

No matter what the country or circumstances of oppression, Robertson remains a passionate advocate for human rights.

“Don’t we owe it to humanity to help people who are under attack?” Robertson said. “It won’t make profits for us, but it seems the human thing to do is to protect these people.”

Lake Merced level needs to rise, says PUC

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Lake Merced is in dire need of raising its water levels, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

By raising the water level, the SFPUC said the integrity of the lake’s biodiversity, recreational activities and emergency usability would greatly improve.

The reason for Lake Merced’s drop in water level can be attributed to irrigation for facilities like the Lake Merced Golf Course and nearly two decades of drought. Lower lake levels have a negative effect, specifically on vegetation and aquatic life, according to the SFPUC.

To combat the damage, the SFPUC will refill the lake with a combination of storm and ground water. The Storm Water Diversion Project is one part of the master plan that has successfully raised the water levels two feet since 2004. At the Vista Grande Canal, a storm bowl collects water and redirects it through a canal—and purification process—into the lake.

Aside from using the canals as water purifiers, natural filters have recently been installed at the parking lot at Sunset and Lake Merced Boulevards. Before this, storm water laced with dirt and oil would pass directly from the parking lot into the lake. Now, it must go through a purification process. The water goes into catch basins and then travel through a series of “bioswales,” planted areas that act as natural filters.

“With a reduction in water level, certain species of fish are threatened,” said Suzanne Gautier, 53, communications director for the SFPUC. “Trout, for example, live in cooler water, which is normally found at the bottom of a deep lake.”

Gautier said the water must be refilled incrementally to allow vegetation and nesting birds time to adjust to the change.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever be ‘finished,’” Gautier said. “We want to make a long-term, sustainable program.”
The optimum lake level they are working to achieve is 25-27 feet.

Amy Golub, a 21-year-old environmental studies major at SF State, said that keeping Lake Merced’s levels up to par isn’t just a matter of preserving for the sake of preservation.

“Conservation is used to preserve for economic reasons,” Golub said. “With Lake Merced you have boating, fishing, a lot of recreational usage. The National Park and Rec is in charge of these, and so raising the lake levels is beneficial for them.”

Since she has studied at SF State, Golub has lived at the Villas at Park Merced and observed firsthand what kind of natural biology exists.

“Lake Merced is a naturally formed lake,” she said. “But I have a feeling that most of the species there aren’t endemic. The fish were brought in for fishing reasons.”

The Lake Merced Water Level Restoration Program is headed by a steering committee of various local organizations, including Erik Rosegard, associate professor of recreation and leisure studies at SF State.

“Our biggest concern is not to raise the water levels too high,” Rosegard said. “Because the droughts have been going on for 20 plus years, a whole new ecosystem was created, and flooding the lake too high would be detrimental.”

Lake Merced is one of two coastal freshwater lakes in California, and has served as a source of water for fire fighting and non-drinking emergency use in San Francisco.

Panel discussion commemorates 1968 strike

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Coinciding with campus-wide events celebrating Black History Month, nearly 70 people gathered Wednesday afternoon in the Rosa Parks Conference Center to take part in a panel discussion commemorating the SF State student strike of 1968.

Included on the panel were former leaders of various campus organizations including the Black Student Union, La Raza, The Third World Liberation Front and Students for a Democratic Society.

“We did not see the strike as a struggle solely for issues regarding this campus,” said panelist and former student-activist Hari Dillon. “We were addressing social and educational issues that involved all of America.”

The panel agreed that although the reasons for the strike were numerous, the lasting result is a legacy that continues to this day.

The 120-day strike led to the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies, the first of its kind in the United States. Today it remains the only college in the world devoted entirely to Ethnic Studies.

Many in attendance were eager to learn about the student experience at SF State during the 1960s, although one student expressed his concern over the disconnect between generations.

“It’s good to talk about the past, and it’s great to see all these leaders together,” said Luis Aroche, a La Raza student, after the event. “But there is a 40-year gap between us. The social problems that students face today have changed.

“They are inspiring individuals, but it’s hard to relate what their saying to today’s world,” he added.

Another student attended the event to increase her own personal awareness.

“I came here initially for extra credit, but I hope today’s event will inform me about different problems we face as students,” said Kristin Umadhay as she waited for the program to start.

The panelists agreed with several faculty members in the audience that the power to create social change lies in the hands of the students.

“It’s important for students to build on this legacy,” said international relations professor Margaret Leahy to the audience. “It’s their responsibility to ensure curriculum stays relevant and I urge all students to question faculty, the administration, and each other.”

Her statements were greeted with loud applause from audience members, which included 12 former students who had participated in the strikes.

Dr. Kenneth P. Monteiro, the current dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, applauded the efforts of the former students-activists to initiate change and create a lasting legacy.

“The point is not the strike itself,” he said. “The point is to appreciate the values they came in with and the product they created.”

Early morning fire at University Park North

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A single-alarm fire woke up University Park North residents at 2:39 a.m. Wednesday, forcing a brief evacuation of 20 students and causing an estimated $250,000 in damages to university owned property, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the apartment has been declared uninhabitable for the time being, Lt. Mindy Talmadge of the San Francisco Fire Department said.

The blaze began in and was contained to unit 103 on the first floor of the three-story building, which housed at least one SF State student, said university spokeswoman Ellen Griffin. There were no injuries.

About 20 residents were evacuated, but some returned when SFFD had the fire under control at 3:21 a.m.
SFFD station 15 is directly across the street from the damaged apartment and the station was among the companies that responded to the fire.

Alex Thomas, a junior on the SF State men’s basketball team, said he was sleeping in his apartment, unit 203, directly above the fire.

Thomas said that at first he thought the alarm was a drill. An escape drill was held in his building a few weeks ago, he said, and the guard wanted to get a sound sleep for Wednesday’s game against CSU Monterey Bay.

“[I was] pissed off because we leave today for a game,” Thomas said before heading to school around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Thomas and roommate Ryan Wessels, spent the remainder of the morning sleeping at a friend’s home in The Villas at Parkmerced.

Talmadge said that residents living in unit 103 did not ask for assistance from the Red Cross, and that the estimated damages of the resident’s belongings reached $40,000.

Newsom announces major changes for Muni

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Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday at Jack Adams Hall a proposal to overhaul several Muni bus and train routes to help improve Muni's on-time performance.

“What [is] a better place to announce this project [than SF State] where students use two of the busiest routes in San Francisco?” Newsom said.

The proposal is called the Transit Effectiveness Project. it comes at time when Muni's on-time performance has been at a stagnant 70 percent. “[This is a] big deal,” Newsom said. “People want to see higher on-time performances."

The project would include eliminating not just bus stops but bus lines themselves.

“We have to make drastic changes in order to make dramatic changes,” Newsom said to SF State students.

Improvements include an all day service for the 28-Limited bus and improvements with the 28 buses and M Line.

According to the proposal, the J-Church line would travel to the outer portion of the M-Ocean, connecting the Mission and Noe Valley to SF State.

“We want the 28 bus to be better managed with more street supervisors,” said Julie Kirschbaum, project manager for TEP.

Improvements will slowly be making its way starting in July 2009.

Traffic fines on 19th Ave. could soon be double

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Bad drivers beware.

A new piece of legislation was introduced on Feb. 22 by state Sen. Leland Yee to make the 19th Avenue corridor a double fine zone for drivers who violate traffic laws.

The corridor, also known as Highway 1, begins at Junipero Serra at 19th Avenue and extends to Lake Street at Park Presidio.

"19th Avenue is unique because it's a state highway right in the middle of a neighborhood,” Yee said .

The state senator has been working on a double fine bill for over four years now, but one was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and two were stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee.

“We have worked diligently with the administration and the transportation committees to develop language that all sides can be happy with, and that will finally provide the kind of protection our pedestrians and bicyclists need,” Yee said.

SB1419 now has support from the chairs of the Senate Transportation committee, the Assembly and the governor, Yee said. “It's going to be couple more months until the bill passes, but there has been a lot of support from everyone."

Currently, base fines for traffic violations range from $25 (1-15 mph over the speed limit) to $500 (reckless driving causing bodily injury). If SB1419 passes, those fines will increase to $137.50 for speeding and $2,750 for causing bodily injury.

SF State student Jarrod Minto, 22, is skeptical about the new bill. "The measure might work, but it won't stop people from driving recklessly or double parking," said the creative writing and Japanese major.

San Francisco Supervisor Carmen Chu and other pedestrian advocacy groups are in support of SB1419.

“The senator has been a great champion of safety and concern of 19th Avenue,” Chu said. “We have been [having] talks on how to enforce and educate people on safety.”

Bob Plantwood, of San Francisco Walk, said the new legislation will be a “powerful tool to deter” drivers from violating traffic laws.

“We have to raise the fines to a certain level to make an impact,” he said.

The bill will be enforced for five years and then evaluated by the Department of Traffic and other agencies to see if there are any improvements of pedestrian safety during those five years.

The San Francisco Police Department reported 555 total collisions of automobiles from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2007. From the same period, there were 55 pedestrian-related accidents and six pedestrian deaths.

Between July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, there were 84 total collisions, nine pedestrian related accidents and one death.

“The San Francisco Police Department appreciates any effort to improve the safety of 19th Avenue,” Lt. Doug Shoshone of Taraval station said.

Last October, SF State student Sandy Kim, 21, was struck by a car and killed on the sidewalk at the intersection of 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. The following month, a new left turn signal was placed at the intersection.

Besides SB1419, several other improvements to the highway have already been made or are underway.

The first phase of improvements will cost $4 million and will include replacements of traffic signals and the installation of pedestrian countdown signals at 10 intersections. The second and third phases will include the rest of the intersections, according to Yee's press release.

“Caltrans and the [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency] are sponsoring a signal upgrade to make sure the traffic signals have countdown signals for the pedestrians,” said Jack Fleck, a San Francisco city engineer. “A contract has been awarded, so it should be a few weeks until work begins on this project,” Fleck said .

Recent improvements that have been made include the timing of traffic signals, crosswalk visibility and public awareness campaigns.

SPECIAL REPORT: Road to reconciliation

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AGUR KUF NAHIA, Iraq—All conflicts develop a center of gravity. In Iraq, that center is Baghdad. The Agur Kuf Nahia is part of the Northern Security Belt of Baghdad. Endless narrow dirt roads and irrigation canals cut across this contentious region.

Sectarian motivated kidnappings, murders, and intimidation peaked during the middle of 2006. During that period, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and sectarian-based death squads used the canals as dumping grounds for the dead. Drifting corpses became ensnared in the towering reeds growing along the steep banks. The odor of death would entice roving packs of feral dogs.

During the last week of January 2008, “Big Dawg,” a coalition forces security patrol of three Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles is heading west on a dirt road.

The road narrows as it crosses over an irrigation canal.

The soldiers are assigned to Bravo Battery, Fires Squadron and the 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment. Captain Donald Hayfron, the “Big Dawg” executive officer, is riding in the front right seat of the trailing MRAP.

“Rollover, rollover, rollover,” Hayfron announces. These verbal commands are part of a battle drill, rehearsed daily by the crew in the event of a MRAP rollover.

This is not a rehearsal. The dirt embankment alongside his vehicle is collapsing. Within seconds, the vehicle is sent careening off the dirt road. The MRAP and five soldiers slam into the murky waters of the canal.

“Water,” shouts Sergeant Anare Murphy. The overturned MRAP is flooding. Body armor and equipment impede the release of four-point restraints worn by the crew.

From behind the steering wheel, Staff Sergeant Kevin Durham instinctively requests a verbal status check from the crew. Only four voices respond from the dark interior. A soldier is missing below the rising waters.

Murphy and Private First Class Travis Chitton begin searching below the surface of the frigid water. PFC Derek Wade is drowning. He is inverted and unable to release his restraints.

Within minutes, a motionless left arm is found in the pitch-black water. After repeated rescue attempts, Wade is eventually released from his restraints and pulled toward an air pocket near the front of the MRAP.

A preliminary assessment of Wade’s condition reveals that he has a pulse but his airway is partially obstructed by a mixture of aspirated water and blood. Without medical care, Wade could become severely hypoxic and die. The soldiers hold onto their fallen comrade as they look up at the massive 770-kilogram armored door that blocks their escape.

Abnaa al-Iraq—”Sons of Iraq”—a regulated, community-based security force, is providing protection at a nearby Traffic Control Point when they witness the MRAP vehicle plunge into the canal. They immediately notify coalition forces about the crash. U.S. soldiers, Iraqi interpreters and the Abnaa al-Iraq run to the canal. Working together, they open the driver’s door and pull Wade from the darkness.

Ten kilometers northeast of the rescue operation, I am photographing Sheik Nadeem on the city streets of Taji. He is walking with an entourage toward a line of waiting cars. His security guards, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, are avoiding my camera lens as they actively scan the neighborhood for potential threats.

Nadeem is the head sheik in Taji. The city lies outside of the Agur Kuf Nahia. As a pro-reconciliation tribal leader, he has agreed to serve as arbiter over a strategic tribal meeting. This meeting will bypass the Iraqi judicial system and attempt to facilitate a binding tribal solution for crimes committed during a sectarian attack. The crimes occurred 19 months earlier in the Shia village of Shiabat.

Sectarian attacks have elevated civil tension among the region’s tribes. However, a civil war does not currently exist inside the borders of the Agur Kuf Nahia.

Coalition forces remain focused on security throughout the war-ravaged country. Providing the population with sustainable security is the prerequisite for reducing sectarian killings. Shiite and Sunni leadership will be required to adopt a robust posture of reconciliation if the desired end state is a free national government.

Our planned departure from Taji to the tribal meeting is interrupted by an emergency radio transmission. The voice of Captain Christopher Ellis, the Bravo Battery commander, is on the network. He is transmitting a medical evacuation request from the scene of the MRAP vehicle rollover.

