Academic independence

Matt Weir / The Collegian
A group of students and faculty held a demonstration to stress representation

A group of 13 students and faculty held a demonstration Monday to declare displeasure with the university administration.

The Free Speech Area was the site of the demonstration as the students and faculty read from a prepared document that they called “a declaration of academic independence.”

Matt Ford, a senior sociology student that took part in the demonstration, said the event was held to symbolize an absolution of allegiance to Fresno State’s administration.

“These people are all appointed, none of them are voted in, none of them are accountable to the public,” Ford said. “So, this is absolving all allegiance and saying that from now on, we’re going to do what’s necessary to create a democratic university.”

Some student representatives, such as student member of the Board of Trustees Russel Statham, have only advisory power.

He said that the exhibition was in line with the protests and student actions of last semester, which pushed for shared governance. Also, it was an attempt to drum up support.

“I think [the demonstration is] more of a symbolic thing,” Ford said. “So, I hope that we, obviously, garner more support and we get more people involved.”

Ford said that the goal was to stay away from a small vanguard group and represent the student body as a whole.

President John D. Welty responded to the day’s events, in an e-mail interview, by saying that there are many ways to address the fiscal crisis that California campuses are facing.

“We recommend that all campus constituents focus on communicating with our elected officials about the need to reinvest in higher education,” Welty said. “The most productive efforts would be to urge the legislators to pass the governor’s budget to fund higher education. That would help to mitigate many of the problems students, faculty and staff are facing.”

He said that state officials have to develop a long-term funding formula to remedy the needs of public universities.

Women’s studies professor Elizabeth Swearingen also took part in the demonstration, and said that it was about questioning the state of higher education.

“What should be a public asset?” Swearingen asked. “What is for the greatest public good? What does it mean to invest in human capital? And how is education a basic human right?”

The document read during the event was a declarative document of principles, Swearingen said, and written to be so. She was confident that the accusations in the document were legitimate, though unattributed.

Swearingen described the group of students as being organic and committed.

“[The students have] done a level of research, writing and thinking that I would like to get my students to do in my critical thinking classes,” Swearingen said.

Correction: The role of the Board of Trustees member was incorrectly stated. Two student board members are appointed with one assuming full rights, including the power to vote.

A quote was incorrectly attributed. The correct attribution should have read: “on behalf of the university.”

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