First Week of School Rant: The Beginning of the End

The Plague Riot in Moscow, 1771

The Plague Riot in Moscow, 1771

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly like this at school.

Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle

But it felt pretty damn close!

SFSU’s first day of school was last Tuesday. While most students dread the end of their summer and the beginning of the fall semester/ quarter, there was another element at play this past week.

In case you don’t know, California’s state budget is in the crapper. So they cut around $15 billion in state spending for education, welfare, social, and health services. For us in the California State University system, that meant a cut of $564 million. Then for us at SFSU, that meant a cut of $30.2 million. That means 428-354 fewer classes offered, letting go dozens of lecturers, and forcing university employees to take two unpaid days off per month. The CSU is looking to reduce enrollment by 40,000 in two years, which means closing the door on tens of thousands of students (enrollment is already closed for Spring 2010). Oh yeah, and they raised our fees by 30%! I can’t stress how ridiculous and insane it is to make students pay more, but to lower their quality of education. Gotta love the way capitalism works.

Some will look at this and say that we as California students have had nothing short of a bargain and that time has run out on this great deal. What I say to that: it’s sad to see the disparity and lack of importance placed on education nation-wide. In the grand scheme of things, I’m proud that Californians have placed a high value in educating our people and have kept it COMPARATIVELY low. But now that is under attack. I refuse to accept high tuition as a standard while my morals and values tell me that education is A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE. In fact, it is sad that our state prioritizes building and funding more prisons than schools. Lack of education directly relates to higher crime rates. Too bad our legislators cannot see the rippling effects their decisions have.

So all that led to the first week of class. It was nothing short of depressing. Whether you had your classes or not, you saw the chaos. The scramble for classes forced students to crash five or six or seven or even eight classes a day in an attempt to get units. Sometimes out of eight, you would get zero. Then the next day you had to try again. For folks on financial aid, you must meet a certain amount of units in order to receive your money. This added to the stress of getting the required classes needed to graduate in your major. The theme of the first week: ALMOST ANYTHING WILL DO.

Combined with the gloomy, San Francisco-weather, the mood on campus was different than in previous years. While we’ve seen continuous budget cuts and fee increases since 2001, you could tell this year hit us even harder. Maybe since some can take the hit and pay more for school and have majors that are well protected against budget cuts, when classes are cut across the board, that affects EVERYBODY. You could look into the eyes of students walking by and know exactly what they were going through. While you could look at the shared, frustrated experience with your fellow students (a sense of unity you don’t really experience here) as some kind of silver-lining, the selfish part of me would rather get my classes. Getting too old for this.

Nicole Cross-

Photo by: Nicole Cross-

For myself, well I pretty much got close to a nervous breakdown. The plan was to graduate this coming Spring because well…I’m getting too old to be an undergrad. I needed a class to move on in my major, got the class during early registration, got dropped from the course because it was cut, tried to add another section…but there was pretty much no chance I’d get in. I have a few units, but I’m still on the hunt to reach full-time status. I’ll probably go more in-depth in a future entry, but pretty much the pressure to graduate is at its peak. I have to make this investment my family made on me worth it.

Students fighting against tuition hikes in the Philippines

Students fighting against tuition hikes in the Philippines

In the larger picture, this should have been expected. It was only a matter of time the cards fell down. We saw it happen to Wall Street. We continue to see it as we suffer during this financial crisis. But we’re not just going to take this lying down. Students have and will be protesting and are using different tactics to salvage what we can for our future. Some are even suing the state for raising fees on us after we had already paid. I can’t say which method is going to work and is going to be our saving grace. At least not in this entry. The solution probably won’t even be there by the time I’m out of school (if I ever get out). But what is clear is that we need to come together and fight for some kind of solution. We need to take this new found unity and turn it into a driving force that is for students, by students.

And no, I don’t really trust our administrators and politicians. They send us all these great messages about how they feel our pain, and its not easy to make these hard decisions about our education, and that they’re fighting for us everyday. Even though the people they PAID to fight for us everyday aren’t doing jack-squat. Well, for us students anyway. They’re doing a great job defending our administrators and their right to earn six-figure salaries. Feel our pain? That empathy costs us millions of dollars.

So that’s week one. Expect more of these as the weeks go by. Though I feel like giving up hope, I know I can’t. I can’t give up, while look at my niece and nephew in the eyes and see the dark future ahead of them.


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