Students protest Customs and Border Protection visit to Sac State

Originally published Oct. 20, 2016 by The State Hornet


Students, seen here posed for a photo they were taking of the group, protested the presence of Customs and Border Protection on the Sac State campus on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. Photo by Daniel Wilson.

A group of about a dozen students protested by chanting and walking through and around the University Union on Thursday afternoon while U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) members were on campus for a criminal justice career information event.

“(CBP) were invited by the American Criminal Justice Association,” said Rosa Barrientos, a student who was leading the protesters, who added that the protesters weren’t with any particular group. “Border patrol has a history of deporting immigrants; we’re tired of that.”

The group of students chanted phrases such as “no justice, no peace” and held up “CBP out of Sac State” signs.

Hector Barrios, president of the American Criminal Justice Association at Sac State, explained that CBP is not an agency that deals with deporting people, but rather is concerned with protection of the borders. He said that CBP doesn’t single out any one ethnicity and that they protect all U.S. points of entry, including the Canadian border and airports.

“The (CBP members) we have here are stationed at San Francisco Airport, so basically what they do is baggage, passports, stuff like that,” said Barrios, who was hosting the career event in the Redwood Room of the University Union. “I know the protest was mainly based because they felt disrespected. They felt their sensitivity wasn’t taken seriously. We invited (CBP) because they have a high interest with the students that want to go into that department.”

Barrios made a distinction between CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has a primary function of deporting people who are illegally in the country, according to its official website.

Barrientos said the main concern was that students were not informed ahead of time that CBP would be on campus.

“We have 800 undocumented students here on campus,” she said. “We pay the same tuition as everybody else. We deserve safety. We deserve justice. We deserve the same thing as any other student.”

Barrios said the event wasn’t widely publicized on campus because it was intended to be for criminal justice students rather than the entire campus.

“There’s fliers and our Criminal Justice Department sent an email to every student within the department,” he said. “This is a law enforcement career fair, so that’s who our target was.”

Barrios said the student protesters were welcome to come in and speak to the event’s organizers or the border protection representatives directly.

“(The protesters) could have came in and talked to (CBP),” said Barrios. “(The protesters) would have found out (CBP’s) job title, what they do. (The protesters) would have found out that (the CBP members are) stationed at the airport. They’re not going knocking on someone’s homes and dragging family members out. They’re not doing that.”

Visit me on Twitter for a video of the protest. 

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Sac State wins best bathroom award at Tiny House Competition

Originally published Oct. 18, 2016 by The State Hornet

This article was also published in the Oct. 20, 2016 print edition of The State Hornet.


The award-winning bathroom inside of Sacramento State’s tiny house, built for the Tiny House Competition at Cosumnes River College on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Photo by Bryce Fraser.

Sacramento State won the award for best bathroom on the final day of the SMUD Tiny House Competition on Oct. 15 at Cosumnes River College, where despite the looming threat of storm conditions, thousands of people filled parking lot E to tour the small living spaces.

Among the winners were Santa Clara University, which won the overall competition along with eight other awards, and the event’s hosting campus CRC, which won the SMUD Excellence Award and for best sleeping area.

“Because it was designed to have two people live in it, we wanted to have the bathroom space be the most accommodating because that’s where you spend a lot of your time,” said Rustin Vogt, a professor of mechanical engineering and the Sac State team’s adviser, who added that the Sac State house was the only one to have a full-size bathtub. “I’m incredibly proud of the students. Myself and 20 students, we built this.”

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Vogt said that the tiny house took about four months to build. In addition to the full-size bathroom, it includes a bay window, French doors, high windows for a passive cooling system, full-electric solar panels, a solar thermal hot water collector, efficient LED lighting, a recycled sink and accents that were made from recycled wood.

The Tiny Houses Competition was put on by SMUD and several other groups, including Intel, the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Society of Landscape Architects and Raley’s Supermarkets — which gave out free apples and water at the event.

“We put on events just like this in order to educate the youth and our leaders of tomorrow about new, sustainable technologies,” said Daniel Gehringer, a project manager with SMUD. “We’ve been planning this for over a year. This is the first Tiny House Competition in the nation, so it was a big undertaking for a public utility.”

According to the official rules, each team was given a stipend of between $3,000 and $8,000 and was able to raise additional funds through donations and other outlets up to $25,000.

The goal of the competition was to build a tiny house on wheels, ranging from 100 to 400 square feet, as is the requirement to qualify tiny houses as a recreational vehicle (RV).

The houses had to comply with certain living standards and had to produce as much power as they use.

