[News] SFSU Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies Cohorts respond to the hunger strike agreement

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 18 12:16:15 EDT 2016


SFSU Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies Cohorts respond to the 
hunger strike agreement. We ask allies, faculty, staff, and students to 
sign on and to continue putting pressure on administration until we have 
a sustainable and thriving College.

ETHS and AAS Graduate Cohorts

College of Ethnic Studies

San Francisco State University

1600 Holloway Ave.

San Francisco, CA 94132

May 17th, 2016

This is a public statement to the campus, allies, and SFSU administrators.

Recently President Wong and the student hunger strikers reached an 
agreement that led to a sustained $482,806 increase to advancing the 
college of ethnic studies, as well as an additional $250,000 toward the 
2016-2017 academic year. With this money we now have the funding for 
sustaining the salaries of 2 full time tenure track faculty positions in 
the Africana Studies department. Race and Resistance Studies was granted 
departmental status and 2 courses have been created and dedicated toward 
Pacific Islander Studies. In addition, we were granted resources toward 
hiring a full time development officer and grant writer, as well as more 
work study positions and a complete restructuring of our current MA 
curriculum. We deeply appreciate the resilience and tenacity of the 
hunger strikers and thank them for their efforts and sacrifices. 
However, although our movement has made some incredible gains, we are 
still concerned with how and why certain important items were omitted 
from the agreement.

To begin, we assert that the “cooling off” period that the students were 
issued and agreed to is a tacticto suppress dissent on campus, as well 
as an attempt to silence this much broader movement working to defend 
and advance the College of Ethnic Studies. These four students alone do 
not fully represent Third World Liberation Front 2016; they are a part 
of a much larger movement of undergraduates, graduate students, staff, 
and faculty that have adopted the struggles of the original Third World 
Liberation Front formed on this college. Despite making progress on a 
few of our original demands, we still are a united front that will not 
be silenced so long as we continue to remain under resourced and 
underfunded.

The Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies MA programs, in our view, 
continue to be seen as a “cash cow” for the university, in that the 
resources dedicated to our programs are generally low and the quality of 
education provided is lackluster. The MA programs are only expected to 
provide tuition dollars but not necessarily a rigorous education and 
necessary financial support for its students, many of whom work full 
time and have other work or family requirements. MA students in Ethnic 
Studies and Asian American Studies are active community members and are 
expected to return to their communities with more tools and training to 
carry out the values of the College of Ethnic Studies as leaders. Yet 
despite the importance of graduate education to the College of Ethnic 
Studies, the university administration leading up to this current budget 
fight proposed that the MA programs be cut. Graduate students were told 
that faculty ought to teach larger lectures rather than smaller seminars 
as to better the cost-benefit of the College. In the neoliberal 
university, MA programs in the College of Ethnic Studies are both 
underfunded and understaffed and then accused of being unable to meet 
the scholarly expectations that a “top level” university should be able 
to. We believe that this underlying logic that the administration has 
viewed the College of Ethnic Studies had not changed despite the 
agreement made.

In this regard, we refuse the administration’s management and demand 
that our MA programs see more resources, which includes the original 
demands for a new communal space, funding support to do research and 
professional development, and challenge the administration to provide 
funding for the development of MA programs and graduate level courses in 
American Indian studies, Africana studies, and Latina/Latino studies. 
The MA students expect more than the status quo and see the importance 
of intellectual development alongside community activism. The 
administration has thus far failed to meet our demands to advance the 
graduate programs.