Nadim is instructed to travel to the tribal meeting with his security guards. The coalition patrol heads directly to the crash site. In less than 15 minutes, we arrive at the scene of the overturned MRAP vehicle.

Walking across the land bridge, I hear the sound of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter orbiting overhead. Soldiers are carrying Wade on a litter to a landing zone. He is coughing violently. Each breath is a fight for survival. The green blanket covering his shivering body is spattered with blood-tinged foamy saliva.

Wade is loaded into the helicopter and flown to the 86th Combat Surgical Hospital in Baghdad. Inside the emergency room, he is intubated in order to remove fluid from his lungs. He is admitted into the intensive care unit as a critical patient.

“I did not want to die in the water,” Hayfron says, after the rollover. “The Sons of Iraq were there for us. Their efforts contributed to the timely rescue of PFC Wade.”

An hour later, I arrive at the tribal reconciliation meeting with the coalition patrol. The meeting is being held in a large, ornately patterned tent. Over 100 sheiks, local leaders, and witnesses are avidly debating specific events of the attack on Shiabat.

Lt. Col. Bob McAleer, the Fires Squadron commander, joins Nadeem at the head table. McAleer addresses the crowd.

“Peace be upon you. Peace be upon those of you who have suffered. Peace be upon those of you who continue to suffer.

“The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the events occurring in the village of Shiabat starting July 17, 2006 and ending three days later.”

After several hours of discussion and witness testimony, McAleer and Nadeem adopt the following fact pattern. The Halibusi Tribe, led by Hilal Mutar Al-Habusi, conducted a coordinated attack against the Beni-Tamimi Tribe in the Shia village of Shiabat. Mortars, machine guns, and small arms were employed during the prolonged Sunni-led attack.

On the third day, Al-Habusi offered to cease fire, if the besieged Beni-Tamimi tribe disarmed and vacated their homes. With no water, little food, and insufficient ammunition to defend itself, the Shia have no choice.

Unarmed, the men of the Beni-Tamimi tribe attempted to evacuate their families in dump trucks. Members of the Halibusi tribe stopped the trucks at gunpoint and abducted five Shia men. The five men were never seen again.

“Does anyone disagree with these basic facts?” McAleer asked, while standing in the center of the tent. The crowd remained silent.
Near the end of the meeting, a lethal rift is exposed between two Sunni leaders. Sheik Zedan Khalaf Mohammed points his left hand at the Sheik of the Halibusi tribe and confronts him about the fate of the abducted men.

“We need the truth. If we go back and forth without the truth, we get nowhere,” Zedan says.

The truth is that Hilal Mutar Al-Habusi is a dangerous man, operating on the fringes of AQI. He is suspected in numerous killings, robberies and weapons trafficking from Syria. His son, Mishal Hilal Mutar Al-Habusi, is an AQI cell leader in the cities of Bassam and Abu Ghurayb.

Six days later, I am standing in the dark. A blackout has swept through the Al-Fallujah Hospital. A ringtone escapes from an unseen cellular phone. The open flame of a cigarette lighter streaks past an open door. After several minutes, the overhead lights flicker to life. The left hand of Zedan is intertwined with a blood-filled intravenous line.

Thirty-six hours earlier, the sheik was the target of an assassination attempt. An improvised explosive device affixed to the undercarriage of his car was detonated on a dirt road. Bloodied, he dragged himself onto the roadway.

A signal from a cellular phone is believed to have triggered the IED. The force of the explosion sent shrapnel ripping through the skin and muscles in his legs and left arm. The entire calf muscle in his left leg was lost.

Zedan is a Sunni moderate. His public endorsement of tribal reconciliation has made him a target. The unsecured Al-Fallujah Hospital affords his enemies the opportunity for a second attack. A coalition patrol led by McAleer is preparing to evacuate the injured sheik to the Al-Shiffa hospital in Baghdad.

The gravity of the situation is forgotten during a momentary burst of gallows humor shared by the two men. Camaraderie in the Agur Kuf Nahia is a frequently exchanged commodity, traded in hours and days.

Five days later, I am walking on a dirt road near Zedan's residence. His home is located in the Sixth Queme area of the Agur Kuf Nahia. Men from the Al-Masuri tribe are providing security for their injured leader.

Pain is surging through the mangled legs of the Sunni sheik. Zedan is lying on a bed near a portable propane heater. His bandaged left hand slowly extends towards the radiating heat. McAleer is seated on a plastic chair beside the bed.

“It is true that my legs are damaged,” the sheik says. “However, my commitment to tribal reconciliation remains strong. Even if I have to crawl, I will not stop. We are one country. We are brothers. All of us, regardless if we are Shiite or Sunni.”

By headlamp, I assist in the bandaging of Zedan’s injured arm. His deep wounds appear to be healing. In Iraq, growth is not an indicator of sustainable health.

As a coalition, our gauges are flawed. Their measurements mislead. Sustainable progress in Iraq requires long-term aggressive care by Multi National Forces Iraq (MNF-I). Any premature cessation of care condemns the people of Iraq to a world of violence and systemic failures. A world like present day Iraq.

Platters of rice, chicken, and flat bread are served for dinner. Hassan Katheb, of the Al-Masuri Tribe is seated next to me. He tears the breast meat from the chicken and offers it to me.

In the dimness, I witness Sunni moderates turn into a grateful family. US Army soldiers become boisterous houseguests. Iraqi interpreters remain engaged in translation, as men exchange jokes and details about their lives.

We laugh together, late into the night of our long war.

Evidence suggests that a splinter group from the Al-Masuri Tribe conspired with the Al-Habusi tribe in the planning and execution of the IED attack against the Al-Masuri leader. The attack is a warning from AQI and Sheik Hilal Mutar Al-Habusi. A second warning will be delivered soon.

James Lee is on assignment in Iraq for the Golden Gate [X]press, and has reported from the Republic of the Maldives, Bangladesh and Bahrain.

Ethnic Studies plans for '68 strike commemoration

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The College of Ethnic Studies and the Educational Opportunity Program held a campus-wide meeting Thursday afternoon to plan a series of events commemorating the founding of the College of Ethnic Studies and the SF State Strike of 1968.

Strike commemoration project coordinator Daniel Gonzales, associate professor of Asian American Studies, told the group of about 40 students, professors, alumni and strike veterans that the events had a very specific purpose.

"There's a lot of history in this room," Gonzales said from the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. "This is to re-establish our commitment to community service and establish a strong stand on global issues."

The meeting, which came a week after an initial meeting with Ethnic Studies faculty and EOP staff, was meant as a first call to the SF State campus and alumni to contribute ideas for the strike's commemoration, Gonzales said. A third meeting scheduled for March will be held for the general community outside SF State.

"We're planning to see how big or small this series of events will be that will potentially culminate in a conference in early October, Gonzales said, emphasizing that the date was tentative.

The College of Ethnic Studies was founded in the fall of 1969, a year after the SF State strike. The department set a precedent for other universities to follows and teaches Africana Studies, Asian American Studies, Raza Studies and American Indian Studies to this day. The EOP began in 1968 and paved the way for Ethnic Studies department, Gonzales said.

"The College of Ethnic Studies just couldn't have done it without the EOP," Gonzales said.

The EOP was created to improve access and retain low-income and educationally disadvantaged students. Services such as orientation, counseling, tutoring, and advising services are offered. EOP programs now exist on all CSU campuses.

SF State alumna Esperanza Echavarri, 59, said she received an e-mail about the meeting, and her participation in the '68 strike as well as her community involvement in the Mission District as a result led her back to the campus to see how she might contribute to the commemoration.

"It really opened my eyes to the fact that nothing in my education before SF State and the strike spoke to my ethnic heritage in this country," Echavarri, said of herself as an 18-year-old student who participated in Raza studies at the time.

Echavarri left SF State after the strike and did community work in the Mission. She returned to SF State and graduated with a degree in Raza Studies in 1981 and a masters of social work in 1985. She said the commemoration is a way to practice the philosophy of the Ethnic Studies department.

"The department taught us to get an education and to give back to the community," Echavarri said.

Jessica Aguilar, 21, a double major in Raza Studies and sociology said she went to the meeting so she could understand the events surrounding the strike given the current proposed CSU budget cuts.

"I came to hear what they had to say because I feel we might have to strike again because the budget cuts are hurting ethnic studies and the Community Service Learning program might get cut," Aguilar said. "If we students had to strike again, I'd be totally down."

CSUs look to increase minority enrollment

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Speaking at more than 30 churches throughout the Bay Area, presidents, chancellors and faculty representing the California State University system joined local pastors this past weekend to take part in the “Super Sunday” recruiting program, an event held annually in an attempt to attract potential students to the statewide colleges.

CSU’s “Super Sunday” is a program of Chancellor Charles Reed, in which representatives of the educational system engage in grassroots recruiting by speaking at numerous black churches throughout California.

A similar event takes place annually in Southern California as well. The recruiting program, in its third year, aims to target parents of students who may not be aware of the opportunities for higher education and financial aid.

“Education is the cornerstone of society,” said Cal State Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani to Sunday worshipers gathered at San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church in the Western Addition. “I am here today to inform those students who don’t know about the opportunity for higher learning and financial aid that exists.”

SF State President Robert A. Corrigan, who spoke at Providence Baptist Church in San Francisco’s Bayview District, touched on the S.F. Promise program, an initiative created in conjunction between SF State and the city of San Francisco to ensure that all academically eligible students automatically gain entry into SF State.

“[The program is for students] who do the work, who get the grades, who graduate high school...we guarantee we will provide you with a college education. Financial need will not be a factor. There will be scholarships. There will be aid,” Corrigan said to booming applause.

Shirvani hailed the annual “Super Sunday” event as “wildly successful.” He cited a 6.5 percent increase of the black student population throughout the CSU system last fall, a statistic Shirvani attributes to the recruiting efforts of CSU officials.

However, despite the efforts to increase racial diversity at CSU campuses, the ratio of black students to the overall student population remains stagnant at 6 percent, according to a CSU study released in January.

Here at SF State, the ratio of black students to other minorities has actually dropped over the last 10 years. In 1998, 7.9 percent of the student population was black. Last fall, black students constituted about 6.7 percent of the student population on campus, according to admissions office reports.

Students on campus expressed frustration over the seeming oversight in recruiting by CSU officials.

“It’s an image thing,” said Coby Obiesie, a finance major who is a member of the Black Student Union. “Many of my friends who have applied to SF State have been denied. It’s seems as though they are just trying to fill a quota to make the system look good.”

Another student, Angelita Honeycutt, agreed.

“It seems like if they really wanted to create real diversity, they would put forth more effort than a once-a-year event to reach kids here in the city,” she said.

At Third Baptist Church, Pastor Amos Brown called on his fellow worshipers to celebrate Black History Month by stressing the value of education to children and asked parents to be the catalyst for change in the community.

“Many of our traditional black colleges were founded in the basements of churches,” he said during the spirited sermon, briefly pausing to ensure that his point resonated. “They became institutions that were to teach us and prepare us for the realities of life.

“Today’s young people must be able to realize the value that an education has, and that this education is within reach,” he added.

Brown, who attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, was taught by Martin Luther King, Jr. in social philosophy at the historically black school. He said he sees the need for community assistance if the CSU recruiting programs are to be successful.

“We all have a shared responsibility,” Brown said. “We need to support the efforts of CSU, and through community teamwork we will all be able to succeed.”

Additional reporting by staff writer Adam Loraine and editor in chief David DeBolt.

Faculty, students ask for Mideast studies major

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To address an increased level of interest in the Middle East following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the United States’ continued occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, SF State introduced the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies minor into the curriculum in Fall 2007.

Despite the introduction of the minor, however, interested students and professors say it’s not enough—they want it to be a major.

“Students ask me why there isn’t a major,” said Professor Mohammad Salama, the Arabic program coordinator. “It’s unfortunate. If they want to major in Middle Eastern studies, they migrate to Berkeley.”

In California, only four universities currently offer undergraduate programs in Middle Eastern studies: UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego. Berkeley and UCLA offer graduate programs as well.

American universities were faced with a specific challenge after Sept. 11. Speculation and prejudice about Middle Eastern and Islamic culture were present in many facets—media, conversation and classroom discussion.

Salama himself can speak to the mistrust, fear and misunderstanding that Muslims and Middle Eastern individuals often face. Salama has lived in the U.S. for seven years (he is a citizen of Egypt) and has taught Arabic and MEIS courses since Fall 2005. His life was put on hold in June 2006 when he traveled to Toronto to upgrade his visa. The U.S. Embassy denied him reentry to the country, telling him that his name was flagged. Someone with the same name was under investigation, he was told. Despite being a professor at a major university, he was held for three months at the border before being issued a new visa.

“A journey that was supposed to last three days lasted 90 days,” Salama said. “It was disastrous.”

The run-in with the embassy further motivated Salama to create a program meant to educate the Western world about people and the culture from the Middle East.

“If we do have a program, we could avoid such things from happening again,” he said. “Mine was not an exclusive case—there are thousands [of people] in the same situation.”

Although the administration at SF State has been supportive of a major program in Middle Eastern studies, Salama said, a sense of xenophobia was pervasive following Sept. 11.

“It was a paradox, it’s a conflict,” he said. “There is a need to understand, but it was fused with fear. Anyone who is Muslim is feared.”

Kasey Rios Asberry, a graduate student in the geography program who has taken classes with Salama, considers the lack of a major a budgetary matter.

“If Chinese studies is well funded, if Japanese studies is funded, Arabic should be well funded,” she said. “If it’s an aspect of promoting peace, it puts it in a different light.”

Asberry noted that while the minor may only have about 60 to 75 people, a major in the program would attract enough students to support it, especially given SF State’s progressive history.

“It’s really significant,” she said. “SF State has such a tradition of studying multiple cultures—we have a 30-year history with the Ethnic Studies Department—Middle Eastern studies is even more needed.”

