August 2008 Archives
As some students scramble for this semester’s scarcer classes before the Sept. 9 add deadline, SF State administrators are doing something unexpected – adding more sections.
Since the beginning of August, 46 sections were added; some as recently as last week, said John Kim, acting associate vice president of academic resources. Students can view recently added sections as they become available through a new feature of the online class schedule.
“The budget situation is serious,” Kim said in an email. “The university is working very hard to try to meet the needs of students, but there are limits to what we can do with the reduced funding we expect to receive from the state.”
Some departments requested additional funding to add sections to their programs to meet student demand.
“We have tried to fund these requests for additional sections as we can,” Kim said, “and we have added a number of sections based on the recommendations of [SF State] colleges and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.”
But with the semester already in progress, adding sections is a difficult logistical problem to solve, Kim said.
Even with funding, he said, there are problems finding instructors to teach additional classes without advance notice – throwing them into a new class without time to develop a curriculum or prepare a lesson plan.
Kim indicated that classrooms that can hold enough students at specific times are scarce and matching the needed students, teachers and facilities has proved to be a difficult task.
The number of sections available to students is still in flux, Kim said. Classes with low enrollment are cancelled and new sections are added when enough students are interested to justify the financing, Kim said. But there are still significantly fewer classes than in fall 2007.
“As of the beginning of this week, we were offering 3,529 course sections—140 sections fewer than last fall, which is 3.8 percent fewer sections than last fall,” Kim said.
Although there are slightly fewer students on campus this year based on the Office of Enrollment Management’s numbers, it is not enough to offset the reduction in available class sections.
No students have been turned away from university enrollment despite fewer class offerings, said Jo Volkert, associate vice president for enrollment management, in an email.
“Overall headcount is 80 students fewer than last year at the same time,” Volkert wrote.
Based on an estimated average class size of 35 people, those 140 missing classes could represent close to 5,000 students who aren’t getting a class they want or need.
Making the most of the offerings the university can provide and planning strategically for the future can mitigate some of the damage. And some departments are attempting to collect information about how many students are turned away from full classes, Kim said.
Knowing how many students were turned away, Kim said, is a beneficial tool to prepare for the next semester.
“Information departments collect can help them plan for the spring [semester], since unmet demand for specific sections this fall should be reflected in demand for those sections next spring,” Kim said.
Kim is not the only one making contingency plans for a future with diminished resources.
The state Senate is currently negotiating the creation of a rainy day fund. But as prudent as the name sounds, some lobbyists and organizations say the structure of the fund could seriously hamper future California State University budgets.
Ramon Castellblanch, president of SF State’s chapter of the California Faculty Association, said he agrees.
In the short term, the new fund would set aside three percent of state revenues to build a surplus account equaling 12.5 percent of yearly revenue. Until the fund is built up, a portion of state money would be removed from the general fund, Castellblanch pointed out, at a time when the economy has already hurt California schools.
“And even after the fund is complete,” Castellblanch said, “if the whole school has a problem and goes to hell-in-a-hand basket, that won’t necessarily mean a ‘rainy day,’ and the whole system breaks down.”
The proposal, Castellblanch said, amounts to a spending cap which would set aside a specific budget for state services, like education, and make necessary funds unavailable when needed.
“I have students on the floor in both of my classes right now,” Castellblanch, who is also an assistant professor of health education at the university, said. “People need to pay attention to what is happening with the state’s money. Mothers in my classes are starting to think about what the school is going to be like when their kids go to college.”
If the budget for the new fund is based on current budgets for government services, Castellblanch said, then the way the school is barely making it without falling to pieces will be the baseline – a baseline, Castellblanch said, that is unacceptable.
“I feel like the whole thing is intimidating to students,” he said when asked about possible solutions. “We have to get motivated, because if these things go through they are going to be so long term, it will literally go beyond us, to the next generation.”
SF State is at the center of an age discrimination lawsuit filed against the California State University system.
The lawsuit, filed in June by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleges that Lawford Goddard, 64, became the victim of age discrimination in 2004 when SF State bypassed him to hire Antwi Akom as an assistant professor in the black studies department.
