CSUS administrators insist that students are their first priority, but those working two jobs don’t buy it
Noemi Beas is a fourth-year senior at CSU Sacramento, but she won’t be graduating this May. Instead, Beas will keep going to school and working two jobs, nearly 40 hours a week, to make ends meet. She’ll finally graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in spring 2008. By then, Beas’ student debt will be between $15,000 and $20,000.
Beas knows where she stands on the Faculty Senate’s ongoing vote on a no-confidence referendum against CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez. If passed, the referendum will set forth a set of actions the President must take to restore faculty confidence.
“President Gonzalez is more concerned with the image of the CSUS for people outside the campus,” Beas said. “But it is also important to take care of the students and faculty on the campus.”
“I am committed to the mission of the University and to invigorating this campus,” Gonzalez wrote in an April 10 open letter to the “campus community” in response to the referendum. “We can become a premier institution known for strong academic programs. But we need to find a way to work together positively and proactively to create a comprehensive, high-quality university experience for our students.”
While CSUS faculty and administrators spar over what it means to improve the university experience for students, the students themselves have their own ideas.
Jesus Andrade, president of the Associated Students Inc. and a philosophy major graduating in May, said that he thinks the faculty should have a large voice in academics, because that’s their area of expertise.
“They are the major players in students’ classroom needs on a daily basis.”
But Andrade also thinks the wheels of Gonzalez’s Destination 2010—a bold plan to expand CSUS with a new athletic and amusement complex, plus commercial and residential structures—are already in motion. Opposing it is a little like protesting against gravity. Andrade sees how the plans could increase student involvement in campus life. But the current referendum proves that some faculty disagree passionately with Gonzalez’s priorities: “The preeminent force that attracts students, retains students, supports students to graduate, and ensures that their lives are enriched by their education is the quality of the instructional program of the University, and not the signage, branding, nickname, radio and print advertisements, recreational facilities, and visibility of the University in the local media, which appear to be the hallmarks of President Gonzalez’ administration.”
Meanwhile, Andrade says that CSUS students grab him in the University Union and his office to discuss other challenges: difficulties enrolling in required classes, increasing student debt, finding too few of the classes they need and finding too many students in the classes they get. As a result, students such as Beas, who are working long hours to cover their living costs, are sinking deeper into debt to finance extra years of tuition. Beas also misses out on classes only offered during her working hours. That’s one of the reasons she had to postpone graduation, she said.
Mallory Fites is president of the Campus Progressive Alliance, a group of 25 students advocating for the no-confidence vote against Gonzalez. A junior majoring in journalism, she has another set of priorities. She wants to see the university boost funding for transit. A greater number of buses, she said, would lower the number of cars in the congested parking lots.
And other students want to see more support for the school’s Multi-Cultural Center, housed in the Women’s Resource Center. The MCC has been without a permanent director for the past two years.
With help from former CSUS student Akilah Hatchett, current owner of Kinks International in Midtown, the MCC opened over a decade ago to combat campus racism and sexism. If Gonzalez is such a fan of extracurricular activities, students wonder, why hasn’t the university hired a full time director for the center?
CSUS students in Coalition for Cultural Opportunities in Leadership and Overall Retention of Students, or C-COLORS, which formed last September, want to see more outreach to non-white students.
Students can’t vote for or against the faculty referendum, but they expect to be struggling to improve their own campus experiences long past April 27, when the faculty vote closes.