House Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi speaks at the SF State Opening Convocation in McKenna Theatre on August 17, 2023. (Neal Wong/Golden Gate Xpress)
House Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi speaks at the SF State Opening Convocation in McKenna Theatre on August 17, 2023. (Neal Wong/Golden Gate Xpress)
Neal Wong

Nancy Pelosi headlines 2023 SF State Convocation

SFSU President Lynn Mahoney focused on key topics such as enrollment, diversity and employee morale during her annual opening address

San Francisco State University President Lynn Mahoney conducted her annual State of the University speech on Thursday morning in front of faculty and staff, addressing the current issues and improvements for the campus as the fall semester begins to take shape.

The event, which happened in McKenna Theatre, featured Former House Speaker and current California District 11 U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Before she finished her speech with an empathetic “Go Gators” remark, Pelosi praised SFSU’s campus and leadership and expressed a commitment to increasing the federal role in assisting students.

“While we glory in the academic opportunity, successes and challenges –– to note that we are also concerned about the personal well-being, and that’s a word that I heard over and over again, about justice, and San Francisco State is known for that,” Pelosi said in her 10-minute speech.

University Opening Convocation attendees are seen waiting to help themselves to coffee and pastries outside the Creative Arts Building at SF State before the convocation on August 17, 2023. (Neal Wong/Golden Gate Xpress)

Pelosi also used the platform to shed light on climate change and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law by President Joe Biden on Aug. 16, 2022. The congresswoman also was critical of House Republicans and their various proposals to cut or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education.

“I’m thinking of some of the things my colleagues have told me in the Congress,” Pelosi said. “And when I talked about public education to them, they said, ‘Well, I don’t [know] why we have to have public education. I don’t even know why we have to have the Department of Education. We could just shut that down.’ And because you know why? They teach critical thinking in the public schools.’”

The event also updated faculty and staff on recent negotiations between the California Faculty Association and the CSU management bargaining team.

Brad Erickson, a faculty lecturer in the School of Liberal Studies and the president of the SF State Chapter of the CFA, said four articles of faculty contract –– salary, workload, health and safety and paid leave –– are currently the main issues in discussions between the two sides.

“Last week in Sacramento, where I spent a lot of time this summer, it was the consensus of faculty from across the state that because CFA and management were so far apart, further bargaining sessions would not be productive,” Erickson told the crowd. “We declared impasse, triggering the process of mediation of fact-finding that may, but is unlikely to close the distance.”

Erickson says that CSU management will possibly impose their final face offer as early as mid-October. If no agreement is reached, there could be a “real possibility” of a strike for this upcoming fall semester, according to Erickson. Faculty and staff have been briefed on notice paragraphs to include in their syllabi for students.

California State University Employees Union also remains “strike ready,” according to CSUEU San Francisco Chapter President Sandee Noda. The next bargaining session is set for Aug. 30 at CSU Northridge. Noda also announced that she would not seek reelection and would be stepping away to focus on spending time with her family.

Before Mahoney’s comments, Academic Senate Chair Mike Goldman laid out five core challenges facing SFSU: a drop in enrollment, meeting institutional goals measured by graduation, maintaining campus climate of employee morale, meeting expectations on equity, social justice and academic freedom and the ongoing pandemic that continues to affect some operations and tactics from the school.

Academic Senate Chair Michael Goldman speaks at the SF State Opening Convocation in McKenna Theatre on August 17, 2023. (Neal Wong/Golden Gate Xpress)

According to Mahoney, SFSU accepted roughly 5,500 new students –– half of them will be living on campus for the fall semester –– to join 15,000 returning students.

“Our faculty continue to exemplify the best of the teacher-scholar model, deeply engaged in both teaching and scholarship,” Mahoney said in her address. “Their professional activities, from their labs to archives to performance spaces, reflect our commitment to student learning and to studying and solving the greatest challenges facing us as a species.”

The progress on environmentally sustainable facilities was also highlighted. Mahoney says the Science & Engineering Innovation Center will open in the spring. The West Campus Green Project continues to undergo construction and two new buildings –– one will serve as a residential community for 750 first-year students and the other is to feature the new home for Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services and Health, Promotion and Wellness –– are expected to be completed next fall. Outdoor spaces on campus, including parking garages, also received Wi-Fi improvements and expansions.

On June 29, the Supreme Court reversed affirmative action, effectively ending race-conscious admissions. Mahoney expressed frustration over the ruling and pointed out how SFSU is committed to helping Black and Latinx students.

“I was more than disappointed by that decision, which ignores the reality that race matters,” Mahoney said. “But I was also frustrated by the obsession in the media with admissions to the elite universities. It’s been refreshing to see that the lenses and media coverage since then increasingly turned to the deep inequities built into our higher education and embedded in that coverage is an affirmation of the value of the work of San Francisco State and the CSU.”

Five faculty members were honored on Thursday with awards in excellence. Paul Beckman for tenured teaching, Mohammad HajiAboli for lecturer faculty teaching, Dianthe ‘Dee’ Spencer for professional achievement, Nancy Gerber for tenured faculty service and Phonita Yuen for staff service.

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Steven Rissotto
Steven Rissotto, Managing Editor
Steven Rissotto (he/him) is co-managing editor for Golden Gate Xpress. He is a journalism major with an education minor. A native of Pacifica, Steven attended Archbishop Riordan High School, where he played baseball and wrote on their award-winning newspaper, The Crusader. Before transferring to SFSU in Fall 2022, he attended Skyline College for two years and wrote for The Skyline View. He also covers the San Francisco Giants for SF Giants Baseball Insider on Sports Illustrated.  In his spare time, Steven enjoys cracking jokes, watching documentaries and sports, reading biographies and recording his baseball podcast, RizzoCast.
Neal Wong
Neal Wong, Co-Copy Editor
Neal Wong (he/him) is a third-year journalism student and minoring in urban studies and planning. He was born and raised in San Francisco and attended Washington High School. He has photographed and written for Golden Gate Xpress first as a contributor, then as a photographer, and now as a copy editor. His photos have also been published by the San Francisco Bay ViewSan Francisco Public Press, Mission Local, and Xpress Magazine. Neal has also created and taught four SFSU Experimental College courses. His hobbies include traveling, cooking, and reading.

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