by Hank Wicklund
At midday on Thursday Oct. 5, a student hunched over a table, drawing a spiked boot splattered with blood, the front of Art B plastered with posters behind her. Phrases like, “Don’t make students your ATM,” and “Shame on you, CSU,” stood in stark contrast with the dark wall. A clear voice rang across the quad below, calling out to passersby. The air buzzed with the day’s unusual heat, becoming charged with urgent words and the smell of free coffee, drawing the eyes and noses of students to three folding tables, specifically the people behind them.
These were organizers from the California Faculty Association – the labor union for CSU faculty – and the Students for Quality Education, a student-led organization for education rights across the CSU system. They were there in response to the CSU Board of Trustees’ vote to raise tuition. This demonstration was also intended to promote the CFA’s upcoming rally on Oct. 19, where they plan to protest further. People were encouraged to enjoy refreshments, grab union merch and help make posters. Among the organizers present was Humboldt CFA President Marisol Ruiz.
“We’re forgetting that this is a public university, publicly funded. It’s not a private institution and we need to stop treating it like a private institution,” said Ruiz.
Ruiz explained that the CFA’s goals are a halt on tuition hikes as well as better pay and working conditions for faculty. This protest comes on the heels of long-standing grievances regarding what the CFA says is inequitable pay for faculty. According to Ruiz, the CSU has the money to fund education and pay its employees fairly without the need for tuition hikes, yet has strayed from the path of education as a public good.
A board bearing the words, “How Much Do You Owe?” was propped up against a planter in front of the tables. Students had scrawled their answers, the numbers going as high as $100,000.
Also present behind the tables was SQE chapter head Mary Mangubat. According to Mangubat, outreach by the SQE has been quite successful this semester at getting people engaged, because the tuition hike affects not only students but the entire CSU ecosystem.
“When they hear our admin makes a million a year, but students are in 100k debt,” said Mangubat. “They’re gonna want to be involved.”
SQE was founded in 2008 as part of the CFA and holds weekly meetings Fridays at 4 p.m. in Nelson Hall. Mangubat described them as fighting for an equitable, accessible education that is free from discrimination and debt.
Making a poster at one of the tables was Erika Ospenson, an environmental science and management major. Ospenson only found out about the outcome of the Board’s vote that morning from a friend in SQE and is now left with doubts about the cost of her education. She plans on attending the rally on Oct. 19 and is interested in getting more involved with SQE.
“Something I learned today is that I will get halfway through a degree and then not know if I can actually finish it because of the tuition hikes,” said Ospenson. “I’m already barely making ends meet and [only] able to pay my rent in a rent-controlled situation.”
The tuition hike has rattled the CSU system here and across California, but chapter president Ruiz believes that students and faculty are in this together.
“Working conditions equal better student conditions, student conditions equal better working conditions,” Ruiz said.