“The best part of this whole project was the people I worked with,” said Matt Curtis, a 2016 mechanical engineering Sac State graduate, who designed the solar water heating system for the house. “It was just amazing. Their commitment and passion, just a really amazing experience.”

The event was held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and attracted over 5,000 people by noon, according to Gehringer, who acted as master of ceremonies.

The day included house tours, where the student teams answered questions and showed off their work, food trucks and several presentations on the main stage where experts discussed subjects like the popularity of tiny houses, what it’s like to live in a tiny house and how tiny houses can help the homeless.

Judges included Monica Woods, a meteorologist for ABC10, Isabelle LaRue, the creator of “Engineer Your Space,” and several architecture and energy experts, among others.


The award-winning bathroom inside of Sacramento State’s tiny house, built for the Tiny House Competition at Cosumnes River College on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Photo by Bryce Fraser.

Teams were judged based on a scale of 1,000 points across all of the categories and the winner with the most points was named as the winner of the overall competition.

“There’s just been so much hard work that’s been put into this,” said J.J. Galvin, project manager for Santa Clara University’s ‘rEvolve House,’ which takes its name from the fact that the house is on a revolving turntable in order to best utilize the sun’s position throughout the day. “Everyone is so dedicated and we’re just so happy to have this hard work be paid off.”

Attendees at the event were given a ballot to vote on their favorite tiny house in the people’s choice category. College of the Sequoias was announced the winner of the People’s Choice Award on SMUD’s website.

The tiny house built by CRC will be put up for auction with an intended sale price between $40,000 and $60,000. The money from the sale of the house will be used by students for the next tiny house competition.

The Sac State tiny house will be stored on campus at the Sustainable Technology Optimization Research Center (STORC), according to Vogt.

“It’s going to sit in STORC and be used as a research platform and then a teaching platform for a lot of energy studies,” Vogt said.

All of the teams at the event were pleased with the overwhelming outpouring of support from the community, many of them expressing how surprised they were at the number of people in attendance.

“Holy crap, so many people!” said Devin Swanick, a Sac State team member. “I didn’t realize that it was going to be this popular, especially with the rain we got yesterday. Our line has gone around the block. I was not expecting that.”

Other big winners included Laney College with five awards, U.C. Berkeley with four awards and Chico State with three awards. A full list of winners is available on the competition website.

Video and editing by Bryce Fraser. On-camera interviews by Daniel Wilson. 

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Sac State holds first-ever open forum on budget

Originally published Oct. 10, 2016 by The State Hornet

This article was also published in the Oct. 13, 2016 print edition of The State Hornet.

In an effort to clear up “misconceptions” about funding, the Sacramento State administration held an open forum in the University Union’s Hinde Auditorium on Oct. 7 to discuss the 2016-2017 budget and provide insight into how funds were allocated last year.

Topics of discussion included state funding, the CSU budget, the campus’s general operating fund, major differences in the Sac State budget, other separate university funds and funding for upcoming construction projects.

The forum, which is intended to become an annual event, was presented by Stacy Hayano, interim vice president and CFO for the division of administration and business affairs, and Norman Kwong, interim budget officer for the budget planning and administration office.

“We want to kind of clear up some misconceptions out there on how things are funded,” said Hayano.

Kwong explained that a big part of the problem with the budget is that the state’s timeline doesn’t necessarily match the timeline of when the college actually needs those funds.

“In an ideal world, the state would get the budget finalized and then the chancellor would get their budget finalized and then the campus would get their budget finalized,” Kwong said.

Kwong continued that after the chancellor’s office sends its budget to the state, it can take up to six months to be finalized and for funds to be released to the campus.

“That kind of outlines one of the difficulties that we have in budget,” said Kwong. “We’re all guessing as to how much we’re going to have.”

For the 2016-17 academic year, state-funded budget increases include $182 million in permanent funding and $87 million in one-time funding.



A chart shows how the Sacramento State 2016-17 permanent funding, totaling $182 million, was allocated. Additional one-time funding totaling $87 million will be spent on campus maintenance, student success, graduation rate initiatives, and equal employment opportunities. Graphic by Barbara Harvey.

“When you look at this list, most of it is stuff that we have to pay for,” said Kwong. “So again, we did get a lot of money, but where did it go? It went to stuff that we have to pay for.”

For the one-time funding increase of $87 million, that money will be spread across campus maintenance, student success and grad rate increase initiatives and equal employment opportunities.

