CSU students stage die-in to demand lower tuition, diversity funding

Students across the California State University (CSU) system are threatening to starve themselves until their school forks over $8 million for diversity funding, and some are even staging “die-ins” along the way.

On Monday, ten students played dead in front of the president’s office at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) for nearly an hour to protest a recent increase in administrative salaries.

“Recently, [die-ins have been] used in all sorts of social justice movements, and I think it’s really good at getting the message across that whatever you’re organizing against is on the demise,” sophomore Mick Bruckner told The Mustang News.

“Education is under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” protesters chanted.

“The CSU don’t want none unless you got funds, hon,” one protester’s sign said, spoofing the hit song “Baby Got Back.”

Students were protesting both a scheduled hike in tuition fees as well as an alleged lack of funding for the system’s diversity offices.

“I’m angry and I want other people to be angry with me because we’re paying for this institution. We’re paying for the resources that we deserve and I think it’s time to get them so we can graduate and make our economy great,” said student protester Shiba Bandeeba at San Francisco State University (SFSU), even though the CSU system is coming out of a four-year tuition freeze.

At least four of Bandeeba’s peers are refusing to eat until their school allots $8 million in funds to the college of ethnic studies. Since the students announced their hunger strike, SFSU administrators have agreed to hand over $200,000 to SFSU’s diversity office.

Meanwhile, at Cal Poly, protesters are alleging that the upcoming tuition hike would disproportionately affect illegal immigrant students, who will be burdened with increased out-of-state tuition fees.

“If you, yourself, don’t feel like you’ll be affected by these tuition increases, I just want to ask you to consider the fact that this proposal…it could end someone’s life,” student Mick Bruckner said. “So the students who are not accommodated by AB 540 will see a $10,000 tuition increase. And, how does someone deal with that? I don’t know. Loans? Drop out? It just—the effects of this are really much larger than a lot of people realize.”

The AB 540 legislation prevents illegal immigrant students who are not in the process of legalizing their residency from applying for an exemption from nonresident tuition rates.

Protesters later issued a letter to Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong with a copy of their demands, asking him to reject the Board of Regent’s recommendation to raise tuition two percent annually but invest more funds in his school’s “ethnic, gender[,] and critical theory programs.”

[RELATED: USC student govt. simultaneously demands tuition freeze and $20 million increase in diversity spending]

Ultimately, the group of protesters hopes to make Cal Poly tuition free, saying it is “essential” that all students be exempt from paying tuition.

“Being tuition-free is actually possible,” said student Matt Klepfer. “It’s happened before in the state of California, and it’s essential.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski