Business Building Occupied at San Francisco State University
Yesterday at around 8:30 in the morning I went to San Francisco State University to attended the opening session of Uniting Pilipino Students for Success (which is hosted by the Filipino student org PACE) and as I was walking by the Old Humanities (HSS) building I could hear in the distance some students chanting, “In memory of sixty-eight! Occupy SF State!” (the 1968 reference is a tip of the hat toward the student and teacher strikes at SF State back in 1968 and 1969 which helped set up the College of Ethnic Studies)
As I got closer I could see that the Business Building (the smallest building at SF State which makes it easier to plan an occupation) was being barricaded by students protesting the huge increase in tuition fees that have effected the entire California State University system. Not only were students blocking all entrances but all the entrances (from the inside) had stacks and stacks of chairs, desks, and tables buttressed right up against them. They were piled so high you couldn’t even get a view inside the building at all.
Faced with state budget cuts of more than half a billion dollars, CSU trustees approved a 20 percent fee hike in July, bringing annual tuition to $4,827. At a time when applications to CSU are climbing, the university is limiting enrollment, cutting employee pay through furloughs and offering fewer courses.
When I first started out as a Freshman at SF State in Fall of 2003 it cost only around $1,900 a year (slightly over $900 a semester) to go to SF State.
From reading the newspaper articles and talking to friends the occupation has grown over the entire day with many students supporting it and many others venting their frustration at the occupiers for disrupting classes. At one point the supporters of the occupation (and just general curious onlookers) were in the hundreds (I suggest following this link to see a multimedia presentation by the campus newspaper, which I used to photograph for, the Golden Gate [X]Press. You can also see video of the occupation at this link here).
According to the occupiers website they are demanding quite a bit from the administration and the CSU Board of Trustees. Some of them are obvious “throw-aways” such as:
- That the imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Gaza are ended, and that money is used to feed and clothe the poor.
- That the bailout money, all 5 trillion of it, be returned to the people who lost their homes.
- That prisons are closed and defunded.
- That the CSU board of Trustees be dissolved.
But other demands seem to be more reasonable even if they seem slightly unattainable (which doesn’t mean they can’t attain them but just that, as of now, it would take a lot of pressure and grass-roots organizing to attain them):
- That no disciplinary action be taken against us for our action.
- That the union painters on campus, who were all fired and replaced with independent contractors, be rehired.
- That all laid-off lecturers be rehired.
- That a student owned and run food cooperative be established on campus.
- And more
Now, the big question is what is going to happen over the next coming days and how are these demands going to be meet and what type of plans the occupiers have beyond simply occupying the Business Building.
I, for one, am extremely sympathetic toward this action and support my fellow students whole heartedly who are on the inside and those organizing on the outside. However, I am wondering how effective this occupation will be. I’m not saying I won’t do work to support it, I will, I’m just looking at the future.
There really needs to be a strong grass-roots based network of students in key CSU campuses to pull off something successful. Not only that, but there needs to be strong involvement of student orgs and key grass-roots organizers from the outside of the campus community. Plus, one of the reason why the 1968-69 strike was successful is because the Black Student Union had the support of the Black Panther Party and had spent the previous three years planning for student action toward building up a strike (three freakin’ years!). Not only that but there was a centralized committee of student groups that planned almost every aspect of the student strike and actions, so all the student groups were on the same page and knew each others plans (it was called the Third World Liberation Front). Also, the teachers union got involved which caused more pressure to be put upon the (then) San Francisco State College administrators.
While this occupation (I’m predicting) won’t be successful in the short-term it could (and this is completely up in the air) be successful in the long-term. We could look at this occupation as either the opening salvo in a long fight or a high-stakes one-shot gamble to get our demands heard.
There needs to be some very frank and sharp discussions between the key student organizations on campus and their needs to be coordinated planning for future actions by the student orgs and the students themselves. Not only that but there needs to be outreach to the community outside SF State and the other key CSU campuses.
To do this would be extremely hard. It would mean many boring meetings and stamp-licking and flier-printing, etc. Not very glorifying stuff, but hey, that’s what being a true organizer means. Doing the boring stupid grunt work in order to plan future successful actions.
Hopefully something becomes of this occupation and that the students involved in it don’t become discouraged when it is finally broken but are instead galvanized to do more work and grass-roots organizing (ya know, the boring stuff) in order to create more successful and sustain actions.