President Wong responds to Ethnic Studies students’ demands

President Leslie E. Wong responded to the list of demands from students and faculty of the College of Ethnic Studies Monday as promised in last Thursday’s meeting. In his statement, which he sent out via email to Ethnic Studies faculty and students and posted on his webpage, Wong reiterated that there won’t be a reduction of funding for courses and professors.

Wong stated that administration is still reviewing demands made at the meeting, among which included restoration of all pre-2007 funding to the College of Ethnic Studies, annual disclosure of the whole University budget, increased funding for lecturers and a requirement that all incoming students complete at least one lower division and one upper division course in Ethnic Studies.

“As I shared last Thursday, the University’s governing structure does not allow me, as President, nor any administrator, to make categorical, unilateral decisions on matters that must be handled through faculty governance in departments and colleges,” Wong said in the email.

Also on the list of demands was a call for the race and resistance studies program to be granted departmental status, more work study positions within the college, the establishment of an advising center and more funding for the graduate program and funding for more Ethnic Studies organizations.

In response, Wong said that the creation and restructuring of programs was the responsibility of Dean Kenneth Monteiro, and will be done in collaboration with students and faculty.

Wong also repeated his request for all of the college deans to form budget advisory committees made up of faculty and students to prevent similar budget situations in the future. Wong then restated SF State’s plans to increase its spending allotment to Ethnic Studies by $200,000 for the 2016-2017 academic year in order to provide the college time to plan and discuss how they will work moving forward. Wong added in the email that he would push for more fundraising for the college.

In an attempt to explain the current financial issues concerning the College of Ethnic Studies and other colleges, Wong mentioned what he called “system-wide budget cuts and consistent underfunding of the California State University by the State.”

In 2009, SF State made sweeping budget cuts to colleges across disciplines. The administration called for each college to cut 10 percent of its budget. The College of Ethnic Studies staff claimed at Thursday’s meeting that they took a higher cut that was disproportionate to the rest of the campus, and received only $3.6 million this year. The college said it’s had to overspend to cover the salary of lecturers and tenured professors and maintain operational costs.

Jonathan Morales, director of news and new media, said that the University has been supplementing the college’s overspending with a reserve fund that is now depleted.

SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies was the first ethnic studies program formed in the country, and was created after a campus-wide strike by the Black Student Union and Third World Liberation Front from November 1968 to March 1969. Students demanded equal access to education, more people of color added to the faculty and a new curriculum centered on the history and culture of ethnic minorities. According to SF State’s website, it was the longest campus strike in U.S. history.

News of the potential budget cuts devastated Ethnic Studies students, many of whom are involved in organizations on campus, like the Black Student Union and Ethnic Studies Student Organization. Students who attended Thursday’s meeting walked directly to the Administration Building to demand a meeting with Wong to discuss the financial issues and the fate of the College, which is the smallest college at SF State.

According to a National Bureau of Economic Research study released in January, students who take ethnic studies courses have better attendance records and improve their grade-point average.

The study examined ethnic studies programs in San Francisco high schools. Students showed up to class 21 percent more and their grade-point averages increased by an average of 1.4 points.