President Leslie E. Wong ordered his office locked down Wednesday in response to the hunger strike for the College of Ethnic Studies. Wong’s office is on the fifth floor of the Administration Building, and access to both the elevator and stairs has been blocked.
“When protest activity occurs on campus, the fifth floor is closed to the public to ensure that the business operations of the president’s office are not disrupted,” Director of News and New Media Jonathan Morales said. “Providing a safe work space for employees has been a goal of the University.”
He said he did not know when the floor would reopen.
As Xpress previously reported, four students started a hunger strike Monday in support of increased funding to the College of Ethnic Studies. They set up camp in front of the Administration Building but moved their site to the J. Paul Leonard Library entrance at approximately 12:30 a.m. when the sprinklers went off, according to Hassani Bell, one of the strikers.
Sachiel Rosen, one of the hunger strikers, was not surprised by the closure of the fifth floor of the Administration Building.
“It reflects the situation that is happening on campus,” Rosen said. “They talk about shared governance, but when someone brings up an idea, when someone voices an issue, when someone really cares about, it they shut their doors.”
Bell said Wong told the protesters he would meet with the group at their convenience. But Bell noted that when they approached him inside the library Tuesday, he said he was unable to meet until Friday.
“They’re telling us that we have to hunger strike for an extended period of time,” Rosen said. “They’re telling us that they don’t care about our health.”
The strikers said they are prepared to wait as long as it takes to speak with Wong.
“The University respects the right for the students to express their views and provides public spaces for that expression,” Morales said.
There was apparent confusion on the fifth floor as to why the floor was closed. Administrative Coordinator to the Office of the President Julie Harrell said access was blocked because of an event, but would not provide additional information.
Harrell noted that floor closures do not happen often and said she could not recall the last time a closure occurred.
Roldan Paran, a laborer at SF State who was delivering folding tables to the President’s office, said the floor had been locked all morning and someone changed the programming of the elevator to prevent the fifth floor button from being pressed.
Michael Dionisio, also a laborer assisting Paran with the folding tables, said Wong’s secretary told them she would push a button to give them access to the floor for the delivery.
“We don’t have access,” Dionisio said in frustration, explaining that he felt like his time was being wasted. “You know, I’ve been here almost an hour now. We don’t know how to go up on the fifth floor.”
After a run-around with the tables, Harrell called the elevator up to the fifth floor.
The floor’s closure is not a fire safety concern, according to Jonathan Morales. Employees who work on the fifth floor can leave, but people who do not work on the fifth floor cannot enter.