Welcome to Gator Talk, a collaborative CalState podcast that brings city and statewide perspectives to SF State news.
As the end of SF State’s last transitional pandemic semester comes to a close, host Chris Ramirez wanted to take a moment and reflect on what the SF State community has gone through over the past two years. He sat down with SF State student Lorenzo Ramos, who started a Change.org petition in March 2020 to get the university to transition to remote learning.
Check out the story here at Gator Talk.
Myron: Hey Gators! This is Myron Caringal, diversity editor and co-host for Gatortalk, the podcast that’s supposed to come out every other Friday, but hopefully we didn’t keep you waiting. We’ve been busy! And I’m sure you have too, but welcome back to another banger episode.
For more information and coverage, check out goldengatexpress.org AND @GGXnews on all social media platforms.
Preview of the show
Myron: For this episode, editor-in-chief Chris Ramirez sat down with SF State student Lorenzo Ramos. You may not know him, but you might remember a Change.org petition back in March 2020 that asked SF State to go online because of this new thing called COVID-19. Well, that was his doing.
So, let’s get into it.
Chris: So, this is my final semester here at SF State, and I was just thinking about how the pandemic really shaped our time as students. I happened to be digging through some old Xpress articles, and I came across this one from March 2020. The headline reads, “SF State cancels events, classes suspended.” The photo for that image is of a student holding his phone to the camera. On the screen is the number of signatures on a Change.org petition that urged SF State to go online because of the spread of COVID-19.
Chris: The petition reads as follows:
“The students of San Francisco State University demand that face-to-face classes are turned into online sessions with all class materials provided on iLearn for the remainder of the spring term immediately.”
“Waiting till spring break takes effect to cancel face-to-face class sessions is like waiting for a bomb to go off. The university cannot stand idly by and wait for the death of a student or its faculty member in order to shut down campus. This is highly unethical and absurdly irresponsible.”
Chris: That story really struck me because so much has happened since then. So, I did what any good journalist would do: I gave that student a call.
Lorenzo Ramos: My name is Lorenzo Ramos, I’m 22 years old, and I am trying to figure out my major. I am in Business, but I want to go into Communications.
[interview audio ends]
Chris: Lorenzo had a lot going on in his life in those few months before the pandemic really took off in 2020. He actually started his college experience as a Biochem major, but later switched to Hospitality and Tourism Management because that’s what he said he really enjoyed doing: networking and making connections.
Myron: So Chris, when did Lorenzo first hear of COVID-19?
Chris: That’s a great question. The first time he remembers hearing about the coronavirus was actually back in November 2019, when it was still outside of the U.S. He said some of his family members were sick during that time; there’s no way of knowing if it was actually COVID, it did put him on edge.
Chris: And then in January 2020, right around the time of the first identified coronavirus case in the U.S., he just so happened to have watched this series on Netflix called “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak.”
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtMaG5vhCqc
Lorenzo Ramos: Ever since that documentary, I was just realizing how packed we are into all of our spaces. I was riding public transportation all the time because I worked three different catering jobs … and we never really thought of it as anything as like, “Oh, that’s gross,” we just put up with it. Because we all have this, I feel like we had a shared mindset of like, I just want to get to where I got to go, and I don’t really care.
[interview audio ends]
Myron: That sounds painfully ironic looking back on how things played out now.
Chris: Definitely. He said it was a little weird almost having this sense of awareness of what was coming in a matter of weeks, before everyone else really. It was around the time of when the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in SF that Lorenzo decided to start wearing a cloth mask on public transit and in classes too.
Lorenzo Ramos: This girl said, ‘Yeah, but that doesn’t really work. Like that’s not gonna do anything.’ ‘Yeah, maybe not for you. But for me, I feel good. So I’m just gonna continue wearing this.’
[interview audio ends]
Myron: We’re going to take a quick break.
Support the Golden Gate Xpress’ work by signing up for our online newsletter, following us on Instagram AND Twitter @ GGXnews and visiting the website: https://goldengatexpress.org
Interested in advertising with GGX? Check out our advertising page on goldengatexpress.org/advertising.
