SF State Students Go on Hunger Strike to Save the Country’s First Ethnic Studies Program

Lead Photo: Yesica Prado/Special to S.F. Examiner
Yesica Prado/Special to S.F. Examiner
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As five activists – known as the Frisco Five – enter their third week of a hunger strike to protest San Francisco’s police brutality problem, another group is getting started on their own hunger strike. Four San Francisco State University students began their fast on Monday to save the financially struggling College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. They are looking for an $8 million investment in the college.

On Tuesday, 200 students showed up to a rally to support Julia Retzlaff, Hassani Bell, Ahkeel Mestayer, and Sachiel Rosen. All of them are minoring in the College’s race and resistance studies, according to KQED. The students who are trying to protect ethnic studies are following in the footsteps of the 1968 groups (Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front) that established SFSU’s ethnic studies program, the first in the nation. Calling back to the OGs, this new group has called themselves the Third World Liberation Front 2016.

In February, the College announced that because of a budget shortage, cuts in staff and classes could come with the July 1 fiscal year. After protesting, the school decided to fund part of the deficit. The college’s annual operation cost is $5 million, but only $3.4 million has been funded by the school. Now, the students are asking for $8 million to give the college room to grow. $8 million is actually the college’s budget pre-recession, according to SF Examiner.

“If Ethnic Studies doesn’t get the $8 million, we’re coming for [President Leslie Wong’s job],” Mestayer said. “Let’s say we don’t get the $8 million. Having the community support us is an act of revolution.” While Sue Rosser, the school’s provost and vice president academic affairs, said that the Ethnic Studies’ budget isn’t being cut, others say the school is retaliating against the strikers. Supporters of the College say SFSU has made it impossible to hire two new faculty members for tenured positions.