Student representatives of the California State University system agreed on Sunday in a close vote to show their support of the California Faculty Association, which is currently holding strike votes on all 23 campuses.
The decision was a result of three days of meetings, some of which ran long and were defined by tensions between students who favored neutrality and those who wanted to show support to the system’s faculty.
Adam Salgado, president of CSUN’s Associated Students, abstained from voting on the resolution because the A.S. Senate has not held a vote yet to determine CSUN students’ official response to the salary negotiations between the CFA and CSU.
Salgado said they plan to discuss the issue further at today’s Senate meeting.
The California State Student Association meets once a month on alternating campuses. This month, the meeting was held at San Diego State University, and the main topic of conversation was the CFA resolution.
Dina Cervantes, who is CSUN’s director of political awareness at A.S., played a crucial role in the fight between resolutions. She co-authored the resolution supporting a CFA with Sonoma State’s A.S. President Nadir Vissanjy, who also serves as the chair of the CSSA. The two have worked on the resolution since December and were dealt a surprise at last month’s CSSA meeting when SDSU’s Vice President of External Affairs, Khouloud Elmasri, released her own resolution, which urged neutrality on the CFA-CSU negotiations. Elmasri is also chair of the CSSA’s University Affairs Committee, which was the first to discuss the resolutions on Saturday afternoon.
With the two resolutions butting heads, the atmosphere at SDSU’s Cox Arena was tense on Saturday. When the morning’s Board of Directors meeting ended nearly an hour early, a break was not an option.
Rather, students in support of the resolution written by Cervantes and Vissanjy held court at a table outside for nearly two hours, strategizing and working through lunch devising a plan to make their resolution heard and supported at the afternoon’s UAC meeting. They were already at a disadvantage as Elmasri, who drafted the meeting’s agenda, had made the key action item all about her own resolution. If hers passed, the agenda stated, “all other pending documents regarding collective bargaining (would become) null and void.”
The meeting came to order shortly after 1 p.m. during the public comment portion of the meeting (which was similar to CSUN’s A.S. Senate Open Forum), several supporters of the pro-CFA resolution spoke up, pointing out the plight of CSU faculty and what they considered the dirty politics behind Elmasri’s resolution.
Two student representatives pointed out that the committee should consider the students of their universities.
“I’m just here to tell you guys ? it’s the future of our university,” said Lily Marquez, from CSU East Bay. “It’s important that we support it. So today, remember your campuses.”
San Francisco State’s Joicy Serrano voiced her worry that the representatives would not look toward their constituents’ opinions.
“I encourage you guys ? to represent your students and not your own opinion,” Serrano said.
Cervantes brought up the internal politics that had everyone agitated.
“When you want camaraderie and to work together,” you stick to past promises, she said, referencing Elmasri’s sudden decision to release a new resolution. “For (Cervantes’ resolution) not to be heard equally is wrong.”
Before a vote was held regarding the resolutions, however, the UAC heard from Mark Wheeler, an associate philosophy professor at SDSU who represented the CFA, and Patrick Lenz, who represented the CSU, for a collective bargaining update that was especially crucial that afternoon.
“Were we to accept the current offer, we would essentially capitulate to business as usual,” Wheeler said. “Business as usual is not proactive.”
Wheeler later tried to assuage the committee’s concerns about the possibility of rolling strikes this semester. If the strike, which is currently under discussion, takes place, it will be the largest higher education strike in United States history.
“Were (the strike) to take place, it would be a historic moment, (though) not one we’d cherish,” Wheeler said.
Lenz tried to break down the CSU’s financial situation for the committee.
“We can raise student fees, or we can get more general fund (money) from the legislature and the governor than they’re giving us,” he said when a representative from the community asked how a raise for faculty would be paid for.
After the update, resolution discussion and voting began.
“It’s important that we maintain the spirit of the resolution that the author intended,” Elmasri said, referring to her own resolution.
One student responded to a neutrality supporter’s reminder that the Academic Senate had already voted to remain neutral.
“Academic Senate has a different (role) to the rest of the campus than student government does,” the representative said. “That’s why I propose that we vote this resolution down.”
That statement, as well as many others against Elmasri’s resolution, was applauded.
The first vote held was to determine the committee’s stance on Elmasri’s resolution, which eventually failed.
Then the committee discussed the pro-CFA resolution authored by Cervantes and Vissanjy. Some relatively minor amendments were made to the resolution.
Another amendment caused quite a bit of discussion and was eventually passed by the committee.
The amendment to the resolution suggested that the fourth “resolved” portion of the document be removed entirely.
The controversial suggestion said that the “CSSA urges CFA to use job action that will have an imposition on students only when all other means have been exhausted.”
One student expressed her reluctance “to go back and tell my students that I voted for a strike,” and evidently other representatives shared this concern.
After the resolution passed, its supporters could not fully celebrate, however; the resolution still had to be passed by the Board of Directors at Sunday’s meeting.
However, Sunday’s meeting was defined by even more drama and politics. Elmasri’s resolution was brought before the Board of Directors, despite the fact that it had been rejected by the UAC the day before. After two hours of deliberating (which included debate of whether to change the more controversial language of the pro-CFA resolution), however, the BOD passed a close vote in favor of the resolution written by Cervantes and Vissanjy, with 10 voting for the resolution, eight opposed, and CSUN abstaining from the vote.
Later that afternoon, Cervantes expressed her relief at the end result.
“I’ve been dealing with this since December, but it’s all worth it,” she said.