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California Faculty Association Terri Prall (right) and English Professor Lisa Weston (left) with huge cards in the Peters Business Building on Feb. 14, 2017. Prall and Weston walked around the Fresno State campus getting signatures and writings from students, faculty and staff on issues such as AB 21, fee and tuition moratorium and fully funding the university. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian)

Letters to legislators ask for student love

The California Faculty Association (CFA) spent Valentine’s Day obtaining signatures across campus in support of student success, hoping Sacramento can return the love.

Diane Blair, a professor in the department of communication, serves as the president for the CFA Fresno chapter. The CFA created Valentine’s Day cards for state legislators in support of advancements in the California State University (CSU) system.

“The idea is that we’ll be sharing these messages with our governor and legislators and hoping that they’re willing to show the CSU’s some love on this Valentine’s Day,” Blair said.

Each of the three cards represented something that needed to be improved or added into legislation. One card was for legislative action for an increase for student funding.

“Over time the state legislature has been disinvesting,” Blair said. “In terms of the amount of money spent per student in today’s dollars doesn’t even come close to what they were spending per student in dollars from 1985.”

Blair explained that in 1985 state support for a student was $11,607; today it is about $6,888.

“We’ve increased student enrollment. We’re serving a much more diverse student body,” Blair said. “The state’s not fulfilling its mission by providing the CSU with the support it needs to actually ensure a quality education for those students.”

The other two cards supported a separate bill each. One bill is “Access to Higher Education for Every Student” – intended for support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students.

“It’s designed to provide protection and some basic resources for our DACA students,” Blair said. “Making sure their rights are being protected and also that they have access to basic resources.”

The resources would include health care stipends and housing during breaks for the students. The students would also have their immigration status protected against federal authorities.

The second bill is a “Mandatory Systemwide Fees and Tuition Moratorium.”

“This bill would ensure that CSU and community colleges would not raise tuition or fees at least until 2020,” Blair said.

She said many students are struggling to get by financially, and additional debt may prevent students from attending the CSU’s.

The CFA hopes to raise awareness on issues at Fresno State and other campuses, and they plan to lobby at the capitol in April.

Ramon Jimenez Ortega is a third year double major in political science and English, who serves as one of three student interns for the Fresno State chapter of CFA.

“With the internship we have been talking about trying to push for the CSU’s to become sanctuary campuses,” Jimenez-Ortega said. “The sanctuary wouldn’t just be for undocumented students; it would include all people.”

Jimenez-Ortega also serves in the campus organization Students for Quality Education. Part of his advocacy includes the safety for all students to move forward in their education.

Fresno State currently has about 1,000 DACA students. The CFA is pushing for everyone to come together in support of them and each other.

“It’s not a one-person issue, it’s a community issue we have to take care of each other,” Jimenez-Ortega said.

Jimenez-Ortega plans to be a teacher. His goal is for his students to have a quality education without any obstacles.

Throughout the day Jimenez-Ortega admired all the students who were willing to come up and sign the cards. He was glad that members of campus came together in support of one another.

Blair, the CFA president, said that the CSU system is responsible for providing California with so many college graduates.

“We’re always about making sure that public higher education is accessible and affordable for every student in California,” Blair said. “An investment in the CSU is really an investment in the state and its future.”