As students streamed in and out of the Cesar Chavez Student Center at San Francisco State University on Monday, some ignored the dozen colorful tents set up just outside the front door. Others stopped by to investigate the brand-new Occupy SFSU.
“My first question was, is everybody homeless?” said junior Hugo Calderon. “I kind of want to know what the movement is about here on campus.”
While other encampments affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement have been dismantled or threatened with raids in recent weeks, the SFSU demonstration was set up just this past Thursday.
Already, it has the organizational hallmarks of other Occupy camps — a makeshift library with books by Noam Chomsky and Malcolm X, a kitchen, and a daily schedule that includes general assembly meetings, yoga and film screenings.
Freshman Orlando Schuler, who was manning the information desk, said that he and about 20 other people were sleeping in the camp.
“We’re planning on being here until we get our demands met,” Schuler said.
Those demands mirror the concerns of the nationwide movement, but the students are specifically protesting state cuts to higher education that have led to budget cuts and fee hikes on their campus.
“My tuition kept going up and it keeps going up, and the financial aid just keeps standing still, so I’ve had to take out loans,” said Olga Popova, a junior studying English education who is participating in Occupy SFSU. “It seems like the students are not being heard. I feel like this is the next necessary step.”
SFSU President Robert Corrigan offered qualified support for the protesters in a question-and-answer session Thursday. In a video posted on YouTube, Corrigan asked the students to voice their frustrations to Sacramento.
“It’s great to have you here,” Corrigan said. “I hope this is a part of an awakening to what you need to do.”
Similar campus demonstrations at UC Berkeley and UC Davis were forcefully broken up by police. Students at SFSU said they were concerned about a crackdown but did not expect a violent confrontation with police.
With finals coming soon and a winter break to follow, the protest may be in danger of fizzling out on its own.
Although campers avowed that they would stay through the holidays, they acknowledged that it was difficult to balance a full-time protest with a full slate of classes.
“There’s definitely the same amount of dedication amongst everyone, but we don’t want to jeopardize our status as students as well,” said Schuler, a civil engineering major. But then he added, “We’ll be here until they pepper-spray us or they give in.”