Another $38 million was given to the campus this year, which was money the chancellor’s office held over from last year’s budget, and that money will be used for faculty compensation and student success.

“When we talk about one-time funding versus permanent funding, in my mind, an allegory is almost like health food versus candy,” said Kwong. “So, permanent funding is like getting fruits and vegetables and salads. It’s good for you in the long run. One-time funding, to me, is almost like eating junk food. If you’re hungry, it’s going to do it for this year, but that’s it.”

Another topic discussed was the general operating fund, which is made up of student tuition fees and other revenue, including application fees, late fees and library fees. The other portion of the general operating fund comes from state tax revenue. Hayano pointed out that tuition fees have not increased since the 2011-12 academic year.

Hayano talked about how the lack of budget increases from the state affect the general operating fund over time, but that without increasing student tuition or reducing the amount of money being set aside for state university grants, it isn’t possible to use the state money to fund things like faculty hires or benefits or for other purposes.

After the presentation was completed, the floor was opened up for questions. One woman in attendance asked if the upcoming minimum wage increases will affect the campus.

Hayano responded by saying that she thinks the increase will affect the campus’s businesses like the eateries in the University Union, for instance, but that adjustments are already being made in anticipation for the wage hike. Hayano said that’s where the unused money that each department is able to rollover from various projects comes into play.

“If the department has saved some money, they can still hire students using those funds,” she said.

The upcoming construction projects including the new science building, additional student housing and the new parking structure, were discussed and the funding for those projects was detailed.

“One of the things that we are actually concerned about this year is the wave of construction that’s coming up and whether or not students understand that the money for those construction projects do not come from the same pool of money that we use to hold extra classes,” said Kwong.

Kwong said the main purpose of holding the forum is to add transparency and allow students and campus members a chance to get their questions answered.

“It’s better to have it out there so people are on the same page about what’s going on,” Kwong said.

This article was distributed as part of the CSU Daily Clips email subscription from the CSU Chancellor’s Office on Oct. 11, 2016. According to chair of the CSU Academic Senate and Sac State Communication Studies Professor Christine Miller, student newspaper articles are rarely chosen as daily clips. 

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New student center tool to track graduation progress announced

Originally published Oct. 7, 2016 by The State Hornet

Smart Planner, a new tool in the Sacramento State Student Center unveiled by President Nelsen on Oct. 7, will soon allow students to view required coursework, plan upcoming semesters and work with academic advisers in a more streamlined process for staying on track to graduation.

Smart Planner generates a roadmap based on information provided by each academic department, which details required coursework for each student’s specific degree program and places these classes into a semester-by-semester schedule that can then be customized to fit each student’s needs.

Smart Planner will roll out in two groups of majors — one on Oct. 17 and the other in March of 2017. The first group will include approximately 70 majors — about 8-9,000 students.

screenshot-9_edited“The tool is sort of complex on the backend and I think that creates simplicity on the frontend,” said Christine Miller, interim vice president for Information Resources and Technology, during a presentation at a recent faculty senate meeting. “It understands the general education requirements. It understands the prerequisites, the co-requisites and all of the ways that students can satisfy a degree requirement.”

If a student tries to plan to take a certain class prior to its prerequisite, for example, an alert will inform the student that a revision is needed. For expressed interest students — those who are planning to apply to an impacted major — Smart Planner will show the roadmap, but those students would need to meet with an adviser before making any changes in their Smart Planner.

Smart Planner is part of the new Finish in Four initiative under the KEYS to Degree (Kit to Empower Your Success) toolbox. The toolbox includes existing programs that directly connect with Smart Planner like the Sac State scheduler, transfer credit report, graduation application, academic requirements report and more.

In addition to being a student planning tool, Smart Planner, which was chosen approximately one year ago through an evaluation process of several alternative degree-planning tools, will help faculty, administrators and academic advisers collect important data on student behavior to help improve graduation rates by allowing them to gather information such as which courses and programs are in need of more sections or larger class sizes.

“I think that’s been a barrier in the past to graduation — not necessarily having that alignment between the courses students need and the courses that are offered,” Miller said. “This gives us a source of data to help make improvements.”

Miller said even though use of Smart Planner isn’t required, she thinks it will attract enough usage to create valuable data for administrators. The previous planning tool, My Planner, was used by a large number of students despite never being promoted by the administration, she said.

“I think there’s a student appetite for a tool like this and when we taught peer advisers (how to use Smart Planner), they were very engaged and immediately started plugging in their own information and trying to use the tool,” Miller said. “Just by virtue of having that outline available for all students, we at least know the major courses that are required, so we still have some data even without making it a requirement.”

