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CSUS students and faculty stage multiple rallies against recent cuts
California State University, Stanislaus students, led by Nikki Bourdeau, march on the administration building to protest recent cuts.
California State University, Stanislaus students staged a massive walkout Wednesday morning to protest the loss of Winter Term, cuts to classes and professors, and what many termed as the “poor leadership” of President Hamid Shirvani.
Approximately 300 students left classes early on Wednesday to rally in the CSU Stanislaus quad for more than an hour. Students and some professors told tales of the personal impacts of recent cuts, which saw CSU Stanislaus lose a larger percent of faculty than any other CSU campus.
“We lost 21 percent. Why have we been harder hit than any other CSU?” asked Nikki Bourdeau, a senior art student who served as master of ceremonies for the protest.
California State University, Los Angeles and San Diego State University tied for the second largest cuts, each losing 13 percent of faculty. The CSU system wide average was 8 percent of faculty cut.
This disparity in cuts across the CSU system led many student speakers to attribute the severe cutbacks locally to poor leadership from the Shirvani administration. CSU Stanislaus faculty approved a vote of no confidence in Shirvani last month, with 91 percent of voting faculty expressing no confidence.
“It’s not so much the amount of money we’re getting in, it’s how it’s being misused at this school,” said Adam Serpa, a music major.
Serpa noted that, once pending cuts are completed, his music department will have lost 75 percent of part-time faculty in two years. Part-time faculty do much of the crucial one-on-one instrument instruction in the program, and the cutbacks will force the music department to drop four of seven concentrations, Serpa said.
To further protest the cuts, music students held another protest on Thursday morning. They transformed their annual Christmas caroling of the administration building into “caroling with a political purpose.”
Student complaints ranged from a recent article Shirvani penned for the Chronicle of Higher Education, which students saw as calling for the corporatization of education, to Shirvani’s Lexus, which is paid for with a car allowance that is part of his salary.
CSU Stanislaus Public Information Officer Kristen Olsen stated that Shirvani’s compensation package did include a set monthly housing and car allowance, typical of all presidents in the CSU and University of California system. However, Olsen noted that Shirvani’s choice of automobile did not affect the amount of his allowance, and also noted that Shirvani took an 11 percent pay cut this year as a result of furloughs.
According to Olsen, the recent losses of professors and Winter Term were forced by budget cuts at the state level. She advised that student protests at the capitol might be more useful.
“All of them would be better served by taking their energy to Sacramento and talking to the state legislature, who can actually make a difference,” Olsen said.
Students at Wednesday’s rally expressed a willingness to take the fight to Sacramento.
State Assembly Bill 656, which would tax oil and gas extracted from the ground to pay for higher education, will be in front of the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation on Jan. 11, 2010. Students on Wednesday requested a university-funded bus to take a group of students to Sacramento that day.
Olsen noted the CSU system has not yet taken a position on AB656, but said that a university bus was a possibility.
After more than an hour of students and professors voicing their dissent in the quad, a march led the assembly through the administration building chanting phrases such as, “Whose university? Our university!” Students ended up waving signs and protesting at the corner of Geer Road and Monte Vista Avenue before heading back to the administration building, where about 60 students took their cheering to Shirvani’s office.
While most students agreed budget problems started at the state level, students spoke of a belief that better leadership at the local level would help CSU Stanislaus better survive the down economy. Students said they felt the administration was not fighting for what was best for students, so it was up to the students to fight for themselves.
“We shouldn’t have to be the advocate for us,” said sociology student Barbara Olave. “They should be the advocate for us.”
Olave was one of three members from the student organization Right to Education that was granted an audience with Shirvani last week. Students issued a list of three demands to Shirvani: Winter Term be restored; no more professors be cut; and Shirvani hold an open forum with students that was not sponsored by the Associated Students, Inc. student government.
According to Olave, who was in the meeting, Shirvani said he couldn’t legally discuss faculty cuts, but went on to say that further faculty may be cut because administrative staff was needed. Olave also said that Shirvani ruled out restoring Winter Term and attributed the cut to the state budget.
As for the final demand, Olave said that Shirvani would only agree to an open forum “if ASI said it was okay,” and if faculty were not present. Olave said Shirvani would not agree to even allow faculty to listen to the forum.
Olave said she believes Shirvani agreed to the meeting simply, “Because he says he has an open-door policy.”
Shirvani was not available for comment for this story.
On Saturday students took the protest to the street outside of Shirvani’s home, which Olave said followed all laws and was peaceful.
Protestors believed that public shows of discontent, such as Saturday’s protest and Wednesday’s rally and march, were needed to enact change as the administration did not seem willing to work with students.
“Apparently this is what we have to do for anyone to pay attention,” Bourdeau said.
Speakers noted initiatives at Humboldt State, where a president intended to knock down classroom walls to expand classes. Others referenced a California State University, Dominguez Hills plan to cut programs. In both cases, when students, staff, and the community fought against the changes, the plans were stopped.
However, the state budget for next year is already projected to be at a $21 billion deficit. The CSU Stanislaus administration is anticipating further budget cuts.
“We expect the budget situation to continue to be a challenge,” Olsen said. “We don’t think the concern will wind down.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.