“We think ultimately the person they selected is under-qualified,” said Linda Ordonio-Dixon, an EEOC lawyer handling Goddard’s case. “Mr. Goddard has no problems with him as a scholar, but Lawford Goddard is far and away more qualified,” she said.
Akom is close to half Goddard’s age and at the time of his hiring, had not yet received his Ph.D.
The suit aims to secure a professor position for Goddard complete with back salary payments. The suit would also require that university officials receive anti-discrimination training.
Goddard holds a doctorate degree from Stanford University and has over 30 years of teaching experience – 15 of those spent as a lecturer at San Francisco State. He is currently the director of education at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture in Oakland.
“We do find a rising amount of discrimination against employees who are over forty years old,” said Ordonio-Dixon of overall age discrimination suit trends. “Whenever there’s a down economy, we find more age discrimination,” she added.
If settled out of court, the lawsuit stands to take a year to be resolved – or up to three years if it goes to trial.
An 18-year-old may easily purchase a shot or two of vodka from a bar, should efforts by college presidents to lower the drinking age succeed.
A total of 123 college administrators from prominent schools all over the country like Dartmouth, Duke and Syracuse have signed a petition urging legislators to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18.
They claim that the drinking age of 21, which has been the legal drinking age in the U.S. since 1988, has not been effective in preventing binge drinking — defined as having five or more successive drinks — among college students.
“Twenty-one is not working,” reads the statement signed by the group. “A culture of dangerous, clandestine ‘binge drinking’ — often conducted off-campus — has developed.”
The petition aims to lower the risks and consequences caused by binge drinking among students below the age of 21.
But SF State President Robert Corrigan does not support the petition.
“There’s strong data indicating that alcohol consumption in those under age 21 can be harmful to personal health and safety, and strong evidence that youth under the influence can make poor choices that have harmful consequences,” he said.
Corrigan believes that “educating and training” students about dealing with alcohol is a better solution.
“Lowering the drinking age is not [the answer],” he said.
According to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, a survey of college students in 2001 revealed that for students under age 21, 26 percent drove after drinking alcohol, more than 10 percent drove after consuming more than five drinks, and almost a quarter rode with a high or drunk driver at least once in the 30 days before the survey.
The center also says that the U.S. has the highest drinking age in the world.
Child and adolescent development professor Laurie Meschke believes that lowering the drinking age would be “detrimental to [underage] SFSU students” because of research on the brain development of adolescents.
“It’s pretty critical to look at brain development when it comes to this issue,” Meschke said. “Brain development continues at a rapid pace until the age of 22.”
The professor said in 18-year-olds, the brain’s frontal lobe is not yet fully developed, causing younger alcohol drinkers to have much lower inhibitions and preventing them from thinking of the long-term consequences of drinking — which is why the risk of alcohol-related accidents is higher among those under the age of 21.
She added that alcohol has a “much greater impact” on the memory of adolescents, so they are less likely to remember what they did under the influence of alcohol. They are still unable to judge their tolerance levels, which constantly change in people that age.
“They could have five drinks in one night and be perfectly fine,” Meschke said. “But if they had the same number of drinks on another night, they could get completely drunk.”
However, the professor also said that younger drinkers are less likely to have slurred speech or impaired mobility than those over the age of 21.
Numbers are also showing that drinking is no longer a major problem on college campuses. The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute released survey results showing that the number of college freshmen who drank beer in 2007 had decreased by 44 percent since 1982.
SF State students have mixed responses to the possibility of lowering the drinking age.
Jennifer Po, 17, feels that the drinking age should be lowered.
“I think it will desensitize the use of alcohol for future generations,” she said.
Because the current drinking age makes alcohol “forbidden” to teenagers, Po said, it makes them want to try drinking all the more. For her, the change in age restrictions would not keep her from getting drunk, but
“I would probably get so used to [drinking] that I eventually wouldn’t do it so much.”
However, other students feel differently.
“I would feel [cheated],” Kristi Gravano, 21, said. “It’s supposed to be special for 21-year-olds. I had to wait that long to drink. I don’t think [18-year-olds] are responsible enough, because even some 21-year-olds are not responsible enough with alcohol.”
