April 2008 Archives
Last month, SF State added Jessie's Hot House to its list of culturally diverse vendors in the Cesar Chavez
Student Center, justifying the rumors that circulated the campus for the past decade.
After beating its competitor, Two Jacks Seafood, last December during a campus tasting, owners Robert and Julissa Darden arrived in style with bands, DJs, and a ribbon cutting ceremony, where current and former members of the Student Center Governing Board also gave speeches.
The Dardens said they always knew the contract would be awarded to them.
"We knew since August when he heard about it, that this was it," said Julissa, referring to her husband's confidence. "There was no doubt because the concept of competition was that it didn't exist."
Opening their first restaurant on a school campus was completely unexpected, Robert Darden said. After seeing the culture and dynamics of SF State, he felt it was an ideal location.
Students waited in line for nearly an hour to choose from entrees that ranged from fried seafood and chicken to soy sausage sandwiches. After a month, lines queue times are nowhere near as long.
Entrees also include one side: collard greens, macaroni and cheese, or candied yams. A small selection of desserts are also available but sold separately.
The name Jessie's Hot House comes from Robert Darden's grandmother Jessie who sparked the owner's interest in cooking as a child and his grandfather's former hot house.
Scores of SF State students brought their bicycles to school on April 24 to take rides together, get free food and prizes and experience what it would be like to park their bicycles in the quad.
With more than 200 students allowing volunteer valets to watch over their bicycles in a sequestered section of the quad’s grassy lawn, organizers called SF State’s second Take Your Bicycle to School Day a success. One lucky student won a new bicycle by promising to give up driving a car for a year.
The day’s participation virtually doubled last year’s, said Matt Bissell, an environmental studies senior volunteering his time for the event. SF State’s first Take Your Bicycle to School Day last October saw some 130 students bring their bicycles to the quad, according to ECO Students, the campus group of environmentally conscious students and the event’s organizer.
Additionally, at least 65 students signed a petition asking for a cross-campus bicycle path and about a dozen signed up to participate in free repair workshops hosted by local bicycling groups.
“It’s been a much larger response than last time,” said Bryan Ting, ECO Students member. Ting credited the response to better advertising and positive word of mouth from those who participated last year.
Several dozen student bicyclists parked their bicycles elsewhere that day; a handful of bikes chained to the bookstore’s ground level staircase could be seen from the quad. A couple of students passing by said they would have participated but they would be on campus longer than the event, which allowed for quad parking until 5 p.m.
Still, a lot of students celebrated the idea of bicycling to school. For some, it was their first ride in a while-—Bissell said he handled one bicycle covered in dust, and another limped in with two flat tires.
But getting those people to ride is part of the point of Take Your Bicycle to School Day, Bissell said. “It gets people out that wouldn’t normally be riding their bikes. It promotes a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
Ting said that creating and nurturing a bicycling community was another aim of the event.
“It’s a community of people coming together to celebrate an alternative form of transport. It helps people know about the cause, but it also tells people they’re not alone, there’s someone else out there,” he said.
Thousands march to state capital
Nearly 2,000 students from across California rallied at the state Capitol Monday to protest the $1 billion in budget cuts Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed for the state’s three college systems in 2008-09.
Students from the California State University, University of California and California Community College systems marched about a mile in the “March for Higher Education,” which participants regard as the first step to putting pressure on legislators to reprioritize the state budget.
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi kicked off the event by asking the crowd, “Are you ready to march at the Capitol? Are you ready to stop student fees?” eliciting shouts of support from the students.
“Educate to Liberate,” and “Kick us out, we’ll vote you out,” were among chants from the crowd as it walked across a Highway 99 bridge through downtown and to the steps of the Capitol.
“We need to invest in students, not tax them,” said Garamendi, a Democrat. “We need to change so many things and focus on the students as a stimulus to the economy.”
The march was part of a statewide effort known as the Alliance for the CSU, a coalition of groups including the California Faculty Association, the California State Student Association and other CSU employee unions and student government groups. It came on the heels of a sweeping, campus-wide series of town hall teach-ins to gain support for the alliance.
Dina Cervantes, Chair of the Executive Committee for the CSSA, led most of the rally and introduced speakers.
“We are here to let the governor know we are the solution to the state budget,” Cervantes said. “They say they won’t raise taxes, but they are taxes to us in the form of that F-word we all hate: fees.”
The cuts to higher education, which amount to $312.9 million for the CSU in the 2008-09 year, are part of the governor’s cuts to all state services as state revenues continue to decline. Schwarzenegger has said all agencies must take cuts as California struggles with a budget deficit of $14 billion, a gap the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates may grow to $16 billion by June 2009.
The march is part of a series of activities to put pressure on legislators and the governor to spare higher education by the May 15 revised budget.
Members of the crowd, including parents, faculty members and employees of the school systems, made the approximate one-mile trek from Raley Field in West Sacramento to the state Capitol, where they convened at the front steps for a rally.
Once the full crowd reached the Capitol steps, there was a series of speakers for nearly two hours. Concurrently, there were rallies up and down the state at several UC and CSU campuses.
“Why should you have to be here today to let them know that you are a priority?” Speaker of the Assembly Fabian Nunez asked the crowd. “It’s a shame that you have to be here today, outside this building, where just a month ago they decided they wouldn’t raise taxes for the rich.”
Tax increases for the rich were mentioned repeatedly by several speakers. Garamendi spoke of “those extremely conservative, extremely Republican” governors of days past who raised taxes to fund education during their term, a move Schwarzenegger has refused to do.
“Anyone who thinks this is new doesn’t know their history,” Garamendi said. “When Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson were governors, they were faced with the same problem. They raised taxes, made cuts, and kept the state moving. Now we need Arnold to do the same.”
Senate president Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) also proposed a tax increase, referring to it as the “only solution.”
“California has the highest cost of living in the United States,” Perata said. “But we have close to the lowest standard of living in the nation. Ask your legislators where they got their degrees and you’ll find most of them, Democrats or Republicans, went to a UC or a CSU. Now they want to deny you the education they were given.”
The concern among all speakers was that if budget cuts go forward, student fees will increase again while services and class sections will be lost. Nearly 10,000 students across the state are expected to be denied access to CSU because the new budget does not allow for enrollment growth. Along with higher education, K-12 is slated to lose $4.4 billion in funding.
“Yeah, we have a budget deficit,” said State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat. “We also have an education deficit.”
After the initial Jan. 10 budget proposal, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature took emergency actions Feb. 20 to reduce the deficit with actions that included borrowing and delaying debt payments. A tax increase was voted down.
Emphasis was placed on the need for state legislators to reprioritize, and the amount of money the state spends on prison versus what it spends on education frequently came up.
“We have a world-class prison system and a second-class education,” Cervantes said.
Assembly member Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena), who is the Chair of the Committee on Higher Education, emphasized the Legislature’s need to sustain the state’s education system.
“These are the same people that are saying in order to solve the budget crisis, we should look to education as a place not to invest, but to take,” Portantino said.
All speakers emphasized that spending money on education would benefit the economy. Barry Pasternack, Chair of CSU Academic Senate, said the state gets a return of $4.41 for each $1 it invests in college students.
“There is no more important measurement than student intelligence,” Garamendi said. “We can build roads and dams and trains. But more importantly, we can build up the minds of people who can do these things.”
Students were encouraged to continue outreach in their own districts and communities about the need for funding.
“This is just one day,” said California Faculty Association President Lillian Taiz, who teaches history at CSU Los Angeles.
Taiz urged students to take part in the planned series of phone calls, e-mails and faxes to the governor’s office in what the Alliance for the CSU is calling the “Gov., can you hear us now?” movement that kicks off Wednesday and will continue until the May 15 budget revision.
Several university employee unions also came forward to speak. The State Employees’ Trades Council represents the university’s trade workers such as electricians, carpenters and maintenance workers.
“We may be the air and electricity for the universities, but the students have the power because they are the plug,” said Patrick Hallahan, chief labor consultant for the SETC.
“If you build it, they will come. If you maintain it, they will stay,” Hallahan said. “But if you sustain it, it will work not only for now, but for generations to come.”
Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, a Southern California Democrat, likened cutting education to “turning our backs on economic prosperity.”
“In the 1960s, California had incredible foresight and genius for the future, and that’s when it put together the Master Plan for Higher Education,” Brownley said. “We kept that promise for decades, but now, these budget cuts represent a broken promise.”
Faculty members join in protest
Frustrated students weren’t alone in protesting the proposed budget cuts in Sacramento, as faculty members from nearly every California State University and University of California campus joined protesters to voice growing concern over the potential cuts.
In the effort to cope with an estimated $14.5 billion deficit in the state budget, state legislators have proposed cutting nearly $5 billion from the state’s public education system and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a cut of $312.9 million to the CSU budget. A total of $1 billion could be cut from higher education.
SF State President Robert A. Corrigan said in March that the university is estimated to fall $25 million short in its annual budget.
Students from SF State arrived in Sacramento at about 9 a.m. Monday morning to protest the cuts.
Among the faculty attending Monday’s rally was SF State lecturer Larry Salomon, who has taught in the ethnic studies department for 13 years.
‘”The California Faculty Association has been an important ally to the students during the budget crisis and in return we have received strong support from students — especially within the College of Ethnic Studies,” he said.
SF State CFA Chapter President Ramon Castellblanch said the CFA paid for three of the five buses SF State students took to Sacramento, while Associated Students, Inc. picked up the tab for the remaining two. CFA also paid the city of Sacramento for street closure permits to allow the march.
Salomon said one third of the courses offered in the College of Ethnic Studies could be dropped as a result of the proposed budget cuts, leading to an increased strain on students and faculty members alike. By graduating the majority of the college students in California, he added, the CSU system plays a vital role in the states economic future.
“I believe strongly in education,” he said. “I, along with everyone here today, want to see it continue to be accessible for everyone in California.”
Many of the faculty members who came to the march in Sacramento expressed similar sentiments to those of Salomon. Among them was Lois Boulgarides, the CFA representative from Sacramento State University.
“The budget cuts mean possible fee increases for students, and drastic cuts in classes offered,” said Boulgarides, who has been a lecturer in the kinesiology department at Sacramento State for 10 years. “The proposed cuts will also increase the workload for tenured faculty, and lead to cuts in faculty health benefits and, sadly, a loss of jobs.”
According to the CSU, the proposed budget would fail to provide funding for 10,000 students within the system and cut $36 million in mandatory costs including employee health benefits.
If the proposed budget goes through state legislature, SF State would feel the effects of the cuts as soon as the Fall semester.
Student support throughout the CSU and UC systems has been strong, Boulgarides said, adding that an “incredible” coalition has been formed between students and faculty to fight the fee increases that would result from a cut to the state’s higher education budget.
“Everyone has worked together to bring about change,” she said.
The SF State College of Ethnic Studies was well represented by students, adding to a “broad” coalition from SF State, according to Dean Kenneth Montero, who was also at the event.
“The students are serious,” he said. “Many students here are taking courses offered by the College of Ethnic Studies, but the message has to spread across campus for us to be successful.”
According to Montero, the College of Ethnic Studies will not be receiving a disproportion of the estimated budget cuts that will hit SF State.
“Our college will be harmed, but we won’t be going out of business. I worry that smaller ethnic studies programs will be crushed at other institutions.”
“I’m proud of the student leadership that has organized the event,” he added. “No one should assume that the person next to them will be protesting the cuts on their behalf…we all have to work together to create change.”
Schwarzenegger will announce a revised version of his budget proposal on May 14.
Staff writer Eric Gneckow contributed to these reports.
In a dream last night, Benjamin Henderson stood on the steps of the Capitol building and spoke to a crowd spread as far as he could see.
Before becoming the Associated Students Inc. president at San Jose State University, the 23-year-old political science major made it a campaign promise to march students to the California state capital in the name of improving funding for education.
“Now that I’m here, it’s exactly as I dreamed,” said Henderson, who drew strength from the memory of his cousin, a former SF State student who died from cancer this year.
Joining 2,000 students in a Sacramento rally on Monday, Henderson introduced the prominent figures from California education and government that spoke in opposition of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed reduced budget for education. Five buses came from SF State, a coalition representing school staff, faculty and students.
“We’re probably about to enter into the toughest time that SF State has had in the last 15 years,” President Robert A. Corrigan said to [X]press staff last week.
For approximately 300 SF State students, the day began at 6:30 a.m. in a chilly Malcolm X Plaza. Members of the New Front Coalition, Fight the Fees, ASI and other student organizations sat quietly, staring into the gray morning while waiting for a guide to the Sacramento-bound buses parked elsewhere on campus.
One student, Sagnicthe Salazar, 21, was not a member of any of the organizations but said she showed up to help any way she could. With a box of chalk in hand, she walked along the route to the buses drawing arrows to help guide soon-to-be travelers.
“I feel like [the march] is a definite media strategy,” said the Raza studies major, explaining that the rally would attract media attention and educate the public about the issue.
“The behind-the-scenes work will create the real change,” she added.
Two of the five buses were agreed on at the last minute, said Aaron Salazar, a 19-year-old journalism major and NFC member.
Each bus ended up full, organizers said, with so many students showing up that there weren’t enough of the free lunches to go around.
“It reminds me of field trips,” said 21-year-old biology major Jon Seo, one of the few passengers to remain awake as the bus he rode rocked quietly toward Sacramento.
During the 90-minute ride, Seo said the reduced availability of classes meant students needed to stay in school for more semesters, effectively increasing their tuition.
“So far, all the science courses are really hard to get into,” he said.
After the bus turned the corner onto the dusty Raley Field parking lot, gravel crackling underneath, riders woke up to gather their belongings. The bus leader, Aaron Salazar, rose to the front and reminded students of the schedule for the day.
Having illustrated signs including the flyer depicting a screw going into a student’s chest for the Fight the Fees group, Salazar has also been involved with the NFC since nearly the beginning, he said.
“The objective is to show the California Right that education is not what needs to be cut—it’s what needs to be saved,” he said.
SF State students joined the already thousand-strong group formed at the beginning of the route, a scene that included a flurry of handmade signs and a troop of jugglers from Humboldt State.
Each school rallied around its neon sign thrust high above the crowd: San Jose State University, UC Berkeley, City College of San Francisco and at least 20 others, representing all prongs of the California public higher education system.
When asked if he was missing any classes to march, 18-year-old SF State English literature major Tyler Curtis answered yes.
“I’m [going to] be missing a lot of classes in the next few semesters if this budget goes through,” he said.
From the back of a parked pickup truck, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, a Democrat, spoke through a megaphone to rally the crowd.
“All across California, the message is clear—don’t slam the door on our future!” he said.
Garamendi’s words also served as the cue for the march to begin, and the thousands-strong group started its noisy walk down Capitol Avenue.
Chanting phrases like “Kick us out, we’ll vote you out!” and “Education, not incarceration!” participants walked across the Tower Bridge and approximately one mile to the Capitol, with drivers honking car horns in support.
“If this budget goes through, there’s no future for myself, my husband or my family,” said Marlean Molaschi, who attends CSU Chico full-time with her husband. During the march, Molaschi pushed a stroller holding two of her children while her husband walked with the third.
A group of sixth-graders from Valley View Elementary School in El Sobrante were touring the Capitol that day and stopped to watch the demonstration on the Capitol’s steps.
“They’re doing it for these kids,” said teacher Lisa Lipscomb, who has taught for 23 years.
After arriving at the sunny lawn outside of the Capitol building, marchers listened to notable speakers from California education and government. Each speaker summoned cheers and chants from those attending, usually mentioning that California spends vastly more per prison inmate than per student. Those at the podium also argued that investing in education would ultimately increase the state’s revenue.