Changes can be made by advisers and students in real time during advising sessions, so the hope, according to members of the project team, is that Smart Planner will help make the process more productive. Smart Planner is intended to help students plan, but the aim isn’t to replace academic advising, according to Miller.

Smart Planner can also be accessed in the same way by faculty members who want to help students make changes to their plans or suggest alternative paths.

“It’s been really awesome to see the power of the tool,” said Andrew Michaud, graduate studies director for the ASI board of directors and student representative for the Smart Planner project. “It is a very powerful tool. Students are able to grasp onto it really quickly and in my perspective, it’s going to help us really improve graduation rates because students are able to see (what they’re) looking towards in the future.”

Michaud added that because students will be able to plan out their coursework for the coming semesters with this tool, it will allow for scenarios such as a major change consideration because it would be able to display what that would entail in an easy-to-evaluate manner and help students make more informed decisions.

Professor of Sociology Todd Migliaccio, who acts as voice of the faculty for the project, said he’s looking forward to the launch of the program after having worked on it since the beginning.

“It’s going to be a great tool for students and I think it’s going to be a great tool for faculty to advise students,” he said. “Everyone who’s (tried it) thus far has loved it. It’s going to give faculty the ability to have a different conversation – a more proactive one.”

All of the resources in the KEYS toolbox, including Smart Planner, are part of a larger Sac State graduation ecosystem aimed at improving time to graduation. Additional student tools are in the works including one that will launch alongside Smart Planner and help students better monitor financial aid status, according to Miller.

To find out whether your major is part of the first or second launch group, visit, click on “students” and then scroll to the dropdown menu under the “When Can I Access Smart Planner?” heading and select your major.

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Hundreds of books being salvaged as library water leak cleanup finished

Originally published October 6, 2016 by The State Hornet


Sections of the lower level of the library are cordoned off after a water pipe in Grumpy Mule coffee shop burst, causing a large leak. Photo by Joel Boland.

After a water line burst early on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 18, Grumpy Mule, Sac State’s newest coffee shop, was forced to cease operations until repairs to its floor could be completed.

Students who wanted a morning pick-me-up from the first U.S. location of the United Kingdom based coffee company were greeted with a sign on the front door that said it would be closed until further notice. Grumpy Mule reopened on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

In addition to floor damage in Grumpy Mule, the water leak flooded the floor of the lower level of the library, which damaged hundreds of books, and moistened the floor in the vestibule leading into the Multi-Cultural Center.

“It seems like these things always happen on weekends when no one’s around,” said Jim Reinhart, the executive director of University Enterprises, Inc., which operates Grumpy Mule.

Reinhart said that the cost of repairs will be covered by UEI’s insurance policy. The cost of the damage is unknown as of press time because UEI has yet to receive a bill from Belfor, the emergency property restoration company that took care of the cleanup process.

“(Belfor has) special equipment that tests through walls and ceilings to see if there’s any moisture there and then they take the appropriate steps,” Reinhart said. “They have the right staff and equipment to make sure that there’s no risk of mold or any problems afterward.”

According to Amy Kautzman, the dean of the University Library, 74 boxes of books were removed from the library by Belfor in an effort to save them following the flood.

The boxes, each containing approximately five to 10 books, included a historical series containing documents from the British Parliament.

“They immediately began pulling books,” said Kautzman. “They deep freeze them and then they take away the humidity and bring them up to temperature and then they use a press so that the books should hopefully be flat.”

Kautzman said that she expects it to take about a month before the materials will be returned to the library.

In addition to the damaged books, the carpeting in a large area of the library’s lower level as well as several ceiling panels that fell to the floor had to be replaced.

Kautzman said that it was lucky that there were no students in the lower level of the library when the leak occurred because it happened before the library opened for the day.

The lower level just reopened after repairs were finished from an asbestos cleanup in the summer.

According to Patsy Jimenez, program coordinator for the Multi-Cultural Center, it was “business as usual” in the center following the leak.

Reinhart said that Belfor used industrial fans and dryers to remove the moisture from the carpets in the vestibule and that as far as he understood it, no water made it into the center itself.

Despite losing revenue during Grumpy Mule’s closure, Reinhart said that the student employees were paid for that time.

“We just hope that people will come back,” said Steven Davis, director of dining services for UEI. “It’s a new concept, it’s a great coffee product and program and the first of its kind in the United States. We’re very proud to be part of that.”

