CSUS students protest outside president's home

TURLOCK — Several dozen students protested in front of California State University, Stanislaus, President Hamid Shirvani's home Saturday afternoon, decrying budget cuts, his management style and the direction he is taking the campus.

"We feel like we've tried everything else," said Barbara Olave, a senior studying sociology and one of the demonstrators. She said students have spoken with and written to Shirvani but to no avail.

The protesters did not speak with Shirvani. Olave said one student knocked on Shirvani's front door but no one answered.

The demonstration lasted at least an hour, and students chanted such protests as "Fewer classes, higher fees, the CSU is run by thieves."

"All across the state, we're upset about the budget cuts," Olave said. "But each campus has its own concerns."

She added that CSUS student concerns include the elimination of winter term, a lack of transparency by the administration and the fear Shirvani wants to privatize the university, limiting access to less well-off students.

"Higher education exists to serve the public," she said. "When you change it over to a business model, it exists to serve itself."

Shirvani could not be reached for comment Sunday, but university spokeswoman Kristin Olsen said the protesters would have been better served if they had directed their energy at lawmakers and not at Shirvani's home.

"I think it's unfortunate that the protesters are taking out their frustration at the president instead of at Sacramento where they could make a difference," she said. "The Legislature funds the CSU system. Many of the things they are upset about are outside of President Shirvani's control."

Olsen added that Shirvani has been as transparent as he can be.

She said the university has had to cut its budget by 20 percent because of the recession.

"It will continue to be a difficult time in the CSU system," Olsen said. "You can't absorb cuts of that magnitude without fundamentally changing some of the ways higher education has operated."

She said those changes will be made in such a way as to continue the university's mission of providing access to all qualified students.

Olave said the protest involved about 50 students and started after a campus meeting sponsored by student groups from the CSU campuses in Turlock, Sacramento, Fresno, UC Merced and other colleges.

Turlock police said they received two calls about 4 p.m. from neighbors complaining that the protesters were blocking the street, which Olave denied. No one was arrested.

Olsen said authorities are looking into reports that not all of the protesters were students. Olave, 46, said as far as she knows the demonstrators were students except for three teens who are the children of students.

Olsen said someone rang Shirvani's doorbell "multiple times" early Sunday, but Olave said "that's not us."