CSUN students help lend support to faculty’s fight

Grace Chon

More than 500 CSUN students filled out yellow survey cards that declared their opposition to the student tuition increase from a necessity to increase the quality of their education by marking “yes” to strike.

In order for their stance to be heard and taken seriously, Educational Opportunity Program student workers are stepping into classrooms to inform fellow students about the two-day strike, which CSU faculty voted on over the last two weeks.

The CSU student demands include an end to fee increases, funding more classes rather than executive raises and perks, increasing funds for outreach and retention programs, and putting students first.

“There’s been a 91 percent tuition increase and graduate student fees have doubled since 2002,” said Enrique Galan, one of the EOP student workers at CSUN actively working toward the strike. “About 15,000 students dropped out of the CSU system since the tuition increase. Classes are being cut and overcrowded.”

Although the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported a 2.4 percent increase to be sufficient, the CSU Board of Trustees approved the 10 percent fee increase Wednesday and is creating anger and apprehension among some students.

“I feel like our Board of Trustees sold us out,” said Dina Cervantes, CSUN’s Associated Students director of political awareness. “When they talk about tuition increase and say financial help and assistance is going to help, they don’t realize a lot of students are middle-class. My family is within that bracket. (At) one point in time my parents were paying for three college tuitions and three sets of books.”

A Board of Trustees member said a total of 146,000 out of 417,000 CSU students would not pay the tuition increase but only 1 percent of students actually apply for financial aid.

But some cannot apply for financial aid even if they want to. Carolina Conto from CSU Dominguez Hills cannot apply for grants or financial aid. Conto is an AB540 student. AB540 is a bill that allows immigrant students to pay in-state tuition fees to create affordability. Conto needs to deal with consistent tuition increases and work two jobs without any financial assistance.

“I had to take a semester off before because I lost one of my jobs,” Conto said. “I couldn’t afford to go back to school. We can’t get loans or grants. AB540 students have to pay everything out of our own pocket.”

The stories of Cervantes and Conto reflect those of some students in the CSU system. Students are not the only ones stirred up about Board of Trustees decisions, however.

A factor that plays into the number of classes decreasing and students overcrowding in classrooms is instructors leaving for higher-paying jobs. When instructors leave, they are taking a handful of students with them and taking away three to four classes that would have been available, student advocates say. This creates a decrease in number of faculty and quality of education for CSU students.

The students and faculty members refuse to stay silent. Students want a decrease in tuition and faculty members want an increase in pay but will not take that money from students’ pockets.

CSU officials proposed that CSU faculty would receive a 24 percent pay increase over four years for nine months of work. But CFA leaders counter that to receive the 24 percent entails certain conditions which only apply to a small pool of faculty members. Some of these conditions are being on tenure track and having a merit increase, which measures how much work has been done.

“There are so many problems with the salary proposal,” said sociology and women’s studies professor Kris Kouri. “About 43 percent of faculty members are lecturers. Some people under some conditions could get a 24 percent salary increase.”

Students and faculty members are particularly enraged because money is not being allocated the way they hoped. Instead, large sums are given to executives as perks, in addition to previous raises.

“At the end of the day, if we had no other choice but to increase the tuition, then we would be okay,” Cervantes said. “At least I would know that the board, faculty and students stood on (the) same ground.”

Cervantes said students are passive at the moment and hopes A.S. can do a better job at providing awareness to students about the current situation.

“It takes one person to create so much change,” Cervantes said. “Students have to believe in themselves. You can create a big rumble. That’s what is needed to create change.”