“You remind me of my days in college in the 1960s, when we changed America,” said Garamendi.
“At the end, either we invest in higher education or we roll the clock back and put prisons ahead of education,” said Assembly Speaker Fabián Núñez (D-Los Angeles), who also spoke.
On the bus ride back to SF State, excited talking once again turned to a largely sleeping crowd as the early day took its toll.
“If things don’t change...sooner or later, they’ll have to,” said Raychel Long, who questioned whether the rally would have any effect on the legislature. Eventually, she said, things would get so bad in education that lawmakers would practically be forced to draft a more favorable budget.
Ashley Silverthorn, 19, already works 20 hours a week to help pay for school. Despite the large turnout of students and faculty, she, like others, wondered how much impact the rally would really have.
“I’m a little worried,” she said.
The fifth annual Human Rights Summit, entitled “Privileged Destruction: Examining Environmental Justice” will be taking place on May 1 and 2 in Rosa Parks and Jack Adams Halls at SF State.
The two-day event will focus on environmental issues pertaining to human rights both locally and on a global scale. Topics include environmental issues in the Bay Area, capitalism, toxic waste, modern warfare, gender and sexuality issues and disparities in health care.
“The goal is to raise awareness around the San Francisco Bay Area about human rights, and in particular environmental justice,” said event organizer Mariana Ferreira, program director of Human Rights and Justice studies at SF State.
The Human Rights Summit will feature speakers from all over the country, including representatives from West County Toxics Coalition, Greenaction and the Indigenous Environmental Network.
The event is a culmination of the work of the humanities, ethnic studies, environmental studies and American Indian studies departments at SF State.
A large portion of the work being presented at the summit has been created and compiled by students of the anthropology department, said Joel Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and speaker at the event.
Ferreira said this year’s Human Rights Summit will be the most comprehensive event since its inception five years ago, and expects it to receive the best response to date.
“It has grown steadily,” Ferreria said. “This fifth year promises to bring a much larger audience.”
The event will feature a wide variety of performance art and music, including a play on capital punishment, spoken-word poetry, and music ranging from jazz to punk to progressive rock.
The Navarette x Kajiyama dance group will be showcasing its performance art piece “The Revenge of Huitlaco.” The versatile local group said it is inspired by Japanese Taiko drumming, Latin American traditional dance forms, and has performed extensively in support of the Latino transgender community as well as the Mexican-American and Japanese-American communities.
On April 30, a wide range of national human rights organizations will come to SF State to promote the event, including Amnesty International, the African Immigrant and Refugee Resource Center Amnesty International, Center for Environmental Health, Environment California, Greenpeace, Literacy for Environmental Justice and others.
A journal of material presented over the previous four human rights summits will be released at the event. Topics of past human rights summits have included sexual violence, discrimination, indigenous peoples’ rights, genocide, medical access and education.
For more information about the fifth annual Human Rights Summit, visit their official Web site.
Continuing the activist endeavors since the news of state cuts broke in January, the Fight the Fees campaign is preparing to lead a student walkout on May 1 to protest the planned cuts to SF State and the California State University system.
The Fight the Fees campaign conducted a teach-in on April 23 to inform students about a walkout planned for next Thursday.
“Faculty rarely leads on this campus, we follow you all. Faculty follows students,” said Larry Salomon, a lecturer in the College of Ethnic Studies who spoke at the teach-in.
About 100 students and several faculty attended the teach-in Wednesday. Guest speakers from City College of San Francisco and San Francisco high schools spoke about their experience with past cuts and showed strong support for the campaign.
The teach-in is part of a series of campus events addressing the state budget cuts that stem back to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposition in January to cut $312.9 million from the CSU.
The student walkout is planned to begin at noon next week, when supporters are expected to walk out of classrooms and rally at Malcolm X Plaza. The congregation is planned to ride Muni and gather at Dolores Park, where it will begin a march to the Civic Center.
Students began organizing the campaign in January, and began meeting in February to discuss the California budget crisis, the CSU budget cuts and the resulting effects on the SF State campus.
The Fight the Fees group rallied in early March and held a teach-in and an event in the quad that led to a loud but peaceful march into the Administration building as students chanted, “No cuts, no fees.”
The teach-in followed a noon rally on April 18 at Malcolm X Plaza, where organizers held an open mic event in protest of the potential cuts, which they said will add to the continual fee hikes, and called for a student walk-out to shut down the school.
SF State celebrated Earth Day on April 22 through poetry, music, a guided nature walk, speeches and calls to action—on the individual, grassroots, and political levels.
Dean Kassiola, Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, opened the day’s celebration by saying, “I have previously written essays and op-ed pieces entitled ‘Why Earth Day is not enough’ and ‘The Failure of Earth day’ (…) but the current environmental situation is so serious even dire at this time, that I could not pass up the opportunity to express my view of the environmental crisis, and what we need to to do and how we need to think about it.”
“We need to go beyond the symptoms of our environmental problems, and penetrate to their root cause, even if that cause is painful for us to contemplate because it involves the basic conceptions and values of our industrial and consumer way of life.”
“What I propose is that environmental problems like global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain, and so on, not be conceived sole or even most importantly as scientific technological problems, but rather at their root are political and moral problems, based in our misguided materialist values of industrialism.”
He added that since materialism is such an entrenched part of our society, “the changes are not going to come from the ballot box. Changes will not come from top down, but will come from the power and strength of grassroots movements.”
Ellen Wilkinson, who works for an environmental organization called Acterra, invited SF State students to form a campus wide Cool Campaign. This is a six-month program that would help students reduce their carbon footprint by encouraging them to modify their behavior.
“As the Dean mentioned, a lot of people think about environmental issues as a top down issue, as in ‘We’ve got to get the government, we’ve got to get the industries to solve these problems’, and I actually think ‘No, all of us individually have to start making changes.’
The program works by having members pledge to try one energy-saving “challenge” per month – that might mean installing compact fluorescent lamps or turning down the thermostat. Participants report their successes on the group’s discussion of group. At the end of each month, everyone’s results are tallied. Then members can see how much the group’s achievements.
If you want to help start a Cool Campaign, contact Ellen Wilkinson at email@example.com or at (650) 962-9876 x306
Elahe Enssani, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at SFSU reminded students about the importance of technology to the environmental movement.
She compared the environmental movement to a three-legged stool with the legs being Policy, Activism and Technology. She said that to tackle climate change, “we should never forget technology as the third leg of the three-legged stool.”
Andy Peri, an instructor in the geography and environmental studies department, spoke and read a poem about the negative effects of plastics on the environment. He said throw-away plastics end up in the ocean, killing birds and fish.
“We are part of the corporate addiction to fossil plastic, making the ocean ecosystems so very spastic,” Peri said. “Have you ever seen an ocean turtle choke with a blocked airway, gasping for life because you needed a plastic bag from Safeway?”
Another speaker, Philip Klasky, a lecturer in the College of Ethnic Studies, led a visualization exercise.
“Think about that place you call your home, that place on the earth, that shimmering lake, that beautiful mountain top, that verdant valley, that desert landscape, put yourself in that place, and while you do that, bring your hands together before you,” Klasky instructed.
“After you think about that place and the people who mean so much to you, look down at your hands…and think about all you can do with those hands of yours—your capacity to write, to take a shovel in hand, to caress a friend, to heal the earth, to restore the earth.”
Ross Mirkarimi, the supervisor for San Francisco’s District 5, said that instead of waiting for our national or state leaders to address global warming, people should act locally.
“When one decides to ban plastic bags, or to speak out against the war or for the environment, the arena to do so, to exercise one’s activism—the perfect place to do so—is right here in San Francisco State University and to do so right here in the city and county of San Francisco,” Mirkarimi said.
Bruce Paton, who teaches courses at SF State on corporate social responsibility, added that businesses and the environment don’t need to be at odds with one another.
“First, when we talk about ‘sustainable’ and ‘business’ in the same sentence, we need to balance the tendency for those of us who focus on the environment to be quite cynical and skeptical of business. It’s important to keep that skepticism, but there’s also another side to this story,” Paton said.
“Amid the hype about greening, there’s an awful lot of good news. There is no business today with a long-term future if it is not addressing sustainability issues.”
He said a study authored by Goldman and Sachs, a banking and security firm, found that “greener and sustainable businesses significantly outperform the market in general.”
Paton added, “Even if you compare [sustainable businesses] with similar companies that are less sustainable, they simply win on an economic basis.”
ECO Students and Orange Band, two environmental organizations that originated on campus, organized the event.
Marielle Earwood, a member of ECO Students and the event’s main coordinator, said that by organizing the event, she connected with a lot of people and felt empowered. “I learned that hope and that optimism is not just in my head. The success of this event gave me hope.”
Online producer Carina Woudenberg contributed to this story.
Every year, a sales representative comes to SF State to pitch the works of their publishing company. On one such occasion, Matthias Beck, an assistant professor of mathematics at SF State, asked the representative why the company charges so much for a particular textbook. The reply, he said, was, “because this is the going rate among publishers.”
“They charge that much because they can get away with it,” Beck said. “I don’t agree with that philosophy. I won’t buy into it, no pun intended.”
Along with Beck, 1,000 professors across the country have signed a statement of intent to fight against the “going rate” that publishing companies charge for textbooks.
Some universities—such as Harvard, California Institute of Technology and Yale—have alrea-dy put their frustration into action by employing open textbooks.
At SF State, at least six professors have signed the statement of intent, five of whom are in the mathematics department, which makes exten-sive use of textbooks.
According to California Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit at UC Berkeley, open textbooks are “complete, reviewed textbooks written by academics that can be used online at no cost and printed for a small cost. What sets them apart from conventional textbooks is their open license, which allows instructors and students flexibility to use, customize and print the textbook.”
CalPIRG released a statement on April 15 saying that a Government Accountability Office study found students spend an average $900 per year on textbooks.
Nicole Allen, a textbook advocate for CalPIRG, said that textbook affordability is a complex issue.
“The reason we’re doing this is because the textbook market doesn’t work like a normal market,” Allen said. “The professors who request the textbooks are not the ones who buy them. It removes price from consideration in the purchasing decision.”
Her campaign, Make Text-books Affordable, is working through a number of different strategies to give students more affordable options. One avenue is through legislation, namely the College Opportunity and Affordability Act. One part of the act is a requirement for publishing companies to disclose more information about the textbooks that are of interest to faculty.
“This legislation puts price on the table,” Allen said. “They will no longer be able to withhold price information. It will require the publishers to tell the faculty the substantial change in content between previous and current editions.”
By requesting a student to purchase a new edition, the prospect of buying cheaper, used versions from a friend, the campus bookstore or an online provider is automatically ruled out.
Aurora Mohr, 23, a double major in liberal studies and French, attested to this.
“It’s really upsetting because I would have been able to get the book I needed from another student who took the class,” she said. “But the syllabus said I had to get the ‘new edition.’ It’s such a waste of material. I mean, who gets the old ones?”
In addition to publishing new editions, bundling textbooks with supplements can force students to purchase unneeded items. Allen said it’s important to know that the faculty and campus bookstore are not instigating this issue. The publisher makes the overall price and bundles the books while the bookstore merely acts as a middle man and adds a service fee.
Wendy Johnson, the textbook manager for the SFSU Bookstore, said they are not responsible for deciding which books to purchase.
“We are here to support faculty by getting the materials they request for courses,” she said. “We are open to any different, cheaper alternatives that faculty would like to try.”
In order for an open textbook system to work, professors must be willing to write their own material or use material written by other academics. To keep the material affordable, the open textbook license requires authors to give up their right to make a profit, said Genki Hara, a 24-year-old coordinator for CalPIRG and a Berkeley student.
“A lot of professors don’t want to contribute their work for free,” Hara said. “We still have to figure out how to make a legitimate system with incentives and rewards. And at the same time, the material must remain cheaper than commercial textbooks.”
Eric Hsu, a 38-year-old associate professor of mathematics at SF State, said the differences in new editions are often negligible and ultimately costly for students.
“Calculus has been around for a while,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a difference between 90 percent of the books available. A typical calculus book consists of a lot of examples with some connecting text.”
Hsu said he became aware of the problem when he discovered how expensive the calculus textbooks were. Some of his students paid $200 for a textbook that “wasn’t that valuable.”
“I would much rather have a free one online,” Hsu said. “If people pitched in to a collaborative writing, it would be much better. It would be even better if the book was written with some engaging text and tries to bring much more rich meaning to a topic.”
CalPIRG’s textbook afforda-bility campaign is currently working on establishing a book swap system in addition to open textbooks online.
“Textbooks can price students out of higher education,” Hara said. “With costs rising faster than inflation and tuition, some students are faced with the difficult choice to drop out, take on additional debt or undercut their own learning by not purchasing textbooks.”
SACRAMENTO—The sign for City College of San Francisco’s cafeteria read “closed” Monday.
Frustrated over the possible cancellation of elective and upper division culinary arts classes, Christopher Stellman and his students decided to take the day off from serving their usual 600 to 800 meals at City College’s cafeteria to dish out their discontent with the governor’s proposed $1 billion cut to the state’s three college systems.
“We told people at school that we are going to close the cafeteria today so we can keep it open tomorrow,” Stellman, a management instructor at CCSF, said Monday in Sacramento.
An estimated 600 students from City College, who rode the nearly 90-mile trip in a reported 11-bus caravan, joined Stellman and his students at the demonstration.
“We didn’t have enough buses. We had to call the bus company,” said business major Kiiana Devin, 29, as she marched from Raley Field in West Sacramento across the Sacramento River to the Capitol.
The City College busloads joined students from California State Universities, UCs and other community colleges around the state for the March For Higher Education, a student-planned lobbying day to voice concern over the increasing cost of higher education and the cuts the three college systems are facing for the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Stellman’s students, many of whom reside within the city, said elective courses including one of their favorites, Garde Manger, which teaches advanced culinary skills, are likely to be cut. But it is these advanced elective courses, they said, that give them an edge on other applicants when it comes to finding work.
“We can’t prove we know all the stuff an employer knows,” said Dalton Law, a culinary arts major, referring to what would happen if elective courses are cut. Law came to the United States five years ago from Hong Kong.
City College district officials said the summer schedule had to be cut nearly in half, and further cuts to the fall 2008 schedule will be made, but an emphasis was to “keep core classes that students really need,” said City College Associate Vice Chancellor Joanne Low, who attended the event on Monday.
“We are trying to meet student demands still,” she said. “We can’t afford the drastic cuts that are coming from Sacramento.”
Along with reduction in the number of courses, administrators also fear an increase in fees. Like Low, City College Chancellor Don Griffin recalled in 2004 when student fees went up to $26 a unit—the highest in the 109 college system’s history.
“We lost hundreds of thousands of students from community colleges,” Griffin said. In 2006, the fees were lowered to $20 a unit, but Griffin and other City College faculty are fearful that the budget cuts might force the college to raise it back to $26 a unit even though the proposed budget does not currently call for an increase in community college fees.
Cory Chen, another culinary arts student and a 2006 graduate of UC Davis, came back to City College to pursue his dream of becoming a chef, but said potential fee increases would make it difficult.
“[I was] following my passion,” Chen said. “For an affordable price—at first.”
The budget cuts also means reductions to student services would be made, according to a report released by Blue Sky Consulting Group and prepared for the Campaign for College Opportunity on April 16. The report delved into the impact that cuts to higher education in the recent past, present and the near future will have on the opportunities for the state’s students.
Though the community college enrollment is expected to grow 3 percent in 2008-09, the current budget proposal plans to fund only 1 percent of the increase, which is “likely to result in a potentially significant loss in class offering, increased class sizes and a reduction in service to students,” according to the report.