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Gov. Brown signs ‘California Promise’ bill

Originally published Sept. 27, 2016 by The State Hornet


The California state capital building in Sacramento, Calif. Photo source:

Senate Bill 412 — the “California Promise” — was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 21, requiring the CSU system’s trustees to choose a minimum of 15 campuses to participate in the program by the 2017-18 academic year.

Of those 15 campuses, all will need to receive community college transfers into the program — which will require participants to commit to 30 semester or equivalent quarter units per year and in return grant priority registration and enhanced academic advising — and eight will need to commit freshmen to a four-year completion agreement.

“We all know a college degree is a critical rung on the ladder of economic success,” said the bill’s main sponsor and former CSU trustee Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, in a press release. “It is an especially proud day to know that we will now provide CSU students a better chance to do what most want to do, which is to graduate on time.”.

Originally called Senate Bill 1450, the “California Promise” was introduced in February and defeated in April. It was then combined with another bill to become Senate Bill 412, which was passed in both the Senate and the Assembly in late August.

Earlier on the day the bill was signed, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a new graduation initiative to raise four-year graduation rates to 40 percent by 2025, according to the release.

“Coupled with today’s action from the CSU trustees, [the California Promise legislation] creates conditions that allow students to timely graduate and avoid the burden of extra tuition,” said Gov. Brown at the time of the bill’s signing, according to the press release.

According to the legislation, in 2011, the last year for which nationally comparable data is available, the graduation rate for the CSU was 16 percent, which was 10 percent lower than the national rate.

The legislation states that it is intended to help students save money on their educations, as students who finish in two or four years can save thousands of dollars and can get out into the workforce sooner.

The California Promise legislation isn’t available to all freshmen, however, as it requires participants to be California residents and to qualify either for being a first-generation college student, low-income or a graduate of a high school underrepresented in college attendance. The legislation does, however, allow any community college transfer student to commit to finishing in two years.

Students in the program will receive academic advising that provides monitoring of their academic progress. Participants will also need to maintain a certain GPA level, which, along with other participation criteria, will be determined by individual colleges.

Susan Gubernat, an English professor at CSU East Bay and a member of the CSU Academic Senate, argued prior to the bill’s signing that it failed to target what she said was the real issue, the underfunding of the CSU.

Staff of the Sonoma State Star, the student-run newspaper at Sonoma State University, one of the 23 CSU campuses, expressed their concerns with the legislation in an editorial earlier this month.

“The California Promise bill limits the availability into the program by placing low-income, minority and first-generation [students] as priority for the program,” said the staff. “There are thousands of other students who do not fall into these categories, but share the same troubles when it comes to getting the proper classes.  Why limit who can excel and graduate in four years?”

By the 2018-19 academic year, a minimum of 20 campuses will be required to set up a California Promise program for transfer students.

Sac State president Robert Nelsen introduced a similar program this year that also requires participants to commit to completing 30 units per academic year in exchange for enhanced academic advising. But instead of offering priority registration to participants and limiting participation to certain groups, Nelsen aims to help a wider range of students graduate sooner by working to add more class sections, increase class sizes and offer incentives for continued participation.

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‘Coffee with Cops’ event promotes open dialogue

Originally published Sept. 19, 2016 by The State Hornet

Coffee with Cops - Marivel Guzman

Campus police Lt. Christina Lofthouse chats with a Sac State student at the “Coffee with Cops” event in the Wellness Hub on Sept. 14. Photo by Marivel Guzman.

With a humorous nod to the dietary stereotypes of the people in blue, students, staff and campus police came together for donuts, coffee, and dialogue during the annual “Coffee with Cops” event in the Wellness Hub on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

“Coffee with Cops” is hosted by the Student Health and Counseling Services Department as part of Sacramento State’s Week of Welcome.

Approximately 40 students and six police officers packed into the tiny space, drank Starbucks Coffee and ate Marie’s Donuts while discussing police work, campus safety, careers in criminal justice, and any other questions the attendees had for police.

“It’s an [annual event] to sort of facilitate a dialogue between students, staff and the police department to create a culture of care — that we’re here for the students and that their safety is really important to us, and hopefully kind of break down any [misunderstandings] that we might have about police officers,” said Merril Lavezzo, a recently-hired health educator with the Student Health and Counseling Services Department, who was responsible for organizing the event this year.

Police Chief Mark Iwasa said an event like this is important because it helps make the police, who are often busy or unable to stop and speak with students, more approachable.