Turning Middle Eastern and Islamic studies into a major has proven more difficult than anticipated, said Nicole Watts, MEIS coordinator and assistant political science professor. She said the problem is the amount of work and time it will take, rather than a non-supportive administration or funding issues. She said a major would be more beneficial than what is currently being offered.

“The assumption that studying the Middle East can be linked into one course is problematic,” Watts said. “One minor is problematic.”

“We are in a strong position to let our minor flow for a couple of years and then start the major,” Salama said.

Katrina Yeaw, a 24-year-old graduate student in modern world history with an emphasis on the Middle East, has spent the last three semesters studying Arabic in Salama’s classroom.

But since SF State offers only Arabic I, II, and III, Yeaw turned to the East Bay to continue her studies. She has cross registration with UC Berkeley and commutes from San Francisco every weekday to take a one-hour course, Arabic IV, at Berkeley.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “Language is really important to becoming a scholar on the Middle East, and since I’m applying to Ph.D programs next year, I have to keep taking Arabic.”

The minor focuses on the history of the wider Islamic world; it is not geographically based or restricted to one particular culture. It emphasizes the centuries beginning from the rise of Islam to the present day.

“Since 9/11 there has been this great desire to understand how and why these things happen,” Watts said. “It’s become very clear to students how interwoven and interlinked our lives are. [The Middle East] is very relevant to our daily lives as well as the future.”

Hassan Aburish, 21, an international relations major and member of the General Union of Palestinian Students, said it is more important than ever for Americans to dig beneath the surface of misconceptions regarding the Middle East.

“So many Americans are completely ignorant to the Middle East, especially Islam,” Aburish said. “They hear about Islamic Jihad and don’t know it’s an Islamic minority. Sept. 11 was carried out by 19 people, not the entire Middle East.”

Additional reporting by news editor Dan Verel.

Affordability Act may ease the cost of college

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If Congress has its way, billions of dollars in spending may be authorized to lower the cost of college, to stimulate the nation’s higher education system and to help protect students from unethical business practices between schools and private loan lenders.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act, which passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 7, addresses rising tuition costs and student access to materials, provides funding for new grants and gives incentives for schools to lower the costs of tuition, supporters say.

“This legislation reforms our higher education system from the perspective of students and families—creating a more transparent, consumer-friendly, fair and easy-to-navigate system,” said Rachel Racusen, deputy communications director of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The bill, named H.R.4137, was sponsored by committee chairman Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., in the House by a vote of 354 to 58. The U.S. Senate passed its own version of the bill in July. The next step is to conference the two bills to produce a final piece of legislation to send to the president's desk, according to Racusen.

BILL GAINS CSU SEAL OF APPROVAL

Cal State Chancellor Charles Reed emphasized his support for the bill in a letter to the education and labor committee the day before the vote, stating that “the bill positively addresses many of the CSU’s highest policy priorities.”

The CSU leader was happy to see that the bill designates additional funding for various programs to help veterans, their families, minority students and predominantly minority-serving institutions.

The draft includes an increase in the maximum Pell Grant award and allows grants to be given year-round, one of CSU's "highest priorities," according to George Conant, legislative director of the CSU Office of Federal Relations. In recent years, the CSU has strived to offer classes all year round in an effort to speed up graduation rates.

“Everything we wanted is in the bill. We are very happy with it,” Conant said.

But the White House is not as happy as the CSU and is opposed to the bill.

“It would restrict the Department of Education's authority to regulate on accreditation," according to a White House statement. It would also "create nearly four dozen new, costly, and duplicative federal programs, condition receipt of federal grant funding on tuition price, and restrict the department's ability to evaluate and effectively manage Upward Bound and other TRIO programs [which help low-income and disadvantaged students].”

ADDRESSING FINANCIAL AID

Another piece of the bill is aimed at preventing and combating abusive practices and conflicts of interests in financial aid offices. It would do so by creating new rules for lenders, a code of conduct for financial aid offices and counseling services for students and parents seeking loans.

By the new regulations, universities will not be allowed to endorse a certain private loan, nor give lenders the right to use the institution's name or image in their marketing. It strengthens other rules already in place to say that school employees in financial aid offices will not be allowed to receive gifts, payments from lenders for services or enter into revenue-sharing agreements.

"This has not been a factor at SF State," said Director of Financial Aid Barbara Hubler. "We don’t have those relationships with lenders."

“It’s unfortunate that it had to come to this, but lenders and school officials took advantage," she said. "It’s for the students. They don’t need to be caught in the middle of a competition. Student loans have been very lucrative for private lenders and there was a potential for abuse."

STIMULATING AMERICAN WORKFORCE

The wide-reaching bill also includes programs aimed to increase college enrollment, bridge the transition into the workforce, promote campus safety and address internet copyright infringement on campuses.

To stimulate the future American workforce, a portion of the bill is designed to promote access to a range of careers and programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The bill also provides grants for post-graduate programs in over a dozen fields also aimed at strengthening the workforce and improving access for students entering those fields.

A large portion of funding and grants are designated for a “Teach for America” program, aimed at bringing college graduates into teaching careers, and includes programs for “loan forgiveness for service in areas of national need.”

THE COLLEGE INFORMATION HUB

Authors have also addressed the need to simplify the public's access to information about colleges.

A national “Enhanced College Navigator” Web site is to be developed to provide easy access to information about colleges and universities by consolidating the multitude of statistics, demographics and other information often already provided by colleges and universities, along with a comprehensive “easy to understand” section on financial aid options.

Annual surveys, reports and publications are planned to be available on the Web site, providing information about fluctuating tuition costs, a “price increase watch list," safety statistics, and university reports from the various programs designated in the bill.

SF State professor researches breast cancer

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Even though breast cancer is the most common form of the disease to afflict American women, when diagnoses were handed down to Grace Yoo’s friends, it was something she was not prepared for.

“I just never thought that Asian American women were vulnerable to breast cancer. It’s not something you’re warned about,” said Yoo, an associate professor of Asian American studies at SF State. “Breast cancer has always been thought of as a white woman’s disease.”

Cancer research has focused predominately on white women because this group has the highest incidence of breast cancer, but also because white women have been the most likely to participate in research studies, said Yoo, who has a Ph.D in medical sociology.

It does not help that popular media have made stars of cancer survivors such as Melissa Etheridge or Suzanne Somers without featuring models from non-white ethnic backgrounds.

Black women, in particular, have borne the brunt of this inadequacy. According to the American Cancer Society, although black women have a lower incidence of the disease, their breast cancers are more likely to be fatal.

It was this kind of disparity that prompted Yoo to put together a five-year study with colleagues from several universities geared specifically toward minority populations. She teamed up with Ellen Levine, a senior scientist at SF State’s Biobehavioral Research Center, Caryn Aviv from the University of Denver and two medical doctors from UC San Francisco’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Together, they studied breast cancer survivors from four ethnic groups: Asian, Hispanic, white and black. Interviews revealed differences among these groups in what they viewed as the factors leading to their cancer diagnoses.

The most commonly expressed risk factors were issues of personal choice and lifestyle such as diet, use of alcohol or stress. While non-white women were the most likely to list the factors above, white women were more likely to note the use of hormones, such as birth control pills, as a risk.

In 2002, Levine and Elisabeth Targ of the California Pacific Medical Center published data that supported a link between spirituality and improved psychological and physical well-being in women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Yoo and Levine’s current research found that black and Hispanic women were more likely than white women to engage in spiritual activities. The 81 percent who used prayer specifically were more likely to associate some positive personal growth or outcome from their experience with the illness. There is no evidence, however, that prayer affects disease or health.

Although some of the data is still being analyzed, results of the study are already being put to use.

Levine currently designs and implements “wellness interventions” for black survivors of breast cancer that are a mixture of education and support.

Past retreats and workshops have dealt with participants’ fears of cancer recurrence, spirituality, sexuality and making lifestyle changes such as cooking more healthy meals while preserving “soul food” traditions.

Jacqueline Bishop, a research assistant for the project who recently completed her master’s degree in psychology at SF State, emphasized the importance of culturally-based programs. In black culture, she said, discussing health problems can be sensitive or even taboo.

“You don’t stand up and say ‘I’ve got breast cancer.’ You don’t share that information outside your family,” she said.

Bishop also noted that distrust of medical professionals can make blacks a more elusive group to involve in research studies.

Bishop said her direct involvement in meeting and interviewing breast cancer survivors has given her insight.

“You hear about what women go through with cancer, but to actually see it—that’s a completely different experience,” she said.

Witnessing the lives and recording the thoughts of research subjects highlighted disparities in treatment and inequality of medical care among black women with breast cancer, she said.
“Billions of dollars are being spent on an unjust war, but some people are in a position where they need to decide whether to buy their medication or buy food. That’s a horrible decision to have to make,” Bishop said. “It has really confirmed for me that this is the area of research I want to pursue.”

Bishop hopes to tailor research around the black population, which has experienced a high incidence not only of breast cancer, but also diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other diseases.

For Ivy Wong, a health education major at SF State, participating in the study as a research assistant was an opportunity to explore what aspects of public health service suited her.

In addition to finding the work fulfilling, she found herself being positively affected by listening to the survivors during the course of her interviews.

“Their stories are very empowering. It really puts your own life into perspective,” she said.

Wong said that seeing the emotional strength of the survivors made her a more optimistic person, and that she would want to emulate that strength if she experienced a similar crisis.

“No one is born courageous,” she said. “You have to learn how.”

Exchange students promote studying abroad

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SF State showed its international spirit with everything from Japanese song and dance to grilled German sausages and Australian Vegemite sandwiches and surfboards during the Study Abroad Fair On Malcolm X Plaza on Wednesday.

International exchange students and study abroad alumni from more than 20 countries gathered at tables to pass out flyers, offer native food and encourage passing SF State students to pursue a study program across the world.

The event was sponsored by the International Exchange Education Council, a student club that works to promote the Office of International Programs and connect foreign exchange students and alumni to SF State students applying to go abroad. Since its recognition by the Associated Students in Fall 2004, the club’s membership has grown to 1,100—a considerable jump from the 350 members counted six months ago, according to SF State student co-chair Courtney Oxsen.

“Students’ interest in studying abroad is growing,” said Oxsen, 21, who spent all last year in Spain studying the language, culture and economics of the country.

SF State has become a multicultural campus with more than 200 international exchange students enrolled and the the IEEC plays a big role in the promotion of their education. All 23 of the campuses in the CSU system offer study abroad and exchange programs, but SF State students make up a quarter of all the students that go abroad every year, according to the IEEC’s staff advisor Noah Kuchins.

In fact, SF State ranks second in the United States “for sending the most students on year-long programs,” according to Kutchins, a 2004 SF State graduate who spent two years studying in France.

“The year-long programs give students a more authentic experience” compared to the shorter summer programs offered at other universities, Kuchins said.

At SF State, there are two study abroad programs available depending on students’ majors: the 21-country, year-long CSU option and the SF State’s Bilateral exchange with campuses in 14 different countries. Through both programs, SF State students pay regular tuition at their international university.

In turn, SF State is one of the top study abroad destinations, according to several international students.

These students “internationalize [SF State’s] campus and give students a taste of their experience,” Kuchins said.

For students studying abroad here, the IEEC offers a way to network with native students and other international students trying to acclimate to American culture. Social events such as the spring Yosemite camping trip, Golden Gate Bridge walk, weekly pint nights and international movies in the Coppola Theatre help students build friendships they can continue abroad.

Obiamaka Eke, the IEEC finance supervisor and SF State student hoping to double major in business accounting and French when she goes abroad, said she has already met and learned from several students from France through these events.

“I love learning about [the different] cultures,” Eke, 20, said, calling the organization a big international family.

While the IEEC is exclusively an SF State organization, French roommates Floriane Glupie and Ariane Chouraki said there is a similar program on their campus at Poitiers, part of the ESCEM University.

“They help you open a bank account and find accommodations,” said Glupie, 21, “but there are less [scheduled] activities.”

Chouraki, 22, an IEEC financial officer, said a percentage of the revenue collected from these activities helps fund scholarships for American students looking to go abroad.

Tim Ryan, a sophomore international business major at SF State, didn’t know about the IEEC until he started looking into potential study abroad programs.

“I knew [even in high school] that I wanted to go abroad,” said Ryan, who found out about the student organization at his first OIP meeting. Having been raised with a lot of British culture, Ryan plans to apply to western London’s Kingston University for the year-long program.

According to Ryan, one of the most helpful aspects of the IEEC has been the buddy program, where an international student is paired with a study abroad applicant.

Ryan’s “buddy” is Lars Saetren, a journalism major from Oslo University College in Norway. Together, they have helped each other learn about their different cultures and offer advice on living abroad and dealing with potential problems, from switching your cell phone to finding a place to live.

“Witnessing that stress gives you insight,” Ryan said, adding that talking to Saetren helped him figure out what questions to ask the OIP before he goes abroad.

“The IEEC’s mission is to gear students in the right direction,” Oxsen said.

Initially, some “students are hesitant about studying abroad,” Kuchins said, “but when they hear the stories from other students, they tend to change their minds” and seriously consider applying for a program.

“This experience opens up your entire world,” Oxsen said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

For more information about the IEEC and study abroad meetings, please visit their Web site at http://user.www.sfsu.edu Additional study abroad information can be found in the OIP office in Admin. 458A.

At a glance: news briefs

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Ethnic Studies, BSU to revisit 1968 strike

The SF State College of Ethnic Studies and the Black Student Union will be sponsoring events with original Black Student Union members, women in the BSU involved in the 1968 strike and the Africana studies department.

The first event will be with the original members Third World Liberation Front Panel on Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.


Study finds rap boosts sexism in students

Rap music draws out sexism in college students, according to a new study from North Carolina State University.

The report, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, stated that rap music does not necessarily cause students to be sexist, but students who listen to the music frequently tend to be more sexist than they already are.