Outdoor events are on hold at SF State until a special committee of students, university staff and faculty completes a re-examination of the school’s event policy, according to the Office of Student Affairs.
Numerous complaints of disrupted classes due to noise spurred the moratorium on scheduling outdoor events for the fall semester and, at the request of Vice President of Student Affairs J. E. (Penny) Saffold, the creation of the Time, Place and Manner Policy Task Force, said assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Eugene Chelberg. Outdoor booth activity from different organizations is unaffected.
The committee, composed of eight students and eight university employees representing many aspects of the campus, met frequently throughout the summer to discuss changing the 20-year old policy that would better balance the usage of outdoor venues with instructors’ complaints, said Chelberg. The group’s work also included defining the significance of Malcolm X Plaza and other university spaces to the campus population’s free speech.
Despite a goal to submit its recommendations to the president’s office by Aug. 15, the group “still has work to do” said student member Brian Gallagher, 25.
For now, the quad remains quiet.
“We need to be able to teach. That’s what we’re in business for,” said Chelberg, who also strongly insisted it was his intent to lift the moratorium.
“We’re ready...we’ve put everything in place so we can act quickly,” said Joey Greenwell, director of the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development. Greenwell’s office helps to schedule events on campus.
The new policy would affect amplified sound from Malcolm X Plaza and other areas, yet would not limit demonstrations like those surrounding the state budget crisis last semester, Chelberg said. Methods to limit the dispersion of noise throughout the campus are currently being considered.
Students arriving at the SF State campus for the fall academic semester are met with construction for a massive renovation to the school’s J. Paul Leonard Library.
A seismic retrofit and structural, technological and functional improvements are under way. Construction crews are scheduled to complete the project in just over three years, and in the intervening years SF State staff are working to provide full library services to students.
“The one thing students need to know is students need to plan ahead more than they have in the past,” Debbie Masters, a university librarian, said.
The current library system will remain in the building through the end of October, Masters said, but must vacate the ground floor of the library Sept. 15 - taking the faculty reserves to the new site, too.
The library annex, where students can study 24 hours a day, is scheduled to move in early November, Masters said.
During construction, book pickup and reserves will be available in the HSS building. Masters said students could reserve books from the library and could be confident the book would be available within 24 hours of the request.
Staff will be retrieving reserved books for students on all weekdays, so Masters re-emphasized the importance of students planning ahead to reserve books well in advance, especially in anticipation of the weekend.
Masters said OASIS, the library tutorial for students at SF State, is updated continually so students will always receive instructions for using the changing library system. Even more important for student research, Masters said, was Link+. The database search system is available to students through the library and allows intensive research into any subject.
“If students are worried they can’t get the right book with the new retrieval system, they can use Link+ and find whatever they want,” Masters said.
Students will need to develop skills using these systems, especially those who will attend SF State beyond the three-year construction schedule, as the renovated library will utilize progressive storage technology for efficient book retrieval.
“The stacks are going away,” Mays said. The completed library will feature a storage area filled with rows of book-filled bins. An automated crane will retrieve bins containing the specific book requested based on a number system identifying each book. The crane will deliver the bin to library staff to pull the requested book for delivery to students.
The automated library retrieval system was first implemented at a library in the California State University system at CSU Northridge in 1989. The technology was originally used for database storage and indexing, but the efficiency and security was attractive for libraries with their immense collections of information, books and periodicals.
The completed library will be a major change from the J. Paul Leonard Library as it stands today. Robotic cranes, wireless networks and 50 percent more storage capacity are a far cry from the library finished in three stages 1952, 1959 and 1971, according to Wendy Bloom, campus planner for capital planning, design and construction.
“The new retrieval system frees space for reading and study areas, and more glass on the north side of the building that brings natural light into the interior and reveals the hub of activity within the library.” Bloom said.
“The library will be a central part of the campus,” Masters said.
Library staffers used the summer semester to prepare students, faculty and employees for a transition to several temporary library sites around the campus.
A brochure, mapping the future locations of each service, was made available to everyone in most buildings and distributed to almost 5,000 people at a welcome meeting for new students Thursday, Aug. 21 Masters said.
