Students from six different Cal State Universities will be taking part in a hunger strike beginning today until their demands are met by the CSU.
Students for Quality Education announced Friday that 12 students from Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Northridge, Sacramento and San Bernardino will be taking part in the strike until until tuition freezes and executive and administrative salaries are rolled back.
Four students from CSUN will be participating in the hunger strike. Sarah Garcia, Matthew Delgado, Grace Castaneda and Raiza Arias have been preparing for the restriction of food.
On March 20, SQE announced a number of solutions they believe would solve higher education issues that are affecting students.
SQE presented this list of demands to the Chancellor Charles B. Reed and Chairman Robert Linscheid and specifically told them that if the demands were not met, they would have to take further actions.
The demands include a five-year tuition freeze, a salary change requiring CSU’s chancellor and president’s salaries be reduced to 1999 levels to match current CSU funding levels, the president and chancellor’s allowances eliminated and having all CSU campuses be free-speech zones.
After their requests to meet up with Reed and Linscheid were turned down, SQE decided to take volunteers for a hunger strike.
The four CSUN strikers have had regional meetings with the other eight CSU students who are also striking. The 12 students will all begin the hunger strike Wednesday and will allow themselves juice and water.
The four CSUN students have still not discussed when the strike will end but are hoping the strike will bring attention to higher education issues. The strikers are aware of the possible health consequences and/or death that might result from this starvation but have all agreed to fast until their bodies can not stand it any longer.
Castaneda for example explained that she currently is “not in the best of stage of my health, as it seems I might be catching a small cold, but I personally will continue with the action till my body says no more.”
Sarah Garcia, sophomore and deaf studies major became a part of SQE last fall. Before joining SQE, her activism involved attending rallies, however, she has no experience with hunger strikes.
Garcia grew up in an activist family. When she was younger, she joined her father in United Farm Workers marches. Garcia is part of the first generation of her family to get a college education and they are extremely supportive of her volunteering to do this strike because paying for school has been an issue for her and them.
“My family understands things are messed up.” Garcia said. “They understand why I’m doing this.”
A junior and double major in political science and sociology, Castaneda believes that the hunger strike is a way to bring attention to student issues.
“I have a lot of faith in this action as it is done to create awareness within the students and the community.” Castaneda said. “To inform them to what lengths officials like Chancellor Reed and his minions have gone as they have done nothing to better the current situation the Cal State system is facing. People like Chancellor Reed make a six-digit salary, have allowances for a car and have housing provided.”
Also a sophomore and in his first year with SQE, Delgado has been preparing along with the other three strikers by cutting down his consumption of food and researching. Delgado explained that he and his friends have faced issues paying for tuition, especially Delgado, because he “pays out of pocket.”
Though Delgado has no prior experience in fasting, he will not be consuming juices, only water. Delgado’s fears they’ll be ignored by the Chancellor and Chairman but he does believe that students can make a difference.
“My brother is about to have a kid and I just wonder how it will be for them 20 years from now,” Delgado said.
The youngest of the strikers and the only freshman, Arias has experience in hunger striking.
“I’ve done hunger strikes before when I was 14. I’m a vegetarian, so when I was younger I did a hunger strike for 2-3 weeks.”
The strike was to stop a company from destroying an animal’s habitat, but the strike was unsuccessful. Arias withdrew from the strike because of her health.
Arias, who is a theatre and anthropology major, has always been part of the activist community and joined SQE because she wanted to be involved in CSUN activism. She believes that the strike is symbolic and “reflects students who are starving.”
Arias explained that the SQE made sure to prepare them for the strike through workshops and research that was conducted. Though she has experience in not eating, sometimes “not by choice,” she worries that the other strikers might not handle the strike well.
“I’m worried for my fellow strikers.” Arias said. “We each have a safety team to make sure that each striker is cared for though.”