“Our department has a goal this year of really getting out and being more accessible to students on the campus so that they understand the one thing that we’re here for is to help them,” said Iwasa, who added that most students were asking questions about his career and criminal justice careers in general. “I think one of the problems in law enforcement today is not enough communities have confidence that their [police] departments are here to help them; there’s a little bit of a trust issue. So, we’re trying to make sure that those types of trust issues don’t happen at Sac State.”

Andy Corona, a criminal justice major, said he went to the event to network and learn more about the steps to a career in law enforcement. He added that he talked to Officer Scott Christian about S.W.A.T. teams because he’s interested in that area of law enforcement.

“These officers are really, really cool,” said Corona with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. “Overall, I think it gives us a really good opportunity to kind of get to know who’s on campus and who we can rely on when we need help here.”

“Coffee with Cops” began at 8:30 a.m. and was supposed to last until 10, but by 9:30, the pink donut boxes were empty and the cardboard coffee containers were depleted. Most of the crowd had also dispersed.

Lavezzo said she was surprised at the number of students in attendance, especially being that it was held early in the morning on a Wednesday, but was pleased that it was a success.

Though the event is usually only held during welcome week, she said she’d be interested in looking into the possibility of offering it more often.

“The most important [objective] was to get folks here and talking with police officers,” Lavezzo said. “I’ve think we’ve gotten that.”

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Legislature hopes to increase grad rates with ‘California Promise’

Sac State president launches similar plan ahead of bill signing

Originally published by the State Hornet online Sept. 13, 2016 and in print Sept. 15, 2016

sac_state_north_entranceNew legislation that passed through the state legislature last month would, if signed by Gov. Brown, require select California State University campuses to implement a program to help improve graduation rates.

Senate Bill 412, the “California Promise,” formerly SB1450, aims to help certain groups of first-year freshmen—including low-income students and underrepresented minorities—earn their degree in four years and community college transfers complete their baccalaureate program in two years.

“It would allow students who sign up to get priority registration and enhanced academic advising,” said Steven Harmon, spokesman for Sen. Steve Glazer of California, the main sponsor of the bill and a former CSU Trustee. “Now, the students would have to fulfill a commitment of their own and that is that they’d have to take 30 credits an academic year [or the equivalent in the quarter system] and also maintain a GPA, and that’s to be determined by the campuses.”

Though the bill does not have any funding attached to it, Harmon pointed out that the CSU is receiving $35 million from the state to set up programs to improve graduation rates and that portions of that could be used in the implementation of SB412.

“Everything from there has yet to be determined in terms of what [individual campus] criteria will be,” Harmon said. “There would be a minimum of 15 campuses that would have to receive community college transfers into [the] program by the fall of 2017 and eight of those campuses would have to take in freshmen who would do a full four year commitment in the program.”

A similar program has already been implemented at Sacramento State. The “Finish in Four” program, which began this semester, requires participants to take 30 units per academic year—this can be spread across fall, spring, summer and the winter intersession. The program can also be participated in by transfer students who want to finish in two years.

In addition to being offered incentives like discounts in the bookstore and lower costs for summer classes, participants must also maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA and meet with an adviser at least once in both the spring and fall, according to Executive Director of University Initiatives and Student Success Jim Dragna.

The Sac State program does not grant participants priority registration, but Dragna said the college opened up thousands of additional seats in many popular courses this year.

“What we’d like our outcome to be is that students finish in a timely manner and they leave here as distinguished and distinguishable as Sac State graduates,” Dragna said. “There’s a great tie-in, not only in terms of the time to graduate, but a well-documented understanding for the students about how they’ve learned here and of what they’ve learned that really sets them apart. It’s not just about the content of the courses, but it’s also about those global outcomes that we would like to see our students develop.”

Sixty-two percent of the approximate 4,000 incoming fall 2016 freshmen are participating in Sac State’s “Finish in Four” program. Though Sac State President Robert Nelsen says it will literally take four years to measure the program’s initial success, he says the college is already seeing indicators that suggest an increase in timely graduation.

“I have been impressed with the commitment from not only our students to do what is required of them, but our faculty and staff, as well, to provide the tools and support systems they need to succeed,” Nelsen said of the initial success of the program. “Sac State has the potential to be a model for the CSU and the nation for improving graduation rates.”

During President Nelsen’s Fall Address, he stated that his program’s goal is a 30 percent four-year graduation rate for freshmen—currently eight percent—and a 38 percent two-year graduation rate for transfer students—currently 26 percent. These rates are mandated by the CSU system to be met by 2025, according to information provided by Dragna.