The study divided male and female students into two groups: one group who listened to rap music and a control group who did not listen to any rap music.

The male and female groups who listened to rap music were asked to listen to both non-sexist rap and overtly sexist rap. Males who listened to rap music, whether or not it contained sexist lyrics, reported higher levels of sexism.

Females who listened to rap songs with non-sexist lyrics reported higher levels of sexism while those who listened to overtly sexist music became strongly against sexism after hearing the music.

BSU to host African Fashion Show Feb. 27

The Black Student Union will be hosting the African Fashion Show on Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held at Jack Adams Hall located in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The fashion show is part of a month long celebration of Black History Month events at SF State.

The Black Student Union will be hosting the African Fashion Show on Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held at Jack Adams Hall located in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The fashion show is part of a month long celebration of Black History Month events at SF State.

Eclipse draws astronomy students and spectators

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Focused on the narrow band of sky between the horizon and the murky clouds, SF State astronomers set up on the roof of the Cesar Chavez Student Center to catch the rising of a total lunar eclipse on Wednesday night.

Though the ascending moon provided only five minutes of clear viewing before climbing into the clouds, the brief appearance won’t repeat until the next total lunar eclipse in 2010, according to NASA's website.

“We have spotted the moon!” said Chris McCarthy excitedly, watching the reddened disc rise from the horizon along with members of his astronomy 115 class.

Like a shadow puppet on a wall, a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow from the sun directly onto the moon. Some light still passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, but the moon will take on a unique red or orange glow during “totality,” according to NASA.

“It’s a cool connection to our human ancestors,” said Rachel Strickler, an astronomy grad student at SF State who described how past astronomers have long studied the phenomena.

“The last one was at ‘ridiculous o’clock’ in the morning,” Strickler said, “This one’s at a nice, civilized time.”

Students of astronomy 115 were asked to draw and comment on their observations tonight, but many, including 65-year-old Memphis A. Cepeda, felt the clouds were an issue.

“Given the fact that I can’t see much, I’m probably going to write about how astronomers through the ages have coped with this problem,” joked Cepeda, who teaches practical math at San Francisco City College and is taking the astronomy course for fun.

Many of those attending weren’t part of a class, including Sam Guntner and Casey Montalbano, both 18.

“We heard it was going to be wild,” Guntner said, “It’s not so wild.”

Though the weather made viewing difficult, binoculars provided by the astronomy department gave observers a better picture of the reddening moon as it emerged from the clouds toward the end of the eclipse at 8:20 p.m.

Until the repair of the Thornton Hall observatory's roof, Tim Brothers, observatory curator, said he will be using the astronomy department's portable telescopes for viewings in the quad. Open to the public, viewings are scheduled for every Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m.

ASI approves funding request for PACE

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If you haven’t heard of the SF State student organization Orange Band, don't worry--neither had Associated Students Vice President of External Affairs, Abtin Forghani.

“We don’t have a club called Orange Band, do we?” Forghani asked before Orange Band’s funding request totaling $500 was put to a vote.

His question was met with laughter and a chorus of “Yes, we do.”

“Welcome to State,” Freshman Representative Krupa Kothari said.

Orange Band was one of five student organizations the board approved funding requests for at Wednesday’s meeting of SF State’s Associated Students Board of Directors.

Requests were approved for the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE) in the amount of $10,150, the Asian Student Union (ASU) for $10,427, the ECO Students for $500 and the Ceramics Guild for $500.

The board also approved Votenet Solutions Inc. to provide a software platform that will allow SF State to hold online elections.

“It’s always been a challenge to get students to vote,” said Peter Koo, the executive director of ASI. “We’re hoping this will increase turnout.”

Koo said the software will be in place when ASI’s next elections take place March 17 through 21. Online voting will be accessible to students 24 hours a day during that week.

The Votenet Solutions software package has an approximate annual cost of $3,000.

The seat behind the nameplate of the board’s president, Isidro Armenta, was empty while Armenta sat in one of the chairs provided for members of the public. Education Representative Sharef Al Najjar said that Armenta could not participate as a voting member until the question of his eligibility for office is resolved. Al Najjar explained further that Armenta may have accrued more than the 150 maximum class units an undergraduate is allowed to have when serving in student government.

CSU Super Sunday Events

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CSU Chancellor speaks in Hayward to ensure middle and high school students are prepared for college

HAYWARD—California State University Chancellor Charles Reed visited Glad Tiding Church of God in Christ Sunday, urging its members to work alongside the 23-campus system to make college more accessible to students of color and to increase the number of black students who attend and earn degrees from state schools.

Reed was among several CSU executives and faculty members spread across churches all over Northern California for the third annual “Super Sunday,” an event the Chancellor’s Office said has already made an impact, citing a 6.5 percent increase of the black student population at CSUs last fall.

The chancellor encouraged church members to mentor high school students and to write letters to state officials, pressuring them to cease spending on state prisons and to refrain from cutting funds to education.

“If they get enough of those letters they will wake up,” Reed said.

“I worry that this state (will have) world class prisons and second class universities. We have to send a message.”

The chancellor stressed that preparing for college begins in the sixth grade and that parents need to fight to guarantee their children are placed in Algebra classes by the eighth or ninth grades so they do not fall behind.

“Ask them over and over again, ‘Why can’t I take Algebra?’” he said.

Earlier in the day, Reed told the congregation, “I know we all have a dream. My dream is that every underserved family, every student of color, will have a chance to go to a state university. We all deserve no less.”

Bishop J.W. Macklin, who originally met Reed at a meeting at Allen Baptist Church in Oakland a few years ago, assured his church members that the CSU is committed to working with the church and its community.

“For us this was great,” Macklin said. “It puts a face on opportunity.”

Reed promised the crowd that a representative from the CSU will meet with church members once a month and volunteers from the congregation came forward to sign up to work as mentors and tutors for local high school students.

Christopher Thomas, a 16-year-old Moreau Catholic High School junior, said he is looking for a college that “fits” him and said he was thankful for the opportunity to hear from Chancellor Reed.

“If you’ve never been shown a door, how can you open it and walk through it?” Thomas, a resident of Hayward, said.

Thomas was one of a handful of potential CSU students who shook hands with Reed after first service. Reed fielded questions from the audience and received a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of his speech.

Graduates from Cal State East Bay assembled in the foyer of the church, with information about applying for college and financial aid.

Beverly Dancy, a 2007 graduate of CSUEB, re-entered college after taking 47 years off. The 65-year-old, who grew up in Oakland and graduated from San Francisco City College in 1960, took time off to raise a family before returning to college in her 60s.

Dancy signed up to volunteer as a mentor on Sunday and said she has been helping her granddaughter, who attends Laney College in Oakland, plan to transfer to a four-year university.

“I told her, ‘Continue on with what you are doing. Don’t wait like I did. It took me too long,’” Dancy said.

Reed left the afternoon service early, ending his speech by saying, “Let me be able to sign their diploma when they graduate.”

--David DeBolt, editor-in-chief

Cal State Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani speaks in SF on higher education

Speaking to his congregation that had gathered early Sunday morning at the Third Baptist Church, Pastor Amos Brown called on his fellow worshipers to celebrate Heritage Month by stressing the value of education to children and asked parents to be the catalyst for change in the community.

“Many of our traditional black colleges were founded in the basements of churches," he said during the spirited sermon, briefly pausing to insure that his point resonated among those in attendance. “They became institutions that were to teach us and prepare us for the realities of life.”

“Today’s young people must be able to realize the value that an education has and that this education is within reach,” he added.

In an attempt to help do just that, the California State University’s “Super Sunday” program took place at five churches in San Francisco, including the Third Baptist Church where Cal State Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani spoke.

“Education is the cornerstone of society,” he said during the speech that detailed steps about applying to a CSU. “I am here today to inform those students who don’t know about the opportunity for high learning that exists.”

The event is a product of CSU Chancellor Charles Reed in which representatives of the educational system engage in grassroots recruiting by speaking at 30 churches throughout the Bay Area. It is in its third year and aims to target parents of students who may not be aware of the opportunities for higher education and financial aid that they are within reach of.

Yet despite recent efforts to increase racial diversity at CSU campuses, the ratio of black students to non-minorities remains stagnant at 6 percent, according to a CSU study released in January.

Brown, who attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., and was taught by Martin Luther King, Jr. in social philosophy at the historically black school, sees the need for community assistance if the CSU recruiting programs are to be successful.

“We all have a shared responsibility,” he said. “We need to support the efforts of CSU, and through community teamwork we will all be able to succeed.”

Sharon Haynes, an SF State alum and parent of children who were educated in the CSU system, was in attendance at Sunday’s service at the Third Baptist Church. She said awareness is essential to success in the educational system.

“We welcome [CSUs] recruiting efforts because so many young people in our community don’t go to college,” she said. “If young people are aware of their options and are able to continue their education, then everyone in the community wins.”

--Doug Morino, staff writer

SF State president talks highly of S.F. Promise

SF State President Robert A. Corrigan, other faculty and student volunteers urged more than 300 black churchgoers to consider attending the California State University system Sunday morning.

The outreach effort, dubbed "Super Sunday," occurred in 30 Bay Area churches and featured guest speakers CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, Corrigan and other university presidents and esteemed faculty.

Sunday's event took place in churches because several Bay Area pastors, like Calvin Jones, Jr. of Providence Baptist Church, offered their venues to spread a message that higher education is important and needs to be better integrated into black communities.

"I believe something my daddy taught me: next to God [is] education," said Jones in his 8 a.m. service. "You put God first in your life, then the next thing you do is to train your mind.”

Corrigan spoke about how more black males between the ages of 18 and 30 are in prison than in higher education, and California's prison budget outweighed those of the CSU and University of California systems combined. Approximately 26,000 black students are enrolled in the CSU system as of Fall 2007, an increase of 6.5 percent from before, but that's "not nearly enough."

Last year, Corrigan and other school officials met with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to create the S.F. Promise: that for San Francisco sixth grade students "who do the work, who get the grades, who graduate high school...we guarantee we will provide you with a college education. Financial need will not be a factor. There will be scholarships. There will be aid," Corrigan said to booming applause.

After the speech, Corrigan said that money to fund the program would come from the City of San Francisco, the State of California via Cal Grants and the local business community.

The CSU outreach effort targets black churches not just because they offered their services, but because CSUs are trying to reach students from different places, said Kenneth Monteiro, dean of ethnic studies at SF State. "What if a student isn't doing well or has a bad relationship with his school?"

He said talking to that student in a community setting, like his church or the YMCA, might influence him where a school outreach effort would not. "You don't know how you're going to reach someone," he said.

“Churches make good forums, however, because even if a presentation doesn't sway children, their parents will make sure kids will find the information on their dinner table," Monteiro said. Though he said he does not believe last year's Super Sunday led directly to the recent influx of new black students, "it's one tool, and they all add up," he said.

Student volunteers from SF State Project Connect led by Mario Flores handed out informational packets describing CSU requirements and the S.F. Promise to churchgoers as they left. Though he was not sure how many were given out, "everybody got an envelope," Flores said. He added that several children and adults left him e-mail addresses to discuss their interests in either joining a CSU for the first time, going back to college or transferring from a community college. "This was a success," he said.

"I'll tell them all about [going to college]. It's information people don't have, so I'm glad they have it." said Felicia Johnson, a 30-year-old teacher and mother of two boys.

Edith Brown, a mother herself, agreed. "All young people have a background. We have to have hope to achieve our goals," said Brown, who added, "Children should listen to their mothers."

"The presentation was really good. So much things are going on, you don't get the information until the last minute. Black communities just seem to get the information slower," said Otis Jone, father of a daughter who he says takes computer classes at a local school.

Though Jone said he appreciated the effort and that "kids need something to do," he was not sure the S.F. Promise project would work. "You have to do what you promise. It may not work, but we have to keep doing what we're doing," he said.

Several children leaving the church said they were excited about wanting to go to college. 10-year-old Meia Hearns said she wants to go to a beauty school in Los Angeles someday, while Leomani Michael, 13, just said "I want to do hair."

Michael's older sister Jacqueline, 15, has more specific aspirations. "I want to be a pediatrician in Atlanta," she said.

--Adam Loraine, staff writer

St. Valentine strikes again

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Justin Herman Plaza in downtown San Francisco resembled a typical winter day in Montana as a layer of snow-like feathers spread into the air during the third organized pillow fight event, which gathered hundreds of people on Valentine’s Day.

The excitement was easily palpable and so hard to retain that some people started early by training against streetlights in the expectation of the official starting hour of the fun event.

Click the link on the right to view photos of the Valentine's Day mayhem...

“I can’t wait till the clock finally rings out,” Gloria Reyes, a 24-year-old student at San Jose State University, said about her first participation in the San Francisco pillow fight. “I wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day for myself. I haven’t been in a pillow fight for 10 or 15 years so it brings back good memories,” she said, although regretting not to have brought her pajamas for that special occasion.

The joyful and friendly fight finally erupted a few minutes before the clock struck 6 p.m. and kept going for more than two hours, turning the area into a nice battleground.

Wearing helmets or a simple cap and holding their pillow tight, fighters hit friends, lovers and unknown opponents, leaving torn apart pillows and feathers on the ground or flying into the air.

Valentine’s Day brought together people of all ages, but not necessarily in a relationship as one could expect.

“This is the perfect plan to be single on Valentine’s Day. You don’t have to worry about flowers and gifts,” said Rick LeBlanc, 45, who works in the financial district. “It’s so much fun.”

Away from the huge crowd throwing pillows at one another, other participants made it more personal by organizing a one-on-one fight to which spectators responded by cheering.

Devin Dieffenbacher, 26, a student at City College of San Francisco who is single for the first time in seven years said, “Pillow fight is awesome. It gets out the aggression and it’s harmless. It is good fun.”