The proposed budget also calls for an $80 million reduction to the system’s categorical programs, such as Extended Opportunity Programs and Service and disabled student services. These reductions, according to the Community College Chancellor’s Office, projects that the 3.7 percent reduction in the matriculation program will cause “100,000 fewer students being assessed.”
Furthermore, the reduction in the matriculation program, which is the center for orientation, assessment, placement and counseling services, will mean 46,000 fewer students will meet with campus counselors and 43,000 students who are in academic trouble will not get the help they need from counselors to maintain their enrollment.
Devin, the City College sophomore, has been taking classes at various community colleges since she graduated high school in 1997. She said this semester is the first where she hasn’t worked outside of class and her debt from taking out student loans has accrued to $20,000.
“I’m in so much debt and I don’t even have my first degree yet,” the Southern California native said. “[I’ve been] inching my way instead of making big strides.”
Members from City College’s Chinatown/North Beach campus, where many English as a second language courses are taken, also participated in the march.
Ken Lee, an ESL teacher, said the 20,000 students—many of whom are immigrants—will be the students most likely to be affected by the cuts.
“These are the people most at risk,” Lee said.
Griffin added, “We are the last chance for many of these families and students.”
One of Lee’s students, Po Wong, has been taking classes at City College’s Chinatown campus for three years and now volunteers as an assistant who works with seniors and newcomers in the ESL department.
CSU Board of Trustees member Melinda Guzman, a one-time member of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges and a parent of an SF State student, said the three-college higher education system is flawed. When fees go up and cuts are made, she said, students have to decide where to spend money and often drop classes or drop out of school completely.
When gunmen opened fire on campuses in Virginia and Illinois, chances are they had little foresight into the far-reaching ramifications of their actions.
Now, a year after the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois universities—two of the worst mass shootings in United States history—a new emergency notification system is being tested at SF State that may prevent a similar tragedy.
The system, dubbed ConnectED, is similar to the AlertSF Notification system and the newly Federal Communications Commission-approved Commercial Mobile Alert System. It is intended to reach students en masse via text messaging, e-mail or voicemail.
Once the system is implemented, students would be notified of the status of the school and other crucial information in the event of an emergency that temporarily debilitates the SF State campus.
The ConnectED system was most recently tested during the university police department’s “active-shooter” drill, which took place in the Student Services Building on Wed., April 9.
Test messages went out to the emergency operations center (EOC) team, SF State President Corrigan and his cabinet, and the staff in the Student Services building, where the drill was held.
University Police Chief Kirk Gaston and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Gayle Orr-Smith were together to observe the drill in SSB at the time.
“Neither of our cell phones rang,” said Orr-Smith, although she added that e-mail and voice messages were waiting for them when they returned to their offices.
The Virginia Tech shootings created a new marketing opportunity for notification systems at college campuses around the country, Orr-Smith said. SF State acquired the connectED notification system in July 2007, and hopes to implement the notification once testing is completed.
A Unique Threat
As an urban campus with a student population that largely commutes to classes, SF State encounters a unique problem when seeking to inform students about potential threats, said SF State President Robert A. Corrigan.
“Colleges and universities responded with a great sense of horror to the shootings at Virginia Tech…this came as a real wake up call,” he said.
“One of the problems was that Virginia Tech was late in getting word of the shootings out to students,” he added. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we quickly and efficiently alert students here?’”
Corrigan said that “many colleges in urban areas are faced with the same problem...and the [connectED] system has been put in place [at SF State] to keep students out of harm’s way.”
Although ensuring the safety of SF State students, faculty and staff is paramount, he said, students’ freedoms must be taken into consideration when applying campus-wide safety measures.
“The last thing we want to see is metal detectors around campus,” Corrigan said. “There is a fine line between improving security on campus and infringing on student freedoms.”
To do that, communication lines between student counseling services and the police department remain open and are key in tragedy prevention, he said.
“We do try to keep track of students who have displayed [psychological] problems in the past and who may pose a threat to the student population,” he said.
In the case of Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, both gunmen had known psychological problems.
“Counseling and Psychological Services share their observations,” said Gaston, who has been Chief of Police at SF State for just over a year. According to Gaston, the incident at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University increased awareness and encouraged “erring on the side of caution” for both services.
Students Voice Safety Concerns
Students across campus used the occasion of emergency preparedness week and the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings to express their feelings about the state of security at SF State.
“Yeah, I feel safe on campus,” said Kristina Ledoux, a marketing major who lives in the dorms. “The police department is so close, I feel comfortable, knowing that they would provide me with help in the case of emergency.”
Other students offered a differing opinion.
“I’ve seen a number of crimes committed at night here,” said Ashley Singh, a biology major who also lives in the dorms. “I never see police around at night, so I really don’t feel safe here on campus.”
“I would like to know about possible safety issues the students face here on campus,” she added. “I feel there is little interaction between campus security [officials] and students, and I would feel much more safer if they communicated with us once in a while.”
Emergency Preparedness week and the connectED system is an attempt to do just that, according to Orr-Smith.
“We want to let students know about the services that are available to them in a time of emergency,” she said in a recent interview.
In addition to the emergency notification system, the numerous emergency phones that are scattered throughout campus that connect users directly to a police operator could provide students with much need assistance during an emergency situation.
Knowledge of one’s surroundings, Orr-Smith said, is key in preventing a tragedy similar to those at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.
In the end, safety in the time of an emergency will fall in the hands of students, she said.
“Often, the first line of defense is student awareness…we want to empower individuals to be aware of their surroundings.”
“I try to stay aware, especially at night,” said Natalia Chavez, a dorm resident and environmental studies major who gets off work late and often times finds herself walking through campus late at night.
“Aside from walking home at night, I feel safe here on campus,” she added. “I’m not quite sure what I would do in an emergency situation that involved a person with a gun.”
According to Gaston, patrols are increased at night if a specific threat is identified and police department staffing is based around recent crime trends.
Aside from the new emergency notification system, the university has recently increased efforts to promote campus safety in the event of a disaster or an emergency, according to Orr-Smith.
Included is assigning an emergency coordinator to each building on campus. The emergency coordinator is a faculty member who would be in charge of organizing evacuation efforts in a drill or cases of emergency.
Building emergency coordinators are responsible for maintaining their building’s emergency plan and dispersing information to people who work in the building, Orr-Smith said.
They have a liaison role and are responsible for alerting the University Police Department with concerns and problems, and are encouraged to recruit volunteers within the building.
“We take emergency and disaster preparation very seriously, and we’ve been very proactive in our approach,” Orr-Smith said.
The UPD advises students on campus who call 911 in an emergency from their cell phones to inform the operator of their exact location, as this would quicken the response time of campus police.
SF State’s non-emergency police dispatch is staffed 24 hours at (415) 338-7200.
It’s been one year since a single armed student murdered 32 people and injured 25 more at Virginia Tech in the nation’s deadliest campus shooting.
Criticism of Virginia Tech’s administration and police response during the incident was fierce. Many people believe now that better communication and faster response could have saved dozens from harm.
As SF State President Robert A. Corrigan said in an e-mail to students in the days following the shootings, “Such events resonate on this campus as well. It is reasonable and necessary to ask what this campus does to keep its people safe…”
New directives and new leadership
Four months after the Virginia Tech massacre, California State University Chancellor Charles Reed issued an executive order to “further define the responsibilities and needs of an effective campus emergency management program.”
The order outlined 10 action items with eight sub-items, but the heading in bold was a single word: responsibility. And Reed’s language was clear: responsibility for campus safety lay directly with university presidents.
But at SF State, wheels were already turning to increase the university’s ability to plan and respond to crisis situations with impetus from SF State’s police chief Kirk Gaston and vice president of student affairs, Penny Saffold.
Within two months of Reed’s updated emergency directives, a new SF State Office of Emergency Preparedness opened with Gayle Orr-Smith serving as a full-time emergency preparedness coordinator.
Orr-Smith brought experience as San Francisco’s former deputy mayor for public safety. She had been responsible for the city’s emergency response during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and also spent nine years in the Detroit police department.
Specialized training and drills
On a Wednesday morning in early April, a man walked the halls of the Student Services Building firing a handgun while employees crouched under their desks or waited behind locked office doors.
That man was Capt. Anthony Duenas, commanding officer for the special operations division of the University Police Department, and he was playing the role of a shooting suspect for an emergency drill that he planned and helped to execute.
While walking through the halls and firing blank ammunition at predetermined locations, he was struck by the unimpeded access a potential shooter would have to human targets, as well as the challenges of effectively policing an open campus.
But Duenas said he doesn’t think many people would support locking campus down and personally doesn’t think a more visible police presence like metal detectors and searches facilitates a constructive learning environment.
“It’s the responsibility of police to adapt to challenges and the community’s role to prepare themselves,” he said. Duenas is charged with training officers in tactically correct responses to threats. Such responses needed to be changed in the wake of campus shootings across the country.
A former Marine, Duenas spent 20 years policing Cal State Hayward before coming to SF State in 2005. He is currently the assistant commander for the CSU’s critical response unit, a specially trained team assembled from multiple university police departments for deployment as needed throughout the CSU system.
In more ways than one, Duenas knows the drill. And he notes that not every threat to safety is external. “Every university police department battles with two things: budget and staffing,” he said.
But Duenas said he feels supported in his mandate and that he has never known Chief Gaston to ignore important equipment and training updates no matter the budget situation.
“It’s been a priority of the chief,” he said. “And that allows it to be a priority of mine.”
A gun problem, or a gun solution?
A conversation on gun control can never be far away from the discussion of campus shootings. And many people are left to wonder how and why emotionally imbalanced college students get access to assault rifles.
But a group of college students are lobbying for the right to bring more guns to school. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus want to see bans against guns on school property lifted, so individuals can carry permitted weapons.
At 18 years old, Zachary Markowitz is not old enough to apply for a concealed weapon permit, but said, “I strongly support laws that allow people who already have a concealed weapon license to be able to do so when they go to school like they do virtually everywhere else.”
Markowitz is a criminal justice student majoring in chemical forensics at San Jose State University. He said he believes university police are doing a fine job preparing students for emergency events similar to those at Virginia Tech or Northern Illinois University.
But past events, he said, have convinced him that if there had been “a law-abiding citizen in the close vicinity of the shooting who was armed with a permitted firearm, they could have taken down the gunman quickly.” Markowitz added, “real life shootouts last seconds, not minutes. It takes minutes for the police to arrive, which would be long after the shootout has ended.”
Ben Dutro, a mechanical engineering student at CSU Chico, said he joined SCCC a month ago because “I believe the entire Bill of Rights is very important and unfortunately the right to defend one’s self has been eroded over the years.”
Dutro has less faith in the CSU system’s measures toward student safety. He characterizes the implementation of e-mail and phone alerts for students as “inadequate” and said university policy “deprives those students that are otherwise qualified from defending themselves.”
But not all students share that hands-on, gun toting approach to personal safety.
University emergency coor-dinators often feel that students or even faculty and staff don’t take safety issues seriously.
When a fire alarm sounds in the Student Services Building, Julie Vaquilar, assistant registrar, said it’s not uncommon to catch attitude from students who don’t want to evacuate before their paperwork is processed.
“They think, ‘Come on, finish my transaction. What’s the big deal?’” Vaquilar said.
CSU’s past and SF State’s future
The CSU system hasn’t been immune from gun violence, experiencing highly visible campus shootings in the past.
In 1976, a custodian at Cal State Fullerton killed seven and wounded two in what became known as the Fullerton Library massacre. Edward Charles Allaway was ruled insane and was confined to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, Calif.
In 1996, Frederick Martin Davidson, then a 36-year-old graduate student at San Diego State, was supposed to meet with a panel to defend his engineering master’s thesis. Instead, he produced a handgun he had previously hidden in the room and shot three professors to death. Davidson is serving back-to-back life sentences without parole.
For now, university officials are setting their sights on the future.
Orr-Smith and Gaston stood side by side to observe the campus active shooter drill and seem to know each other’s schedules.
They appear in total agreement about SF State being at the forefront of proactive campus safety measures. But each believes that improvements remain.
“We don’t intend to rest on our laurels,” Gaston said and pointed to future plans to roll out crisis survival training to every individual on campus.
Asked what that would look like, Gaston laughs.
“I can guarantee it’s going to be like nothing this campus has ever seen,” he said. “How does that sound?”
An SF State lecturer accused of battery and assault on a University Police officer had his second court appearance this Tuesday, scheduling the first part of his trial process for later this Summer, according to the lecturer’s attorney and the incident’s police report.
The June hearing for David Sklar, a 61-year-old lecturer in the math department, will be to review the evidence of his incident last month, said his attorney, Brian Getz.
Sklar has pleaded not guilty to the six misdemeanor charges against him. Police originally arrested the instructor on felony assault charges that were later reduced to misdemeanors by the San Francisco District Attorney, and Sklar spent two days in jail following the incident, according to Getz and the DA’s office.
Officer Jarrod Yee spotted Sklar walking illegally along the 19th Avenue Muni tracks and jaywalking toward Hensill Hall during the early morning of March 20, according to a report that police did not originally provide to the [X]press.
Police indicated that the omission of Yee’s account from the report given last week was a clerical error, originally only providing the report of the first officer to assist Yee, Corporal Todd Settergren.
After Yee confronted the instructor about the two violations, Sklar explained he was running late that morning. When Yee “opened up [his] citation book,” Sklar “abruptly began screaming,” according to Yee’s account.
The instructor shouted “obscenities” and began walking away from Yee. The officer considered Sklar to be obstructing his investigation and called for backup, the report said.
As Yee took hold of Sklar to search him, the instructor “continued to struggle.” When Settergren arrived, he rushed towards the escalating conflict and “utilized [his] speed and weight to knock Sklar to the ground,” according to Settergren’s account.
With the lecturer face-down against the ground, police jabbed at his shoulder with an unextended baton in an effort to free his hands from under him for handcuffing. After the assistance of another campus officer, the three handcuffed Sklar, the report details.
A fourth officer assisted in binding Sklar’s ankles and holding him against the ground for about five minutes to “prevent further resistance,” according to the report.
“Scrapes and cuts” to officer Yee’s hands during the incident, an attempted kick toward an officer and “a substantial impact to [Yee’s] groin area” were all mentioned in the report.
Sklar will continue teaching his courses, “Ordinary Differential Equations I” and “Numerical Analysis,” through the semester, said mathematics department Chair David Bao.
SF State considers discipline toward professors after an arrest on a “case-by-case basis,” said university spokeswoman Ellen Griffin.
“I have 100 percent confidence behind Mr. Sklar’s integrity,” Bao, who would determine disciplinary action toward Sklar, said in an earlier interview with the [X]press. “There is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to continue teaching.”
Sklar faces six misdemeanor charges: three counts of resisting a police officer, one of battery on an officer, one of assault of an officer and one of “entering a noncommercial dwelling.”
In the print edition of [X]press, the name of the lecturer is incorrect. The correct name is David Sklar, not Brian Sklar. The online version is correct.
Bright red balloons in the shape of a large ribbon swayed in the noontime air above the main quad as SF State students received free condoms and learned about safe sex at the 12th Annual Multicultural AIDS Awareness Day.
Members of Alpha Phi Omega organized the event along with SF State and San Francisco organizations to promote AIDS awareness across all cultural groups Wednesday.
“The whole purpose of us having it as multicultural is because we want to show that AIDS affects everyone,” event co-chair Melissa Dagdagan said. “No one culture is immune from it.”
The all-day event featured free HIV testing in the Student Health Center, as well as displays, performances and tables hosted by ethnic organizations in the community to promote AIDS education.
Jose Carrasco, 48, youth program manager at the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center in San Francisco’s Mission District, was at SF State with seven middle school students for another function when he came across the event.