“Even among the students who are considered nontraditional, the ones who have other responsibilities such as a job or raising a family, they have shown an eagerness to carry full loads so that they head toward a four-year degree,” Harmon said. “To me, that’s a lot of promise out there that has been shown by students in the CSU system that there’s a willingness and eagerness to get done in time, so it’s the system’s responsibility to provide the tools for those students to get through.”

For Susan Gubernat, an English professor at CSU East Bay and a member of the CSU Academic Senate, who wrote a recent editorial for the Sacramento Bee outlining her many concerns with SB412, the bill is avoiding the real problem, which she says is the underfunding of the CSU system.

“The [legislature] doesn’t want to spend more money right now on higher education,” Gubernat said. “It doesn’t like statistics that say it takes longer than four years to graduate, so it has to come up with these false solutions to real problems. We are in a system that continues to function at [a] shortage [in funds] with tens of thousands of more students, so the answer to the problem is to fund the CSU adequately so that enough classes can be given [and] enough advisers can be hired.”

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Multi-Cultural Center hosts forum on police-community relations

Originally published Sept. 8, 2016 by The State Hornet

scan_2-443x381The Multi-Cultural Center hosted its first “Let’s Talk About What’s Going On” forum on Wednesday, Aug. 31, with Police Chief Mark Iwasa discussing issues currently facing the African-American community with students and staff.

Six students and five staff members discussed topics ranging from improving communication between law enforcement and communities, the importance of voting in local elections, participating in activism in addition to protesting, what the police do on campus and conflicts between law and morality.

“I think the dialogue is good,” Iwasa said. “We always gain a little bit when we share questions about things that gives us an indication of how people view us.”

As the main facilitator of the first meeting, Iwasa discussed the campus police department and talked about the various goals he has for the department this semester, including encouraging his officers to get out of their vehicles more and communicate with students.

The open discussion was the first in a series of weekly events this semester focusing on respectful conversations about issues affecting the black community. The meetings will be led by at least one administrator, faculty or staff member.

Aisha Engle, the Women’s Resource Center program coordinator, explained that the goal of the forums is to give students a candid place to share their feelings. She asked for suggestions for a list of ground rules at the start of the meeting, writing them on a white board. The rules included not cutting people off while they’re talking and respecting the opinions of one another.

“We want to centralize the goal of the conversations and discussions around the greater forum of concerns of policing in relation to black lives and African-American students and how they are conceptualizing that when they are outside of campus, on campus [and] really being able to discern the dynamic of what policing looks like in their everyday lives,” Engle said.

The Black Student Union, which was unaware of the forum prior to the State Hornet’s inquiry, weighed in on the importance of these types of discussions.

“Whenever the dialogue opens is healthy, especially being black students on campus,” said Isaiah Alexander, vice president of the Black Student Union and a communications major. “There’s a lot of stuff going on with the police. None of that is new, but because the way technology is, everybody’s catching videos, so people who thought it didn’t exist finally get to see this really happens.”

Michael Merchant, a new member of the Black Student Union and also a communications major, said he would like to attend an upcoming meeting. Merchant said that he hopes conversations such as this one will help solve social problems.

“Obviously with everything going on in the nation right now, there needs to be positive, constructive dialogue,” Merchant said. “We know it’s going to take a long time. This has been a work in progress for hundreds of years to get not only African-Americans, but other minorities on the same plateau as, you know, let’s say, white America.”

“Let’s Talk About What’s Going On” takes place each Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Multi-Cultural Center across from the library entrance.

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July DigIn! Dinner draws large crowd despite high temperatures

Pangaea executive chef Brett Stockdale wows community members and leaders with locally sourced three course meal

Originally published in the August 24, 2016 print edition of the West Sacramento News-Ledger


July 28 DigIn! Dinner featured chef Brett Stockdale and West Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem Beverly Sandeen. Photo by Daniel Wilson.

As the sun prepared to set on a day when temperatures reached upwards of 103 degrees, community members and leaders in West Sacramento gathered under the big tent on West Capitol Avenue in front of City Hall alongside the West Sacramento Farmers Market for the second of three 2016 DigIn! Dinners.

The dinner was held July 28 and featured West Sacramento native Brett Stockdale, who is the executive chef at Pangaea Bier Café in Sacramento. Stockdale prepared an original meal using ingredients that were available to purchase at the market or that came from local farms.

