Staff Editorial: Students need to improve activism for real change

     

    Illustration by Gabriel Ivan Orendain-Necochea

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Many members of the editorial staff at the Daily Sundial have attended CSUN for at least four years. A few of us are graduate students. Like many of you, we have seen our tuition double since we started our education. We have seen classes get cut while unit caps were established. This has resulted in fewer students enrolled in our university, and paradoxically, students having to take longer to complete their degrees. And earlier this month, the CSU closed admissions for the 2013 Spring semester with the exception of a limited group of students, due to reductions in state funding over the past several years totaling $750 million.

    Under these conditions, and having seen the tradition of the last few years, we can expect our campus to get political this fall. Unfortunately, what that tradition looks like is a few students engaged in ineffective political activities, while the majority apathetically disengage.

    Real change is not possible unless we effectively encourage people to get active, do our homework and are not afraid to be leaders.

    Reflecting on our coverage of the political events over the last year, we acknowledge the efforts of student leaders who tried to spur participation from their peers. A small group of activists (some associated with the Occupy movement, but not all) spent a considerable amount of time trying to bring more attention and awareness to the education issue—a few from our campus even participated in a brief hunger strike at the expense of their physical comfort. Our student body government, the Associated Students, hosted a series of events called Big Politics to engage students in our government’s political process and give us an opportunity to meet important legislators.

    Ultimately, these activities and events did not inspire many students to participate in the political dialogue. This was due to three main issues: problems in communication between the leaders and the student body, a lack of clear and tangible goals, and an unwillingness from the average student to step up.

    Improve communication  to bring people together

    From our reporting, we have learned that many students feel out of touch with A.S. and often feel alienated or put off by the student activists. In our observation, most people do not have a clue what A.S. does. Several of our reporters have witnessed some of the CSUN activists act disrespectfully toward anyone who criticized their movement.

    Leaders need to have good public relations with their stakeholders and make people want to join their cause. They need to treat those with opposing or conflicting views with respect. Self-righteousness will not only do little to convince people of your cause, but will discourage them from considering your point of view.

    Do your homework and create clear and tangible goals

    Leaders need to have a deep understanding of the current situation and establish tangible goals for their campaign to work toward. If your goal is to raise awareness for an issue, but you have no tangible goal that the public can engage in, the community may gain knowledge, but has no road to empowerment.

    A.S. needs to know that running an election campaign saying you will change things is not enough. And having official meetings, hosting political events to raise awareness about the issues or going to Sacramento once a year is not enough.

    Student activists need to know that making signs, marching around campus shouting at people to “wake up” and sitting in on our administration’s office in University Hall is not enough to change anything. Going on a liquid-only hunger strike is brave, but the goal cannot be to shame the administration into acting humane and courageously–it is not in their job title. Your time is going to be much better spent gathering signatures to put a measure on the next ballot than camping out in front of the Oviatt.

    Both groups should work together and direct energy into lobbying both the CSU board and the California legislature. While President Dianne Harrison and Chancellor Charles B. Reed (and whoever is chosen to be his replacement) decide how money is spent within the CSU, they do not control how much the CSU is funded—the state legislature does. Petitioning the government is more effective than hounding Harrison or even Reed. Imagine if student groups from every CSU took their petitions and rallies to Governor Brown’s doorstep.

    This past May, the California Faculty Association voted to go on a statewide teachers strike if negotiations with the administration failed. And although the new tentative contract between the teachers and the administration is far from perfect, the pressure the union had put on the administration yielded results. Student activists and advocates should take a lesson from this—students should organize as one large body across CSU campuses like a union, and work together with professors.

    Don’t be afraid to become a leader

    If you are not an activist or a student representative, you still have a responsibility. Access to higher education is a right, but also a privilege that we must respect and preserve to the utmost.

    This does not mean that all of us should become community organizers. It just means that we cannot stand by and let a few student leaders do all the work. If you see a problem with your representatives’ methods, let them know what would work better, or even better, get involved and become a leader.

    If you have the right to vote, use it and express that education is important to you. On Nov. 6 California voters will vote on a tax initiative that will determine if more than $1 billion will be cut from the state’s higher education budget ($551 million from community colleges and $250 million each from the CSU and UC systems). We implore you to read the initiative and take a stance on this issue.

    Take action

    Although college students are not to blame for what the state or the CSU does to our funding, the majority of us are guilty of being a distracted, misinformed, unorganized and apathetic constituency. We cannot expect a fruitful attempt at real change unless many more students feel a personal responsibility for their education and develop a willingness to fulfill that responsibility with effective action.

