Category Archives: SFSU

New Students: The Struggle to Acclimate to SF State

After a cold San Francisco summer, San Francisco State is brought back to life at the end of August. Another semester begins as the campus welcomes a new set of faces. As many students rush from one building to another, using their wonted shortcuts to get to their common classrooms, some find themselves in unfamiliar territory. These new students face a new academic standard with new peers and new surroundings. Some settle in quickly while others never gain traction in the flurry of SF State and San Francisco.

SF State eagerly welcomes its new students, but the problems a new student encounters in a new school, and city, are overlooked by the administration and the students themselves.

Alexa Uekert started her freshman year in the fall of 2014. At the ripe age of eighteen, she moved from her home in Chino Hills, a small city found in San Bernardino County, to the 14 floor of the nearly overwhelming Towers at Centennial Square. Her excitement did not radiate like the other freshmen joining her. She toured a few schools during her spring break of her senior year of high school, but quickly had an aversion to SF State once she saw it in person.

“I started crying,” shared Uekert, laughing at her reaction to her first university.

“It wasn’t what I expected, but it was the only California school I got into.”

She already had a game plan in mind for her college career: move away to a school that she loved and graduate within four years.

CollegeBoard reported that from 2008 to 2011 only twelve percent of students graduated with a bachelor’s degree within four years. For Uekert, these statistics were not helping her plan become a reality.

Graphic by Kiana Fillius, via Infogram.com

Her experience at SF State’s orientation did not help calm her nerves either, although that is one of the goals for the event.

“I went to the orientation and was stressed about getting the schedule together. My friend Jake was there and I told him ‘I can’t do this. I’m going to have a panic attack,’” Uekert remembers.

With the help of her friend and another freshman she met at orientation, she started to relax and finish the taxing event on a happier note, although the feeling of uneasiness still lingered.

During her first semester at SF State, it became harder and harder to ignore her lack of a strong mental state. Laurene Domínguez, a clinical counselor at SF State’s Counseling and Psychological Center, encounters many students that struggle with transition to college life. The biggest issues she comes across in her office is anxiety and depression. She explained that the severity of these issues depend on how prepared people are when they start their college career. Without a solid support system, students find themselves struggling to balance their personal lives and their academics.

“It is hard to separate yourself from what’s going on and it can affect your ability to study,” Domínguez explains.

While her mental state weakened, Uekert’s disdain for the school grew stronger. She went into her first semester with an undeclared major, hoping she would eventually be accepted into the impacted nursing program. Her hopes were not high because of the small acceptance rate into the program, initiating a fear that she would not graduate in four years.

In high school, she was heavily active in school events and loved to show school spirit, but once at SF State she struggled to come by that type of atmosphere. She treasured dancing, but was unable to find a dancing team on campus, which pushed her to minor in dance so she would not lose touch with the art she treasured.

Half way through her first semester she visited her boyfriend at his school, Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, and immediately felt at ease.

“It was my ideal picture of college. The people didn’t seem as warm and welcoming at SF State as they did here,” Uekert says.

During her short visit, she experienced the school spirit she sought and found a dance team that reached her expectations. She felt that Grand Canyon University was where she was supposed to be and quickly began to plan her next three and half years at GCU. As the fall semester of 2014 ended, so did Uekert’s relationship with SF State. She moved back home and never returned to the busy campus.

Even though she was relieved to leave school, she went home with her head held low.

“I went through a really hard time when I went home,” shared Uekert.

“I was disappointed in myself.”

She spent her second semester of freshman year taking online classes through GCU and taking her mother to appointments for chemotherapy.

Three months later, Teresa Hernandez entered the SF State campus to begin her freshman year for the fall 2015 semester. After moving from wine and barbecue rich Santa Maria, California, the university’s environment overwhelmed eighteen-year-old Hernandez.

“I did not know what to expect and I had trouble making friends during my freshmen year,” Hernandez says.

Unlike her, Hernandez’s roommate attended SF State with her two best friends, causing Hernandez to feel lonelier.

Majoring in business, she struggled through her freshman year, but continued to push through with help of her family.