“For a lot of communities that are economically disadvantaged, they tend to receive less information,” he said as he waved his students away and told them to go visit tables and exhibits. “I think it’s important to have multi-ethnic outreach to promote safe sex.”
Carrasco also said the event helped to promote AIDS education to varying age groups.
“I think education around safe sex is an around-the-clock necessity,” he said. “So I think that there has to be a constant cycle of the latest information around safe sex and healthy choices starting at a young age and even as people get older.”
Amanda Posadas, event co-chair and Alpha Phi Omega member, said the event is meant to reach everyone—even those unaffected by the disease.
“Some people think that since they don’t have AIDS, they shouldn’t care,” said Posadas,19 and a biochemistry major. “We’re trying to reverse that.”
“Just because you don’t have AIDS doesn’t mean that you can’t be affected. What if your family member, loved one or friends has or gets it?” she said, referencing the event’s slogan: “Some are infected, but we are all affected.”
Thomas Li, co-chair of publicity, said the fraternity began planning the event in late January with weekly meetings and on weekends. He said about 70 people and 20 organizations both from campus and the city helped coordinate the event.
“We tailor our events according to our community,” said Li, a 19-year-old business and marketing major. “San Francisco is a very diverse community and we want to reflect that in the events we put together.”
Members of the Native American AIDS Project said they were excited to participate in the event for the first time.
“Our booth has been taken really well and we’re about to run out of condoms,” Nataani Guthrie, 28, of the San Francisco-based organization said.
The project tailors its outreach to be respectful and specific to Native American culture, offering resources such as pow-wows, ceremonies, prayer, as well as tobacco and drumming circles, Guthrie said.
“Although we are a Native American organization, we embrace everybody,” Guthrie said. “We don’t want anyone to get infected.”
Rebecca Callard, 18, was drinking coffee and walking with her boyfriend when she came across dozens of condom-constructed art displays lining the walkways in front of the student center.
“I love the pirate condom,” Callard, an art history major, said of a latex condom blown up to resemble a pirate’s head complete with eye patch, hat and feather mustache. “This is an exciting event.”
Gavin Murray, Callard’s boyfriend, examined a model of France’s Eiffel Tower constructed out of blue, red and green condom packets.
“It certainly lets people know that condoms are available and that they have many uses, sizes, shapes, colors and flavors,” Murray, 19, undeclared, said.
Joking aside, Murray said the event was important.
“It’s good to know what’s out there and how to protect yourself,” Murray said.
SF State student James Lee learned of the escalating Shiite-on-Shiite violence in Basra while embedded with Marines in Afghanistan. As a photographer documenting the day-to-day happenings in the war-torn region, he decided the Iraqi city would be his next stop.
Officials from the military public affairs office in Fallujah granted Lee’s request to embed with a Military Transition Team—a core Marine group assisting Iraqi security forces in securing the region. Following a three-day journey from Fallujah via armored vehicle, he arrived in Basra on April 1.
But after just four hours in the city, Marine officers demanded that Lee leave the area.
“The only way a Western journalist can report on Basra is to be embedded, and by denying me my embed, they were denying my ability to report on the area,” said Lee, who maintains he was the only Western journalist among the 150-vehicle convoy that made the trip south. “Basically, by pulling me out [of Basra], you’re creating a media blackout.”
It remains unclear why Lee, whose full name is James Lee Jeffreys, was expelled from Basra, and the Department of Defense declined to provide [X]press with an explanation for his removal.
The Ventura County, Calif., native is a former Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq in 2001 to 2004 until he was injured by friendly fire. He has been a correspondent for [X]press since December 2007, earning credit through a directed study program with the journalism department in exchange for his reportage and photographs from around the world.
Approximately 48 hours before he touched base in Basra, media reports showed more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers in the area refusing to fight and surrendering their positions. This came as U.S. Commanding General David Petraeus was due to brief Congress on the coalition’s progress in Iraq.
Lee suspects these events may have led to his expulsion from Basra.
“I think the real driving factor here is that Petraeus was in Washington, and Basra was not going well,” he said. “He didn’t want to be sitting in front of Congress, and have an image that I took [of Basra] being presented by the press.”
Marines and Iraqis in Basra had told Lee they were not confident about the Iraqis’ ability to maintain control in the area without further U.S. assistance. They claimed the Mahdi army, a Shiite militia, had “more grenades and rockets than we do, and we don’t want to go fight in the city [of Basra],” he said.
“[The U.S. military] realized that there was going to be a loss at such a grand scale that they were not going to risk putting me there,” he said. “I’d proven at that point through all my embeds [that I would] accurately depict what’s going on.”
Lee said it’s unusual for the military to remove a fully authorized embedded journalist—unless there was some sort of violation of guidelines, which he denies.
Deborah Howell, ombudsman for the Washington Post, echoed Lee’s assertion that de-embedding usually occurs when agreed-upon conditions are violated.
“I don’t know how rare [being de-embedded] is,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Usually it’s for doing something that is contrary to the embed agreement, though I have heard that commanding officers will boot a reporter they don’t like or think is compromising security.”
A military public affairs officer in Basra told Lee that Petraeus had banned all western journalists from the area.
But the alleged leave-order from Petraeus baffled Lee because it was contrary to an internal document circulated to military leaders, titled “General Petraeus’ Nine Points,” which details the general’s position on a broad range of issues.
According to the document, military personnel are instructed to “Engage the media. Don’t worry about the overexposure... get on TV... people need to see their leadership talking about your area. Take the media by the hand and lead them. Show them the story.”
Lee said he contacted Petraeus’ office in Baghdad, which told him there had been a misunderstanding and that he could remain in Basra. But when he returned to camp, the order to leave immediately resurfaced —and this time it came from an unidentified, lower-ranking general at Multinational Force-Iraq (MNFI), a U.S.-led coalition that battles Iraqi insurgents.
Lee said the Marines told him, “Hey, it’s not coming from Petraeus now, it’s coming from a two-star Marine general. He just told us that if we don’t have you on that aircraft today, he’s going to have our heads.”
Lee spent two days in Fallujah trying to untangle all that had happened, but came up short of an explanation. He arrived back in the United States on April 9.
In general terms, “the military has wide latitude to give journalists access to cover the war—and it’s special access,” said David Greene, a free-speech lawyer and executive director of the First Amendment Project.
“This idea of embedding journalists with the troops and having the journalists follow the troops is a fairly new concept.”
Having been embedded with the Marines previously in Fallujah, Baghdad and Afghanistan, Lee thought it was odd that the Marines were removing him from working in Basra.
“It wasn’t a security issue, as we’ve had embedded journalists throughout the conflict in situations far more dangerous than Basra,” he said.
Hajar Smouni, head of the North Africa and Middle East desk for Reporters Without Borders, agreed.
“If it was for his safety, they would have said that clearly,” Smouni said. “Since they were not giving him a forward explanation, there must be another reason they don’t want to speak about.”
John Koopman, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who has embedded in Iraq, also said it was strange that he was given no clear explanation. Koopman said he’s never heard of a journalist being denied access without some sort of justification.
“[The military] usually tells you—it’s not usually a big secret,” Koopman said.
He added that the unit Lee embedded with might not have had the authority to grant him protection and access in the Basra region of Iraq.
On Dec. 16, British forces officially transferred control of Basra to the Iraqis; today coalition forces remain in the area primarily to train Iraqi soldiers and policemen.
Lee requested explanations into why he was forced to leave, and was given numerous possible reasons—including that the Iraqi army didn’t want him there.
“That doesn’t make any sense because the Iraqi army doesn’t run what MNFI does,” he said. “I’m embedded with Marines, not with Iraqis. The Iraqis can’t tell the Marines what to do.”
Editors Dan Verel, Christina Nguyen and Jerold Chinn contributed to this report.
Armed by unity, the Cal State University family is hoping to wrestle precious funding from state lawmakers with a series of rallies at the Capitol.
The first comes Monday when SF State's Associated Student Inc. hopes to fill three busloads of students for a trip to join an expected 3,000 others in Sacramento.
"Through rallying and subsequent lobbying our Legislators we hope to inform them of the investment in higher education that needs to be made," said Joey Francis, Vice-Chair of External Affairs with the California State Student Association.
As the largest group representing the CSU's 450,000 students, the CSSA has been rallying for the past six months against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed $312.9 million cut to the CSU 2008-09 budget.
In January, they passed a resolution condemning the cuts while calling on "the CSU family (students, Trustee, Chancellor, faculty, staff and alumni)" to follow suit.
And they have.
In the week following the student rally, the California Faculty Association will be kicking off two days of lobbying on April 28, on the same day that the Cal State administration joins alumni and donors for their Annual Legislative Day in Sacramento.
"That is very interesting," ASI VP of Student Affairs Abtin Forghani said of the joined forces. "It says that we all would like to survive and grow and not take a step back to the 1980s."
SF State President Robert Corrigan said he unsure they'll be sending three loaded buses to Sacramento--or that it's the way to go.
"If you say you're going to do it and don't show up, that sends a message," he said.
Corrigan spoke to Journalism students in the Humanities Building on Wednesday about his views on the crisis. While asserting the need to pressure state lawmakers, Corrigan said he is unconvinced that bringing thousands of students to march around the Capitol would really affect legislators.
More impressive than marching with lobbyists or sending mass e-mails, writing the representatives pen and paper letters with personal messages of support to the school system would work best, he said.
The school system enjoys strong ties with local lawmakers, including Assembly member Fiona Ma and State Senator Leland Yee. The former San Francisco supervisors are inviting about 10 student representatives to their Sacramento offices on Monday afternoon to spread their message.
It's the more conservative lawmakers from Southern California and Republican Governor Schwarzenegger that the CSSA is trying to reach out to, according to Forghani, who represents SF State on the CSSA Board. Concurrent to the march, there will be staged rallies in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Barbara.
"They always say 'no new taxes' but fee hikes every year are just another form of taxation," he said.
The cost of renting the three buses was originally left to ASI but, again, an alliance with the administration was made. Dean of Students Penny Saffold reportedly agreed to provide as much as 40 percent of the $4,000 needed using a discretionary fund.
This coming Tuesday students can celebrate Earth Day in Jack Adams Hall and learn what threatens their environment and what they can do to help save it.
From 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., guest speakers, including student activists, professors and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, will discuss environmental problems and how the SF State community can help solve them. The quad will also feature activities and presentations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Topics for the 39th annual Earth Day run the gamut. The environmental impact of major local events, like last year's oil spill into the San Francisco Bay and the current effort to spray urban areas to fight apple moths, will be discussed. Some presentations will focus on how students can do their part to tackle worldwide issues which include climate change and plastics proliferation.
The event will also feature speakers from disciplines other than environmental studies. The speakers will talk about how the environment affects different walks of life. Professors from American Indian studies head presentations entitled "The Effect of Nuclear Power on Native Peoples" and "Indigenous Sustainability." Environmentally sound business practices and "eco-feminism" are also on the day's schedule.
Marielle Earwood, a member of the environmental student group ECO Students and the event's main planner, said she wanted to "bring in as many important topics as possible. I tried to be all-inclusive." Part of the steering committee for SF State's Focus the Nation in January, Earwood said she modeled Earth Day's structure after the climate change teach-in that saw about 2,000 students attend.
"We're so busy. We don't have time to talk. We don't have time to connect. Our culture is wounded," said Earwood. Despite this, "so many people care. So many people want to make change, but they don't know how."
So by tapping a variety of speakers while maintaining themes of "awareness, empowerment and community," Earwood said she hopes Earth Day gives "the opportunity for people to open their minds and hearts to these important issues."
Several of the day's discussions will have themes emphasizing social justice. Joel Kassiola, dean of the college of behavioral and social sciences, will begin the morning discussing opposing viewpoints regarding social change. In the afternoon, the audience will view a student documentary on social justice and human equity. Holistic healing studies lecturer Kenn Burrows will follow the video with a presentation entitled "Beyond Sustainability — Exploring a New Environmental and Cultural Narrative."
"In some ways this is a follow-up to Focus the Nation," said Glenn Fieldman, assistant professor of environmental studies. Though she was one of the teach-in's main architects, Fieldman said she and the faculty were proud that Earwood and other environmentally conscious students put this together largely on their own. "It's much more than what's been done for Earth Day in the past. It's a much bigger deal."
Fieldman said she was pleased that Mirkarimi, who also appeared at Focus the Nation in January, will be returning to give students "a wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with a policymaker. San Francisco's had a leadership position on city environmental politics," and appearances like these help make it more accessible to students interested in participating, she said.
Getting students involved in local environmental efforts will be another undercurrent of the day's events, Earwood said. Several of the slated topics will specifically address how students can "volunteer more time and the willingness to be more aware," she said.
One of those, called "Sustainability at the Individual Level," will stress that, while achieving sustainability in life requires active participation, each person's path may be different, said speaker Keir Johnson, humanities major. "Sustainability is a far-reaching concept," and while some people will try to reduce their material impact on the world by taking shorter showers or buying food from local farmers markets, others can "work in personal expression, like create art that doesn't even necessarily have an environmental slant," he said.
As a primary member of HERO, a group of environmentally conscious students who live in campus housing, Johnson said he will offer the student audience an opportunity "so people can experiment in living these ideas." A holistic cooperative called Eco Digs will open in University Park South in the fall, and up to 18 student "social and environmental activists" can still apply to participate after the discussion, he said.
No matter what people decide to do, actively making a difference after Earth Day is the goal. "It's not an event that people should just go to, listen to keynote speakers, agree that there are problems and then go back to life," Johnson said. "I see the environmental issues as calling for the unification of humanity...taking Earth Day beyond just a one-day event. We are the environment," he said.
Anne-Marie Yellin held up a weathered yellow Star of David with the letter “J” in the middle, safety pinned to a sheet of black construction paper and preserved behind clear plastic.
The daughter of Jewish parents, Yellin was born in the small town of Chemnitz, two hours outside of Berlin, Germany. She remembered living a comfortable life, one in which her father owned a clothing store where her mother would help out.
She was 8 years old on the night of Nov. 9, 1938, known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. That night Hitler’s Nazi army stormed into German Jewish businesses and homes, shattering the glass windows and destroying everything inside, her father’s business being one of them. The next day her father was taken away to Buchenwald, a concentration camp not far from her hometown.
Yellin shared her story at the sixth annual Day of Learning on April 13 at Mercy High School in San Francisco. Presented by the Holocaust Center of Northern California, this year’s remembrance specifically acknowledged 70 years since Kristallnacht. The day held a dozen workshops and participants could sign up for two, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Scholars and Holocaust survivors were on hand to facilitate discussions for all those who attended.
“In those days they did not take women, they just gathered all the males,” Yellin said. “My father was lucky because in those days there were no gas chambers, no extermination.”
Five months later her mother was able to obtain false papers saying the family was moving to Santiago, Chile (Yellin suspects her mother paid someone). A family friend drove her mother to Buchenwald and she presented the papers to the guards there. Her father was released from the camp a couple of months later, but she said he was “never the same.” The family was then able to escape to Brussels, Belgium, where they could be granted political asylum. After the Nazi invasion of Belgium in May of 1940, Yellin’s father sent her to be hidden with 800 other children in various Catholic convents in and around Brussels.
Carrie Schroeder, chair of the Religious Studies Department at Mercy High School, led a workshop entitled “Jews and Christians: Rival Siblings or Peaceful Partners?”
She said Yellin’s account is one of many stories of Christians helping Jews at the time, but there were also many people that kept silent.
“The relative silence of Christian leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, even people who did not actively cooperate or collaborate…the silence is deafening,” Schroeder said. “It was a colossal and tragic failure of leadership on the part of Christian leaders.”