Masters said the renovation, which doubles the number of computers and triples group study rooms, is essential to meet the changing needs of students today.
“We’re constantly hearing we need more outlets,” Masters said. “The ubiquitous laptop computer has made power sources a priority the original architects of the library could not have anticipated. We need the group areas and study areas for students to use the library the way they need to use it.”
Chris Mays, associate librarian, said he was ready for the changes and looked forward to the renovations.
“None of the construction will affect the students yet,” Mays said. “Things will get moved around, and we will have to plan for services and where they are going to go, but we adapt.”
Mays said the inconvenience of construction was well worth the library SF State would have at its disposal.
“The university population has been growing and growing, but the building just doesn’t grow that quickly,” Mays said.
The completed library will be able to provide a broader range of resources for students, Mays said. There will be better accessibility to hundreds of databases, search engines and primary source indexes.
Until that time, Mays said he thinks everyone will enjoy working in “The Big Bubble” at SF State.
“The Big Bubble,” also known as Library Annex One, will provide study space, computers, research assistance, periodicals and reference collections. The building will feature more power outlets than currently available in the library and study space for more than 300 people.
“There will be better networking and more workspace,” Mays said. “Better everything, from light to tables and chairs. Even better heating and cooling.”
Applications for financial aid at SF State hit an unprecedented high for the fall semester, rising amid concerns for the economy and state budget.
This semester about 40,000 students have applied for some sort of financial assistance, Barbara Hubler, director of financial aid for SF State said. Typically the number of potential SF State students that apply for financial aid is between 34,000 and 35,000.
While this 15 percent increase in applicants is unexpected, it should not prevent students from receiving the financial help they require.
“Everyone who is eligible will receive some sort of assistance,” Hubler said. “We are not going to be forced to turn students away.”
When students are in need of some sort of financial aid, they have the option of applying for a grant or a loan.
Federal Pell Grants, federal student loans and California State University grants make it easier for students at SF State to pay for an education and other expenses outside of class.
“I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to school if I wasn’t getting these grants,” Denise Baltran, a senior at SF State and recipient of the Pell and CSU grants, said.
While grants involve funds given to students in need of monetary assistance, loans require students to pay back money that was awarded to them after they complete their college education.
Even though the number of potential SF State students applying for grants and loans has risen drastically, Hubler emphasized that students in need of assistance will not be left to fend for themselves.
“We are accommodating all applicants who are asking for financial aid,” Hubler said. “While the grants and loans might not be enough for a student to survive on — they will still receive the money.”
According to a 2006-07 study conducted by the California State University Office of the Chancellor, the average grant a student receives is $5,805 and the average loan a student receives is $6,744.
While these grants and loans help the students that apply for them, the money normally isn’t enough to cover additional expenditures such as room and board, transportation, and various personal expenses that students have to pay for.
In addition to the rising cost of enrollment at SF State, $1,881 this semester — up 10 percent from last semesters’ $1,728 — students, according to the university’s Web site, are forced to pay another $17,941 per year for additional costs such as books, room and board, personal expenses and transportation.
Hubler acknowledged that grants and loans are not sufficient for students to live on, although she still believes the money students receive is crucial to their continued enrollment at SF State.
“These grants and loans don’t really cut it a lot of the time,” she said. “There is a growing gap between what students can and can’t afford.”
While the exact number of students attending SF State this semester is still being calculated, Jo Volkert, associate vice president of enrollment planning and management, said the school is anticipating slightly more than 30,000 students — close to the number of students last year.
Since the number of students attending SF State does not appear to be drastically increasing like the number of students applying for financial aid, some wonder why there is such an increase in applicants for financial assistance. Some blame the faltering economy.
“In general, as the economy worsens, more people apply for assistance,” said Dean Kulju, director of student financial aid services and programs at California State University’s Office of the Chancellor. “As more families are being impacted by rising costs it affects their income and funds they have available to meet expenses, including education.”
While Hubler says she doesn’t have a concrete reason as to why so many students are applying for financial aid, she believes that the rising cost of tuition at SF State is partly responsible for the rise in financial aid applicants.
