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SFSU pledges to maintain funding for College of Ethnic Studies

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Students at San Francisco State University gather on Tuesday to organize a list of demands to present to university president Leslie Wong regarding purported cuts in funding for the College of Ethnic Studies. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies is not expected to see any cuts to classes or staff next school year after university leaders promised to cover the deficit that could have reduced the college’s operating budget by about 40 percent.

College faculty, however, said the financial boost promised Thursday won’t cover all of its costs.

SFSU President Leslie Wong said the university will give $200,000 to the college from university-wide funds — the portion of the college’s $5 million budget that administrators say the college was previously going to lose — to allow the university and ethnic studies faculty, students and staff more time to plan for upcoming years, said SFSU spokesman Jonathan Morales.

The announcement followed a week of uncertainty for the college, which learned this month that reserve funds from Academic Affairs set aside to pay for extra classes were depleted.

News of the reduction in funds prompted an outcry by faculty and students, who said losing that amount of money next year could have forced the college to suspend its graduate programs and eliminate lectures.

At a campus meeting Thursday, Wong pledged to hundreds of students, faculty and alumni to increase the process of planning and allocating budgets for colleges.

“Moving forward, we will look to improve the way in which we develop and allocate our budgets. We cannot keep using an old tool to solve a new problem. I look forward to working with faculty, staff and students in the College of Ethnic Studies to develop a funding model that will help them continue to play an important role at our University and beyond,” Wong said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner.

Andrew Jolivette, chair of the American Indian Studies Department — one of five departments in the College of Ethnic Studies — said the $200,000 from the university is not enough to maintain the level of classes and lecturers.

“To stay afloat, [$200,000] won’t do it,” Jolivette said. “[$500,000] is what we need to stay status quo, and the status quo is actually not that great.”

Faculty are asking the university to restore funding to the levels prior to 2007. The college has seen around a 17 percent reduction in its overall budget in the last seven years.