CSUF group seeks to end corporatization of education

Photo by David Le

Students for Quality Education (SQE) chapters held rallies and actions all across California Thursday to protest budget cuts and rising tuition costs. The event on campus was subdued compared to actions at Cal State Los Angeles, where about 300 protesters demonstrated. With the Women’s History Month kick-off event as a backdrop, the SQE chapter at Cal State Fullerton handed out fliers to educate others about upcoming actions in front of the Humanities Building.

Carie Rael, member of SQE and a history major, said chapters of the group plan on having a presence at the next California State Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach, March 21. According to its website, SQE currently has chapters on 16 out of the 23 CSU campuses.

While flyers handed out by SQE students on campus cite budget cuts and tuition increases as the reasons behind the downgrade of quality education in the CSU system, another focus of the statewide group is the corporatization of the CSU system and the privatization of higher education in the state and across the country.

“I absolutely think the Cal State system is becoming corporatized. It’s been happening since the 1980s with the rise of administrative power … followed by the lessening of full-time faculty where tenured faculty is at a stand still right now,” said Rael. “Administrators are looking at (education) more like a corporate model. Instead of hiring more educators and teachers, we’re hiring more administrators who are like the managers in a corporate office.”

She said although college degrees are beneficial in a competitive job market, finding and getting a job should not be the only function of higher education.

“What a university is supposed to do is provide a broad education so that the student comes out a well-rounded person so they can function within society,” she said. “But if you turn the university into a trade school, which is what it is almost becoming of the CSU system, then it produces workers for the workforce rather than students who have received a good education who are ready to engage in the world.”

These types of concerns are echoed in the literature from SQE, where one handout boldly stated: “While the ’99 percent’ of the CSU suffers, the top ’1 percent’ is getting richer.”

The statistics cited by SQE included a graph showing student fees rising 263 percent since 2002, while top CSU executive salaries increased since Charles B. Reed became chancellor in 1998.

The same handout called for the resignation of Chancellor Reed because of alleged mismanagement of CSU funding and lists several other demands of the SQE, which is partnered with the California Faculty Association (CFA).

These demands include democratizing the CSU Board of Trustees, full transparency of the CSU budget, fair contracts and fair working conditions for all faculty and staff, greater funding towards instruction and students services, capping executive and administrative pay and a renewed commitment to the California Master Plan.

Cameron Madhad, an SQE member, said students have the right to ask why administrator pay is increasing while tuition is increasing, with less services being provided to students.

“What we see in the Cal State system is less critical thinking and more just being told and controlled. Our teachers are being forced to not think outside of the box … there’s a critical thinking aspect that is being taken out,” said Madhad.

Currently, CSUF’s SQE chapter has less than a half dozen student members, but often collaborates with other student activist groups on campus such as We! Voices for an Alternative Future. We! was formed March 2010 and held a sit-in for three nights until Milton A. Gordon, former president of CSUF, signed a document to defend higher education last spring.

Ryan Quinn, with We!, said the group is going to be drafting a new letter Tuesday for the incoming President Mildred Garcia to sign.

“We are trying to get as many people involved in the process as possible to set up our concerns,” said Quinn. “Hopefully to also set up an open invitation for Garcia who, in the past, had an open-door policy so we are going to try to test that out.”

An action is planned in Sacramento Monday, where thousands are expected to attend a nonviolent demonstration to “Occupy” the Capitol to protest the rising cost of education, including many students from SQE chapters in California.

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