Ethnic Studies Department Wins Two Hero Awards


(Left to right) Officers of the SF State Ethnic Studies Students Organization, President Sophia Wenzel, Vice President Nureldin Maslu, Social Media Manager Skye Bennike, Treasurer Iliana Jacobo and Secretary Heaven Estrada go over their meeting plans in EP 110 B on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. (Brenna Cruz/Xpress)

The San Francisco Human Rights Commission and its Equity Advisory Committee has presented two Hero Awards to the College of Ethnic Studies for their activism and perseverance in gaining adequate funding for the department.

The Ethnic Studies Student Organization and the Ethnic Studies Student Resource and Empowerment Center won in the student and organization categories against “a large number of accomplished and notable individuals and organizations.” According to the SFHRC website.

“It was bittersweet winning the award,” Sophia Wenzel, president of the Ethnic Studies Student Organization, said. “We went to the Human Rights Commission last semester and asked them to hold SF State accountable, but they wouldn’t give us that recognition.”

Phil Klasky, the College of Ethnic Studies student resource coordinator, said the ESSO hosts workshops to assist low-income and minority students in receiving opportunities with scholarships, financial aid, writing, transgender education, health education, feminism education, promoting jobs for people of color, voter registration, and LGBTQ issues, to name a few.

The College of Ethnic Studies has been battling against challenging spending cuts that have been threatening its success.  

“We have been facing very serious cuts to each department,” Klasky said.  “The College has no funds to support the contractual agreement with its faculty, we are waiting for funds to pay (them).”

“I am very proud of all the work these students have put in,” Klasky said. “I want to make it clear that we share this award. We are in solidarity with other organizations who have helped.”

Wenzel said several groups supported the College of Ethnic Studies including the Third World Liberation Front, the Black Student Union, Black n’ Brown Liberation Coalition, and Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, to name a few.

“This award is important to the university,” said Kenneth Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies.  “It frames the intent of the conversation between the president and the students. It elevates the discussion and shows the tradition of SF State.”

The University promised to keep funding the College of Ethnic Studies through the 2016 to 2017 school year, Wenzel said.

“We want defense and advancement of the College of Ethnic Studies. We would like permanent existence…the budget cuts would have eliminated us. We were fighting for our own existence,” Klasky said.

He hopes that through this award the University administration, city, and county can recognize the institutional deficit and perform the deed of fully funding the College.

“It definitely gives us a brighter future, but we also have to use this as a platform to continue dialogue with the city and continue to fight,” Wenzel said.