Helen Farkas, author of the book “Remember the Holocaust” and a San Francisco resident, was a survivor of Auschwitz who spoke at the event. She was born in 1920 in Satu-Mare—a province of Transylvania—in Romania. The seventh of nine children, her father was a shoemaker and her mother, a homemaker. In September of 1940 Hitler had given Transylvania back to the Hungarians and, she said, “little by little our freedom became restricted.”
“It was the Nazi Hungarians who took us out of our homes into Auschwitz, murdered my family, my parents and most of my siblings,” Farkas said.
Farkas, 23 at the time, and her sister Ethel were able to stay together in Auschwitz and escaped the death march sometime in April of 1944. They pretended to be Hungarian refugees and ended up on the border of Czechoslovakia where they were put into a school and given food and a place to sleep.
“My sister and I lay very low so they don’t find out that we are Jews,” she said. “We pretended to be Hungarian refugees until the end of the war when we were liberated by the Americans and given the right to come to the United States.”
She remembered how much her father would talk about the United States when she was a little girl. He had been able to live in Brooklyn, New York for four years before World War I. She said it was his dream to bring his family back to live in the United States. Farkas and her sister were able to carry out that dream when they landed in New York in October of 1949.
“I’m grateful to God that I’m still able to do this mission that I undertook, teaching tolerance,” she said. “The only thing that can save the world is peace and love and respect for one another.”
Like Farkas, Yellin also mentioned tolerance several times when talking about what she has learned through her experience. She was told that she shouldn’t talk about what happened to her because no one would want to hear it. So it wasn’t until 1991 that Yellin told her story of being a “hidden child.” After her “coming out,” as she calls it, Yellin continues to share her experience with as many young people as possible in hopes of instilling the practice of tolerance amongst all the differences in the world.
“Accept things that you can’t change, but change the things that you can,” she said. “There are certain things we must accept, but try to change as much as we can, especially the young people. I feel then that we can make a better world.”
Around 11:28 p.m. Friday night, university police responded to shots fired near Alemany Boulevard, according to university spokesperson Ellen Griffin.
Originally, it was reported that shots were fired at the Park Merced Villas. University police officer Tang said university police were called to assist the San Francisco police in the incident. No injuries were reported, said Griffin. Police said no suspects have yet been found.
Bay Bridge Span Opens Saturday
A new part of eastbound Interstate Highway 80, which leads to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will open early Saturday morning.
Traffic will be redirected to the new portion from the West approach of eastbound Interstate 80, according to Cal Trans officials. The West approach will be worked on as part of a seismic safety project.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will celebrate the completion of the new portion of Interstate 80 and completing the new approach seven months early.
A barbecue is scheduled later on in the day for residents and businesses in the community.
BART might change beverage policy
BART is reworking its beverage policy that might allow passengers to bring their coffee on board trains.
As of right now, there are no drinks allowed on BART trains or platforms. Passengers can be fined up to $250 if caught with a beverage.
In a board meeting on Thursday, officials talked about allowing passengers onboard with coffee in spill-proof cups.
Officials are floating the idea with Peet's Coffee, which will open kiosks at eight BART stations this year.
A run-down of events on April 9 of the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco:
9:00 P.M. - PST Torch leaves SFO to the next destination
KTVU news reports the torch has left SFO around 9:00 p.m. heading to the next Olympic torch relay destination Buenos Aires, Argentina.
6:36 P.M. - PST Torchbearer removed from relay
Torchbearer Majora Carter, an environmental activist was removed from the relay during the Van Ness Avenue route of the torch relay.
"I was a torch bearer for five seconds or so. I tried to pull out the Tibetan flag, as a peaceful protest, and was taken from me by the Chinese security squad, and then San Francisco police pulled me back into the crowd."
"I was angry they didn't come this way through the Embarcadero, just furious that folks had taken the time to be there."
4:30 P.M. - PST Torch closing ceremonies to commence at SFO
Several news organizations are reporting that the torch relay's closing ceremonies will take place at San Francisco International Airport, and will then likely board a plane to its next destination.
4:15 P.M. - PST Torch spectators share Tibet experience
While visiting Tibet with her husband last October, Becky Nichols saw the horror in many Tibetans' eyes first-hand.
"They were scared to death," Nichols said.
Her husband, Allan, had visited Tibet before and even met with the Dalai Lama in 1978. This time, seeing the state of the country torn apart by the Chinese government brought him to tears.
"The Chinese dressed as monks in the Jokhang," the holiest temple in Tibet, Nichols said, in order to make sure no one mentioned the Dalai Lama by name.
"[The monks] don't know who to trust anymore," she said.
Sam Roberts, a resident of Millbrae, traveled around Asia with his wife for two months last year. While touring Tibet by car, he said they were required to hire a driver, who was Chinese, and a Tibetan tour guide.
"We couldn't park anywhere except Chinese [business] locations," Roberts said, or they would risk being vandalized.
"The Han Chinese are flooding Tibet...they're given perks to dilute the culture," he said. "It's cultural genocide."
"We are so blessed in this country, especially women," Nichols said. "We might not be the most perfect country, but on this earth, we are."
3:58 P.M. - PST Torch group drives by SF State
The torch group passed by SF State. Reports are saying that the torch is heading towards San Francisco International Airport. About 6 to 7 buses along with about two dozen of police officers on bikes, stopped traffic for several minutes on 19th Avenue.
3:30 P.M. - PST Torch relay over
Reports are now coming that the torch relay has ended. The Justin Herman Plaza closing ceremony was canceled. There are also reports that the closing ceremony has been relocated to a disclosed location.
2:10 P.M- PST Torch runners on Van Ness Avenue
The torch route has completely changed once again as torchbearers are on Van Ness Avenue. This is a complete 360 degree change as the route was scheduled along the San Francisco waterfront.
2:00 P.M. -PST Where is the torch?
The first torchbearer was given the torch at around 1:30 p.m., but has not been seen since after entering a building near Pier 48. Reports of the torch making its way on a boat is a possibility to avoid protesters along the Embarcadero.
1:17 P.M.- PST Opening ceremonies have started
Opening of the Olympic torch relay ceremony has started at McCovey Cove.
1:00 P.M. - PST Route has changed
Reports are coming in that the torch relay will not make it all the way to Pier 39. It will only head to Pier 29.
12:25 P.M.- PST Protesters vandalize Muni bus
SFPD are reporting that a group of protesters stopped a Muni bus and vandalized it at Bryant Street and Embarcadero. No arrests or injuries were made.
11:00 A.M. - PST Peaceful protest on Golden Gate Bridge
Several hundred people including monks and activists are walking in a peaceful protest on the Golden Gate Bridge. No reports of any problems.
10:45 A.M. - PST Arrests have been made
San Francisco police have begun arresting people at McCovey Cove. The number of those arrested is uncertain at this time.
10:35 A.M. - PST Protesters clash at McCovey Cove
Pro-Tibet and pro-China protesters have clashed at the Lefty O' Doul bridge at SBC Park near McCovey Cove. The San Francisco police had to break them up.
9:50 A.M. - PST Pro-China activists arrive early
Demonstrators who are pro-China arrived early this morning at McCovey Cove to organize for today's torch relay.
At Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco Team Tibet organized there early morning where the closing ceremonies will be held.
Mass confusion engulfed downtown San Francisco Wednesday afternoon when thousands of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Torch were left disappointed.
Many onlookers came to support the Summer 2008 Olympics in Beijing while others used the occasion to voice their grievances about China’s human rights record.
Click the link on the right to view the multimedia.
“I think it’s disrespectful that organizers did not let us see the torch,” said Erica Svensson, a high school student from Petaluma who took the day off from school to attend the event. “I just don’t understand why they would do that.”
The controversy surrounding the event even affected participants, including torch bearer Majora Carter, who attempted to make a political statement of her own.
"I was a torch bearer for five seconds or so. I tried to pull out the Tibetan flag, as a peaceful protest, and it was taken from me by the Chinese security squad, and then San Francisco police pulled me back into the crowd," Carter said. "I was physically removed from the torch."
"I did it as a civil rights activist in America," she said." I wanted to show support for the fact that people in Tibet, Darfur, all over the world are struggling for freedom in their own land. And today, I could not exercise my right to freedom of speech and expression."
On the city moving the torch route to avoid protestors, she said, "Freedom of expression is one of our rights in this country, and the fact is that we were unable to exercise those rights. [The city] felt it was important to have this little peaceful event that played to the terms [the organizers] wanted to play to."
Others in attendance expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s terrible, I have no idea what’s going on,” San Jose resident Steve Chen said. “I’ve been here since six hours waiting to see the torch...it’s disappointing.”
As the thousands who lined the planned relay route waited for the sight of the torch, rumors circulated throughout the crowd about possible alternative routes. Ultimately, city officials took the torch on a route along Van Ness Avenue and ended near the Marina. The torch was driven to the San Francisco International Airport around 4 p.m.
At the opening ceremony in McCovey Cove park, thousands arrived early for the chance to cheer the torch as it passed.
“I’m here to support the torch because it symbolizes peace, hope and love,” said Jing Lia, a student at UC Berkeley.
“As a person of Chinese decent, I am proud to host the Olympics,” she added as supporters waving Chinese flags chanted their support for China nearby.
Half a block away, in front of AT&T Park, a different scene was unfolding.
As pro-Chinese demonstrators verbally clashed with protestors waving Tibetan flags, police were called in to provide a barrier between the two groups.
At least one protester was detained. The SFPD Web site listed no arrests related to the demonstrations.
“By accepting the Olympics, China has accepted the spotlight…and this is the result,” said Mary-Ann Gebay, referring to the large number of protesters that had gathered at Willie Mays Place.
Gebay, a Santa Cruz resident, took her son out of middle school for a day so he could attend the torch relay.
“I want him here so he could experience this unique event…you never know when it’s going to come around again,” she said.
Professors and students from SF State weighed in on the significance of the Olympic torch and its arrival in San Francisco, its sole North American stop.
“The debate is this: on the one hand, everyone agrees that China is oppressing the Tibetan people. On the other hand, people think the Olympics should remain aloof from politics,” said professor Ann Robertson, who teaches a human rights course at SF State.
“However, the human rights violations are so egregious that we cannot not keep politics out of the Olympics, because otherwise it looks like the Chinese government is legitimate and deserves every bit [as much] respect as other world governments.”
Another SF State professor said he believed that the symbol of the Olympic spirit was pivotal in establishing the international camaraderie that the Olympics are known for.
“The protesters are making a legitimate point and a symbolic gesture should be made,” said Mahmood Monshipouri, an assistant professor of international relations. "But the Olympics are meant to be enjoyed. It’s important for the world that the Olympic spirit is not ruined.”
Protests in London and Paris that disrupted the torch relay over the past week drew ire from Olympic and Chinese officials, possibly leading to Wednesday's route change.
“Their despicable activities tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit and challenge all the people loving the Olympic games around the world,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu, in a statement posted on the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site after the Paris leg of the relay.
“We are convinced that nobody can impede the Olympic spirit and the concept of 'peace, friendship, and progress' represented by the Olympics torch,” the statement said.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on April 1 condemning China’s human rights record.
“It’s a bit hypocritical because they don’t take the same position against the U.S. government,” Robertson said. “They have the responsibility to condemn the U.S. situation in Iraq with the same sharp rhetoric they use against China.”
In October 2002, the S.F. Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 to adopt a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to oppose war with Iraq.
“It’s a historic event and a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said one SF State student in attendance, Joe Sperske. An international business major, Sperske said he lived and studied in Guangzhou, a city in south-east China as he stood with Olympics supporters.
“I’m really happy that there hasn’t been any violence yet, but the best thing is that it shows people can speak their minds. It’s the real quality to be an American—having the freedom [of] speech to bring two groups together like this.”
“I’m supporting China because I support the games," he said. "I’ve noticed that I'm the only Caucasian supporting China.”
“Panic,” said Totuga Bi Liberty, describing the scene at the Ferry Building. “I’m here. I don’t care where the torch is…I’m supporting human rights everywhere.” When asked how he felt about the Olympic torch being re-routed, he said that he sent a recommendation to the mayor suggesting that the torch be taken to the Cow Palace so they could run it in a circle.
A fully deployed San Francisco Police Department provided security for the opening ceremonies and the torch relay.
Police in riot gear lined the parade route in front of AT&T Park, and in total there were 1,400 police at the opening and closing ceremony, said a police spokesperson.
Wonderbread 5, a cover band, provided light entertainment at Justin Herman Plaza as thousands gathered in anticipation of the torch's arrival.
“I’m offended by all the noise created to drown out the protesters," Beverly Held, 50, said. "The protesters should be heard…not this terrible music.” Held was waiting with her young daughter for the torch at Justin Herman Plaza.
Closing ceremonies were held at the San Francisco International Airport.
The torch's next scheduled stop is in Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to the official Olympic torch relay Web site, although relay organizers are scheduled to assess the torch's international future on Friday, in light of the protests that have accompanied it.
Staff Writer David Agrell contributed to this report.
Protesters gathered Tuesday morning at the United Nations Plaza to decry the treatment of Tibetans by China and to condemn the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The peaceful protest comes as the Olympic torch arrived this morning at the San Francisco International Airport. San Francisco is the only stop in North America to receive the torch.
"The city of San Francisco receives the torch with alarm and protest," said Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Peskin was joined by Supervisor Chris Daly and other Tibetan leaders to denounce the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"The eyes of the world are watching us. We beseech the People's Republic of China to restore human rights in Tibet and China," Peskin said.
The nephew of the Dali Lama, Jigyme Norbu, spoke today saying how officials are scared because of possible route changes. "China is afraid of the flags and faces," said Norbu.
Many protesters carried Tibetan flags as they marched down to the San Francisco Chinese Consulate. "Shame on China!" protesters yelled outside the consulate.
An airplane flew above the consulate with a banner that read, "Stop the cultural genocide in Tibet."
"China covers up everything. Monks in Tibet are not happy and those who are not happy probably are killed," said Dhondue Seringe, 16, who came all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah to join the march,
"Hopefully this will send a strong message to China."
Candlelight vigil at United Nations Plaza
Hundreds gathered at United Nations Plaza against the biting cold to unite in a candlelight vigil for human rights on the eve of the torch relay through San Francisco.
After protesting the Chinese government's control over Tibet and urging for their freedom earlier in the day rally, the evening event provided supporters with voices of hope and peace.
"This is a moral universe. Right and goodness and compassion and freedom are going to remain," Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa said to the cheering crowd. "Thanks for standing for freedom."
Richard Blum, chairman and founder of the American Himalayan Foundation, said San Francisco hosted the Dalai Lama's first visit to the United States in 1979 when his wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, was the city's mayor. Even after several years' worth of efforts, he said the Chinese government has refused to meet with the Dalai Lama since 1957.
"When you ask the Chinese directly why they won't sit down with His Holiness, they don't have a good answer," Blum said.
Actor Richard Gere, a human rights activist and an avid supporter of the Dalai Lama, shared a dream he had where the Chinese leaders realized what they had done to Tibet and called upon His Holiness to restore peace to the country.
What the Chinese call "a 'harmonious society' is a fraud," Gere said before reading a letter from the Dalai Lama that urged for peaceful protest and preservation of values.
Gere is the founder of the Gere Foundation, an organization whose mission is "to alleviate suffering" and to support the people of Tibet through grants, according to its Web site.
Representing the USA athletes were former Olympic crewmembers Ed Ferry (Tokyo, 1964) and Charles Altekruse (USSR, 1980 and Seoul, 1988). The pair lit the Tibetan torch and proceeded to walk through the crowd, lighting individual candles and urging for the politics surrounding the games to cease this summer.
