Students gather in SFSU administration building to protest state of higher ed 

Dozens of students gathered in San Francisco State University's administration building for about two hours this afternoon to protest the conditions surrounding higher education and ask California State University Chancellor Charles Reed to resign.

The students said they are angry that costs are rising as the quality of their educations is deteriorating, and that Reed has not been an effective advocate for them.

Students and faculty on all 23 CSU campuses are participating in the "Take Class Action: Demand Quality Education" events, and are asking university officials to seek new revenue sources, reign in administrative salaries, and treat employees fairly.

"I'm fed up with my classes being overcrowded and my budget being cut and my tuition being hiked," said Matt Gzowski, a junior studying anthropology. "I couldn't sit around anymore."

A spokeswoman for San Francisco State University said the student protesters were not asked to leave because they did not create safety or access issues.

Students met with a university administrator, and the building remained open throughout the day, spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said.

Gzowski said classes at the school that should have 20 students are accommodating 40, while classes that should have 40 students have up to 140.

"I know a lot of people who are struggling with tuition hikes," he added. "In fact I know people who live outside of the city because they can't afford living in San Francisco and going here."

Sadaf Malik, a San Francisco State University student who is interning with the California Faculty Association, said the students have been lobbying state lawmakers to adopt an oil and natural gas extraction tax as well as a progressive tax structure that could generate money that could fund higher education.

She said Reed and other executives have not been advocating for revenue-generating measures, and instead are enjoying six-figure salaries while student fees rise.

A spokeswoman for the CSU system said today's events, particularly those organized by the faculty union, were a political red herring.

The real issue, university spokeswoman Claudia Keith said, is the state budget, in which CSU funding will be cut by between $500 million and $1 billion this year.

She said executive salary only comprises 0.2 percent of the CSU budget.

"Really, all of this energy and time should be spent on, 'How do we get the Legislature in California to reinvest in higher education?'" she said. "That is the complete bottom line."

The students acknowledged that administrators are working in a difficult budget climate, but said executives are enjoying perks such as car and housing allowances instead of sharing students' financial struggles.

They oppose Reed's $451,500 in annual compensation on ideological grounds, Malik said.

"Every semester our fees go up 10, 15 percent," she said.

And although Reed and other administrators have appealed to state lawmakers for a bigger share of the state's general fund, they have not been proactive about supporting an oil extraction tax or other revenue generators, the protesters said.

For example, AB 1326 would raise $2 billion for state universities and community colleges by imposing a 12.5 percent tax on oil and natural gas at the wellhead, according to its proponents.  

Keith said that CSU officials did not oppose the oil extraction tax, but that there was no guarantee the revenue from it would lead to increased higher-education allocations. The funds could supplant money already coming to state schools, she said.  

"I think we all agree higher education is in dire straits," she said. "All this other noise is part of a particular agenda."

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