Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Jacqueline Foley detailed her frustration with the mistreatment she and fellow students, staff, faculty and administrators received under SF State President Leslie Wong’s authority in a Statement that was emailed to Wong and his administration last week.
“I have experienced horrific, disrespectful and appalling behavior from administrators on this campus,” Foley said in her statement. “I have seen cover-ups, dishonesty, a critical lack of transparency and been threatened for speaking up.”
Foley’s statement highlights how Wong and his administration continue to discourage student involvement and activism from various groups on campus, specifically ethnic and political student groups and the LGBTQIA+ community. On a personal level, Foley feels that she serves to fill a “quota” where a student representative is obligated to be present. She emphasizes her efforts to be involved and to have an active voice during meetings, but she feels she is constantly being shut down and undermined.
“I have read President Foley’s heartfelt message — several times. It took courage and conviction on her part, and anyone who knows Jackie as the passionate, committed leader she is would have expected nothing less,” said Wong in response to Foley’s remarks. “I take her concerns seriously and applaud her for raising them. We have much work to do, and I hope we can do it together.”
Foley has had an active role in student leadership throughout her four years at SF State. She joined the track and field team as a freshman and became team captain the following year in 2015. She first noticed these issues of mistreatment and lack of involvement when she became director of athletics in 2016.
“I left athletics because I wanted to be a part of something that was autonomous from the University, which was ASI. Then [I realized] a lot of those issues kind of followed,” said Foley.
Since becoming ASI President in spring 2017, Foley has had numerous students, faculty, staff and administration approach her with issues against Wong and his cabinet, especially women holding leadership positions. Foley herself filed a Title IX case in October 2017 against Associate Vice President of Business Operations Jay Orendorff. The formal complaint stated that Foley felt threatened by Orendorff during an encounter when he raised his voice and accused her of disrespecting his authority.
“If we’re letting it happen at the top, who’s to say that it’s not going to happen to other students and faculty and staff,” said Foley in regards to mistreatment.
A majority of the concerns Foley raised stem from Wong’s Task Force for Campus Climate. The group was created in order to combat tensions among various student organizations and to facilitate a space for open dialogue and discussion. Although it was intended to give students a platform to discuss campus issues, there were only three student representatives out of 22 members on the board. Each student represented a different student organization on campus — Foley represented ASI, alongside Rachael Cunningham from SF Hillel and Amran AlSiday from the Muslim Student Association.
“When you look at the membership, [it] was comprised of not a majority, but a large amount [of] representatives from the Jewish community — which is great that there was representation, but if [it] was a task force about all communities on our campus, it didn’t seem to be seen as representative or … seen by other members of the campus as accurate,” said Cunningham, recent graduate of SF State who represented SF Hillel on the task force.
“[It] was very frustrating that they didn’t want to really listen to what students have to say by only inviting three students,” said Cunningham. “And students who they’ve already interacted with — so it’s kind of like they had to.”
Students are not the only group on campus frustrated by Wong’s administration. Dr. Kenneth P. Monteiro, former dean of the College of Ethnic Studies (COES) and mentor to Foley, filed a lawsuit in August 2017 against the University due to “President Wong’s proclamation of his intent to terminate Dean Monterio’s employment, coupled with the SFSU’s lack of response to the formal Administrative Complaint Dean Monteiro … in order to protect his rights and preserve the integrity of the COES.”
“I know Ms. Foley well. I trust and respect her. So, if she says that was her experience, then it was. Period, full stop,” said Monteiro.
The statement Foley released was sent to Wong and his administration, as well as CSU Chancellor White and Vice Chancellors and California State Student Association (CSSA) President Maggie White.
“Chancellor White has heard President Foley’s concerns. He has full confidence in President Wong, and that he and President Foley will be able to work together for the good of San Francisco State,” according to a statement released via email by the CSU Chancellor’s office.
Foley has been in contact with the CSSA in order to collect information and work toward preventing unequal representation, as seen within Wong’s task force, on a CSU-wide level.
“My next step as ASI president is trying to figure out a process for this to not happen again and hoping that enough information and proof can come out that this president [Wong] won’t make it past another term in office,” said Foley.
Foley is the only individual to have released a statement regarding her personal experiences with Wong and his administration thus far. She hopes that more individuals will come forward with their own experiences in order to promote an open dialogue and to create change within the relationship between students, faculty and administration.
“Students are willing to come forward. This is something beyond our organization and what we’re going through but it’s much bigger,” said Foley.
Correction: When this was originally posted we stated that there were 17 members of the Task Force for Campus Climate, we have since received a list of all the members and learned that there are actually 22 members. This correction has been changed as of February 22, 2018.