"Thousands of protesters have been imprisoned and 160 Tibetans have been killed in the current [Chinese] uprising," said Giovanni Vassallo, president of Committee of 100 for Tibet. "Beijing is using the Olympics to deflect attention from [their] brutality."
Sue Logan, ad administrator at UC Berkeley, said local Tibetan groups have been marching up and down Shattuck Avenue every night for the past two weeks, carrying candles and singing.
"I hope [these events] draw attention to the injustice in Tibet," said Logan, who attended the event with her son in support of her Tibetan co-worker.
As for tomorrow, police are bracing themselves for bigger crowds and more protests against the torch rally. Given the reaction protesters have had in other torch bearing cities around the world, even Supervisor Chris Daly expects something to happen.
"To not take the streets when the torch leaves McCovey Cove would be very un-San Franciscan," Daly said.
As part of emergency preparedness week, university police took over the Student Services building for an hour on Wednesday to stage its first-ever drill for a campus shooting scenario with staff and student participants.
“It’s not something you can choreograph like a fire drill,” said Rita Walsh-Wilson, the emergency preparedness building coordinator for the Student Services building. “Every individual needs to respond to their specific situation.”
This first drill was restricted mostly to participants who were given prior training on how to handle an active shooter event, she said, because appropriate responses in a shooting situation are vastly different from a fire or natural disaster-based emergency.
Literature from the SF State Department of Public Safety advises barricading doors, hiding behind concrete walls or barriers if your route from the building—or away from the shooter—is blocked.
The main training tool was a film distributed by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety called, “Shots Fired—When Lightning Strikes.”
The film “provides the individual employee or student with critical guidance on how to recognize and survive an active shooter situation,” according to CPPS marketing materials.
In April 1999, the phrase “active shooter” entered the educational lexicon when two armed teenagers entered their high school in Columbine, Colo. and killed 12 students and one teacher before turning the guns on themselves.
But the bar for tactics and response to campus shootings was raised in April 2007, when a single assailant succeeded in killing 32 people and wounding 25 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. CSU Chancellor Charles Reed responded, in part, by issuing Executive Order 1013, which called for full-scale emergency exercises to be held annually on all CSU campuses.
Police officers blocked the entrance to Student Services by those not involved in the drill starting at 10 a.m. The first “victim”—represented by a paper shooting-range target mounted on cardboard—was dragged from the building by four officers carrying reddish-brown rifles around 10:30 a.m. No live ammunition was used in the drill.
A hand-written note on the silhouette identified the “victim” as a 35-year-old female with gunshot wounds to her left arm and ear. The simulated victim was conscious and breathing. The officers placed “her” in front of the UPD’s mobile command center bus.
The simulated victim was later joined by a similar representation of a 65-year-old woman who was unconscious but breathing, with no visible wounds and wearing a medic-alert bracelet.
Although the time frame of the drill was planned, most people didn’t know what to expect during the actual event.
DeShion Mitchell, who works for the Educational Opportunity Program, was part of the first group to come out of the building, about 10 minutes after what sounded like
multiple gunshots came from somewhere inside.
As Mitchell exited the building, he practiced what he said was one of the most important things he learned from his active shooter survival training: “How to get out without being shot by police,” he said, laughing as he pantomimed raising his hands slightly above his head with palms out.
Mitchell said the shots sounded like wood planks smacking together, but wasn’t sure how the sound had been generated and didn’t see any “shooters” before he was escorted from the building by officers.
Loan Nguyen, a financial aid officer, appeared nervous as she stood outside Student Services after the drill. When a maintenance vehicle backfired, she jumped and her hands clutched her neck. But Nquyen said she was glad for the opportunity to participate.
“It was a little scary,” she said. “But I wanted to know, at that moment, how I was going to react.”
Nguyen felt she was successful during the drill. She opted to take shelter under a desk where she was able to see without being seen. She said a group of three shooters passed her by without seeing or hearing her.
Nguyen said the training was helpful and had given her guidance on how to react, including not gathering with other people in an easy-to-target group.
University Police Chief Kirk Gaston and SF State’s emergency preparedness coordinator Gayle Orr-Smith were on site for the drill.
Orr-Smith said maintaining a “survival mindset” can be crucial in an active shooter crisis, adding it’s important not to give in to despair.
“Never count yourself out,” she said. “Not as long as you’re breathing.”
Orr-Smith’s first advice is to avoid being an available target, that getting away or hiding out should be the first priority.
But if you find yourself trapped and confronted, she added, you may want to fight back.
“It’s one gun,” she said. “One bullet.” Attempting to disable the assailant with a book or a chair might buy time or save your life, Orr-Smith said.
She acknowledged that campus shootings are a sensitive subject. Many people would prefer not to think about the issue at all, but preparation and honesty are key.
Ultimately, Orr-Smith said, the police response to an active shooter crisis is only part of the answer.
“Thirty thousand people on this campus need to take care of themselves as individuals,” she said.
University police arrested an SF State math lecturer late last month for allegedly striking a campus police officer after the lecturer was approached for jaywalking on 19th Avenue, according to university police.
David Sklar, 61, pleaded not guilty to the six misdemeanor charges filed against him on March 21, including resisting arrest and battery on emergency personnel, which were originally felonies, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. However, the district attorney reduced the charges to misdemeanors, according to the D.A.’s office and the SF State crime log.
Sklar spent two days in jail following the arrest, said his attorney, Brian Getz.
Mathematics department chair David Bao said he will require no disciplinary action against Sklar following the arrest and that Sklar will continue teaching his regular courses.
“I feel this is an unfortunate incident that has been blown way out of proportion,” Bao said. “I have 100 percent confidence behind Mr. Sklar’s integrity. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue teaching here at SF State.”
Officer Jarrod Yee of the university police reportedly approached Sklar around 7 a.m. while the instructor jaywalked near Stonestown, said Getz.
“He thought that he would give him a ticket,” Getz said of Yee.
During the incident involving the arrest, police reported that Sklar was “acting suspicious and was yelling,” and Yee called for backup. When another officer, Todd Settergren, arrived, he allegedly found Yee struggling to hold Sklar against the police car and used his “speed and weight to knock Sklar to the ground.”
Two more officers reportedly came to the scene to help restrain Sklar, and the instructor allegedly tried to kick one of the officers after police handcuffed him. Still holding him on the ground, police held down his legs and upper chest until, “about five minutes later, Sklar did not resist,” according to a police report prepared by Settergreen.
The account of Yee, who was the first officer to approach Sklar, was not included in the police report provided to the [X]press.
University policy does not require immediate discipline of faculty after an arrest and considers events like this on a “case-by-case basis,” said university spokeswoman Ellen Griffin. She added that the faculty member’s supervisors, including department chairs and college deans, determine when discipline is necessary.
Sklar, under the advice of his attorney, did not comment on the matter, except to say, “I’m not going to let this take over my life.” He is scheduled to be in court later this month to determine his future court dates.
The incident occurred two weeks before the forced take-down of a man police said was 61-year-old Richard C. Stypmann, who is homeless, outside of the Cesar Chavez Student Center last week.
Responding to reported complaints that Stypmann was creating a disturbance at the SFSU Bookstore, police confronted him outside of the student center in what led to his take-down.
Staff Writer Doug Morino contributed to this report.
University planners expect to complete the delayed fall 2008 class schedule by April 21, with expected cuts to the school’s budget, meaning fewer classes and potentially higher fees, according to University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs John Gemello.
The continuing legislative debate over the uncertain state budget has made the already complicated scheduling process more difficult. Gemello’s office has had to estimate next semester’s academic resources so deans can decide what classes they can afford to offer.
“We couldn’t wait until the May [revised budget],” Gemello said of the state legislators. “It takes a long time to build a schedule.”
Using a computer program, the office of the provost determines if the rooms are available to house the classes that faculty leaders decide to run under each department’s budget. The sooner deans know the budgets for the various colleges, the sooner they can submit their classes for the often complex processing, Gemello said.
In the original projected budget, the conservative estimates of the provost’s office turned out to be too little money for the deans to flesh out their programs, Gemello said. However, when the state legislative analyst came out with a more favorable possibility for the budget, the provost raised the estimation only partially.
“We didn’t want to be too optimistic,” Gemello said. “It’s better to make adjustments so you can add classes.”
The provost joined University President Robert A. Corrigan in encouraging students to take classes this summer, before the new budget takes effect. Both have said the current budget crisis is worse than the ones seen in 1993 and 2004.
“If you are close to graduation, I strongly advise you to take as full a class schedule as you can manage this spring and summer,” Corrigan wrote in a Jan. 29 e-mail to students. “We cannot predict what next year’s budget will be and whether it will force us to cut back on sections.”
Various lobbying days are planned in late April, beginning with the California State Student Association’s event scheduled for April 21. The following week, on April 28, CSU alumni and the faculty association will hold a “lobby day” in Sacramento. Both rallies are intended to show lawmakers that “the CSU is the solution” to California’s continued budget woes. With educated workers coming out of the CSU system, the revenue they generate will lift the California economy and improve the state’s budget problems, students and faculty argue.
Rather than protest individual schools within the CSU for the budget cuts and potential fee hikes, SF State administrators said more focus is being directed toward Sacramento, a departure from previous years.
“For the first time, students aren’t focusing on the institution, saying, ‘Why are you increasing my fees?’” Corrigan told the [X]press. “They’re looking at where these problems are coming from.”
Along with the rest of the city, SF State students riding Muni may see new cuts in service and raised Fast Pass prices in the next two years, due to the transportation agency’s need to address a budget crisis.
Increases in the price of the Fast Pass, currently $45, and discount passes for disabled riders and seniors, which are currently $10, were viewed as the least acceptable option by the Muni board, but facing an $82 million deficit in the next two years may demand that move, said board members present at the March 18 Municipal Transportation Agency meeting.
“I just think it’s really unfortunate because it already costs a lot,” said sophomore Katie West, 20. “Especially for students.”
Every day, the M-Oceanview light rail line and the 28 bus stops at 19th and Holloway Avenues in front of SF State drop off approximately 5,000 riders and pick up almost 6,000 riders, many of whom are students, according to the San Francisco Transit Effectiveness Project. The M line alone drops off 3,476 people a day and picks up 4,245; the 28 drops off 1,609 and picks up 1,487. The project is a joint endeavor of the Municipal Transportation Agency and the city Controller’s Office “to increase the effectiveness of the City’s Muni transit system,” according to its Web site.
At the March 18 meeting, MTA officials introduced propositions to the board for balancing the budget, including the possibility of raising the Fast Pass fees by $10 for 2009. The rate increase could bring in an additional $12 million, Muni spokesman Judson True said.
“I would like to do anything except raise the fares,” MTA Director Shirley Breyer Black said at the same meeting. “I’d hate to do it because it’s the people who have the least money who have to pay the raised fares.”
The board’s sentiment in March against raising the Fast Pass fees was notably appreciated by several speakers during the public comments, but the suggestion of an increase raised some public outcry.
“I think we’re looking at the wrong place to balance the budget,” San Francisco resident James Muszalski said during the public comments. “I think some of these over-bloated salaries, not just in this board or in this division, but in the city, need to be looked at and taken care of.”
SF State student Sari Storm, 21, said she doesn’t see the price increase as beneficial to the city.
“I think especially with gas prices rising, it would be very helpful to lower the Fast Pass prices,” she said.
Despite such statements from the public and the board, MTA officials again delivered their recommendations to raise frees at the April 1 meeting.
Among other tactics to increase revenue, MTA recommendations made on April 1 included more than half a dozen fee increases in various permits and violations for the 2008-2009 year. In addition Fast Pass, discount passes and parking meter rate increases were recommended for 2009-2010.
“For a year, that’s half of my summer tuition almost. I have to work more to pay it,” said freshman Amy Wong, 18.
A board decision is expected on April 15. MTA’s budget deadline is May 1.
Highway 280 North on King Street will be closed around 9 a.m. until the torch run is finished, which is estimated to end around 4 p.m. Drivers will be re-directed to the 6th Street off ramp.
Drivers can expect delays along the Embarcadero around 1 p.m. torch opening ceremonies begin at McCovey Cove located at 3rd and Terry Francois Boulevard. The closing ceremony will be at Justin Herman Plaza.
Muni cable cars will be not in service at 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. between Fisherman's Wharf and Van Ness Avenue
Muni Metro service between Embarcadero Station and 4th and King Streets will be closed from noon until 4:00 p.m.
If Muni riders need to conenct to CalTran, Muni suggests to get off at the Powell station and take the 30- Stockton or 45- Union bus lines.
Street closures are subject to change as the torch route may change throughout the day.
Information provided by the SFMTA.
Three pro-Tibet activists climbed the Golden Gate Bridge and unveiled a banner in protest of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said Golden Gate Bridge spokesperson Mary Currie.
The protesters are from Students for a Free Tibet and had written "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008" on the banner.
The group scaled the bridge around 10:15 a.m. and came down voluntarily around 1:00 p.m. One member needed assistance from bridge crew because she was tangled in the banner.
Two men and a woman were arrested and will be charged with criminal trespassing, according to Kary Witt, Golden Gate Bridge manager. Witt said the group hid climbing equipment in at least one baby carriage.
The move comes two days before the Olympic Torch makes its only North American appearance.
The Human Rights Torch, a symbol of protest against the Chinese government, made an appearance in San Francisco’s Union Square this afternoon and was greeted with sunny skies and a vocal crowd of several hundred.
The Human Rights Torch comes to the Bay Area four days before the official Olympic Torch’s only stop in North America. The Human Rights Torch is in the middle of a worldwide tour that is to include 37 countries across six continents.
San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly opened the Human Rights Torch Relay. Daly authored a resolution condemning human rights violations by the Chinese government, which was unanimously passed by the Board of Supervisors
“It is my honor to welcome the Human Rights Torch to San Francisco….because this torch embodies San Francisco values,” he said as he held his young son in his arms. “We have a moral obligation to speak out, and we cannot divorce the Olympics from politics.”
Sherry Zhang, an organizer of Saturday’s Torch Relay event, said the arrival of the Human Rights Torch is intended to bring people together. She added that organizers hope the torch’s journey will shed awareness on human rights violations that the Chinese government is responsible for.
“We’re positive that many people here care about human rights in China,” she said. “The Olympic spirit is about peace and freedom…and what’s going on in China is exactly the opposite of that.”
Zhang cited specific examples of these violations, including violence in Tibet, persecution of followers of Falun Gong—a spiritual movement practiced throughout China—and the holding of political prisoners by the Chinese government.
One onlooker who was spending the afternoon enjoying the sun and good weather voiced his support of the protest.
“I hope people understand what’s going on there,” said Clyde Burkle, who was visiting from Washington, as he sat with several friends at a Union Square Café. “I think it’s great that people have gathered like this to protest the Olympics being held in China, and I’m in full support of what they’re doing today.”
“People say the Olympics aren’t political…but let’s face it—they are,” he added.
Although support for demonstrators against the Chinese government was high Saturday afternoon—and is only expected to increase in the coming days with the arrival of the Olympic torch on Wednesday—the true essence of the Olympics is lost amid the protests, said Cathie Lam, a community activist who works with the Chinatown Community Development Center.
“People have the freedom to protest. But we must remember to promote the spirit, and respect the Olympic spirit that is not just all about China,” she said. “The Olympics is about the Olympics, nothing more.” she added.
Although she was not in attendance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government, condemned human rights violations in China.
“Sadly, the Chinese government has not lived up to its commitments to improve the human rights situation in China and Tibet,” she said in a prepared statement. “Because of this, I believe the International Olympic Committee made a mistake in awarding the Olympics to China.”
Saturday’s event included a wide-range of speakers who discussed the correlation between the Olympic games and China’s human rights violations. Among them was John Carlos, a bronze medalist in track and field at the 1968 Mexico City games.
