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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Open Letter to the San Francisco State University Freshman Class of 2009

Dear Freshman Class of 2009:

The other day as I looked out my office window, I saw you scramble out of mini-vans and SUVs that crowded the curb by the dorms. The sidewalk was littered with boxes reinforced with cellophane tape, overstuffed suitcases, and backpacks stuffed with teddy bears and laptops. You looked nervous and excited. Here you are – at the beginning of a new semester at SFSU, a campus with a proud history of diversity and student activism. But I wonder if you know what is happening here and at CSU campuses across the state.

Do you know you have paid 32% more in tuition fees than students from last fall? I’d like to tell you the increase in fees equals an increase in the quality of your education, but I can’t. Course offerings and class sections have been slashed; classroom instruction time has been cut by roughly 20% through a CSU-imposed furlough on faculty.

Faculty will lose about 9.53% of our pay because of the furlough, but you will lose nine days of instruction. That might not sound too bad – maybe you think you can use those days to sleep in or do your laundry. But in my first-year composition course, those nine days represent one entire essay unit that helps prepare students for the challenge of the next essay, the next semester, the next composition course. With 20% less instruction time, I can’t prepare you as well as I have prepared previous students.

My office hours have also been cut by 13%. Previous students will tell you that meeting with me during office hours made a significant difference in their ability to improve their writing. But with less office hours, I can’t meet with as many of you as want to see me, nor as often.

Although I will do everything I can to mitigate the impact of these cuts, I can’t possibly provide you with the same quality of instruction I provided students last fall. The quality of your education will decline, even as the cost increases.

But the quality of education is not the only issue; access to education also finds itself on the chopping block as well. CSU will turn away 40,000 students over the next few years. Typically, when access is limited, students who come from economically- and educationally-disadvantaged backgrounds lose out. What will become of those students denied a university education? Will your younger siblings be part of that 40,000?

In the past, when the quality of and access to education has been threatened, SFSU students have not sat by idly; they have organized, made history and headlines, demanded and created change. They have not been alone in that effort; faculty has stood with them. We will stand with you again.

But this fight will depend largely on what you choose to do. As students you have more power than you think. And you have more to lose than any other stakeholder in this high-stakes crisis.

My dear freshmen, are you up to this challenge? You have a choice to make: you can meekly duck your heads, scurry off to your classes (if you’re lucky enough to get them) and accept this decline as inevitable. Or you can, in the words of Bob Marley, “get up, stand up, stand up for your rights; get up, stand up and don't give up the fight.” Will you fight for your education? Will you demand a restoration of quality education and open access – for yourselves and for those who come after you.

The choice is yours. What will you do?



Blogger Jack K. said...

A most eloquent statement. I hope that the students have the opportunity to read it. Further, I hope the population of California has the opportunity to read it.

I wonder what happened to the adage about saving for a rainy day? Too bad our governments bought into the call to have THINGS NOW. (And our government is a reflection of us.) After all, you can pay for them on time. Well folks, time is running out.

There is no doubt in my mind, bird, your students will get the finest education you can provide for them. You can do no less. You are a committed educator. I applaud your efforts.

I wish you the best.

August 23, 2009 5:49 AM  
Blogger Bird said...

Hi Jack: Unfortunately, Californians think they can have social services and education for absolutely nothing - meaning - we vote one mandate in after another (and often for some pretty cool things) without thinking about where the $ will come to pay for those mandates. Then we demand lower taxes and create one loophole after another so corporations (who can afford to pay more) pay less. We are so stupid, we seem to think that we will all one day be filthy rich and that we must protect our money - even when we don't have it and no one's asking us for it.

Of course, we can raise the sales tax (which hits working poor the most - why not have them pay for everything - surely they can afford it).

Oh, don't get me started ! Haha. I appreciate your confidence and encouragement. What I manage to teach this semester will be taught to the best of my ability.

Sadly, our university library has ceased all acquisitions and may be dropping several journal subscriptions and my department is running out of paper - once it's gone- it's gone - admin insists that there is no money to buy paper and everyday office supplies.

And California used to have an education system that made others envious.

August 23, 2009 8:24 AM  
Blogger K9 said...

the worst of all it is the political class at both state and federal levels never cut anything that affects their cush life. they spend irresponsibly and then say, oh guess what? theres no money. we have to close parks, cut education and furlough workers.

while i think you are an exceptional and conscientious educator im starting to think of education as a racket. especially what they charge and how much of what they charge actually is applied to instruction. how many people start their working lives deeply in debt from school? tell me, how do you pay back 120K of school loans as a sociologist? its the beginning of the slavery hamster wheel the kind everyone who lived beyond their means now finds themselves trapped.

a friend of mine was thrilled when her daughter was accepted to the art institute of chicago. wanna guess what a year cost? 40K. she wanted to work at a museum when she graduated. i did that. with a masters. i made 30K that was in 1992. what do you think a BA in museum ad/min makes now?

the instructors arent paid well. the supplies arent provided. nor the room and board. how are those funds justified?

well...this is a rant and i apologize. i just know how careful you need to be with your own money and i know the amount of time and effort that is involved in prepping and teaching classes, reading the work and thoughtfully critiquing that work, doing paper work,,,etc,etc,,, all the while knowing lots of money is spent not on the front line where the real work is done

and if anyone believes *anymore* they are going to get filthy rich if they are not already and have socked that dough away in yen or commodities or land or whatever they never will be rich -filthy or otherwise.

good to have ya back birdiie!!

August 27, 2009 9:23 PM  
Blogger Bird said...

K9: rant away!

August 29, 2009 12:24 PM  

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