Illustration of students protesting

Illustration by Peter Shallow. 

The statewide organization of Students for Quality Education (SQE) held a press conference Friday afternoon presenting a list of demands for the CSU System and the State of California. 

The demands stem from the reimbursement of fees on campus to transparency from the CSU’s handling of money granted from the CARES Act to a statewide rental freeze. 

All of these demands are focused on helping students, staff, faculty, and marginalized community members affected by the novel Coronavirus. 

At the CSU level, the demands include reimbursement of fees for students. Since the majority of CSU campuses were closed halfway through the semester, students lost access to multiple resources that they were charged for at the beginning of the semester. SQE demands students be reimbursed for all the resources they were charged for and can no longer use. 

Other demands include a solidified graduation date for graduating students, that faculty be paid the same as before quarantine began, and transparency of the money being granted to campuses on behalf of the CARES Act. 

The CARES Act was passed by Congress last month in an attempt to grant emergency funds to all those affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. Section 18004(a) of the CARES Act grants emergency funding to campuses. Stan State will be receiving $13.3 million in total allocation for students on behalf of the CARES Act with $6.6 million going to emergency financial aid grants for students. 

SQE demands full transparency of the handling of those funds and demands that the majority of those funds be used to help students. 

In addition to those demands, they also demand more counselors, COVID packages for students, safety for marginalized students, as well as free and safe housing for all students. 

The Stan State policy on housing states that students have 2 week emergency housing

“Two weeks in a pandemic doesn’t give anyone enough time to get back on their feet, that doesn’t make sense. How does the school expect us to get by like that?,” said Stan State SQE Representative Julissa Ruiz Ramirez (senior, Political Science, Ethnic Studies). 

Stan State isn’t the only campus to have problems with student housing, the majority of the other CSU’s are giving students the same worry

“Students and faculty are people first….students are being laid off and worrying about how they will pay, drowning in debt, and put in harm's way because they are essential workers...this system was never meant to work for marginalized peoples,” said SQE Representative from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Alejandro Bupara. 

On a statewide level, SQE demands a statewide rent freeze, utilities freeze, release of prison inmates and solidarity in the strike against Amazon, Whole Foods, and Target. 

As for solutions, a wealth tax was proposed in order to pay for the statewide rent freeze. 

California Faculty Association (CFA) also supports and advocates in favor of these demands. They understand that students are at the forefront of this battle, they are the essential workers putting their lives at risk in the middle of this pandemic. 

“CFA will fight to defend access, equity, and safety for students. [We] demand that this will not be put on the back of the students. Every student must feel safe on campus and in the dorms,” said Margarita Berta-Avila, professor of Education at CSU Sacramento. 

CFA will also be releasing their own list of demands in the next few days. 

The announcement was strategically given on May 1st, which is considered May Day. 

May Day is also known as International Workers Day, a day dedicated to the 19th century Chicago Haymarket Affair when workers unionized and peacefully protested for 8-hour workdays but a bomb went off in the crowd, and police killed and injured several people. 

May Day serves as a day not only to commemorate those lost, but also to honor the workers who do the hardest work for the lowest pay.

Today more than ever, that is our essential workers who are exploited and forced to put their lives at risk during a pandemic for the capitalistic greed of corporations. Students make up a huge part of that demographic. 

As Berta-Avila stated, “Movements are successful when students have nothing to lose, rise up, mobilize and refuse to be on the sidelines. What will you say to the youth when they ask whose side were you on and what did you choose?”

If you want more information on these demands or want to be a part of SQE, you can DM their Instagram page @csustansqe

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