“I don’t really have a specific explanation, but prices for schooling have been going up,” Hubler said. “I’d assume that these tuition increases are somewhat responsible for the increase of students requesting financial aid.”
Vincent Dee, a senior at SF State and recipient of the Cal Grant and the Federal Student Loan, said he is happy to receive financial assistance, but will be forced to get a job this semester to cover extra and unforeseen expenses.
“Oh, I’m definitely going to have to get a job,” Dee said. “There’s no way I can get by on loans and grants alone.”
SF State may be poised for major changes in the next few years as the university’s top two administrators announced retirement plans.
University president Robert A. Corrigan spoke Monday at a faculty and staff orientation and addressed growing curiosities about his timetable for leaving.
“While I have set no date for retirement, I have promised Chancellor Reed at least two more years of service at this university,” said Corrigan, citing he desire to stay involved in the “exciting times” ahead for SF State.
Corrigan’s comment comes directly on the heels of a formal retirement announcement from University Provost John Gemello on Friday.
University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Gemello, announced formal retirement plans at the end of last week through a university press release.
Both positions have been instrumental in hiring, fundraising and shaping the campus academically and physically.
Gemello plans to retire at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year, according to a press release issued Aug. 22 by University Communications.
Gemello has served in administration at SF State since 1989 and taught at the university for 14 years prior, according to the release.
“He is trusted and esteemed by all who know him,” Corrigan said of Gemello at the orientation, eliciting a standing ovation after his praise.
Most of the chatter in the SFSU Bookstore in the days before classes began this semester had a common theme: textbook prices are ridiculously high.
[X]press analyzed new book prices across 107 disciplines – from accounting to women studies – to determine where text prices rose the highest.
Viewed as a whole, SF State’s textbook prices were not astronomical. A full 56 percent of all new textbooks ordered for fall 2008 cost $30 or less. Eighty percent of all texts were less than $80.
But some study areas distinguished themselves with high percentages of pricey texts.
By far, finance textbooks were the most expensive with 71 percent costing $130 and up. The median cost of a finance book was more than $140.
Accounting and economics were the second and third most expensive disciplines respectively. Both had 63 percent of texts priced at more than $130.
In addition to finance and accounting, SF State’s College of Business held two more entries in the top 10 most expensive textbooks: decision sciences and marketing.
Almost 80 percent of engineering books were more than $80.
Chemistry, math and physics all had a median textbook price of about $100 – each with over 60 percent at $80 or more.
If you’re looking for educational bargains, head to the humanities section where 97 percent of the texts are under $30 and the median book price is $14.
5 Decision Sciences
10 Paralegal Studies
2 Creative Writing
3 Comparative World Literature
4 Educational Administration
5 American Indian Studies
6 Jewish Studies
8 Ethnic Studies
9 Asian American Studies
10 Theater Arts
Data provided by the SFSU Bookstore on new textbook prices for the fall 2008 semester. Only disciplines with more than 10 unique book titles were included for analysis.
SF State student Jorge "George" Hurtado, 18, was shot and killed by an armed assailant Sunday morning while walking home from the 24th Street Bart Station, said Sgt.Wilfred Williams of the San Francisco Police Department. The shooting took place in the area of 23rd and Treat Street around 1:30 a.m.
The gunman ran to a sport utility vehicle parked a block away on 22nd Street after firing a series of shots at Hurtado. The suspect fled the scene headed northbound on Treat Street, according to SFPD witness reports.
Hurtado attended classes at SF State during the Fall 2005 and Spring 2006 semesters as part of the Step to College program to help public high school students transition from high school to their first year at the university.
Police are continuing their investigation and ask the public to contact their anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444 if you have any information.
A green machine that looks very much like a toy is educating children all over the globe – with a little help from an SF State professor.
Sameer Verma, an assistant professor of information systems at SF State’s College of Business, has played a role in promoting a project called One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) locally, an endeavor that seeks to educate children, particularly in underdeveloped areas of the world, through little green computers infused with educational software.
Verma is a believer in the “close relationship” between education and technology. “Education has become quite interleaved in technology,” he wrote in his blog. “It exponentializes the access to information.”
