Hungry, not a game

Sac State students won’t eat in protest of higher-ed cuts

Three Sacramento State students will go hungry this week to protest unequal access to higher education in Calfornia and recent budget cuts.

Students for a Quality Education recently announced a 15-student, statewide hunger strike for May 2, at midnight on six California State University campuses, including Sac State.

The student strikers requested a face-to-face meeting with CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and Board of Trustees Chair A. Robert Linscheid in hopes to present SQE’s solutions to state spending cuts. Student fees have jumped 318 percent since 2002, a SQE statement said.

SQE, with chapters on 18 campuses, gave Reed and Linscheid 31 days to reply and schedule a meeting. That deadline came and went. So now, CSU students at Fullerton, Dominguez Hills, Northridge, Long Beach, San Bernardino and Sac State will go hungry.

“The hunger strike was something I had to do for the 16,000 students shut out from enrolling in the CSU recently,” explained Yeimi Lopez, 22, a communications major at Sac State.

Mildred Garcia, 22, a social-work major, said learning about how the CSU Board of Trustees funnels state money to the 23 campuses inspired her to become involved with SQE and, ultimately, join the hunger strike. “It’s time to take things to the next level,” she said.

James Damiani, 24, a sociology and communications major, will be striking with Lopez and Garcia at Sac State.

CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp says student demands, such as a five-year moratorium on student-fee increases, won’t work. “That would prevent the CSU from generating enough revenue and lead to cutting [enrollment for] hundreds of thousands of students,” he said.

Uhlenkamp said the CSU is willing to work with students and share information about the system’s challenges.

SQE has three other demands in addition to the student-fee moratorium: elimination of campus president housing and car allowances; rollback of top management’s salary to 1999 levels, and extension of free-speech areas on campuses.

Kevin Wehr, a sociology professor at Sac State and chapter president of the California Faculty Association, is concerned about the health of the student hunger strikers.

“I’ll be doing whatever I can to help them, with their health and well-being utmost in my mind,” he said.

The hunger strikers have contacted three Democratic state lawmakers—Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Assemblyman Leland Yee—for endorsements, said Lopez.