Recession signs hit Bay Area as tax rebate is signed

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While signs of an economic recession seem to be appearing across the nation, the jury is still out on whether San Francisco Bay Area residents should go into panic mode—and for college graduates to look for careers away from here.

In what is considered a warning sign for job seekers, a recent report released by the parent company of popular job search site Monster.com showed a steep
decline in the number of online job postings in Bay Area.

The Monster Employment Index dropped 10 points during the month of January, following a 29-point decline in the last five months. The trend may support analysts’ heightened concerns about the potential for a full economic recession.

Those numbers signify that “employers are more cautious about hiring amid softer economic conditions,” according to Hugo Sellert, research manager at Monster Worldwide Inc.

Dr. Michael Potepan, SF State associate professor of economics, studies local and national economic trends. He was hesitant to make any pronouncements about the future of the job market.

While he said 2008 “might be a harder year” for job seekers, he invoked the R-word with caution.

“It’s still unclear if we will actually experience a recession,” he said. “Nobody really knows how extensive this is, but it looks worse now than it did a couple months ago.”

Recent measures taken by the federal government to bolster the economy give Potepan some hope for the near future. He pointed to adjustments in interest rates by the Federal Reserve and tax rebates approved by Congress last week as part of the Bush administration’s economic stimulus plan.

Potepan noted that the current economic landscape is markedly different from the run up to the dot-com meltdown of the early 2000s—a recession he characterized as “fairly mild.”

“What’s happening now is all tied up with the banking industry’s problems,” he said. “It makes it harder to read the tea leaves.”

Monster’s index drop can be seen as evidence that jobs are becoming harder to come by.

“While seasonality can partly explain the dip last month, the overall slowdown in online help-wanted advertising in the region indicates lower demand for labor,” Sellert said.

Mary Huss, publisher of the San Francisco Business Times and a member of the SF State College of Business Advisory Board, said it was too early to categorize the employment index numbers as a trend.
“It could just be a little pause while employers take stock of the economic climate,” she said.

While there may be signs of caution and conservatism on the part of employers, Huss feels the broader employment outlook is positive.

“You have to look at the larger phenomenon,” she said. “The baby boom generation is retiring.”

The exodus of this huge group of workers is an inevitable catalyst to bring new workers into the market, Huss said.

And another important factor favors Bay Area job seekers.

“It’s very difficult to get people to relocate to San Francisco,” she explained.

Huss routinely sees prospective out-of-state employees visit and be very enthusiastic about a position, potential growth and compensation.

“Then they go out and look at houses, see the prices, and that’s the end of that,” she said.

In the employment market, San Francisco would have to compete with areas like Houston, Tex., where salaries in comparable industries can rival the Bay Area but housing costs are much lower.

According to a report published by the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in Houston at the end of last year was around $155,000 while San Francisco’s median home price topped $825,000.

Huss concedes that some sectors of the job market are suffering, notably finance and lending, cautions job seekers to “follow the growth and be adaptable.”

As director of SF State’s Career Center, Jack Brewer took an optimistic view.

“We’re hearing a lot of negative stories, but employers are telling us, as far as college graduates are concerned, they’re still encouraged about job opportunities,” Brewer said.

Although Brewer has noticed the overall job availability trend, he points to a 20 percent increase in jobs listed on the career center’s Monstertrak listings over this same period last year.

Monstertrak, which is also a division of Monster Worldwide, Inc., lists employment and internship opportunities for college students and graduates.

“These are employers who have specifically asked to be posted at San Francisco State,” Brewer explained. But a tighter job market means increased competition and “employers are looking at more than just GPA,” he said. “Part time jobs, experience in student leadership and volunteering are all good things for students to have.”

Tax-paying students may get rebate by May
By: Heather Mack, staff writer

In addition to the considerably helpful tax return many students receive that often mitigates a shopping spree or a vacation, Congress and President George W. Bush have agreed to hook it up a little more this year.

The $168 billion bipartisan economic stimulus package, a new income tax rebate plan, was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate Feb. 7 and signed into law by Bush. More than 130 million Americans are expected to qualify for the rebates.

The plan will give $600 to $1,200 to most households and at least $300 to lower-income people, Social Security recipients and disabled veterans. Lower-income earners who make at least $3,000 but pay no taxes would get at least $300 per person or $600 per couple.

“This is the right plan at the right time to get our economy moving again,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement.

Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger called the plan particularly helpful for California, which is grappling with a $14.5 billion deficit this year.

“Americans are one step closer to receiving much-needed tax relief to help our economy grow,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement Wednesday.

The tax rebate is a one-time cash payment to most American households. As a major part of the government’s economic plan to prevent a recession, the rebates are intended to stimulate the economy by encouraging consumer spending.

Students who file by the April 15 deadline canA expect their rebates as early as May or June.

Contact Heather Mack at hmack@sfsu.edu

AIS awarded bachelor’s program

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American Indian Studies, an original department when the College of Ethnic Studies was founded in 1969, has recently been awarded a degree program in which students can receive a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s an exciting time for AIS students and faculty,” said Dr. Robert Keith Collins, an assistant professor in the American Indian studies department. “The courses that are offered allow students to get a sense of who American Indians really are, and what they went through.”

The AIS department hopes to graduate at least 70 students in the next several years. This year there are 19 students who have declared an AIS minor, and three who will be graduating with an AIS major, according to the SF State Office of Enrollment.

Previously, only a minor degree was awarded by the department, and currently only eight other universities in California provided Bachelor’s degrees for AIS. SF State joins UC Berkeley, Stanford and Mills College in Oakland as the only Bay Area academic institutions to award a B.A. in American Indian Studies.

Collins, who joined the department in fall 2006 and draws his ancestry from the Choctaw tribe, said SF State is the perfect backdrop for the AIS program.

“To be able to talk about being Native American in a diverse academic environment is very refreshing,” he said. “We are now in the position to do something extraordinary here at SF State.”

Both faculty and students agree that what separates AIS from other majors is the personal connection that exists within the department.

“The professors teaching in the department are very understanding and helpful—they’re the reason why I decided to stay in school,” said Michelle Rodriguez, a junior and AIS major from the Picayune-Chukchansi tribe.

“The professors have a strong desire to build off the knowledge that students already have,” Collins said. “The high-school history books provide a foundation that students and instructors can build upon together.”

With a scope that focuses on the native peoples of California, the AIS program hopes to spotlight self-determination, cultivate self-dignity and provide discourse on what all American Indians represent to other people. The program hopes to do so while using a curriculum that targets AIS majors and non-majors alike.

“We want students who don’t know [Native American history] to be educated,” Collins said. “Genocide, social justice—the classroom is a great place to discuss these problems, and by learning of past Native American history, students have a better realization of who they are as Americans.”

“We hope to expand knowledge beyond the white-Indian dichotomy,” he said.

The new AIS major will increase student awareness about Native people, specifically among the students at SF State, Rodriguez said.

“AIS students in the 1960s fought to have their stories told, and the Native Americans in the academic world fought for the counter-narrative,” said Rodriguez, who hopes to work as a pre-school teacher with her tribe when she graduates. “It’s all about breaking stereotypes.”

Coming home is an international affair

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Homecoming is an American tradition. From high school to university it is a ceremony practiced across the nation. To the king and queen of this years SF State homecoming court, it was a unique experience.

Australians Stephanie Jones, 22, and Harry Srelec, 20, were crowned on Feb. 8 at the end of the men’s basketball homecoming win against Chico State University.

For Jones, an economics major here on a study abroad program from Deakin University in Melbourne and part of the International Educational Exchange Council, this was a unique experience.

Referring to the near capacity crowd at the Swamp, Jones said, “We have nothing like this [in Australia], you would never see a sporting event like this.” She was eager to get involved with the school and get the most out of her six months in San Francisco.

“When I told my parents I was nominated, they didn’t even know what [homecoming] was,” she said.

Strelec, a political science and psychology double major said, “It was cool, really cool,” and agreed with Jones that it was nothing like what they have down under.

The court, made up of three female and three male students, was different from the one from last year, in which sorority members made up a large number of the nominations, according to Obiamaka Eke, 20.

Eke is the president of the Student Advisory Athletic Committee, which planned the event that was co-sponsored with the ASI.

“The International Education Exchange Committee was really excited,” she said.

Courtney Oxsen, 21, co-chair of the committee and fellow court nominee, said the organization is “one of the most important parts of this campus, and with over 1,000 members is one of the biggest organizations on campus.”

Oxsen, a creative writing and Spanish major who studied abroad in Madrid and enjoys playing intramural soccer, said that the organization is to help integrate foreign students and give them a chance to meet people who they otherwise wouldn’t meet.

The homecoming event itself was quite the spectacle, with the often half-empty stadium alive. SF State came into the homecoming game with a winning record. One section of the crowd remained standing for the entire game, cheering our team, jeering the other. Another section was devoted entirely to IEEC students. Eke, a business major and member of the women’s track and field team, said, “You see a lot of people you wouldn’t usually see at a game and hopefully they will stay and come again.”

The SAAC had made several changes to homecoming this year with a week’s worth of events on the quad leading up to the big night and a catered comedy night on the Tuesday before the game. Eke said there are plans next year to introduce a barbeque before the game and to continue improving the event.

The court lined up right before halftime; Oxsen, Jones and Strelec were joined by fellow nominees Frandel Lladoc, 21, Russell Graham, 23, and Ashley Ommen, 18, beside the basketball court. The six took the court to enthusiastic applause. The halftime show included a high school ROTC band, which with their loud beats and energetic routine kept the crowd loud and involved, generating a party-like atmosphere to match the balloons and banners that descended like confetti over the swamp. It was followed by a routine by the SF State cheerleading squad. The school band then played a medley of video game classics from games such as Zelda, Tetris and Mario to some nostalgic appreciation from those listening.

Ommen, a business marketing major arrived from a cross-country practice almost as the game started. “It was really hectic, it’s exciting, a little embarrassing,” she said.

The game itself was an exciting affair; with two minutes left, Chico was down by five, but missed two big free throws in part to the distraction caused by the home fans behind the basket, yelling, moving and pestering the visiting team. The following air ball by Chico brought the rest of the crowd to its feet, shouting in unison, “air ball!”

The game ended with the Gator men pulling off another win.

“It’s a wonderful, beautiful night and it’s really sharp,” Graham said.

Writers' strike finally ends

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Though script writers returned to work in Hollywood studios Wednesday after members of the Writers Guild of America voted to end the writers' strike Tuesday night, cinema professors said the 100-day battle taught future screenwriters important lessons hundreds of miles away in SF State classrooms.

Joseph McBride, guild member and assistant professor of cinema said the strike, which began in November and affected programs such as the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Desperate Housewives on ABC, was educational for SF State cinema students.

“Many of our students aspire to write professional screenplays, and seeing the difficulties faced by professionals helps awaken them to the realities of this challenging art form and industry,” said McBride, 60, who teaches three cinema classes including screenwriting.

A member of the guild since 1977, and winner of a 1983 guild award for co-writing the script for “The American Film Institute Salute to John Houston,” McBride said the strike focused on fair pay for writers regarding DVD sales and the use of internet to distribute shows.

“The strike has been educational for our cinema students who have been following the course of it and studying the issues involved about writers getting fair compensation for their work, particularly in forms of new media that are becoming more and more important,” McBride said in an e-mail.

Cinema student Eric Cabrera, 20, said he was glad the strike was over and that he and other cinema students talked about the strike in their cinema classes.

"It's promising because it gives hope to writers in the future. I support the Writers Guild and writers need to be treated equally just like producers and executives," said Cabrera, who wants to be a screenwriter, before his short format screenwriting class Wednesday morning.

Steve Kovacs, 61, a cinema professor at SF State, said students in his screenwriting classes wanted to show solidarity with the writers during the strike.

"Last semester I had a student in class who said, 'Now that the writers are on strike, we don't have to write anything.' I told them, just try it,” Kovacs said with a laugh.

Kovacs, who has written, directed and produced his own feature films, said he supports the guild, but is not a member. He explained that the industry’s work structure combined with new media helped create conditions for the strike.

“Negotiations are between people who have power and those who don't. Those who have the power are producers. It is companies who produce movies and television shows that negotiated with the Writers Guild,” Kovacs said.

He added that “the writers went on strike because 20 years ago they signed a contract which did not provide them residuals from DVDs.”

Guild members will next vote to ratify a tentative three-year contract, which outlines new guidelines for writers regarding residuals and new media with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, according to a statement released on the Writers Guild of America Web site. The vote will be conducted by mail and at membership meetings on Feb. 25.

Meagan Davis, 22, a hospitality management major, said she was tired of watching reruns, although most of the shows she watched such as One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl and programs on the Food Network were not affected by the strike.

“One of the shows that I watched that was affected was House. I was sick of reruns. If I wanted to watch reruns, I could watch them on the USA network,” Davis said.

Speaking out in Berkeley

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Protesters gathered in front of Berkeley City Hall on Tuesday night Feb. 12, 2008, rallying in reaction to a vote to close a military recruitment centers. The crowd was largely split between those supporting the closure and those opposing it.

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

BSU hosts first-ever Black Men’s Appreciation

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The first-ever Black Men’s Appreciation dinner attracted a sizable crowd to SF State’s Jack Adams Hall Tuesday night, providing attendees with a meal and a series of short, upbeat presentations discussing black males’ responsibilities in romance.

The event, organized by the “Queens” women’s group in the Black Student Union, was a response to the annual ladies appreciation dinner held by the “Kings” men’s group in the BSU, said contributing organizer Saran “Indy” Goodson, 21.

“There are a lot of negative portrayals [of black men],” said 20-year-old Melanie Eke, a Queen in the BSU and one of the event’s hosts.

“It’s important that they hear it, especially from us,” Eke said of the appreciation. “Appreciating them in every way possible,” was the goal, said the radio and television major.

A line of women greeted the men as they arrived, escorting them to their tables. Most attendees wore formal attire, and the atmosphere was that of a classy dinner show. More than 100 people attended.