Cont. Main Story
Myron: And we’re back. Now that we know a little bit about Lorenzo, can you tell me exactly what prompted him to create that petition?
Chris: Sure thing. It’s important to remember though that all of this context is really just sitting in Lorenzo’s head, before anyone else really seemed to take the pandemic seriously. But there were two main things that really pushed Lorenzo to take action:
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2RN0OH2O34
Chris: And on top of that, Lorenzo said he really couldn’t get access with SF State President Lynn Mahoney. His professors were also telling him they didn’t really know how the university was going to respond to the growing case count. So he met with some friends and it was then that he decided to make that petition.
Lorenzo Ramos: If we waited to act longer, we would have just harmed ourselves. And then that would have looked really, really bad. And we don’t want to wait until people get so sick and faculty get so sick that they can’t even teach the classes. So I just sent it out.
[interview audio ends]
Myron: And just like that, it took off?
Chris: That’s basically how it happened, but Lorenzo did have a strategy to help get it momentum — Lorenzo described himself during our conversation as a natural leader and communicator, so he had connections in the right places to get this off the ground. He sent it to people at Cal State East Bay, UC Davis and Cal State LA. A lot of the people who signed the petition stayed anonymous, but Lorenzo said he saw the biggest uptick in signatures after a family friend who teaches at Cal State LA shared it among faculty there.
Myron: It sounds like this was much bigger than just SF State, right?
Chris: That’s right, and Lorenzo said him taking action actually inspired his friends to create similar petitions at their own universities. But as far as this one goes, it was definitely symbolic of the fears students and faculty felt as the pandemic really took off in the country.
Myron: So, was this petition the reason we went online?
Chris: Not exactly. Remember, Lorenzo tried getting in contact with administration but didn’t really have much luck. The petition reached its goal and got over 6,000 signatures, but Mahoney didn’t cite it as part of her decision making when we went online.
Myron: Interesting. I’m curious then, why did Lorenzo take it upon himself to create a petition?
Lorenzo Ramos: I don’t think it was my parents intention to raise me with the mentality of, ‘If you see there’s a problem, you should try fixing it yourself.’ They didn’t explicitly tell me that. But my parents– I come from a background where my parents are involved. Sometimes I feel overly involved, but it ends up being really good.
[interview audio ends]
Chris: His mom is a professor at Cal State LA and his dad is an administrative manager for Los Angeles County. Lorenzo told me that they actually founded a chapter of the Boys and Girls Club in their hometown.
Chris: Lorenzo told me that even though he does believe the petition made an impact, all he cares about is that Mahoney responded to the pandemic before it seriously impacted the university.
Myron: So I’m curious, where is Lorenzo now?
Chris: He’s doing well. He’s still a student at SF State and is taking remote courses from his family home in SoCal. He said he really struggled with that transition to online learning at first and even took some time off from school, but the pandemic really taught him the importance of going at a pace that suits him and really learned to prioritize his wellbeing.
Myron: Here’s what else you need to know today:
On Monday, a bipartisan group of California lawmakers submitted a request for an independent investigation into the CSU. The investigation would examine the CSU’s Title IX policies and procedures, and its executive transition program, which gave former Chancellor Joseph Castro a $400,000 salary upon his resignation.
Also on Monday, a draft opinion from the Supreme Court leaked, showing that a majority of the justices plan on voting to reverse Roe v. Wade. The draft showed a 5-3 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts not having an opinion. The justices, however, are still able to change their minds before the official opinion is published.
The Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 last Tuesday to keep JFK Drive car free. Surveys conducted through the SFMTA and Recreation and Park found that 70% of the 10,000 surveyed participants were in favor of the decision.
The University of California announced that it will provide full tuition to students from federally recognized Native American and Alaska Native tribes, using existing financial aid programs in the state.
And surprise! Xpress has a new incoming editor-in-chief. The newspaper will be led by Lisa Moreno, the current campus editor for the publication.
And that’s all I got.
This is Myron Caringal, diversity editor and co-host for Gatortalk.
Our final episode of the semester will premiere in two weeks, so stay tuned! Keep checking our socials, @GGXnews, for more coverage. Have a great weekend — I’m out.