Deans weigh in on Ethnic Studies funding controversy

Last Tuesday, five of the deans of SF State’s six academic colleges signed a letter supporting the initiation of a task force to investigate the funding concerns in the College of Ethnic Studies.

This suggestion follows weeks of protests by students at the College of Ethnic Studies after hearing about the possibility of spending cuts in the wake of an announcement by the administration that Academic Affairs would no longer be able to make up the gap between the College’s budget and its spending. Outraged students claim that the College has been systematically underfunded and its budget disproportionately cut by the administration in recent years.

The task force would be what the letter describes as a neutral third party who can investigate the financial concerns of the College of Ethnic Studies and insure the long-term well being of all the SF State Colleges.

The dean of the College of Ethnic Studies did not sign the letter.

Students from the College of Ethnic Studies expressed their opposition to the suggested solution. The idea of a task force and having students look at a long report that they won’t be able to understand isn’t fair, according to Nikko Martinez, a fifth-year Environmental Studies major and president of the Ethnic Studies Student Organization.

“We need to have a clear and transparent budget to look at,” Martinez said. “Not just spending for the colleges, but for the whole administration.”

Sofia Cardenas, a third-year women and gender studies major and employee of the Ethnic Studies Student Organization said she thinks the letter is an attempt by the administration to take control of the narrative and distract from the larger issue.

“I don’t think that’s the solution,” Cardenas said. “The task force is not applicable because there’s no money to begin with.”

Cardenas thinks there needs to be a panel of deans, students and faculty to come up with a solution to the financial problem.

“My view, given the tension around the issue, is there’s a lot of misinformation going around and a lot of misrepresentation in the media,” said Daniel Bernardi, the interim dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts. “Someone like, maybe Wong, who cares about the community, and cares about the school could be the one to ease people’s fears, and may be able to ease the tension.”

The College of Ethnic Studies faculty, including Dean Kenneth Monteiro and Associate Dean Amy Sueyoshi, is echoing the concerns of the students, saying that the task force is not enough action.

“My personal position is that the first step in moving the process forward is for the student-led activists, and all three parts of shared governance, the administration, the Academic Senate, and Associated Students, to agree to the processes for finding resolution,” Montiero said. “So, for me, all suggestions for task forces or other methods should be seen as suggestions. I find that when trying to get to agreement on solutions, the first mutual agreement should be on the vehicle for getting there.”

Sueyoshi said she wasn’t expecting the deans to send a letter to Wong, but she wishes that they had shown a little more support for the College of Ethnic Studies.