Hunger strike continues at SFSU

Photo courtesy of Lyanne Melendez/ABC 7

MAY 2016—Tension is building at San Francisco State University, where four students are holding an indefinite hunger strike and helping spotlight attacks by university administration on the university’s College of Ethnic Studies.

The students—Ahkeel Andres Mestayer, 20, Hassani Bell, 18, Sachiel Rosen, 19 and Julia Retzlaff, 19—are demanding investment in the College of Ethnic Studies. Two faculty positions in the college were recently cut from the university’s budget.

The group, which calls itself the Third World Liberation Front, demanded that negotiations regarding the $8 million needed to advance the College of Ethnic Studies begin Monday, the eighth day of the hunger strike. If negotiations aren’t concluded by today they are threatening escalated tactics.

Andrew Jolivette, Professor and Chair of American Indian Studies at SFSU, said the hunger strike is still ongoing, but students and administrators began negotiating Wednesday morning.

“They would like to see an equitable budget but one that really seeks to advance ethnic studies not one that cripples it,” he said. “They just want to see a meaningful commitment for next year.”

The hunger strike and situation at San Francisco State has drawn support from local elected officials and celebrities, who attended a press conference Monday on the lawn where the hunger strikers are camping.

San Francisco State Alum Danny Glover told the crowd that it was the 1960s strike at SFSU that led to the creation of the country’s first-ever College of Ethnic Studies and “changed the narrative,” according to the San Francisco Examiner report.

“That’s what the ethnic studies program is about. That’s what this strike is about,” Glover said. “Defending their right to an education.”

Administrators assert that the university has been underfunded in recent years, the budget for the 2016-17 year hasn’t been finalized, and the reserve funding used to cover the college’s annual deficit has dried up. Ethnic Studies faculty said inadequate funding has been a problem for more than a decade and has reduced the college’s operations by 40 percent.

Howard Bunsis, an Accounting Professor at Eastern Michigan University, authored an independent financial analysis of SF State compared to the rest of the CSU system. Despite the administration’s claims, San Francisco State is not operating at a structural deficit.

“The idea of a college owing money or having a deficit is completely made up,” Bunsis said in a Golden Gate Xpress report. “There’s no empirical evidence for it. Show me where the revenues are and where the expenses are and where is that structural deficit.”

Bunsis, who analyzed SF State’s assets, operating cash flow, enrollment rates and tuition costs, said all were at adequate levels compared to the rest of the CSU. Click here to view Bunsis’ report.