“The people of China deserve to have the Olympic games,” he said. “But their government does not deserve that same right.”
Event canceled at SF State downtown campus
by Jerold Chinn, spot news editor
A forum about the Olympics and human rights was to be held at SF State's downtown campus this afternoon, but university officials decided to cancel the event last night.
The forum was scheduled on the 6th floor at 2:30 p.m., but was canceled due to the number of people that might show up.
"We heard that potentially there could have been hundreds of people coming to this event," said Zelinda Zingaro, director of the Campus Asset & Space Administration. "We were not prepared to handle that many people."
The event was sponsored by the Human Rights Torch Relay, a grass root campaign to bring attention to the human rights record of China before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
The Fight the Fees student organization hosted a rally Friday to promote another teach-in scheduled for April 23 to inform students of the current budget crisis.
“Education is a right, not a privilege,” the Fight the Fees group’s red shirts read as they congregated at Malcolm X Plaza . The organization's goal is to shut down the school with a walk out on May 1 in opposition to the planned cuts and fee increases.
“The only way is to mass organize,” said a Fight the Fees organizer Drew Van. “We want to have strikes, shut the school down.”
The rally is in continuance of a series of campus events addressing the state budget cuts that stem back to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposition in January to cut $312.9 million from the California State University.
The Fight the Fees group rallied early March and held a teach-in and an event in the quad that led to a loud but peaceful march in to the Administration building, as students chanted, “No Cuts, No Fees”.
“The money exists in the form of war spending and corporate taxes,” said English graduate student Marc Lispi, 28, who suggest a 2 percent tax on such industries.
“Were watching our futures being thrown away.”
SF State officials have confirmed that another round of scam e-mails have been circulating through the inboxes of SF State students and employees in recent weeks.
The most recent round of attacks occurred over spring break, said Mig Hoffman, SF State’s information security officer.
During the first round of phishing scams in early March, approximately 50,000 students, alumni and faculty were targeted by anonymous scammers hoping to obtain personal information such as passwords and usernames. Hoffman said a similar number of people at SF State were targeted during the latest round of scam e-mails.
“There was another round of phishing activity [that] started intensely about 11:00 a.m. [on March 28],” Hoffman said.
Hoffman declined to answer questions sent to her in an e-mail asking how many students may have responded to the fraudulent e-mails, or how many recipients reported them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoffman also did not confirm if the e-mails were part of an isolated attempt to target SF State addresses, or if the current round of scam e-mails is a small part of a larger scam targeting other universities in California State University system.
In light of recent scam attempts targeting students, the current software most widely used by the California State University system to prevent phishing attacks is being replaced, although the new upgraded software has yet to be installed on campus computing systems, added Hoffman.
“We are working with [software] to catch and stop the [phishing] activity, but the hardware is still being tested and so hasn’t yet been approved,” she said.
Although Hoffman did not confirm if the two rounds of scam e-mails were related or originated from the same source, the Internet protocol number from the most recent e-mails is associated with similar fraud e-mails scams, according to Internet fraud watch Web sites.
Several versions of the messages were sent, but the most recent mass e-mails that were sent last Friday claim to be from the “The Sfsu Webmail TEAM” and state that respondents must reply with e-mail addresses and passwords, otherwise their account will be deleted. The message stated: “We are currently upgrading our data base [sic] and e-mail account center…We are deleting all Sfsu e-mail account [sic] to create more space for new accounts.”
Students are encouraged to send all suspicious emails to email@example.com and are encouraged to never reply to SF State e-mails with personal information. For more information visit the Division of Technology Information Web site.
The official torch of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing is traveling 95,000 miles across five continents in a “journey of harmony” symbolizing international peace.
But on April 9, as the torch reaches San Francisco—its only North American destination—it will face opposition and protests by Bay Area activist groups concerned with China’s conduct in regard to human rights.
The politics surrounding the arrival of the torch have been anything but harmonious.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a non-binding resolution on Tuesday that condemns China’s human rights record. The resolution has been met with controversy by members of the Chinese-American community in the city, as well as representatives of the Chinese Consulate of San Francisco. They claim that it will damage relations between San Francisco and China.
“As the eyes of the world are on San Francisco,” it needs to be “remembered as a city that cares about freedom,” said Supervisor Chris Daly, who authored the resolution, which passed 8-3. By passing the measure, the board officially greets the torch from China “with alarm and protest.”
The torch’s route was long concealed from the public, prompting prospective protesters to criticize Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Police Department for potentially infringing on the right to protest. The police finally released the route on Tuesday. Local activists, including the American Civil Liberties Union and
various human rights organizations have been critical of Newsom’s delayed release of the route.
Activist groups representing Sudan, Tibet, and Myanmar are expecting a massive turnout of thousands to protest China’s influence on these countries, demanding that China commits itself to human rights in these regions.
One major protesting group—the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition—is using the torch run as a chance to demand China use its power to enforce human rights in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.
“This is a very unique opportunity for Americans to get out in front of the government of China in person to continue and escalate our requests that China—as a major superpower, and as a country that is qualified to be the host of the Olympics—needs to step up and persuade the government of Sudan to end the genocide in Darfur,” said Martina Knee of the Darfur Coalition.
“We’re trying to get China to act as a universal human rights protector,” added Stephen McNeil of the Coalition.
The Coalition plans on lining strategic points along the Olympic flame route with thousands of activists holding placards reading, “China: Extinguish the flames of genocide in Darfur.” Newsom has said it is important to realize that the Olympics is about international unity and not politics. Knee insisted that this statement is not intended to disrespect the Olympic games.
“We are not protesting the Olympics or the torch relay,” she said. “We are just using this extremely visible opportunity to get our message to China.”
Nihar Bhatt, a 30-year-old statistics major at SF State, said it is appropriate to protest politically during the Olympics.
“I think that China’s record is obviously atrocious, but I think that as an American it’s important to acknowledge that there is a political element within this country that is not really interested in protecting workers in China or here, but helping the U.S. compete with China as an escalating rival superpower in the world,” he said.
Bay Area groups concerned with the current situation in Tibet are also using the torch rally as a chance to express their message and demand human rights for the Tibetan people.
Giovanni Vassallo—president of Bay Area Friends of Tibet, Committee of 100 for Tibet, and SF State alumnus—believes China is using the torch rally to distract the world from the conflict between the Chinese government and the independence movement in Tibet.
“It’s an outrage that there is this charade of harmony, that the Chinese government is using it as a propaganda tool to make it look like everything is harmonious in Tibet,” he said.
On April 8, the day before the Beijing Olympic torch arrives in San Francisco, another torch will pass through the city. The Tibetan freedom torch march is intended to raise human rights concerns and “represent Tibetan aspiration for freedom and justice,” Vassallo said.
“There is really not true freedom of religion in Tibet” due to Chinese oppression, Vassallo said. He added that traditional Tibetan culture is being stifled by the governing powers of China, which will not allow Tibetan language to be taught at high levels.
“Every Tibetan family has lost someone or suffered from the repression of the Chinese government,” Vassallo said. “We are reminding the world that there is no real harmony in Tibet.”
Activist groups fighting for human rights in Myanmar (Burma) are also planning on protesting during the San Francisco torch relay.
Since 2003, the Sudanese government and “Janjaweed” militias have been in violent conflict with rebel groups Sudanese Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement.
In attempts to end the rebel presence, the Sudanese military and Janjaweed militias have terrorized the civilian population with murder, rape and torture.
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 activists believe these strong economic ties enable the Khartoum government to violently oppress the people of Darfur and continue the genocide.
Activists argue that since China is on the security council of the United Nations, it should use its power to do whatever possible to increase stability in Sudan and hold the Khartoum government responsible for the genocide.
Ever since China colonized Tibet in 1951, Tibetans have been protesting China’s rule. China’s 1951 occupation of Tibet resulted in “a systematic destruction of monasteries, suppression of religion, denial of political freedom, widespread arrests and imprisonment and massacre of innocent men, women and children” according to the Government of Tibet in Exile.
Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the Dalai Lama, condemned China’s sovereignty over Tibet, insisting that China is engaging in “cultural genocide.”
On March 10 of this year, the anniversary of a failed 1959 revolt which resulted in the Dalai Lama’s escape to India, Tibetans once again came together to defy Chinese rule. The protests intensified as Tibetans in Lhasa rioted, setting fire to Chinese-owned businesses.
Chinese police reacted by firing tear gas into the crowds, beating protestors, and firing live ammunition to disperse them, according to Amnesty International.
In August 2007, about 100,000 Burmese citizens engaged in a peaceful protest led by Buddhist monks against the military government. The government violently cracked down on these protests, beating and killing unarmed protestors and monks.
According to the Burmese American Democratic Alliance, China has supplied more than $3 billion in arms to Burma’s military government. China is also Myanmar’s main trading partner.
According to Amnesty International, there are currently more than 1,850 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Myanmar—many of whom are journalists, pro-democracy activists and citizens who have expressed dissent against the government.
BADA has written an open letter to the sponsors of the Beijing Olympic games in an attempt to get them to withdraw their support from the Olympic games because of China’s support of Burma’s government.
The Associated Students, Inc. finalized its election results today with Natalie Franklin capturing 371 votes to win the position of board president, beating out Anthony “muscle up” Zamora, who had 185 votes and Gray Lange, who had 72.
The race for president was the most competitive contest, but campaigning on campus was light in the weeks leading up to the elections.
Election organizers hoped that a new, online voting system would boost voter turnout, but that was not the case.
Fewer than 800 voters cast ballots either in person or online. That represents the third lowest voter turnout in ASI election history and almost half as many voters as last year, said Horace Montgomery, ASI’s leadership development coordinator.
Jesse Bevan, ASI’s behavioral and social science representative, called the turnout “extremely disappointing,” and blamed the low numbers on a lack of competitive campaigning.
The office of education representative is being contested, as both write-in candidates, Peter Gallego and Armando Longoria, received only one vote each.
If both candidates are deemed eligible for office, a special election may need to be held to resolve the tie.
But the tie is not the only leadership dispute. Former ASI President Isidro Armenta was deemed ineligible in early March to hold the presidency because he had too many units, a ruling he has vigorously disputed.
Armenta has refused to step down as the board’s president when he was deemed ineligible, but he did not attend the Wednesday meeting as he previously planned.
The last ASI meeting was adjourned when Armenta refused to yield his seat. Penny Saffold, vice president of student affairs, asked University Police to persuade him to leave. Police spoke with Armenta, but did not arrest or cite him.
University administrators wrote to Armenta and told him that he had more than the 150 units allowed to participate in undergraduate student government. Armenta contended that only units earned at SF State should be counted in his cumulative total.
Several board members publicly asked Armenta to resolve his eligibility issues without disrupting ASI meetings.
“I made my point, but if I continue to go [to meetings] they’ll blame the lack of business action on me,” Armenta said before Wednesday’s meeting.
He said funding student organizations and responding to the budget crisis was too important to be disrupted. Armenta said his next step is to send a letter to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and make a public statement to students. Armenta isn’t worried about how he will get e-mail contacts for the entire student body.
“I’ll get it out,” he said. “I’m creative.”
Board discussion at Wednesday’s meeting focused on plans to charter busses to take students to Sacramento to lobby for restored California State University funding on April 21.
New Front Coalition, a student activist group, requested help from ASI to transport 250 students who plan to march on the capitol.
Members also reviewed a draft of a letter that will ask deans to educate their colleges about the proposed budget cuts and request students not be penalized for ditching classes to go to Sacramento.
Get out much? If you're an out-of-town student living near campus, chances are you haven't seen as much of San Francisco as you know you should have—and if you're from here, perhaps the only time you explore the city nowadays is when family is in town and wants to see the sights.
It's time to venture out and see what this city is all about. The best way to do it? Riding the San Francisco Municipal Railway—or Muni, to you and me.
Sure, with its dirty and often-overcrowded buses and the sketchy-at-best scheduling, Muni hardly sounds like the most inspiring way to tour. But with more than 80 routes covering 90 percent of all the city's residences, Muni is the best option for seeing the underbelly of San Francisco.
The tour detailed here requires some patience—it consists of at least eight buses, two light rail trains and a cable car, and covers almost 30 miles—but if you're willing to give up an afternoon following the entire route, you'll be rewarded with a unique perspective of the city. Beginning and ending at SF State, it will take you as far north, east, south and west as the city will allow.
You can complete the tour in around four hours, but you may want to plan a whole day off to give you time to explore. Be sure to pick up a Muni map at the SF State bookstore before heading off.
M Ocean View
Take the Italian-built 'M' light-rail train at 19th Avenue and Holloway, to the art deco-styled West Portal station. Begin your Magical Mystery Muni tour with a drink at the Philosopher's Club (if it's open) or "the best crab melt sandwich in the city" at Toasties; both are around the corner from the station.
48 Quintara-24th Street
Catch the 48 from Ulloa Street, opposite the Metro station. As you ascend up the hill, you’ll see Sutro Tower—a TV and radio broadcasting structure—to the west, and on a clear day, the ocean is visible.
Ask the driver to stop at Portola and Glenview.
37 Corbett (Part I)
While waiting for the 37 on the corner of Glenview St., take in the vista to the south—sometimes you can see the Santa Cruz mountains.
As the electric-powered bus winds its way around Twin Peaks, you’ll be wowed by the stunning views to the east: you’ll see the downtown skyline, the docks and shipyards at China Basin, and the Mission with its surrounding neighborhoods. Further east is the skyline of Oakland, set in front of the silhouetted Mount Diablo.
Hop off at 14th Street and Church, and explore the gay-centric vibe of the Castro district.
37 Corbett (Part II)
Embark on the 37 from the 14th Street stop, across the street from where you first got off, headed west. You’ll snake up and around Buena Vista Park, and then down through Cole Valley. Get off at Haight Street, the spiritual birthplace of 1967’s Summer of Love. Today it’s more about head shops, stylish clothing boutiques and street kids hustling for cash. Don’t miss Amoeba Records at Haight and Stanyon.
71 Haight-Noriega/7 Haight/66 Quintara
From anywhere on Haight Street, catch either the 7, 71 or 66 bus, headed downtown. Get off at Fillmore Street in the Lower Haight. Hungry? Grab a top-notch gourmet hot dog from Rosmunde’s Sausage Grill.
Pick up the southbound 22 from Fillmore Street, and take it all the way to 3rd Street. You’ll pass the Mission district, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and then through Potrero Hill before terminating at China Basin.
Notice the gentrification of Potrero Hill’s warehouse district—lofts and high-end grocery stores are everywhere.
At 3rd Street, you’ll see San Francisco’s dwindling blue-collar past, with cement factories, warehouses and dockyards set among the brand-new UCSF research center. The Ramp restaurant at 17th and Mariposa has an outdoor patio on the water’s edge, and features live music on weekends.
The ‘T-Third’ Metro line began full service a year ago, making it the city’s first brand-new light rail system in over 50 years. En route to the downtown Embarcadero Station, you’ll pass the glorious AT&T park, one of the nation’s finest ballparks and the home of the San Francisco Giants.
California Street Cable Car
Exit the Metro station and mosey over to where Drumm, California and Market intersect. From here you’ll ride a cable car up California Street. If you have a Fast Pass, the ride is free. If not, it’ll cost you a near-extortionate $5.
San Francisco has been operating these classic cars since 1873. The 1906 earthquake forced most of the routes to switch to streetcars, and now there are only three working cable car routes. The California route is San Francisco’s best-kept secret: while throngs of tourists line up for hours to ride the Powell-Mason line, this one is comparatively underused.
Catch glimpses of the bay through the buildings as the car hikes its way up the hill past Chinatown, Union Square, Grace Cathedral and the Fairmont Hotel, and then down to Van Ness Avenue, where it terminates.
