Student protesters spend the night in the lobby of Sacramento Hall to protest
by Mallory Fites
Sacramento State protesters who stayed overnight in the lobby of Sacramento Hall got to meet with President Alexander Gonzalez this morning.
At 7a.m., Gonzalez met with students to discuss their demands and needs regarding California State University cutbacks.
Sac State was the only CSU campus to have students stay overnight in protest.
Student organizer Amanda Mooers, senior sociology major, was one of 15 students who spent the night in Sacramento Hall. Along with two other students, she had the opportunity to speak with Gonzalez for 20 minutes.
"He was very civil and he expressed to the media beforehand that he wanted to listen to us but we felt he gave us the same answers that were given when we had a meeting with him over spring break," Mooers said.
During the meeting with Gonzalez, students presented three demands that were brainstormed during the sleep-in the night before.
The first demand is a freeze on managerial salary raises. Protestors would like to see the funding directed into instruction and student services instead.
They would also like to see public support for Assembly Bill 1326, which would impose an oil and gas severance fee to producers extracting oil or gas from California land or water. The funds from this tax would be allocated to the California Higher Education Fund, directly funding higher education classroom instruction.
The third request is for transparency in higher education with Senate Bill 8. This bill would require community colleges, the CSU and the University of California systems to become more transparent by requiring them to comply with the California Public Records Act. The Public Records Act gives public access to information in possession of public agencies.
Mooers said Gonzalez met these demands with resistance because he said he cannot take a stand against the CSU Board of Trustees. The decisions of the Board of Trustees are final and he said he would be risking his job.
Addison Pressnalle-Duff, senior sociology major, said Gonzalez wanted to meet with students in his office but the leaders of the protest wanted him to speak to them in the lobby.
"We're occupying the building until we get an agreement or a negotiation with President Gonzalez," Pressnalle-Duff said. "We have the leverage to lead and since (the school motto is) 'leadership begins here,' the president should help us."
As promised by Gonzalez at the morning meeting, Gonzalez issued a "President's Update" letter for students, faculty and staff. The letter was read aloud by two students to a crowd of 75 people.
"As it stands now, we continue to prepare for a $500 million reduction – and the plan is to accomplish that without additional increases in tuition fees or drastic cuts in enrollment," Gonzalez wrote in the letter. "A cut of $1 billion would call into question the very survival of the CSU and seriously jeopardize the access and quality we have been able to maintain for our students."
Gonzalez also mentioned that he met with students, listened to their demands and appreciates their peaceful demonstration.
After the letter was read, students, faculty and staff were discontent about the letter. The specific issues and demands that were presented to Gonzalez in the morning were not included in his response.
Briefly after his meeting with students, Gonzalez left Sacramento Hall to attend a meeting with the California Student Aid Commission.
Kevin Wehr, sociology professor and president of the California Faculty Association, said hopefully Gonzalez will come back to campus for his lunch break.
Students demonstrated their commitment to the cause of the protest by making personal sacrifices.
"I'm going to ask my boyfriend if he can please put in some overtime with my son so I can stay here," said Starr Daniels, junior sociology major.
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, showed his support of today's demonstration by putting on a red "Students for Quality Education" T-shirt.
"I heard you all the way across town," Portantino said. "Students rock!"
Mallory Fites can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org