SFSU president meets with pro-Palestinian student activists for open negotiation session

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Tuesday, May 7, 2024
SFSU president meets with student activists for negotiation session
San Francisco State President Lynn Mahoney sat down with pro-Palestinian student activists for discussion during an open negotiation session.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco State University President Lynn Mahoney sat down with student activists on campus to respond to their demands during an open negotiation session.

Student protestors at San Francisco State say they are stepping up to effect change.

"This is about us stepping into a moment in history," said one student leader on the bargaining team.

On Monday, "Students for Gaza" say they are making history.

They secured a face-to face meeting with a university president to make their demands heard.

MORE: SF State students join college campuses protesting war in Gaza

"We will not ignore America's investment in genocide. We demand the CSU disclose, divest, defend, declare. These conversations must start now," said Sydney R. with Students for Gaza.

"This is not just about eight people on the bargaining team. This is about a wider movement to end the genocide and end the occupation," said one of the students on the bargaining team.

A team of selected student leaders issued their demands.

"We are students, faculty, demanding CSU and SF State University to divest from all companies and partnerships that participate in the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people," said another student on the bargaining team.

President Mahoney responded. "You've been heard. You've all been heard," she said.

MORE: Encampments continue at Bay Area universities; graduations not expected to be impacted

Students called for the university to disclose how financial investments are made. Mahoney agreed.

"Let's have a conversation with our investment, not just conversation, let's get something done with transparency of a website, a conversation about our investment policy," said Mahoney.

Students demanded that Mahoney call the deaths in Gaza a genocide.

Mahoney said she does not support violence or violence against unarmed civilians. But she cannot agree to that demand by students.

"I'm not the secretary of state in D.C. or here," said Mahoney. "My job is to create the space for content neutral. So no - as a president of the university, I don't make political statements."

MORE: Arrests of Israel-Hamas war protesters exceed 2,300 as police clear more US campus encampments

Faculty members were on hand to support student activists.

"We think these are really important demands. Our job is to support the students and everything they do and help them out," said political science professor James Martel.

"We have a history and legacy here showing that student activism, student organizing has fallen on the right side of history. I think that as part of the legacy and culture of SF State for President Mahoney, to honor the organizing and efforts and at least meet with them," said Gopal Dayaneni, SFSU lecturer in the Race and Resistance Department.

When the open negotiating session was over, many who were there for the event said they were hopeful.

"I'm really optimistic to see how things proceeded. We are thankful for press Mahoney to come out and have this conversation with us," said Sydney R.

MORE: 3 hurt at UC Berkeley encampment after days of peaceful assembly, university says

Students and faculty that listened into Monday's open negotiating session acknowledge that the university president only agreed to one of the demands - to disclose financial information.

Regardless, they say it was amazing that a university president agreed to sit down with students. And they hope students at other universities will be able to do the same.

Meanwhile, Mahoney says Monday's dialogue was a productive start.

And she says SFSU is committed to being an agent of social justice while respecting the rights of all students to a safe learning environment.

SF State student leaders say they plan on staying in the encampments on campus for as long as it takes. They have not heard from campus administrators about needing to move.

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