The Queens had kept the details of the event secret until Tuesday night, said BSU treasurer Erin Haywood, 21.

While waiting for the event to begin, economics major Nathan Belete, 18, said he had “no idea” what was going to happen during the dinner.

Even regular disk jockey John “DJ Nyce” Arthurs, 22, retired from his usual role so that DJ Tiffany Linter could take over. It was 18-year-old Linter’s first show.

Presentations included a “Dating Game” involving a random single man from the audience, speeches, awards, poetry and video clips.

One clip, titled “What Not to Do,” was a satirical comedy contrasting sleazy and respectful approaches to flirting with women. In both cases, the men depicted were hitting on a young woman working at the Cesar Chavez Student Center’s information desk.

“We wanted you to be able to talk about this over dinner,” said Haywood, who helped create the skit.

Visiting the tables during dinner, Haywood, a liberal studies major, asked some attendees to respond to questions projected above the stage. From romance to shoe preference, the questions prompted a variety of both comical and serious answers from the audience.

Toward the end of the event, a series of women took to the podium for an emotional thanks to specific men in their lives. Many of the men mentioned were present, rising to embrace their friends and loved ones to the applause of the audience.

Though BSU organizers have been planning for Black History Month since last February, Haywood said, “We don’t want people to think that we just focus on Black History Month.”

In addition to the month’s events, the BSU is planning for more outreach to freshmen and high schools and to organize a conference of local BSUs in either April or May.

BSU holds vigil for victims of Katrina

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BSU gathers to remember Katrina victims

Black Panther Cub Fred Hampton Jr. stood in front of large red signs reading “Did you forget?” and “Refugee or Survivor?,” as he spoke on stage at Malcolm X Plaza during a Hurricane Katrina memorial Monday afternoon.

“We’d like to give credit where credit is due. We recognize that it was the American government who was responsible for the thousands upon thousands of casualties that we had and continue to have down in New Orleans,” said Hampton, who is part of the International Chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee. “To what the state refers as to Hurricane Katrina, we refer to as Hurricane America.”

The memorial is part of a series of events sponsored by the Black Student Union, commemorating Black History Month at SF State.

Dr. Kevin Washington, a professor of Africana Studies at SF State who attended the memorial, said it was important.

“It is a portion of black history that speaks to the disenfranchisement of black people in the United States,” said Washington, who is originally from Louisiana but was teaching at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia when the storm hit in 2005.

Washington first came to SF State in fall 2007, and said he returned to Louisiana to help displaced family members about six months after the hurricane happened. He added that the government did not respond to residents quickly enough after the disaster.

“After the levees broke, black people did not receive adequate assistance until five days later, while the United States was able to give aid to tsunami victims in Indonesia within 48 hours,” Washington said .

After a moment of silence was held at 12:38 p.m. at Malcolm X Plaza in memory of people who died as a result of Katrina, Coby Obiesie, coordinator for BSU, read a poem called "American Dreams" to the small crowd gathered in front of the Cesar Chavez Student Union.

“We want to remember this part of African history, but we want to be sure that we just don’t just celebrate during this month, but we remember our history year round,” said Obiesie, 20, an accounting major.

Obiesie also created a CD of songs with artists like Mos Def and Papoose, dedicated to people who passed away because of Hurricane Katrina that blasted out of speakers during the event

“It’s not just music about Hurricane Katrina, but music that talks about reality and real situations in life,” said Obiesie.

First year student, Sarah Khodavandi, 18, said she learned more about Hurricane Katrina’s impact at the event.

“It’s totally college-y. It helped me learn about something I didn’t know about,” said Khodavandi.

“It’s always good to see that people care and try through events like this,” said Khodavandi.

Candlelight vigil at Malcolm X Plaza

Thirteen candles, one for each letter of Malcolm X Plaza, surrounded a single candle in the center of the ground in front of the Cesar Chavez Student Center Monday night during a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

“Today, we are here in remembrance of Hurricane Katrina, those who passed away and our ancestors who were killed and destroyed,”

Black Student Union coordinator Coby Obiesie, 22, an accounting major said as his face glowed in the light of a candle he held. “We are here to give respect to our ancestors.”

The BSU sponsored the candlelight vigil as part of a series of events commemorating Black History Month at SF State. A Hurricane Katrina Memorial was held earlier in the day.

Kevin Washington, professor of Africana studies at SF State, began the vigil with a prayer.

“We say a prayer for those right now in this space called New Orleans, who are seeking to rebuild,” Washington said toward the end of the prayer. “May they have the strength and courage to continue to do so.”

Brian Gallagher, 25, who is not affiliated with the BSU, said it was important for him to come to the vigil.

“I wanted to show support and solidarity with the Black Student Union for the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” said Gallagher, a double major in political science and history.

“I want to help my fellow students but don’t want to distract from the fact this is a BSU event,” he said.

Gallagher was also responsible for placing the candles in the circular formation on the ground in front o the plaza.

“Many groups and cultures see the significance and power of a circle,” Gallagher said. “Like the yin and yang, everything in life has a beginning and end.”

Edward Escamilla, a coordinator for La Raza at SF State said it is necessary for groups on campus to come together.

“We have formed great ties with BSU and support their events and wish to help in anyway we can,” Escamilla, 18, said. “All political and cultural groups are facing the same issues, and we can succeed if we rise together.”

Chenel King, 18, spoke to the crowd of about 30 people with candles in their hands during an open forum at the vigil.

“When they cried, I cried with them,” King, a creative arts major, said of the Hurricane Katrina victims. “It’s just a really horrible event that no one seems to care about.”

Congressman Tom Lantos, 80, dies

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Congressman Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), the Congressional Human Rights Caucus co-founder and only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the United States Congress, died Monday morning from complications of esophageal cancer. The SF State professor eme-ritus was 80.

“Tom Lantos was one of the greatest men of principle and conscience it has ever been my privilege to know. In him, the highest aspirations of public service found daily expression,” wrote SF State President Robert Corrigan in a statement released Monday.
Lantos was a professor of economics at SF State for nearly three decades.

“He transmuted his tragic personal experience of the Holocaust into a lifetime of fierce advocacy for human rights and social justice,” Corrigan’s statement continued.

Lantos made his diagnosis public last month, but had announced his intention to complete his 14th congressional term.

Lantos, who lost nearly his entire family in the Holocaust, dedicated his legislative career to fighting anti-Semitism and was a staunch supporter of Israel. He was named chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year.

In 1947, Lantos came to the United States from Hungary on an academic scholarship, according to the Biography Directory of the United States Congress. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Washington, Seattle, and a doctorate from UC Berkeley. He started teaching economics at SF State in 1954.

He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1980.

William Mason, a professor emeritus of economics at SF State, taught with Lantos when economic studies had not yet garnered its own department. He remembered Lantos as a private man in his personal life, but outspoken in his policy opinions.

“We didn’t always agree about the direction of the department. That was back in the good old days when we used to fight with each other,” Mason said with a laugh. “We don’t do much of that anymore. We had fun. It was a great department.”

Mason, who still teaches at SF State, also experienced Lantos as a legislator.

“He was my congressman. He delivered well for his district,” Mason said, indicating as an example the Highway 1 tunnel currently being constructed at Devil’s Slide. According to the Web site of State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), the Highway 1 tunnel will be named in Lantos’ honor. Lantos and Yee worked together to secure funding for the project.

“We have lost one of our finest champions for working families, human rights and the environment,” Yee said in a statement on his Web site. “When looking for hope and inspiration, we need not look any farther than the life of Congressman Lantos.”

Although he spent over half of his life in the United States, Lantos never lost his Hungarian accent and Mason credited it for “a sense of European authority,” in Lantos’ oratory style.

“He could really turn a phrase,” said Jack Osman, a professor emeritus who teaches graduate level classes at SF State.

Lantos has lectured to some of SF State’s most accomplished alumni.

“He was Willie Brown’s economics teacher,” said Osman.
“I remember Willie Brown saying that everything he learned about economics, he learned from Tom Lantos.”

Lantos is survived by his wife of 58 years, Annette, two daughters, and many grandchildren.

Allie Schratz contributed to this report.

Voters knock down Prop 92 by solid margin

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A measure to lock in more funding for the extensive California Community College system was defeated Tuesday, with more than half of voters opposing the proposal to make tuition cheaper for the system’s 2.6 million students.

Supporters said the measure would have secured $300 million per year for at least three years, enabling the system to decrease the per-credit cost of community college from $20 to $15. For a full-time student taking 30 units per academic year, the tuition would have decreased from $600 to $450.

Opponents of Proposition 92 claimed that the only way to acquire the $300 million per year would have been by dipping into the state’s general fund at a time when California is already struggling with a $14.5 billion budget deficit. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the increased spending on community colleges would have reached nearly $1 billion in the first three years.

“Voters saw that Proposition 92 was really flawed,” said Theresa Wheeler, campaign manager for the No on 92 campaign. “There wasn’t enough detail explaining how the money would be used, and when people looked closer, they saw that.”

Fifty-seven percent of state voters rejected the measure. In San Francisco County, 51 percent voted against it. Nearly 56 percent voted no in Contra Costa County, which sent 302 students from its three community colleges to SF State last year.

Jennifer Wonnacott, cam-paign spokesperson for the Community Colleges League of California, which ran the Yes on 92 campaign, said the defeat was disappointing, but increased public awareness of the plight of the system.

“From our perspective, the story of the under-funding and mistreatment of our community colleges has been told to the public,” Wonnacott said. “The one thing that remains clear through all of this is that Californians support community colleges.”

Community colleges serve as a feeder for CSUs, offering associate degrees and fulfilling two-year general education requirements for many BA programs. In 2007, more than 46 percent of students at SF State were transfers, according to the Office of University Budget and Planning, with 551 students coming from City College of San Francisco.

“As the state’s largest provider of workforce training, the community colleges are critical to maintaining a healthy, growing economy,” said Diane Woodruff, chancellor of the community college system, in a statement.

Jo Volkert, vice president of enrollment management at SF State, did not anticipate lack of funding for community colleges would affect the number of future transfer students.

“In past years, even when fees went up to $26 per unit at community colleges, there was no attributable decline in students transferring,” Volkert said. “No matter what the cost has been, we have always had a steady flow of students transferring from community colleges.”

Had it passed, the measure would have also strengthened the California community college governing board, broadening its powers and firming its structure in the state Constitution.

Opponents of the measure were concerned it would draw resources away from public K-12 schools, as well as the California State University and University of California systems by placing the community college system in its own funding segment.

“It’s good for the CSU that Propostion 92 didn’t pass,” said CSU spokesman Paul Browning. “The money it would have redirected from the General Fund would have been a big expense to the CSU and UC systems.”

In addition to potentially hurting the CSU and UC systems, Browning said Propositon 92 left little discretionary revenues for state financial aid programs including Cal Grants.

Propostion 92 would have calculated the funding for community colleges based on the growth of college-age residents and unemployment rates.

Currently, funding is calculated based on the growth of K-12 students in public schools, a formula established by Propopsiton 98 in 1988. The proposition mandates the state must allocate 40 percent of its general fund to K-12 schools and community colleges.

The CCC system is the largest such system in the nation, comprised of 72 districts and 109 colleges. More than 2.6 million students are enrolled in the system each year, according to the California Community Colleges System Office.

Funds for higher education in California are already being slashed under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2008-09 budget. According to the CCC office of the Chancellor, the system received a reduction of $225 million. Due to the reduction, the chancellor’s office estimated the system would not be able to serve 525,000 new students next year.

Wheeler said although Proposition 92 was not the solution to funding problems, legislative action between the groups should continue.

“We’re not happy about the disagreement,” she said. “But we are hoping we can work together to fix the education funding problems.”

Lecturer running for Richmond supervisor

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Asian American and Ethnic Studies lecturer Eric Mar, a 16-year teaching veteran at SF State, has raised $10,000 toward his campaign to represent the Richmond District on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors for the city election in November.

Mar seeks to replace existing District 1 Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who will be termed out at the end of 2008. A Democrat, Mar officially filed for candidacy in November 2007.

“I feel confident. I have a real good chance of being elected,” Mar said Tuesday, the day of the California primary, from a cafe in the Richmond.

Mar said he has the backing of several progressive members of the board. “McGoldrick, current supervisor of the Richmond, as well as supervisors Tom Ammiano, Chris Daly and current board president Aaron Peskin, endorse and support me.”

Though Mar has met the $5,000 minimum requirement for public financing, he said he has received only 60 of 75 eligible contributions to qualify for the program. Eligible contributions must come from residents of San Francisco, and only the first $100 of any contribution goes towards the first $5,000.

“I have a lot of $500 checks from people outside of San Francisco, and a lot of $10 and $25 checks from working families, students and recent college graduates,” said Mar, who expects to receive the remaining contributions by Feb. 15, months before the August deadline.

The purpose of public financing, Mar explained, is for candidates to show they have a broad base of support. However, the specific dollar amounts and eligi-ble number of contributions are there specifically to ensure that public funds don’t just go to anybody.

“It’s a progressive reform that allows grassroots candidates, whether they are tenants, or even students who want to run for public office, to have a fighting chance to be elected in San Francisco,” Mar said.

Mar currently teaches four classes at SF State, and said his experiences with students have given him a broader, city-wide perspective as a prospective supervisor.

“My teaching at SF State has given me an understanding of the diverse neighborhoods and communities in San Francisco, so even though I would be representing the Richmond District, I feel I have a broader view of the neighborhoods in the city,” said Mar, who currently sits on the San Francisco Board of Education.

Mar’s first interaction with SF State was when he moved into the university’s Asian Student Union House in the Richmond as a 22-year-old student. He took classes at SF State while on leave from classes at UC Davis. Having lived in the Richmond for 22 years, Mar said that, along with preserving the neighborhood for working families, he would con-tinue to keep students’ interests in mind.

“I will help improve public transit and support affordable housing in the Richmond and throughout the city. I also have the ability to bring together young people with many seniors that live here,” he said.

Mar formerly practiced immigration law and served as the former president of the Board of Education in 1995. He said he supports underrepresented groups in society.

“I always advocate expanding democracy for disenfranchised communities such as immigrants, lower income wage earners and younger voters.” he said.

Andrew Hom, a teaching assistant in Mar’s Asian American Ideals and Institutions class, is ready to support the lecturer’s run for supervisor.

“I’m on standby. I’ll help him out with his campaign in any way that he needs,” said Hom, a 39-year-old Asian American studies major. “If it means passing out fliers or cooking hot dogs in the park, I’m prepared to do any number of things.”

Hom, a native San Franciscan, said Mar’s background as an immigration lawyer and his desire to represent certain populations in San Francisco make him a qualified candidate for a supervisor seat.

“He demonstrates empathy that clearly shows his interests are aligned with target groups like immigrants, low income earners, and the work force, which composes a fair amount of San Francisco,” Hom said. “He really listens and understands the story behind peoples' lives.”

Hom added that Mar encour-ages political awareness among his students, an important matter given the apathy he said he has noticed in underclassmen as a teaching assistant.

“Eric stresses everyone is free to make their own decisions on anything and encourages critical thinking,” Hom said.

“He’s somebody who listens to other peoples’ issues and opinions, and somebody who understands what people in the city need,” said Margo Chui, 18, a student in an Asian American studies class Mar teaches.

Chui, a business major and San Francisco resident, said she would probably vote for Mar should he run in November.
Mar’s characteristics in the classroom would also help him as a supervisor, Chui said.

“As a teacher, he is charismatic. That would make him a good supervisor and translates to a lot of people in the city liking him,” Chui said.

Clinton, McCain lead:
[X]press' post-primary analysis

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While the Feb. 5 primaries provided plenty of excitement for pundits and voters alike, “Super Tuesday” did not yield a clear front-runner for Democrats, but the Republican nominee is all but established.

The two Democratic candidates, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, traded key victories, but it was the former first lady who captured the most coveted states, New York and California, giving her a huge boost as the race slogs on. Despite losing the popular vote in the most populous states, however, Obama is still very much in the race for delegates and far from out of what has shaped up to be the most competitive democratic nomination since 1984.

To hear students sound off on the primary results, click here.

“The conventional thinking was that the front runner would be decided by now,” said Francis Neely, a political science professor at SF State. “[The race] could go all the way to the [Democratic] Convention” in August. “Neither campaign is going to slow down.”

Clinton’s win in New York and California, though, could give her a boost in fundraising. In January, Obama raked in more than twice as much money in donations than Clinton, $32 million to her $13.5 million, according to the Associated Press.

For a glimpse of the Clinton headquarters in San Francisco, click the multimedia link on the top right of this story...

On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain all but wrapped up the GOP nomination with a huge victory in California, garnering all 173 delegates in the winner-take-all primary and 40 percent of the total 1,191 delegates needed. The win leaves former Governors Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) trailing far behind, though Huckabee had a surprisingly strong showing despite being heavily outspent by his rivals.

As expected, California played a key role for both parties, particularly for McCain. But it was the Democratic race that captured much of the attention, with a historic battle between the first African American male and the first woman for the nomination far from over.

Obama was the clear winner in San Francisco—and at SF State—with a 52-to-44 percent win over Clinton among registered Democrats in the city. He fared equally well throughout most of Northern California, but it was not enough to overcome Clinton’s wide swath of support among Latinos and working-class voters in Southern California.

While the win for Clinton doesn’t assure victory, she now has the perception of being the most electable Democrat, and will benefit from extensive media coverage that depicts her as the winner, said David Tabb, also a political science professor at SF State.

“I see that they are close in delegates, but Clinton has been given a media boost in California with the popular vote win. The framing of the win by the media in California will make it harder for Obama,” Tabb said. “She has been able to withstand his surge in California.”

Heading into the Feb. 5 primaries, Clinton had a projected 10-point lead in the polls, but Obama was able to close the gap, though not enough to make up for her strong support among the Democrats traditional voting base: women, working-class liberals and Latinos. Clinton garnered support from seven out of 10 Latino voters in the state, according the A.P.

Clinton won the state by a margin of 52 percent to 42 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

“[Obama] has not been able to broaden his support among people within the [Democratic] party,” Tabb said.

But Neely cautioned that no lead—even in public perception—is strong enough to predict the outcome of the hotly contested Democratic race. The hunt for delegates remains wide open, with the state’s 370 Democratic delegates to be distributed proportionally to the candidates, in contrast with the winner-take-all Republican parties. Clinton leads the decisive delegate count with 668 to Obama’s 557. The total needed for the nomination is 2,025, so the race is far from decided.

Several key primaries in the coming weeks could easily go to Obama, and a surge in voter turnout could work in his favor, Neely said.

“On the Democratic side, the fact that it’s an open seat creates more competition. They don’t have to fight incumbency,” Neely said, adding that the historic battle between a woman and an African American male has younger voters energized. And both candidates have mass appeal throughout the party, giving the Democrats a “happy problem.”

For McCain and the Republicans, different factors are at play as the Arizona senator takes a commanding lead. Huckabee, whom many expected to be eliminated after Feb. 5, siphoned votes away from Romney, which helped McCain collect several key victories.

Neely said that with McCain as the likely nominee, the GOP base could be in trouble, though he was careful to note that the party is not as fractured as it appears. Nevertheless, McCain has drawn much ire from conservative talk show hosts and much of the core religious right. Such infighting could hurt the party in a general election.

“Although they have a bigger problem than usual,” Neely said, “it’s a bit more divided then they’d like. They’re not as excited about their choices as Democrats are.”

Volunteers inspired in final push for Obama campaign

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At the eleventh hour of what was a historic primary, considering the record turnout at the polls, California was the ultimate prize to be had by Democrats. As the campaign party for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in San Francisco’s Fairmont hotel gradually came to an end on Tuesday night, the hard numbers favored New York Sen. Hilary Clinton as the winner of our Golden State. Yet, is that how true winners in politics are defined? After being declared the losers in the California race, the Obama camp in San Francisco was looking pretty energized, with little despair in sight.

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“It’s not about how many states you get,” said Tony West, the co-chair of Obama’s State-wide Leadership Council. “It’s about winning how many delegates! We’ve got a lot of other states that we have to compete in now, because at the end of the day this is about winning delegates.”

With 99 percent of California votes in, Obama took about 42 percent of California delegates, according to the Associated Press. That's approximately 150 delegates for Obama and 191 for Clinton.

Addressing a rowdy crowd of Obama followers, West boldly claimed this night as “only the beginning of the end.” The group's challenge is yet to come in the next nine months.

Earlier that morning, Nancy Weber of Portland, Oregon arrived at the Obama headquarters in San Francisco. At 7 a.m., some 50 volunteers had already showed up before she did to help out in any way they could. Weber is a “trouble-shooter” for the campaign office, and has been in San Francisco for just over a week now to help the collective West Coast effort behind Sen. Obama. She considers it a head start on behalf of her home state.

“Our primary isn’t until May 20th,” Weber said. “And so we [Oregonians] really feel like the Californians are voting for us, because things may be—if not decided—at least well along their way.”

At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Marie Acosta rushed out the door for a quick trip to visit the Mission district team. They needed the flyers, just translated into Spanish, to be dropped off at a Mission Street BART corner plaza. The San Francisco resident and political activist for 30-plus years shared a familiar hope with her colleagues.

“The biggest expectation I have is that he’ll reinstate—rekindle—a sense that government is for the people, and all people,” said Acosta. "A diminishing of the cynicism that has been created over the last eight years.”

During Tuesday night's campaign party, there was plenty of young, midnight oil to burn, according to 24-year-old Jesse Schmitt, an Obama volunteer leader and Administrative Associate at Google—organizing the Mission district.

“Last night [Monday] I was up late passed one in the morning, printing-up labels and sticking them on to thousands of door hangers that we dropped off in the Bayview and Western Addition—because no one was focusing on them,” Schmitt said, wired on caffeine and bound for another bar after the event. “I’ve been leading a team of about 15-20 precinct captains, and about 60 volunteers, including a Latino group… We’re all part of the same crew here.”

Tony West recalled that it is, ultimately, hope that built this country.

“Hope got us through tragic wars throughout American history—and got us on the other side,” says West. “Hope inspires the best in us, and that is what Barack’s message does.”

SF State is Obama land

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SF State voters overwhelmingly supported Sen. Barack Obama in yesterday's primary election, according to a random survey of students who voted on campus. Many of those interviewed said his inspiring ideals are an exciting break from "politics as usual."

Rory Kelly, the communications director for SF State’s College Democrats, voted for Obama and said his ideals made him popular. “I’ve seen him speak twice. He’s intelligent and inspiring in a way that doesn’t seem facetious and I think that enthusiasm is infectious,” said Kelly, a 21-year-old student.

“I feel like Obama had a new vision and he’s African-American, which is cool,” said Ality Richardson, a business major. Despite her preference, the junior said she was not opposed to Sen. Hillary Clinton and many women probably felt inclined toward her because of her gender.

Obama dominated the student vote on campus yesterday, according to an unscientific exit poll the Golden Gate [X]Press conducted from the Seven Hills Conference Center. Of 409 students polled, Obama earned 68.7 percent of the votes while Clinton captured only 81 votes for a 19 percent showing. Few were those who identified themselves as Republicans and, of them, supporters of Sen. John McCain led with nine votes.

Graduate student Joan Sutton said Clinton would be the best president, but she voted for Obama because she thought he had a better chance of winning and she feared McCain. “I think the first thing McCain would do is bomb Iran. I fear a third world war,” she said.

Kelly, however, said he admired McCain’s “honesty, his courage—even on the stuff I don’t always agree with, he always made logical arguments.”

Rachel Kent, an undeclared 18-year-old, said she voted for Obama because “he’s someone new to the scene, so he better represents this area.”

“He’s worked with grass-roots organizations. He doesn’t fight dirty like Hillary,” said psychology major Kate Jensen, 24, when asked why she voted for Obama.

While Mahmood Monshipouri, an assistant professor of international relations, called Obama “charismatic” and “very appealing to [student] voters,” the candidate lost the popular vote in the overall California primaries with 42 percent to Clinton’s 51 percent.

Twenty-two year-old Tiffany Burningham, a double major in art and anthropology, said she had not yet delved deeply into the issues but voted for Obama because “I just liked what he had to say.”

“I would consider him. He’s a really good candidate,” said Alessandra Martinho, 18. The undeclared major said she was unable to register in time to vote in the primary. She remains undecided on who she will choose in the November election.

“I think [Obama’s appeal] is more of his charisma. He’s really captivating, he’s a fresh face and he is very inspiring,” said Eric Duke, a sophomore cinema major. Duke said he is registered as an American Independent but “I wanted to re-register as a Republican just so I could vote for [Rep.] Ron Paul.”

“It would be ideal if [Clinton and Obama] joined forces and became a super team. It’s refreshing to see they’re not attacking each other,” said Uni Martinez, 21. The English literature major did not realize the election was yesterday until it was too late to vote, but she would have voted for Obama because “I respect his character and ideals. He has a stronger personality than Hillary,” she said.

Staff writer Adam Loraine contributed to this report.

Poli sci profs pontificate on presidential primaries

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Classes were held at McKenna Theatre all day, but on the evening of Super Tuesday, the theater transformed into a place where SF State students and professors gathered to discuss the history-making primary election.

About a hundred people came in and out of the theater throughout the event, which took place from 6 to 10 p.m. The CNN coverage was the backdrop of the event as the discussions took place. Three SF State political science professors sat on a panel to make sense of the election coverage.

“Sixty-four percent of females in Georgia support Obama — this was not predicted. There are some indications from figures that Obama is doing better than expected and broadening his support,” said David Tabb, a political science professor at SF State.

The event was the only of its kind on campus, where students could come from on-campus voting booths and others from around the Bay Area to watch the coverage as Super Tuesday came to a close.

As states' polls closed and winners were announced, professors were there to provide immediate feedback. When Obama was announced the winner of Connecticut, the news surprised a lot of the public.

“It surprising because Connecticut is so close to New York, and Clinton was expected to take many of the
New England states,” Tabb said.

The voting population was discussed as well. Many ethnic groups did not vote in a way projected for them, Tabb noted.

“The mayor of Los Angeles, who is a powerful voice for the Latino community, endorsed Clinton, “ he said.

Obama’s voting bloc was examined as well.

“Obama is receiving the youth, white, and Latino vote. For example, Obama won North Dakota, which has the fewest percentage of African-Americans,” Tabb said.

The well-known race between a woman and a black male was not the only history-making aspect of this race.

“History is not in favor of senators running for office,” said political science Professor Francis Neely.

“There are other aspects of history here. There is an assumption that senators have a bad reputation [in voting]. This may go in Obama’s favor, though, as this means there is less to attack him on,” said political science professor Graeme Boushey.

The evening discussion ran well after the West Coast primaries were closed, which allowed for hours of debate to reach a conclusion and permitting the panel to see the final projections.

“But it isn’t just about who won and who lost. It’s about what happens in between,” Boushey said.

Police cruiser collides with SUV during pursuit

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At least two men are currently on the run after allegedly stealing a laptop today from the Merced Branch Library, just north of the SF State campus.

After police were alerted at approximately 12:25 p.m., several units immediately searched the area for the suspects' vehicle, causing a collision between a police cruiser and a Toyota Rav4 on Holloway and 19th Avenues when the driver of the SUV failed to yield to the cruiser, said San Francisco Police Dept. Sgt. Randy Young of the Taraval police station.

The collision caused the Rav4 to flip over and both the driver and the officer, a member of SF State's Department of Public Safety, were taken to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

"There was just one lady in the car and she got out walking, which is a blessing," said Amanda Petersen, an SF State student who witnessed the accident. Petersen said the SUV rolled over twice before it landed on its roof.