“I probably wouldn’t be here without my family’s support,” Hernandez says, who kept in constant contact with her family during her first year at SF State.

 

Teresa Hernandez (Right), with her friend Liliana Chavez

As her sophomore year rolled around, she finally found a sense of belonging in her new sorority. Phi Gamma Chi introduced her to a group of girls that quickly became her best friends and helped her grow more comfortable with the school. While Hernandez struggled with the campus, she never had any complaints about the city. San Francisco made it easier for her to make friends and invite people to different places for a fun day or night.  

Hernandez still attends SF State, finally enjoying her life on and off campus. The third-year considers the sisters in her sorority as her second family. Looking back on her freshmen year, she wishes SF State offered a few more welcome days that were not as intimidating as the ones they hold.

Now twenty-one-years-old, Uekert is excited to graduate from GCU in the spring of next year, allowing her to stay on schedule with her four-year-plan.

“I still love the city.” shared Uekert, explaining that San Francisco itself was not a reason she left.

Like Hernandez, she wishes SF State would offer ways for students who do not live in San Francisco to get connected on campus because that was her largest problem while she was there.

San Francisco solaced Uekert and Hernandez, but it did not affect every student in that way. The city is a distraction, causing some students to lose their academic focus. Jason Jacobson, the director of undergraduate advising center, calls San Francisco a double-edged sword.

“SF is an amazing city with a lot to do. It is really exciting and can pull students from their studies,” Jacobson explains.

Although he understands the distractions of the city, he also understands that the city offers several opportunities for students to supplement their academic learning. He urges students to find the balance of fun and responsibility through the help of resources available on SF State’s campus.

A feeling of disconnect can lead to loneliness for new students, which can also lead to more serious issues. While mental health plays a large role in a student’s decision to leave, struggling with the fast pace of college can discourage students from moving forward with their academics.

If SF State students are struggling with their mental health, they can reach out to the Counseling and Psychological Services in room 208 of the Student Services Building. Students who are facing difficulties with their studies can seek help at the Undergraduate Advising Center in room 211 of the Administration building.

Free At Last: Gator Pass Grants SF State Students Free and Discounted access to Public Transit

Everyday, thousands of students from across the Bay Area commute to San Francisco State University. For a university that is consistently known for its commuters, you’d think the school’s administration would strike a deal with San Francisco’s public transit. Fear not, they finally have! 

 

We want to make our students commute cheaper and more convenient. We want to make life in this city better.

 

Last Spring, SF State’s Associated Students Organization, a student run government, along with SF State administrators, State Senator Scott Wiener, Nick Josefowitz, a member of Bay Area Rapid Transit’s board and the Gator Pass Project team, negotiated with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in order for SF State students to receive a Gator Pass. A Gator Pass, similar to a Clipper card, gives students access to unlimited rides on Muni and discounted rides on BART.  

Once negotiated, students at SF State voted on the proposition. More than half of student voters supported the proposition in May of 2016, leaving the Gator Pass Project Team about a year to negotiate with transit agencies, design the layout, and print 30,000 Gator Passes. 

 

SFSU students patiently waiting for the Muni to open its doors. In San Francisco, CA. On Monday September 25, 2017.
(Golden Gate Magazine/Cristabell Fierros)

 

“Technically if you look at our timeline, we had about a year and three months to complete all 30,000 cards,” John Gates, Director of Fiscal Operations at SF State, says.

 

“A lot of that time was consumed by negotiating and coordinating between the different transit agencies. The process of actually making, printing, and delivering the specialized and customized Clipper Card, took six months alone. We had to move quickly.”

 

In May of 2017, Gates and the team printed 23,000 cards in order to distribute them as quickly as possible. They wanted to hand the cards off to students before the start of summer. They chose to do this in order to minimize the amount of time students spent in lines. By providing students with more opportunities to pick up their cards, the lines shortened, saving students time.

SF State is one of the last universities in the Bay Area to implement discounted transit fares for students. University of San Francisco has been discounting their students Muni rides since 2001, while UC Berkeley followed in 2006. However, SF State is the first university to score a deal with BART.

