Hunger strike ends, agreement reached
One hospitalization and 10 days later, the SF State administration and hunger strikers have come to an agreement and called an end to the strike.
“It’s disappointing that it took a hunger strike and that it took 10 days into a hunger strike to get it to these negotiations,” said Sofia Cardenas, an organizer for the Defend and Advance Ethnic Studies movement. “Even thought we didn’t get everything we wanted, I think we can still call this a victory.”
This announcement is the latest in a complex back and forth between students and administration over potential spending cuts to the College of Ethnic Studies.
“It definitely brought the community together,“ said Daniel Alvarez, intern at Ethnic Studies Student Organization and outreach organizer for the Defend and Advance Ethnic Studies movement.
Alvarez felt that the hunger strike galvanized public support for the movement and created a bridge from the students to the community.
Hunger striker Hassani Bell read a portion of the 11-page agreement to a crowd of about 50 people on May 11, detailing immediate support for 11 of their 26 demands.
“We still gotta keep organizing,” said Bell “Just because the hunger strike is over doesn’t mean the movement is.“
Among the demands met were allocations for recruitment of under-represented minorities, creation of Pacific Islanders Studies, addition of ethnic studies classes to general education requirements and the creation of a Task Force on the Advancement of the College of Ethnic Studies to manage agreed upon demands and the remaining demands not yet addressed.
One of the agreed-on demands hearkened back to the legal troubles inflicted on participants in the 1968 student-led strike that led to the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies. The demand stipulated that no disciplinary action would be taken against students, administrators, staff, or faculty who took part in protest and advocacy efforts related to the hunger strike.
When a crowd member asked what the strikers’ relationship with Wong was at this point in the process, Bell responded that they were not able to speak about Wong, due to stipulations in the agreement between hunger strikers and administration in which they agreed on a “silent period,” effective immediately and through December 31.
“I don’t consider him an ally,” said Cardenas, who wasn’t beholden to the stipulations. “This was about stopping bad press. If President Wong is image oriented and not student oriented, then I feel like there needs to be a change in that leadership.”
Larry Dorsey, a City College of San Francisco student who plans to transfer to SF State in the fall came to the announcement in solidarity for the hunger strikers. Dorsey’s father was a student in the first classes in the College of Ethnic Studies, receiving an degree in American Indian Studies.
“It’s deeper than an education, this is history,” said Dorsey.
Hunger striker Julia Retzlaff said they were awaiting the University’s release of the 2016/17 budget, which is expected on July 1, to proceed with further negotiations on the remaining demands.
Read more of Golden Gate Xpress’ coverage of the hunger strike here.