California college students start hunger strike
Most of California State University’s 427,000 students will wake up this morning and eat breakfast as usual. But 13 bold college students concerned about the CSU system’s rising tuition and barriers to education won’t be eating anything today. After top university officials denied their requests for a meeting, the students started a hunger strike yesterday at midnight.
The activists are part of 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, Cal State East Bay costs more than Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita’s base pay has increased by 10 percent to $303,660 and CSU’s new San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman is earning $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 publicly made 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 by the April 27 deadline they set. Members responded by organizing the hunger strike, calling for volunteers who will 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.”
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 faculty association helped CSU students establish the SQE in 2007.
Both faculty and students participated in the National Day of Action for Education on 14 CSU campuses March 1, 2012. Occupy Education California, who organized the event, is 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.
Related articles in the news:
Protesting Students, Striking Faculty by Joseph A. Palermo via Huffington Post
The Massive Palestinian Hunger Strike: Traveling below the Western Radar - by Richard Falk via the Foreign Policy Journal
2,000 Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike and Zero News Coverage - by John Wight via Huffington Post