Fresno State Students for Quality Education (SQE) went to Sacramento on Tuesday to lobby in favor of a number of bills in the hopes of creating change for college students.
“A lot of congress [members] or legislators are so far away from the realities of your average citizen,” said Cecilia Ruesta, a member of SQE. “We’re humanizing the issue by being in front of them.”
Below are the bills the students spoke in favor of:
SB 968 would mandate California State University campuses to hire a mental health counselor per every 1,000 students. Diane Blair, president of the Fresno State chapter of the California Faculty Association (CFA), said it’s crucial for students to have access to mental health services.
“Our students are juggling multiple responsibilities,” Blair said. “Some of our students of color may be experiencing issues around discrimination. DACA students may be concerned about their status.”
SB 1421 would require police officers to allow the public to access records for sexual assault cases as well as dishonesty in criminal investigations.
In addition, records regarding police shootings and other incidents involving deadly uses of force would be made public – either after 180 days or after an investigation, whichever occurs first.
Ruesta was a member of a Fresno State feminist organization People Organized for Women’s Empowerment and Representation (POWER). POWER and other campus organizations formed the Students Against Sexual Assault Caucus.
While part of the caucus, she spoke with victims of sexual assault. For this reason, the bill holds a special importance to her.
“Some of the people we interviewed said they were revictimized by the police,” Ruesta said.
Another bill regarding transparency is AB 2505, which would initiate reports as well as an audit by the California State auditor for CSUs.
The report and audit would entail budget checks and more information on how staffing decisions are made.
SQE will also lobby for AB 2408, which would make a three-unit ethnic studies course a general education requirement for graduation. Ruesta said history education is not comprehensive and inclusive of all cultures – but ethnic studies courses could help bridge the gap.
“A lot of racism is born from fear of the unknown,” Ruesta said. “Having an ethnic studies requirement might allow these people to be more intuitive.”
Cristina Herrera, chair of the department of Chicano and Latin American studies, says that ethnic studies courses are especially important for those who live in California.
“How can we deny ethnic studies to our students who live and work in the most diverse state in the country” Herrera said. “All students, regardless of ethnicity, should be exposed to ethnic studies to critically reflect on this country’s disturbing histories of racism, violence and the erasure of our stories.”
Additional funds and faculty
SQE will also lobby in favor of allocating $50 million toward hiring more tenure track faculty. Ruesta said that tenure track faculty are crucial to students’ education because they’re able to offer additional hours to help students, rather than part-time staff.
“A lot of the conversations that I had with my professors is what gave me enough confidence to apply to a master’s program,” Ruesta said. “It happened outside of the classroom – when I went into the office and talked one-on-one.”
SQE will also continue to advocate for increased funding for CSUs.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget allocated $92 million for the CSU system. Some have argued that the state government can and should increase funding allocated toward CSUs.
“The money is there,” Ruesta said. “Research shows that the state of California [is] one of the richest states in the country.”
Ruesta said that tuition-free higher education is an investment toward the state of California overall.
“The more educated people that you have in the state, the more progress you’re able to make,” she said.