The deal negotiated with Bart gives students a 25 percent discount on rides arriving at the Daly City Bart Station.

 

SFSU student’s tapping their Gator Pass on the Muni in San Francisco, CA.
On Monday September 25, 2017. (Golden Gate Magazine/Cristabell Fierros)

 

Muni is the only form of public transportation that is provided to students at the University of San Francisco. UC Berkeley also only provides AC Transit, Berkeley’s form of public transit, for students.

Associated Students, administrators, Wiener, and The Gator Pass Project Team knew that without BART, students wouldn’t have voted for the proposition. According to a study done by the university, nearly 20 percent of SF State students use BART when commuting to school.

 

“We want to make our students commute cheaper and more convenient. We want to make life in this city better.” Alexander Kozulin explains. He is the project manager and the brains behind the Gator Pass.

 

“Reducing the university’s carbon footprint. By implementing the Gator Pass, we’re definitely doing that,” Gates added as an additional goal of the Gator Pass.

 

So, all of this seems too good to be true. What’s the catch?

Not only are all enrolled students required to pay a one-hundred eighty-dollar fee per semester, but the pass only works during Fall and Spring semesters, leaving Winter and Summer student commuters empty handed. The fee has caused frustration among students who don’t use public transportation as a way to get to school.  

 

“I would say the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive because of the unlimited rides on Muni and the discounted rates on Bart,” Gates says.

 

“There are some students who don’t take public transportation and are like ‘hey why do I have to pay this $180 fee?’. The fee is to benefit the university as a whole, not to buy out transit passes,” concluded Gates.

 

Gates, along with his fellow Gator Pass team members, took into account that some students wouldn’t be using public transportation. They came up with the one hundred eighty dollar fee after considering those factors.

While some students see the Gator Pass as a buy out, the majority of SF State students are enjoying it. The Gator Pass allows students to use their passes throughout the city. So whether or not students are using it to get to school, they’re still able to use Gator Passes around the city as long as school is in session.

 

 

“I use the Gator Pass to get to work in the Marina a couple times a week,” says Juliette Leite, a twenty-one-year-old senior, studying communications at SF State.

 

“It’s nice that students are able to use their Gator Pass throughout the city. It makes the fee totally worth it.”

 

Leite is right about the Gator Pass saving students money. In fact, it saves students one hundred and fifteen dollars each semester. That’s if students are using Muni seven days a week. The 2017-2018-fall semester is approximately seventeen weeks long equaling to one hundred and eighteen days. If students rode on Muni everyday without the Gator Pass, they’d be spending close to three hundred dollars each semester.

University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley also provide their students with a similar deal. Both University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley issue their students stickers to put on their ID cards indicating free transportation. SF State, however, uses a Clipper card which students scan when riding Muni. SF State is the first university in the Bay Area to partner with Clipper.

The Gator Pass Program team, along with Alexander Kozulin and John Gates, worked extremely hard over the course of a year in order to get the Gator Pass up and running.

 

“Alexander does this thing where when he’s worried about something he like pulls the hair on top of his head. I thought he was gonna go bald there for a couple months,” Gate continues as the room laughs.

 

SF State, administration, Nick Josefowitz, the Gator Pass Program Team, Kozulin and Gates went above and beyond to make sure are SF State students were well taken care of and that their needs were met.

 

“It’s a great feeling having this completed. There’s still work to be done. We’re thinking about the next steps. ” concluded Gates.

 

Thanks to everyone’s help, SF State students are sitting pretty on public transit.

Not My President

 

There is no question that politics and ideas concerning our new president have been the main topic of conversation of millions of Americans. You hear the opinions of people in your classes, overhear it during your commute to school or work, on social media, and even during award shows.

The November election was the first presidential election in which millennials made up the same proportion of the U.S. voting-age population as the baby boomers according to an analysis of U.S. census data from the Pew Research Center. Both generations are roughly 31 percent of the overall electorate. It’s understandable since there is now a lot at stake like the fate of immigration, international relations, contraception, and other important social issues. There is a lot citizens have to be outraged about, a lot to fight for and fight against.