"[The officer] accelerated a little bit too fast and clipped her on the back right side, damaging his front ride side, which caused her to flip," said Jesus Taizan, another witness and SF State student. "I believe if he had waited, there wouldn't have been an accident."

The suspects were last seen driving down 19th Avenue. So far, no other information about them has been released except that they were driving a silver car and appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties.

The Merced Branch Library is located at 155 Winston Dr. and was doubling as a polling place for election day.

"Two younger men picked up my computer [and] ran out," said Robert Martinez, 30, the inspector in charge of the polling location at the library. "I ran out to the street after them, one got into a car, the other remained in the neighborhood and must have been picked up."

Jerry Wong, who was working as a polling volunteer, said there were three men who had been walking suspiciously around the area before the incident. When Martinez got up to help a voter, the men grabbed the laptop and fled, said Wong, 16.

"They were kind of peeping through aisles, poking their heads out around corners," said George Tran, 27, a library employee.

A section of 19th Avenue was closed until 2 p.m. while the vehicles were towed and the accident cleaned up.

Additional reporting by staff writer Mani Dashtizadeh and staff producer Domingo Robledo.

Election season is not over

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A photo gallery from the presidential primary election day.

UPDATE: On-campus polling place moved due to flooding

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Voters expecting to cast ballots at the Science and Technology Theme Community conference center in the campus Towers residences will be redirected to the Seven Hills Conference Center after the original polling place was unexpectedly hit with a shower from the fire sprinklers, poll worker Eileen Olicker said.

When Olicker arrived to set up yesterday, there was a construction crew in the Science and Technology Theme Community conference room, she said.

According to SF State University Housing Associate Director Philippe Cumia, the flooding occurred on the night of Jan. 23. A resident of the STTC accidentally activated the sprinkler system when she hung and later removed a coat hanger from the sprinkler head in her closet, Cumia wrote in an e-mail.

Portions of four floors in the building were flooded, according to Cumia, and residents were relocated. He wrote that the Towers were expected to be restored by the coming weekend.

To find the on-campus polling place, you will go past One Stop Student Services, through the Village, past Subway and down the stairs. On your right will be the Science and Technology Theme Community, the old polling place.

Signs have been posted in front of the conference center to direct voters to the Seven Hills Conference Center near Mark Park and Mary Ward Halls.

Additional reporting by Andrew Altman

Golden State key in presidential primary

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As voters around the country prepare to pick their presidential candidates in some 20 state primaries on “Tsunami Tuesday” next week, Californians will play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the winner for both parties.

Since moving its presidential primary to Feb. 5, from late March in previous election cycles, both Democratic and Republican candidates will need to focus a tremendous amount of attention and resources on the Golden State. Although the state has always been influential in the general election, the earlier primary allows the state to be a key player in the nomination process.

With approximately 20 percent of all the country’s delegates to be distributed to the respective winners, California has become a bellwether for both parties, shifting some of the power away from smaller states that typically dominated early primaries, like Iowa and New Hampshire.

“California is more important because it’s an independent test of viability of these candidates,” said David Tabb, a political science professor at SF State.

Exactly who will capture the coveted state, however, remains to be seen — for both the GOP and Democrats.

With the Florida primaries now settled, the GOP has a clear front-runner, and the Democratic field has been narrowed down to two, with several candidates leaving the race.

The Republican nomination in particular may be decided with a win in California. Two heavy-weight candidates — Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — will be jockeying for votes here in hopes of capturing enough momentum and delegates for a decisive national lead.

A key factor for Republicans, Tabb said, was McCain’s pivotal victory in Florida, earning him all 57 delegates from the state. The win for McCain established the once-faltering senator as the clear front-runner heading into the Feb. 5 primaries. Romney, though, is far from dead, and a strong showing in California could easily thrust him back into front-runner status.

The Republican primary in California, like Florida’s, is closed to voters not registered with the party, making the win in the sunshine state all the more relevant for McCain. With strong support from independent voters, political pundits and analysts had speculated that with the independent vote shut out, Romney would gain a clear advantage over McCain. But the Arizona senator’s ability to gain the vote of party loyalists gives him an edge in California and the rest of the country heading into the Feb. 5 primaries.

“I think California solidifies the nomination for the GOP,” Tabb said.

The win by McCain, with Romney in a close second, effectively killed any hopes for at least one other GOP candidate, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who officially dropped out of the race on Wednesday and announced his support for McCain. The chances for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who will likely withdraw from the race within the next week, were also severely diminished.

Giuliani, a moderate, staked virtually all of his hopes in less conservative states like Florida and California, but his resounding loss to McCain and Romney dashed any hopes of a comeback. Huckabee’s distant fourth-place finish indicates the lessening influence of the evangelical vote — his core base — and may suggest moderates and GOP loyalists could choose a more mainstream candidate in this election.

One unpredictable demographic for both parties, Tabb said, is the absentee voters, who make up 40 percent of all voters in California.

For the Democratic front-runners, different challenges lie ahead in securing a victory in the heavily blue state.

One result of the Florida primary for Democrats could play a factor for New York Sen. Hilary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — the elimination of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who failed to win any of the five primaries. His departure effectively narrows the Democratic field to two candidates, assuring a historic nomination of either a woman or a black man for the presidency for the first time in American politics. Edwards typically came in third place in the primaries, so the votes he leaves could be crucial for either remaining candidate. Edwards has at times tried to align his message with that of Obama’s, which was seen as a way to draw votes away from Clinton. An endorsement could go a long way, too, though he has yet to back either candidate.

Clinton has a roughly 12 percent lead in California over Obama, according to several polls. But beyond the volatile polls, Clinton holds several other advantages. Her largely symbolic win in Florida gives her momentum, but no delegates were awarded to either candidate because the state ignored the Democratic National Committee’s warnings to not move its primary to January.

Hispanic voters, considered crucial to any race in California, seem to be mobilizing in Clinton’s favor, particularly in densely populated Southern California, according to polling data. Such support from the Latino constituency, Tabb said, is consistent with her support from blue-collar Democrats, a strong voting bloc around Los Angeles and its suburbs. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed Clinton, which is seen as a major benefit.

“The largest support group for Clinton seems to be the Hispanic vote,” Tabb said. “We’ll see if Obama can tap into that vote. Where Obama hasn’t been able to break into is the working-class vote.”

But Obama is far from out of the race, with strong support among an increasingly powerful voting group that is expected to come out in full force — young Democrats, many college-aged and under 30 years old. While Latinos could make up as much as 25 percent of the vote, the younger voters may have an equally important impact in choosing the Democratic candidate, said Graeme Boushey, a political science professor at SF State who specializes in California politics.

About 2.6 million voters in California fall in the 18-to-29 year old range, which is about 16.5 percent of registered voters in the state, according to the Associated Press.

Obama also seems to have strong support in Northern California, where much of the upper class white liberals around the Bay Area have rallied around the Illinois senator. As one of the first black candidates to have a serious shot at the White House, he is also expected to draw large support from African-American communities throughout the state. Obama is actively pursuing the Latino vote, and a key endorsement from Massachusetts. Sen. Ted Kennedy could go a long way to woo those votes away from Clinton, who purportedly has a 3-to-1 advantage among the state’s Latino population.

Southern California will play a key role for both Clinton and Obama, but “[Obama has] got to carry Northern California. If he doesn’t, he’s got no chance,” Tabb said

Although the Democratic winner of California will have a major advantage, the runner-up should still be able to stay competitive, unlike the almost winner-take-all situation GOP candidates may find themselves in, both Tabb and Boushey said.

The Democratic primary is open, meaning more liberal independent voters could join the fray. Among that voting bloc, Obama draws stronger support, with roughly 62 percent finding him favorable nationwide, compared with 47 percent for Clinton, according to the Pew Research Center.

Black frats step up performance at dance competition

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The fraternity brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha and sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha each took home $1,200 for winning the annual SF State Black Fraternity/Sorority Council sponsored Step Show on Feb. 2.

Despite the cold and rain, upwards of 1,500 family, friends and fans began lining up as early as 11 a.m. outside the Scottish Rite Masonic Center at 19th Avenue to get into the sold-out dance competition.

Mosby, who has also attended CSU Dominguez Hills, said she has been to several Southern California step shows, but today was her first since transferring to SF State.

“I don’t know how [SF State] gets down," she said, but the best steppers are those who “think outside the box and use the stage and interact to really show the crowd who they are.”

“Realizing Our Own True Spirit” was the theme, which each of the three participating fraternities and two sororities used to inspire and influence their original presentations and choreography.

One judge from each of the nine organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council scored the performances. Winners were then determined by creating an average score once the highest and lowest marks were dropped.

Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, known for their complex and creative performances, won for the fifth time. This All-Star team, which pools its members from fraternity chapters across the bay and is led by event coordinator, emcee, promoter and SF State team-stepper Jeffrey Banks, 23.

Adding light effects, stunts and bursts of confetti, Banks’ team delivered, but even he said their rivals were the talented Iota Phi Theta Fraternity team, who were “feeling funky” and kept the audience on the edge of their seats as they swung and clanked trowels over and under one another to signify digging up their black heritage.

Rounding out the men’s competition was the smallest crew—of three—from Phi Beta Sigma, who mixed old school 1960s Motown moves with old-old school by incorporating traditional African moves.

On the women’s side, Alpha Kappa Alpha brought a very theatrical show, complete with a detective, secret agent plot line, acrobatics and a wardrobe change.

The sisters of Zeta Phi Beta provided stiff competition with impeccable moves and back to basics style, but couldn’t beat Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Sen. Kerry endorses Obama

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2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry announced his endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama in San Francisco today, praising the candidate’s mindfulness for change and comparing him to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

“We need a president that is not just transitional, but a president that has the power to be transformational,” Kerry said.

On the heels of the upcoming California primary, Kerry’s endorsement could affect the outcome of what many see as a close race between Hillary Clinton and Obama for California’s Democratic nomination.

Despite the rainy weather, spectators lined up outside the Everett Middle School auditorium and then nearly filled it to capacity for the event. While many were Obama supporters and volunteers, others said they came for a show.

“It’s like going to the movies for Germans,” said John, a German city resident who won’t be able to vote in the upcoming primary.

“Why not? It’s Saturday,” said Shannon Sickle, a 25-year-old San Francisco resident, when asked why she attended the event.

Many attendees, part of the “grassroots campaign” described by the candidate’s volunteers, had never been serious about politics before Obama.

“I like that he sees the shades of gray when so many of the candidates see things in black and white,” said Cassie Shaker, 24. This was Shaker's first time donating money to a campaign, and came to the event to learn more about how to help Obama.

Other speakers included San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and representatives for a high school vote simulation.

Clinton campaigns in the Bay Area

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San Jose Event

Sen. Hillary Clinton made her first stop in the Bay Area today in San Jose. She touched on many policies that were unique to her presidential agenda such as universal health care, the creation of “green collar” jobs, ending the war in Iraq and student loan forgiveness.

“Let’s make college affordable again,” Clinton said. “It is part of our national defense to educate our children.”

Clinton explained her plan to increase Pell Grants, create a tax credit program and a two-year national service program that would give students up to $10,000 per year in federal scholarships.

“I will end the abusive and predatory practices of student loan companies,” she said.

Along with the national service program for scholarships she wants to create a student loan pay back program based on enrolling in public service jobs such as nursing, teaching and law enforcement.

Her speech was met by fierce applause by the audience. Among the loudest Hillary supporters were banner waving members from the NARC, agricultural and skilled labor unions and cultural non-profit groups. In the balcony section, a group bearing the United Farm Workers flag chanted “Sí, se puede!” ("Yes, we can!") with their fists in the air.

In the sea of people bearing supportive shirts, buttons, stickers and posters, one supporter brought a life-sized cut-out that was photographed during Clinton’s days as the first lady.

“I found [the photo] during a clean-up week in Santa Clara,” said Rita Brandan, a 57-year old photo restorer. “I’m hoping she’ll notice me so I can get it signed.”

California Sen. Diane Feinstein and city council members from Santa Clara, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale were in attendance at the San Jose event.

San Francisco Event

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton ended her final day campaigning in California with a stop in San Francisco, where she spoke to supporters at the Orpheum Theatre Friday night.

Clinton, who began the day at San Diego State University before moving on to San Jose and San Francisco, was greeted on stage by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums.

“This has been such an extraordinary day,” she said to the large crowd. “California has a chance to help pick the president, and we have a chance to make history together.”

Newsom, who, along with Dellums, endorsed Clinton earlier in her campaign, welcomed the New York Senator on stage by praising her performance in Thursday night’s debate in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know about you, but I felt pretty good watching that debate last night,” Newsom said to the audience. “I think we found our next president.”

Clinton, who upon taking the microphone was greeted by cheers and a lengthy standing ovation. She spent the evening targeting the faults of the current Bush Administration and laying out policies that would reform labor laws, health care coverage and the economy.

“I see the numerous challenges facing this county as opportunities,” she said.

Outside the theater, a small but vocal contingent of protesters gathered with signs reading “No War” and “Shut Down Arms Shipments.” The protesters were from Code PINK, a non-profit womens' organization opposed to the Iraq war.

With tickets fetching as much as $2,300, the event at the Orpheum drew a sold-out audience and was her final formal stop in San Francisco before the California primary this Tuesday.

Sewage spills into the bay

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In a press release today by the Emergency Operations Center in Marin County, an "accidental release" of 2.7 millions gallons of treated sewage and storm water was released in the bay.

It happened last night between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. According to the press release, the alarm system failed to notify officials of a pump that failed at a treatment facility operated by the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin located in Mill Valley.

The Marin County Public Health Officer and the Department of Environmental is warning the public not to come into contact with the bay water in and around Richardson Bay until further notice.

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