The project was first launched in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte, former director of the MIT Media Laboratory. The Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization has used laptops to educate tens of thousands of children in underdeveloped countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Peru and Pakistan, and released its 100,000th computer in Uruguay last Tuesday, according to the OLPC website.
Verma first got involved in OLPC through his research with open-source software, which uses programs that are readily available to the public. Here computer programmers can copy the software and “do their own things with it” without having to deal with royalties, Verma said. OLPC released this kind of software, allowing people outside the organization to start playing a role by contributing ideas and making improvements to their technology.
This instantly caught the professor’s attention.
“I started by providing feedback,” he said. “Then I wanted to be able to do other things.”
One of the projects the professor focused on was creating software that would translate English programs into the children’s native languages, something he is planning to enlist the help of SF State students for in the future.
The Information Management Systems Association (IMSA), a campus organization for which Verma is the faculty adviser, is working on getting a translation lab where they and other students from outside the group can translate English words into different languages and record these on software that the children can use.
“They don’t need to be computer programmers,” Verma said. “They just need to know another language.” Verma himself has done translation from English into his native Hindi.
Friends and colleagues of the professor know him as an innovator. Senjit Sengupta, a professor at the Marketing Department, said Verma “picks good topics for research.” Sengupta recalls his first encounter with his colleague five years ago.
“He was on the rooftop of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, using Pringles cans to transmit Wi-Fi signals,” Sengupta said. Since then, the two professors were bound by a common interest in technology and worked together on OLPC projects.
When OLPC began loaning out laptops to computer programmers who contributed designs and ideas, Verma received his first green computer. Later on, OLPC came up with a donation program: for every $400 dollars donated to OLPC, a green laptop would be given to an underprivileged child, and the donor would also receive a laptop.
A light bulb went on in Verma’s head when he noticed students and faculty members sporting the green laptops.
He thought of starting a group through which non-computer programmers could contribute to the project, and so OLPC-San Francisco was born. The citywide organization meets on campus once a month and is open to students and anyone in the city who wants to help a child learn through technology. The group discusses ideas and programs for the laptops, and works at gathering more support and spreading awareness for OLPC.
Verma’s colleagues say they are supportive of his work.
“I believe the value that will arise from his work is multi-fold,” said Paul Beckman, associate professor at the Department of Information Systems. “It will show that our department, college, and university are involved in applying the latest technology tools in ways that can help the disadvantaged or those on the ‘have-not’ side of the digital divide.”
Verma, who was born and raised in India, began his teaching career as a graduate teaching assistant at Georgia State University in 1995. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Osmania University in India and later earned a master’s degree in decision science and a Ph.D. in business administration. He started teaching at SF State in 2000.
Not only are the laptops durable — they can withstand a drop from up to five feet — but Verma also noted that they have some unique features.
For example, the computer encourages collaborative work by enabling the sharing of documents between two laptops without an Internet connection. “Two children in a classroom can work on a paper together,” Verma said. “And it’s so simple that even a 5-year-old can figure it out. That in itself for me is mind-blowing.”
Beckman believes that Verma can contribute even more to improving the laptops. “I’m sure he [Verma] will be able to combine his interest and knowledge about other advanced information processing technologies to do very interesting things with the device,” he said.
But what Verma finds most rewarding about his work with OLPC is seeing another aspect of his work that he doesn’t get to see in the classroom on a regular basis.
“I’m able to see that the work that we do will eventually end up in the hands of a 5-year-old child,” he said “Each of us can contribute a little bit--that in itself is very encouraging.”
Nearly half of SF State’s greenhouse gas emissions come from students and the faculty commuting to and from campus, according to a report released last spring.
But if more people rode bicycles or public transit to school, then they would help the university significantly reduce its impact on global warming, the report’s authors Carlos Davidson and Caitlin Fager said.
SF State’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory from 1990-2006 calculated the amount of greenhouse gases the university emitted directly and indirectly during each of those years. Students, faculty, staff and others collaborated on the inventory, which counted emissions from activities such as energy generation, energy use, transportation and solid waste disposal.