    • Jesus Martinez Ramirez

    • Jesus Martinez Ramirez

      Michelangelo I definitely agree with you in the sense that we need to focus on what the administration, faculty and other students at CSUN are doing to help adress the budget cuts. Lowering AS and USU fees is certainly an option but I think we are better of making sure that money is well spent. I also dont think lowering the fees ($84 AS) will not have that much of an impact when we are paying $3500 per semester. In fact I think those fees are necessary to enhance campus life which makes school more enjoyable and may help raise grades. I also dont think the Daily Sundial would be an appropriate model for AS and the USU because in my opinion they are more complex organizations. Also when it comes to the different services CSUN offers to the student body I think they have to be different so that they can help different group of students. I think just because you or I dont use a particular service it doesnt mean its not helpful for other students. Dont get me wrong there is always room for improvement to the services and I think thats where the student body should come in give their opinion as to whether said services are helpful. So I definitely think this article is right in the sense that AS can do a lot more to inform and provide better services to the student body. I can also assure you that is an ongoing goal that AS has and that all of the student leaders are trying to make CSUN a better place. However, the AS can’t function properly if the students don’t do their part whether is by voicing their concerns at Senate meetings (since very few students attend senate meetings), elections (since only 8% of students voted in the last elections) or to student leaders.

      • Michelangelo_L

        The AS fee is only $84, but USU fees are an additional $253. The Campus Quality Fee is another $104. The health service fee is $54. The total is $498. I wouldn’t proposed cutting the whole of that sum, but a good deal could be cut.

        $133 alone could be cut from the USU fee by not forcing all students to sign up for the SRC. Could the argument be made that it enhances campus life? Sure, and if it was true you wouldn’t have to force people to pay for it. Frankly though I don’t think it enhances campus life, because a good 60% of our students don’t live nearby. I’m part of the 30-33% percent who lives just around the corner, so I  benefit from the gym, but I don’t think I should be subsidized from the 60%+ percent of students who don’t have the time to go to the SRC. 

        From what I’ve seen much of the Student Quality Fee could be cut as well. The top three expenses paid for with the SQF for 2010-11 were (a) landscaping in Clearly Courtyard, (b) mentoring for those who live in the dorms, (c) benches. Hey, I’m sure those at the dorms benefited from the mentoring. I don’t however think that those who don’t live in the dorms should be paying for their services. That expense should be added to the cost of living at the dorms.

        To be quite frank, it is my suspicion that those who can afford to live at the dorms come from middle to higher income families – therefore allowing them to live at the dorms. It is those of us who don’t live at dorms who come from lower income, and lower-middle income families. If my suspicion is true then that means poor students are essentially paying for middle-rich students. Something is very wrong with that. 

        I can’t make any of the AS meetings since I’ll be in class when they meet, but I am trying to contact my Senator to inform him of the various cuts or changes in how the fees work that could improve things. 

        • Jesus Martinez Ramirez

          Yeah I understand where you are coming from. I really dont know much about the USU and how they use the revenue from fees. However, the campus quality fee does support good programs from what I can tell from their allocations summary. Plus I know that the health service fee is necessary to provide good service at cheap rates. So how much would you propose to cut back on fees?I would disagree in the sense that I think that it does enhance campus life. I also think that it provides the students who live in the dorms something to do. Plus it is a way to stay healthier and I know that a lot of students including my self should go to the gym from time to time. I understand that not a lot of the students are using the SRC but maybe we should focus on encouraging people to take advantage of it so that they can stay healthier and relief some stress.  Also if the SRC was supported only by the people who use it I dont think it would the same quality and as nice as it is. See maybe you dont benefit from the mentoring but you do benefit from the SRC. I guess what I am trying to say is that although we dont always benefit from the programs payed by our fees at some point in our college life we will and that is why I am in support of paying the fees. Plus it lowers the burden on everybody if we all chip in. I would also disagree because from my experience I’ve met people who are lower and middle class income that live in the dorms. From what I’ve seen a lot rely on financial aid to pay for housing and they live on the dorms because they are new to the San Fernando Valley or because they dont know anyone. What college do you fall under? The marketing department is working on live streaming the meetings and hopefully start making brief video summaries of the meetings. Hopefully, that will help students become more informed and involved. 

    • BurgerLess

      Students are pawns. Nothing affects change until you influence the elected officials in Sacramento.

    • Michelangelo_L

      First comment!