Students criticize CSUF leaders on proposed fee at “Pizza with the Presidents”

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Carie Rael, a history graduate student, holds a sign during the Pizza with the Presidents panel Tuesday in the Quad. (Winnie Huang / Daily Titan)

Around 20 students blasted a proposed $240.50 per semester fee Tuesday, when a panel of eight university leaders opened themselves up to questions concerning campus issues.

During the hour-long “Pizza with the Presidents” event intended for a wide array of topics, Cal State Fullerton President Mildred García and Vice President of Student Affairs Berenecea Johnson Eanes, Ph.D., found themselves frequently addressing the fairness and process behind the fee, which the university has called the Student Success Initiative.

“Our Student Success Initiative fee conversation is an outgrowth of our strategic plan,” Eanes said. “We have been, over the course of a few months, having conversations that have grown into a formal consultation process.”

CSUF has been seeking feedback on an initial proposal drafted by the Student Fee Advisory Committee last semester, which would increase campus fees by 67 percent.

Open forums have been held in the past weeks, and an online feedback form is available through the Titan Portal.

Through the alternative consultation process, the campus community can give input on what has been proposed, which will be considered as the process moves forward. This method is supposed to allow for engaging conversations and thoughtful feedback, according to the Student Success Initiative website.

While Eanes has pointed to the consultation process as a way to make sure everyone’s voice is heard regarding the fee, Ryan Quinn, a history graduate student and a member of the CSUF branch of advocacy group Students for Quality Education (SQE), thinks otherwise.

Quinn pointed to the lack of cooperation from the SFAC in allowing him to see committee documents.

“I talked with various members of Dr. Eanes’ cabinet and I was trying to get the agenda minutes, the survey results, the facts and figures that they had,” Quinn said. “They were unwilling to do so … so I had to file a California Public Records Act (request).”

The California Public Records Act gives the public access to information in possession of public agencies.

“If they really feel like that this (consultation process) is in the students’ best interest, which is what they have been claiming, then why not have it be completely transparent?” said Travis Morgan, a member of the Associated Students Inc. Board of Directors.

Morgan, who represents the College of Engineering and Computer Science on the board, is the only board member who signed a petition pledging to oppose the proposed student fee, which was circulated by Quinn.

“We understand that they are trying as much as possible to justify this fee; it’s very clear when you watch the video, when you look at the literature they produce, it’s all in favor of the fee,” said Carie Rael, a history graduate student and member of SQE.

When panelists were asked if they would take a pay cut based on the percentage of fee increase they ask of students, administrators remained silent for 30 seconds before providing an answer.

“I will tell you that if everybody on this stage took a pay cut, it would still not cover the major budget crisis and cuts that this university has taken,” García said. “These individuals are here working and are to be paid as the way you will all go out for jobs and will want a salary.”

Cal State Fullerton currently is ranked last among California State University schools in the amount of funding received from the state, and 21st in mandatory fees, according to the Division of Administration and Finance.

Students on campus are required to pay $714 dollars per year in mandatory student fees compared to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s $3,252 per year, the most among CSUs.

The figure of $714 could grow to over $950 per year if the fee passes through the consultation process as it is currently proposed.

The panel at Pizza with the Presidents also included Jose Cruz, Ph.D., provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, Amir Dabirian, vice president for information technology, Danny Kim, newly-appointed vice president of finance/chief financial officer, Rohullah Latif, the ASI president, Lori Gentles, the vice president for human resources, diversity and inclusion and Greg Saks, vice president for university advancement.

The panel was moderated by Andrea Orozco, ASI chief communications officer.

More information on the Student Success Initiative can be found at Success.Fullerton.edu.

About Kyle Nault

Kyle Nault is a staff writer from the Spring 2014 COMM 471 class.