Protests are not only growing nation-wide but globally. Take the Women’s March, for example. A total of one hundred thirty-seven cities outside the U.S. were in support of the march back in January, protesting various issues such as women’s right, reproductive reform, LGBTQ rights, and more.

I attended the protest in San Francisco back in November the day after Trump won the presidency. Thousands of people were in attendance. SFPD was there to monitor our demonstration that started from Powell street, through the Mission districts and all the way back to City Hall at Civic Center. Intersections were blocked. Cars that passed by honked their horns in solidarity. It was a peaceful protest, but no one there had peace of mind concerning our new president.

It was a beautiful event, nevertheless. The streets surged with a mass of people as representatives of the true United States– one that accepts and respects all genders, religions, and race– all came together in positivity.

We chanted for equality.

We chanted for human lives.

We chanted for love. We smiled, laughed, hugged, and commended each other on clever slogans and signs like “Pussy Grabs Back”.

It was a sea of love and determination, and as much diversity as you could possibly dream up, all moving as a unit towards a common goal—to bring awareness to some of the social and political issues the government should be addressing to accurately represent the public.

“That’s the power of peaceful protest. That’s our First Amendment right–our right to freedom of speech that is enshrined in our Constitution,” says Ana Brazaityte, a San Francisco artist based in the Mission and avid protest attendee, “This doesn’t go for this particular protest alone, but for all protests that have sparked and spread like wildfire all around the world.”

We are living in a new sort of America where activism gets a rebrand: “Protests are the new brunch!” It shows up on protest signs, tweets and is even the title of the January 30 episode of Jon Favreau & Co’s podcast “Pod Save America,” where Guardian reporter Sabrina Siddiqui explains that for a lot of young people protesting has become the new normal. For example, more than half a million joined the Women’s March in Washington DC in what was thought to be the largest inauguration protest ever, dwarfing the 20,000 when George W. Bush took office in 2001 and the 60,000 who protested against the Vietnam war before Richard Nixon re-took office in 1973. Instead of gathering with like-minded people having bottomless mimosas, we are gathering to call-out the bottomless injustice.

Not only people who oppose these protests, but also the government especially as well, should be taking this these countless protests not as another trend but as a massive gathering of people showing concern about the state the country and even the world is in.

No matter what cause you are fighting for in these protests, the issue doesn’t necessarily have to relate to you personally. The protests at the airport, for example—you don’t have to be an immigrant to be able to empathize with people being detained for hours with no access to counsel, their rights being completely violated–people who are coming into the country legally with proper documents but are still being detained. Just like in the women’s march, you don’t have to be a women to recognize and stand up to the fact that the rights of women have been under attack for ages.

Some wonder if these protests are even effective to create social and political change. An analysis by economists from Harvard University and Stockholm University found that protests do in fact have a major influence on politics. Research shows that protest don’t work because big crowds send a signal to policy-makers—rather, it’s because protests get people politically activated. Larger turnout for the initial protest had lasting effects on voting, political contributions, ideology, and future participation in the Tea Party movement.

“There is not enough data to correlate that knowledge of protests lead to tangible change,” says Argie Hill, a student at UC Berkeley and another avid demonstrator who has attended about 50 to 60 protests.

“As a person with marginalized identities I always question the motives of protesters. If they couldn’t see my humanity before, I sincerely doubt they see it now. But numbers lead to tangible change and as such, protests are important, however, organizing is the key.”

Though it might seem that way, Protesting is not a fad. New protesters might have been distracted or uninterested in the past when other people have been in the fight for a long time before picketing became popular. It’s a valid argument to criticize new protests, but no matter how long you have been protesting—whether you’re just starting now or have been doing so your whole life—it’s all part of a movement toward a better future. Americans are waking up and expressing the outrage they always knew they had, but felt they never had the courage to express.

“In many ways it’s intrinsic to a capitalist system to reform itself with the life blood of the working class and adapt to challenges against the status quo,” says Hill.

There’s definitely a lot more work to be done and protesting is just one of the first steps to eventually make a difference. “Protesting is war. We are not really fighting to be heard, we are fighting to exist,” says Hill.