The inventory report was co-authored by Carlos Davidson, director of environmental studies, and Caitlin Fager, recycling coordinator. Its completion met a requirement of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, to which President Robert A. Corrigan signed SF State in May 2007. The commitment requires that a climate action plan responding to the report’s findings be completed by May 2009.
“It’s an important first step to reducing emissions,” Davidson said. “You have to know where the big sources are.”
Without doing that benchmark research, “it’s really hard to tell where the [emissions] are coming from,” Fager said. Finding that about half of SF State’s emissions came from commuting “despite it being an urban school” surprised her, she added.
The main findings
In 2006, SF State put the equivalent of about 61,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, which is a 47 percent increase since 1990. About 49 percent of those emissions came from commuting to and from school, while energy generation and use accounted for about 45 percent, according to the report.
One of the main reasons emissions have increased dramatically since 1990 is simply growth in housing and full-time students. “From 1990 to 2006, university square footage increased by 25 percent from 2.9 million to 3.6 million” while the number of full time equivalent students rose by about 4000, according to the report.
SF State’s overall energy use increased 12.5 percent from 1990-2006 “due to campus growth,” the report stated. Use per square foot, however, decreased “likely in part due to energy efficiency efforts on campus, such as improved co-generation efficiency and more efficient lighting.”
Growth in emissions from transportation since 1990 — by 26 percent for students and 36 percent for faculty and staff — also came “mainly due to the increase in numbers of each group,” according to the report. The most popular mode of transportation to SF State in 2006 was driving: about 23 percent of students, faculty and staff drove alone and 19 percent carpooled. About 37 percent rode public transit and 17 percent walked, while only about 2 percent rode bicycles to school, according to the report.
To reduce the university’s emissions, the report recommended exploring opportunities to install solar panels on campus, further increasing energy efficiency and convincing more students and faculty to carpool, ride public transit or ride bicycles to school.
SF State responds
The report also recommended changing energy providers, blaming the current one for the single largest increase in SF State’s emissions within the time frame. In 1998, the California State University schools switched from Pacific Gas and Electric, which “has a large percentage of hydro and nuclear generation,” to Arizona Public Service, “which generates a large share of its electricity from coal and natural gas,” the report stated.
The switch increased the amount of greenhouse gases SF State emitted indirectly to generate electricity by 272 percent, according to the report, which recommends switching back to PG&E or another provider that makes electricity cleaner.
Already, SF State “has ended its contract with Arizona Power, and a new deal is in the works,” Davidson said.
“The chancellor’s office right now is looking for a different provider for all CSUs. We should see a big dip in our emissions,” Fager said.
In an effort to encourage bicycling to and from campus, the university is also building new bicycle racks to be installed within a few weeks, Fager said.
One way SF State could encourage more students to ride public transit would be to give them all transit passes, Davidson said. Students in his Campus Sustainability course researched the idea and discovered that University of San Francisco and some other universities reached agreements with transit authorities to offer discounted passes to undergraduates. “It can make a phenomenal difference,” he said.
How Students Can Help
Creating something like a universal transit pass for undergraduates “goes way beyond individual behavior. In the other campuses, it’s been a student movement that’s pushed for it,” Davidson said. Concerned students should talk to student government or campus environmental groups such as ECO Students and get involved, he said.
“As a student, you have the opportunity to do something more far-ranging and impactful,” Davidson said. “It’s the students who have to step up and say ‘we want this.’”
Fager said she is looking for “students to find where we’re using energy on campus, how we’re using it, and how we can use it more efficiently.” For those who would like to fight global warming but may be too busy to work at the Recycling Center: “ride MUNI or BART, bike to school, bring your own reusable bag, bring a refillable water bottle, buy local and turn off the lights,” she said.
William Rutledge, an environmental studies major that worked on the emissions inventory, said students can help by “paying attention” to avoid wasteful practices “like leaving your computer on all night to download a music file.”
Concerned students should join a campus group such as ECO Students, said Rutledge, who is a member. The group will have a mixer at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at the Seven Hills Conference Center.
To view the entire report, visit http://bss.sfsu.edu/envstudies/files/sfsu.ghg.inventory1990-2006.pdf