47 Van Ness/49 Van Ness-Mission
From Van Ness Avenue, take either the 47 or 49 northbound to Fort Mason, a former United States Army post that now houses art studios, cultural centers and a youth hostel. Traipse through the old to find the decommissioned cannons pointing over the bay toward the Golden Gate, poised and ready to ward off enemy attacks.
28 19th Avenue
At the western edge of the fort, find the bus stop opposite the main entrance and take the 28 bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. Be sure to sit on the right side of the bus.
Once past the dreary motel-lined Lombard Street, you’ll be cruising along the ridge of the Presidio, where you’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, Angel Island and plenty of sail boats bobbing about in the frisky bay waters. Look the other way, toward the Presidio, and the view is more sobering: the 28-acre San Francisco National Cemetery and its 30,000 military graves.
Disembark at the Golden Gate Bridge and take a stroll across the iconic “international orange”-colored structure.
This bus meanders through the Presidio, once the longest-serving military base in the United States. Today, most of the cream-colored barracks are empty and the entire area is a nationally recognized historic landmark.
Once past the wooded eucalyptus thickets, you’ll get a good view of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes you can see the Farallon Islands, which are 27 miles off the coast and teeming with elephant seals and Great White Sharks.
Hop off at 25th Avenue and Fulton Street and explore Golden Gate Park—at over 1,000 acres, it’s one of the largest urban parks in the country.
Take the bus along the north edge of the park all the way to Ocean Beach, a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of chilly waters and unpredictable rip tides that curiously have become a surfer’s paradise.
Here you’ll find the recently renovated Cliff House restaurant, originally built in 1858 and overlooking the Sutro Baths, or the more contemporary Beach Chalet, which features an outdoor beer garden during the summer months.
18 46th Avenue
The final leg of the journey begins across the street from the Safeway on La Playa Street. As the bus meanders past the pastel-colored single-family homes, ponder the fact that until the 1920s, much of the Sunset was little more than the grass-covered sand dunes still visible along the ocean’s edge.
The tour finishes with a loop around the ever-shrinking Lake Merced—a freshwater lake fed by an underground spring, and surrounded by shooting ranges and three golf courses—before terminating at State Blvd.
The acceptance letters have finally been sent and the “intent to register” period has begun for incoming college students, but it’s their younger siblings who may have an easier time getting into universities across the country in the coming years.
The number of high school graduates in the United States will peak at 2.9 million in the next year or two before declining until 2015, according to a New York Times article published last month. Assuming this translates into fewer students applying to college, many universities say the selection process will be less competitive.
Tysha Caitano, an SF State freshman, was rejected from her first-choice college in Southern California. Although she has no younger siblings who would benefit from the graduation decline, Caitano said she has several high school friends who might.
“If they get [into that school] when I didn’t, I’ll be annoyed,” Caitano, 19, said.
Due to budget cuts and uncertainty about next year’s funding, the California State University system’s administrators have been asked to lower their enrollment numbers for the fall. SF State is expecting to have 200 fewer freshmen, said Jo Volkert, associate vice president of enrollment management at SF State.
“We project for the future, but we’re mostly living in the short term,” Volkert said. “We’re waiting to see what the budget’s going to be next year.”
At an on-campus town hall meeting held on March 17, University President Robert A. Corrigan said SF State’s budget will suffer a $25 million hit in the coming year.
For the upcoming fall semester, SF State received more than 41,000 applications, with hopeful freshmen accounting for 75 percent of the total. Last fall, more new freshmen (3,400) than new transfer students (3,200) enrolled at SF State—a trend that started in fall 2005, Volkert said.
“In the past, we were predominantly perceived as a transfer institution,” she said. “But we’ve transitioned into a more freshman-oriented university also.”
Volkert attributes the boost in freshman interest partly to the increase in on-campus housing for underclassmen. Besides the two 410-person dormitories, SF State also offers the 15-story Towers at Centennial Square and 100-person Science and Technology themed building.
New marketing strategies around San Francisco have helped bring more freshmen student to the university, as well as the receptions in Southern California that allow students to learn about the campus without physically visiting. Caitano, who grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, said several of her friends at SF State are from California’s southern counties.
In 1992, 80 percent of SF State’s students were from the Bay Area. Now, the breakdown of students from Northern and Southern California is 50-50, according to the Office of University and Budget Planning.
“People in other parts of the state started asking, ‘What else is out there?’” Volkert said.
Volkert added she doesn’t believe the national decline will affect schools in the Western United States as much as the East.
Volkert’s statement is concordant with The New York Times’s findings—the number of high school graduates is expected to continue increasing in the south and southwestern regions, while falling in the northeast and midwest.
“Historically, when the population goes down and [the state of] the economy worsens, college enrollments goes up—it’s counterintuitive,” Volkert said, adding that this is often the case when budget crises strike. “It does play out over time.”
Ann Coulter visits SF State?
Conservative icon Ann Coulter at SF State? April fools, said College Republican President Trent Downes.
Coulter, known for her fiery criticism of liberals, was scheduled to appear on campus today, according to the “upcoming events” calender on the College Republicans’ Web site.
The author was not scheduled to appear in San Francisco and will speak in Pennsylvania tomorrow, according to both groups who schedule Coulter’s college talks, the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and the Young America Foundation.
“Our old president thought it would be a funny joke,” Downes said, referring to previous College Republicans president Leigh Wolf. “I still think it’s kind of funny, actually.”
Muni Reopens late night rides
If you’re finding yourself on campus late into the night and are headed inbound towards the Embarcadero, you will no longer be forced off the metro train at Muni’s West Portal station.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) restored full weeknight service to 1 a.m. between the West Portal and Embarcadero stations on its KT, L and M lines as of Monday, Mar. 24.
Previously, riders would be asked to ride a shuttle bus between closed station after 9:00 p.m.
The KT, L and M shuttle bus service will be discontinued between West Portal and Van Ness stations. The regular Owl bus services will operate on a normal schedule.
Muni limited its service back in January 2006 for the “Metro Subway Overhead Improvement Project,” which set out to replace the overhead wires that provide power to the subway cars.
SFMTA also announced that the Twin Peaks Tunnel and West Portal Station improvement projects will offer “faster, smoother and more reliable service” on the KT, L and M lines.
If you find yourself on campus late at night and would like an escort across campus to the Muni platform at 19th and Holloway avenues, contact the campus Department of Public Safety at 415-338-7200.
San Francisco State’s Campus Alliance for a Risk-free Environment (C.A.R.E.) will arrange for your escort, but asks that you allow 10 to 15 minutes for C.A.R.E. to arrive.
SF State to run a shooter drill next week
Business at SF State’s Student Services Building will be interrupted on Wednesday morning, April 9, during a University Police Department “Active Shooter” drill.
The drill will take place in the middle of SF State’s emergency preparedness week and will test coordination, notification and response to a campus shooting scenario.
Students should plan their business around the drill, which is scheduled to run from approximately 10 to 11 a.m. Police and safety officials will be on site and the building will be cordoned off.
People in the Student Services building who are not involved in the training will be warned when the drill begins.
Other emergency preparedness programming for the event will include outdoor exhibits throughout the week hosted by the American Red Cross, U.S. Geological Society, the University Police Department and others.
Screenings of the public safety film, “Shots Fired,” will run on video screens in the Cesar Chavez Student Center on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The film gives instruction on what to do in the event gun violence occurs on campus.
Senate passes 19th Ave. bill
The 19th Avenue double fine zone legislation by state Sen. Leland Yee has passed the Senate Transportation 8-1 on April 1.
“I am hopeful that with this new double fine zone and continued improvements, we can finally create a safe corridor for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists,” Yee said in a press release.
SB 1491 will designate the 19th Avenue corridor between Junipero Serra and Lake Street a double fine zone for drivers who violate traffic laws.
Along with the double fine zone legislation, a number of safety enhancements will be made on 19th Avenue including new pedestrian countdown signals.
The legislation heads now to the Senate Public Safety committee.
Located on the fourth floor of SF State's Burk Hall, the Vista Room is where hospitality management and dietetics majors create a fine dining experience for the public to enjoy.
The student run facility, under the supervision of Chef Daniel Honan, helps students gain real world restaurant experience by providing them opportunities to prepare and serve three-course meals to the campus community.
The students say they feel lucky to have opportunity to leave valuable lessons.
"I don't think I would have learned the same management skills if I were working outside," said Pauline Ha, dining room manager. "Over here, I learn a lot of skills such as communication and how to manage peers."
Students cook and serve meals from a menu that changes weekly and patrons must make reservations in advance. Meals are priced at $14.
Students or faculty with free time around the lunch hour can visit the Vista Room for a unique experience to an otherwise ordinary school day.
Regular dining service runs Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m. 1:30 p.m. To make reservations, call 415-338-6087.
Click the link on the right to view the multimedia...
An unidentified man at the SFSU Bookstore was taken down by SF State police causing a disruptive scene, according to witnesses on April 2.
“He was ranting in the bookstore and then he went outside and started yelling at the vendors,” said Shane Papatolics, 33, an education major who was in the bookstore.
Another SF State student witness, Colleen Nanry, communications major, saw the man dragged on the ground face first. “[He was] absolutely not resisting,” said Nanry.
SF State Police Officer Joe Mora said the man “was yelling at people and causing a disturbance.”
The man suffered a cut to his head and was sent to San Francisco General Hospital, said Captain Jun Takashi of the SF State police.
According to Takashi, the SFSU bookstore will be pressing charges.
Photographers Eric Lawson and Molly Stetson contributed to this report.
Anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, spoke in San Francisco on March 30, condemning the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a “supreme war crime” and warning about the dangers of a future war in Iran.
At the time he exposed the confidential study of Vietnam War policy, he was a consultant to the Defense Department. He risked possible life imprisonment, but felt that the information was of great importance to the American public.
Since then Ellsberg has worked as an anti-war activist, working with the American Civil Liberties Union and establishing the Truth-Telling Project which is intended to expose government corruption and lies and encourage “patriotic whistle-blowing.”
Ellsberg’s talk was a celebration of the 10th year anniversary of the War and Law League (WALL), a non-profit San Francisco-based organization working to ensure that the U.S. government follows the Constitution, treaties, and international laws in times of war and peace.
Ellsberg condemned Bush and Cheney as “domestic enemies of the constitution,” an accusation that brought the entire crowd of people—a vast majority of whom were from the Vietnam War era—to a loud standing applause.
He explained that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was illegal, in clear violation of the U.N. charter and international law.
“It was a war of aggression without approval from the U.N. security council,” he said.
“The scourge of war is what the U.N. was founded to prevent,” added WALL coordinator Jeannette Hassberg. “This is the very crime that Japanese and Germans were hung for at Nuremberg.”
A major theme of the talk was the importance of staying true to constitutional principals. Ellsberg specifically mentioned Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution—which gives congress the exclusive power to declare war—explaining that this is essential for limiting the powers of the president.
“That was a brilliant and profound invention in world history,” Ellsberg said. “It deserves for us to struggle preserve it.”
While Congress did vote to go to war in October 2002, they gave absolute power to the president to declare war on anyone he determined was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, according to WALL.
“The Constitution never assigned to the president the power to police the world,” wrote the organization in an official statement.
Ellsberg said that this resolution from Congress basically gave Bush absolute power to engage in unprovoked war, which is unconstitutional. He added that there was no serious question into the legality of the Iraq invasion.
“We have gone far from the Constitution,” he said.
“As a constitutional matter, Bush does not decide,” added Hassberg. “He doesn’t decide that we will do a regime change in another country.”
She added that the administration manipulated the public into supporting the war through twisting of information and irrational appeals to hate and fear.
“The justification for the war were clear lies,” she said. “The reasons they gave for the war were false.”
In addition, the conduct of the Iraq war has been highly illegal, she added.
She listed a multitude of criminal offenses committed by American troops since the 2003 Iraq invasion, such as the killing of innocent civilians, the bombing of weddings, the killing of journalists, firing into protests, detentions and interrogations without fair trial and search and destroy missions without a clear purpose.
“We made enemies out of the Iraqis,” she said. “We came in as murderers and created more hate in the Iraqis by the conduct of the war.”
Weapons used by American troops in the Iraq war, including deadly chemicals such as depleted uranium and white phosphorous, which causes a severe burning of the flesh, are severely damaging to civilians as well as the environment. These chemicals are known to cause leukemia, cancer and birth defects, she said.
“These weapons are dumped in people’s neighborhood and people are being exposed to radiation,” said Students Against War member Matt Collado, 20. “It is not acknowledged in mainstream media and it is ignored in public discourse. Whether or not it is legal, it is deeply immoral.”
Ellsberg added that the Bush administration’s use of torture is clearly illegal under international law and “not just waterboarding, but the whole slew of inhumane procedures that has gone on for seven years now.”
Hassberg is frustrated that the mainstream media often overlooks the human cost of the war, especially the psychological and emotional toll taken on Iraq veterans.
“Young people are used like meat to do the dirty work of this heartless, ruthless administration,” she said. “It’s been worse than abusing the troops. It’s been taking their lives and wasting it.”
She credited the Iraq Veterans Against the War and KPFA March 2008 project “Winter Soldier,” which features firsthand testimonies from veterans who speak openly about their experiences on the battlefield, and their subsequent challenges adjusting to life after the traumas of war.
Ellsberg added that the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens is a total violation of the fourth amendment of the constitution.
He compared this domestic monitoring to corrupt tactics used in the Nixon administration. After Ellsberg leaked the classified Pentagon Papers, Nixon’s administration spied on him and broke into his private records in an attempt to blackmail him, he said.
He was tried for 12 felonies and a possible 115 years in prison, but all charges were dropped because of government misconduct against him, which eventually contributed to Nixon’s impeachment.
Ellsberg stressed the importance of dissent, explaining that acting in the best interest of the country and staying true to constitutional values is “not synonymous with obeying the president.”
He praised Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq in 2006 because of moral opposition to the war. Watada was the first commissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.
“Watada is the only officer in the U.S. armed forces who has taken seriously his oath to uphold the Constitution,” Ellsberg said. He argued that it is necessary to impeach Bush because of his violation of the Constitution as well as the U.N. charter and other international laws.
“To rule impeachment off the table is very much like ruling the Constitution off the table,” he said.
Even as a symbolic gesture, impeachment would hold the administration accountable for its crimes and demonstrate that the president is not above the law, Hassberg said. She sees this as part of a process of “truth and reconciliation.”
“It would restore our honor worldwide and show that we believe in our laws,” she said. “Impeachment is a disgrace and the Bush presidency has been worse than a disgrace.”
Although Ellsberg showed concern that an exit from Iraq is unlikely—even as a potential plan among Democratic candidates—he expressed hope that there is a possibility for averting a war against Iran.
“Iran has not attacked us, and does not have a nuclear weapon,” he said, adding that a pre-emptive attack on Iran would be “nothing but a crime against humanity and a crime against the people.”
“If anything can be more tragic than the war against Iraq, it would be attacking Iran,” agreed Hassberg.
“My hope is that with the War and Law League we can have an impact and we can raise our voices and show our dissatisfaction with the never-ending war policy.”
Conservative icon Ann Coulter at SF State? April fools, said College Republican President Trent Downes.
Coulter, known for her fiery criticism of liberals, was scheduled to appear on campus today, according to the "upcoming events" calender on the College Republicans' Web site.
The author was not scheduled to appear in San Francisco and will speak in Pennsylvania tomorrow, according to both groups who schedule Coulter's college talks, the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and the Young America Foundation.
"Our old president thought it would be a funny joke," Downes said, referring to previous College Republicans president Leigh Wolf. "I still think it's kind of funny, actually."