Fall 2009 Convocation Speech

Heather Hanson
Associated Students President
August 24, 2009

Fall 2009 Speakers

Ruben Armiñana

Eduardo Ochoa
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Susan Moulton
Chair of the Faculty

Heather Hanson
Associated Students President

Dolores Bainter
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate

Good morning.  Dr. Moulton, President Armiñana, faculty and staff thank you for having me here today. This morning I speak for all Sonoma State students.

Today, students are faced with a number of questions, uncertainties and worries, all of which differ in range and scale for each individual student.

We question the priority of higher education in the eyes of the California state legislature. We do so because each year state leaders put less and less money into the California State University system. This has resulted in an increase in student fees the last seven out of eight years.

Many of us are unsure of how we will manage to pay off thousands of dollars in student loans. And these loans continue to grow to cover the 32% fee increase. Now that California has reached a record high 11.9% unemployment rate, we question the California job market and its ability to provide us with the employment necessary to pay off our debt.

We worry that our younger siblings and family members will not have access to higher education. The California State University, a system which prides itself on providing education to first generation college students is faced with the reality that some of these students may be the last in their families to go to college.

We are unsure of how Sonoma State will operate and function next year, next semester and even tomorrow. And we worry about the current conditions of essential classes and services needed for graduation.

As it stands, 5,000 student seats were cut from the fall semester. And we are receiving 10% less faculty/student contact hours.

In addition, the Career Center is struggling with a student to career counselor ratio of 8500 to 1. In Counseling and Psychological Services, the student to counselor ratio is 4250 to 1.

These are just a few of the aspects of the university students need to succeed.

With all of this in mind, we do not question our decision to attend Sonoma State University in order to better ourselves, our families and our future. And we are aware that by doing so, we are bettering the future of California.

Furthermore, we do not question our ability to persevere through these unprecedented times. We will work longer hours, continue to collect debt and do what we need to do in order to succeed.

We are well aware that major changes will be taking place within the California State University and here, at Sonoma. We will be participants in those discussions and demand inclusion in the decisions made that affect us. The studentís perspective, creativity and ideas are vital in the necessary transformation of this University.

Finally, one thing that we are sure of is that we are not powerless. We find strength in numbers and in each other. We will utilize this strength when contacting decision makers in Sacramento, Long Beach and here at Sonoma. We will rally behind what we believe in, which is access, quality and affordability in higher education.

Come Wednesday, students will flood the campus. We will fill classrooms and study in the library. We will work out in the Rec Center, eat in the dining halls, join clubs and attend events. We will experience the entire university with two goals in mind: success and graduation.

We will continue moving forward, one step at a time regardless of our questions, uncertainties and worries. I ask that we move forward together with a common sense of purpose: helping students succeed and graduate.