Students for Quality Education ended their hunger strike on Thursday, its ninth day, due to health hazards.
The twelve students from six Cal State University campuses including Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Northridge, Sacramento and San Bernardino began the hunger strike on May 2, listing four demands for the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Charles B. Reed to adhere to.
The demands included a five-year tuition freeze, the elimination of presidential car and housing allowances, a suspension of cuts to classes and student services and the extension of free speech areas on CSU campuses.
The hunger strike ended because the students were concerned for their health and one member, 18-year-old Raiza Arias, was hospitalized during the strike.
In order to prepare their bodies, the twelve SQE students began dieting one month prior to the launch on May 2.
According to Donnie Bessom, a Cal State Long Beach graduate student who participated in the hunger strike, during the month of April the group prepared with a three-week-long vegetarian diet. On the fourth week the group went on a vegan diet. Three days before the actual strike began, they were on a no-solid-foods diet.
Bessom said that he suffered constant stomach pains that he had to mentally block out in order to continue with the hunger strike.
“The first seven days I was doing okay,” Bessom said. “Day eight, my blood pressure rose. Any time I would try to stand up or go upstairs or do any physical action, it was hard for me.”
During the hunger strike, the group agreed to drink eight glasses of water a day. Bessom said they began juicing by grinding celery sticks or an apple just to get the juice so they could have some type of nutrients.
“We actually had a medical team check on us everyday,” Bessom said.
On May 4, the group met with Reed at the Chancellor’s office in Long Beach to discuss the group’s demands.
Reed and the group mainly discussed presidential pay. While SQE argued that the recent salary increases for Leroy M. Morishita of Cal State East Bay and Mildred Garcia of Cal State Fullerton were pay increases, Reed said no president has received pay raises since 2007.
Reed said because Morishita and Garcia had moved campuses, they each were appointed to new positions, so they did not receive pay raises.
The group disagreed with Reed’s argument.
While Reed denied all the group’s demands, SQE member Noor Qwfan still believes there were some successes.
“Our victory was exposing Reed’s mispriorities and the Board of Trustee’s mispriorities,” Qwfan said. “We may not have had all our demands, but we received a lot of attention from legislatures.”
According to Qwfan, one of the group’s biggest accomplishments was getting California State Senator Ted Lieu to call for Reed’s resignation.
Lieu’s letter was in response to the CBS investigation of Reed’s $766,000 worth of charges on CSU credit cards for catering and other items.
“At a time when you are making drastic cuts and raising tutition fees on students, spending taxpayer money to subsidize your lifestyle and those of already well-paid CSU presidents is shameful,” Lieu wrote in the letter.
Bessom said that the members of SQE consider the stirke a huge success because of all of the attention they received across the media and state legislatures.
“It’s more about the meanings and about the fight,” Bessom said. “It’s not about instant success. You can’t always measure it as a fail or a success. It’s more of a step and a process.”