Before the dinner kicked off for the approximately 100 people in attendance–which included members of the community, Stockdale’s family and friends, city officials, members of the Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the event’s sponsors such as Raley’s and Burton Law Firm–a short introduction by outgoing CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce Denice Seals, Mary Kimble from the Center for Land-Based Learning and Jeb Burton of the Burton Law Firm, was followed by Stockdale presenting a demonstration, with the event’s host Mayor Pro Tem Beverly Sandeen acting as assistant chef, on how to make the dinner’s first dish Panzanella Salad.

The salad was then served to each table by a volunteer staff that included members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Land-Based Learning and the farmers market.

According to the menu and Stockdale, the salad was made using ingredients from Chavez Farms, Fiery Ginger’s Farm, Root Cause Farms and Toledo Farms and included a mix of grilled bread, gold tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, red onions, Sherry vinaigrette, Cotija cheese and basil.

After the starter course, attendees spent time drinking beer and water and other beverages provided by Bike Dog Brewing Co. and Raley’s, respectively, chatting, and mingling. Most were fanning themselves with the provided “I’m a Fan of West Sacramento” paper fans and the small electronic fans that lined the green and white cloth-covered tables.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce, including Cindy Tuttle, were shooting squirt guns at one another and Tuttle sprayed water on guests with a water misting device. As the sun began to set and the lighting under the big tent grew a  bit darker, the beloved Delta breeze helped cool down the crowd.

Incoming president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Verna Sulpizio said a few words about the event before introducing Stockdale to talk about the main course.

“I am West Sac proud like nobody’s business,” Sulpizio said to the dinner guests. “And you guys are, too, because you’re out here in 100 degree heat and I really, really appreciate that.”

The main course consisted of ingredients sourced from Fiery Ginger’s Farm and Toledo Farms. Attendees enjoyed a dish of smoked and braised chicken with roasted red potatoes, peppers, squash, crispy shallots and natural jus.

A lengthy break after the main course allowed guests to continue drinking and getting to know each other. Sandeen shared her thoughts on the event and talked up how proud she is of the success of the farmers market and the DigIn! Dinner series.

“It brings the community together and it helps showcase all the farmers we have at the market as well as gives chefs a chance to show what they can do with in the farm-to-fork movement,” said Sandeen. “Adding in the non-profit organization as the beneficiary is another way to give back and have non-profits become known to folks who are attending. It’s a wonderful partnership across many boundaries.”

Sandeen spoke highly of Stockdale and said she hopes he’ll inspire more people from the city to gain interest in the culinary field.

“We’re really proud that he’s a [chef from West Sac],” said Sandeen. “I hope that he inspires more folks to want to go into being a chef.”

Dessert was served just before 8 p.m. following an explanation from Stockdale of what to expect from the dish. The dessert course included ingredients from Sola Bee Farms and Ahmad Farms and consisted of biscuits, sliced pluots, toasted almonds, whipped cream and honey.

Stockdale said he was grateful for the opportunity to be able to showcase his cooking for his friends, family and the West Sacramento community.

“The turnout is great and I’m happy to see all these familiar faces,” said Stockdale. “My grandparents are out here, mom, dad, old friends [I haven’t] seen for a while. Everyone is supporting. It’s amazing. I’m super happy with the turnout and I’m happy that everyone likes the food. I haven’t been able to make my food for West Sac yet, so I’m happy that a menu that I’ve created has finally gotten to West Sac.”

Stockdale’s dad Mark Stockdale expressed how proud he was of his son.

“We’ve been a part of this community for a long time,” said Mark. “It’s nice to see [Bret] come back and get a chance to show what he’s learned and to bring that back to the [West] Sacramento area. This gives a chance for people to see what the local restaurants and folks with the local produce can do here.”

The owner of Pangaea Rob Archie spoke about what the event meant for both Stockdale and the restaurant.

“[Brett] loves his hometown, so this dinner is special because of that,” said Archie. “Pangea is known for beer and because we’re No. 7 in the world for best hamburger, that’s kind of overshadowed a lot of great stuff that comes out of that kitchen, and I can put our kitchen up against any kitchen in Sacramento and this event gives us a chance to show that.”

Archie also shared his thoughts on the meal.

“One thing is Brett doesn’t cook a lot of the same dishes twice, you know, he’s always innovative,” said Archie. “This was the first time I’ve had this stuff, so it was great.”

The next and final DigIn! Dinner for this year will be held August 25 and will feature The Patriot restaurant chef Allyson Harvie. Mayor Cabaldon will host the event. Tickets are once again $65 each with a portion benefiting the non-profit Assemble Sacramento. Attendees will also get $5 in vouchers to spend at the Farmers Market.

More information is available on the West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce website under the Chamber news and events section.

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