The Arab & Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas initiative (AMED), now 
housed within Race and Resistance Studies (recently given departmental 
status for the new academic year), was told that they would be in 
meetings with the president over the next 5 years to develop and 
reinstate 2 tenure-track faculty positions, and a staff position. These 
specific demands were not met and the funding from this agreement will 
not be not sufficient to cover its growth. The program has no budget and 
no staff with only one faculty member despite a growing academic Minor, 
an active public educational program, and a strong and growing 
commitment to Arab and Muslim communities, Indigenous communities, and 
other communities of color. We demand to know why the university will 
not reinstate AMED positions for the upcoming academic year. The 
advancement of AMED is crucial, especially in this moment of a 
heightened anti-Arab and Islamophobic environment. Even at SFSU, 
Palestinian students and allies have been targets of Zionist backlash, 
including calls to their places of work, homes, death threats via social 
media, and other tactics to push punitive action from the university. 
This backlash came following a student protest of a campus event 
featuring Nir Barakat, the mayor of Jerusalem, a war criminal who has 
played a key role in advocating for further arming settlers in 
Jerusalem, leading to increased attacks on both African migrants and 
Palestinians in the forms of lynchings and stabbings. Contradicting the 
will of student organizers, the following day President Les Wong wrote a 
letter of apology to Barakat for the protest, and even invited him back 
to campus, reaffirming his zionist stance. Over the last 5 years alone, 
Palestinian and Muslim students on campus have been subject to federal 
investigation, demonization, and attacks from outside Zionist entities. 
AMED faculty has also been targeted by outside groups who falsely 
accused her of unfounded claims. The university however did not come to 
her support for a whole academic year. Instead, as he did now, the 
university president issued a statement affirming Zionist charges, thus 
leading to an escalation of that attack. The General Union of Palestine 
Students (GUPS) has constantly had to fight for their own space and 
right to function as any other student organization would. We only write 
all this to emphasize and contextualize the importance of a larger AMED 
program and why this cannot be put off for another 5 years. AMED, since 
its creation, has been a safe space for Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians 
to develop.

The agreement proposes only two Pacific Islander studies classes with a 
promise to develop a department over the next 5 years. We ask this of 
administration: why have you only offered funding for two classes at the 
lowest possible lecturer pay when there has been considerable work and 
effort by Pacific Islander students on this campus toward creating an 
entire Pacific Islander studies department? Furthermore, we are 
disturbed by the lack of Pacific Islander voices in making these 
decisions and highlight the necessity of having professors that 
represent these communities. Pacific Islander communities are critically 
underrepresented and are often a forgotten voice in higher education. 
Although there have been lasting coalitions between Asian Americans and 
Pacific Islanders on common struggles, the racial categorization of 
“Asian-Pacific Islander” (API) is one that homogenizes the two groups, 
and allows for the tokenizing and invisibilization of a fast growing 
Pacific Islander community. This in turn misclassifies Pacific Islander 
communities in the academic world, making many not eligible for 
scholarships that assist underrepresented communities, since they are 
not seen as an underrepresented group. This “API identification” has 
very real consequences, a scholarship could be the determining factor 
whether someone goes to college or not. Currently Asian Americans are 
much more likely to receive a bachelor's and advanced degrees compared 
to their Pacific Islander counterparts. Again, we stress these points to 
contextualize why it’s necessary that a full Pacific Islander studies 
program, is established immediately, with an ultimate goal of making it 
a department. The university should not make the same mistake in 
limiting their own ability to help underrepresented communities by 
refusing to establish a program dedicated to the advancement of their 
communities. Structural frameworks for creating a comprehensive Pacific 
Islander studies program, with the intention of making it a department, 
are available. We have seen these models work for different studies 
programs and departments which currently exist. These communities 
deserve much more than just two classes, and the demands of our Pacific 
Islander community must be heard.

We want to re-emphasize that we made some important gains, but the 
funding necessary to sustain and advance our college will not come out 
of this agreement. The May 11th agreement represents less than 10% of 
the original ask and many of our demands have not been met. The 
president claims that he has unwavering commitment to the advancement 
and expansion of the college, however those words will remain empty as 
long as he continues to silence our underrepresented students. If you 
support us as a College then you will meet our demands regarding AMED 
program for the next academic year, disinvite Nir Barakat, denounce 
these ongoing intimidation tactics utilized by Zionist groups, develop a 
program with an ultimate goal of departmental status that satisfies and 
doesn’t just pay lip service to the Pacific Islander community on this 
campus, and give us sufficient funding to sustain the growth of the Ethnic

Studies college.

We should not have to sacrifice certain communities for the advancement 
of others, that is antithetical to the teaching, spirit, and ethics of 
Ethnic Studies. We recognize that the different struggles indigenous 
communities and communities of color face are interlinked, and that our 
liberation is tied. That cannot be achieved by throwing each other under 
the bus, fighting over the limited funding we have. We ask that 
students, staff, faculty, and allies sign onto this statement and we 
encourage allies, alumni, and the entire campus body to continue to put 
pressure on administration to demand for an even stronger ethnic 
studies. This battle for ethnic studies is about more than just one 
department, one community, employment, or programs, it’s about all of 
us. This is about our ability to build a movement and to have 
institutions that advocate and push for the continued growth of 
historically marginalized communities, taught by and for those most 
impacted by larger structures of power and oppression. This fight is far 
from over.

Signed,

The Ethnic Studies and Asian American Graduate Cohorts of the SFSU 
College of Ethnic Studies

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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