Most of California State University’s 427,000 students will wake up this morning and eat breakfast. Those who skip it will probably grab a snack or early lunch. But 13 gritty college students concerned about the CSU system’s rising tuition and barriers to education won’t be eating any breakfast, snacks or lunch today. After top university officials denied their requests for a meeting, the students began a hunger strike yesterday at midnight.
The activists belong to Students for Quality Education, a student movement for educational rights, and they represent 6 of the 23 CSU campuses: Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Northridge, Sacramento and San Bernardino. According to SQE, for average students, attending Harvard, Yale and Princeton is more affordable than attending Cal State East Bay.
Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita’s base pay was increased by 10 percent to $303,660 and CSU’s new San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman is being paid $100,000 more than his predecessor. CSU trustees generously compensate university leaders, but voted to raise tuition by 12 percent in reaction to state budget cuts.
On March 20, shortly after the salary and tuition hike announcements, SQE members publicized the following demands and asked to meet with CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and Chairman Robert Linscheid.
- A 5-year moratorium on student fee hikes
- The elimination of all 23 campus presidents’ housing and car allowances as an important ‘symbolic’ step
- If cuts must be made, they should first and foremost be made to administrative and executive salaries, reversing their salaries to 1999 levels to match current funding
- The extension of freedom of speech areas to include entire campuses
SQE was not granted a meeting with Reed and Linscheid by the April 27 deadline they set. Members responded by organizing the hunger strike, calling for volunteers to drink only water and juice until the group’s demands are met.
KTLA News reports: “We’ve talked to state legislators, written petitions, mobilized people on campus,” Cal State Long Beach student Donnie Bessom said during a telephone news conference. “The next step for us is in the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience.”
Sophomore Sarah Garcia is one of four Cal State Northridge strike participants. She is a first-generation college student who grew up participating in United Farm Workers protests.
“My family understands things are messed up. They understand why I’m doing this,” Garcia told CSU Northridge’s Daily Sundial.
Some students are experienced activists and at least one has experience with hunger strikes. Each striker’s health will be monitored by a safety team. On Saturday, May 5, the Sacramento students will go to Long Beach to meet up with fellow strikers.
The hunger strike coincides with news that the California Faculty Association will act if no progress is made in its long-standing negotiations with CSU officials. In a 95 percent vote, CSU faculty union members authorized rolling 2-day strikes that could start this fall.
The California Faculty Association helped CSU students establish the SQE in 2007. Faculty members joined students in National Action for Education protests on 14 CSU campuses March 1, 2012.
Occupy Education California, who organized the event, is now leading a 99 Mile March for education and social justice that will end with an Occupy the Capitol protest in Sacramento March 5.
The California students’ hunger strike begins on day 64 of a hunger strike by more than 3,000 Palestinians.
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2,000 Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike and Zero News Coverage - by John Wight via Huffington Post