Over several years, San Francisco State University (SFSU) has engaged in a systematic effort to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately eliminate SFSU's iconic and historic College of Ethnic Studies (COES). The COES was the product of the famous 1968 SFSU student strikes during which students shut down the university and issued stark, unwavering demands for inclusion and equality for SFSU's ethnic minority student population.
In 1968, the SFSU created the COES, the evolution and success of which became inextricably synonymous with SFSU's institutional “ethnic inclusionary” brand. Further, the COES became the template for the creation of similar programs at other colleges and universities around the world.
The dismantling of the COES began in 2009, after more than 40 years of historic operations, when SFSU slashed the COES operational budgets, and invoked disproportionate reductions in the relatively minimal resources required to fund COES programs and to hire new COES faculty. The long-standing Dean of the COES, Dr. Kenneth P. Monteiro, worked for years to restore the cuts to the COES budget, but to no avail. Then, in 2016, in a desperate attempt to simultaneously justify SFSU's six (6) year-long financial squeeze on the COES, and sully the academic stature of the COES and the professional reputation of Dean Monteiro, SFSU President Wong and Provost Susan V. Rosser publicly accused Dean Monteiro of:
(i) overspending and financial mismanagement;
(ii) fostering violent student protests and unrest; and
(iii) issued ultimatums and threats to fire the Dean and end his thirty (30) year relationship as an esteemed member of the SFSU administration.
The facts are as follows:
In 2009, citing a budgetary "emergency", SFSU President Corrigan and Provost Gemello issued “instructions” to each SFSU academic college (“College”) to cut their respective operations budgets by 10%. The COES immediately reduced its budget by 10%. The President, Provost and Dr. Kenneth P. Monteiro, Dean of the COES, agreed that when the "emergency" ended, the COES budget would be replenished.
In the interim, Dean Monteiro invoked various spending cuts within the COES budget to absorb the annual 10% cut in funds.
Only one other College cut its budgets as instructed by President Corrigan. All other Colleges ignored the budget cut instruction. In 2010, since other Colleges ignored his previous budget cut “Instructions”, the President eliminated certain Faculty Early Retirement Program (“FERP”) positions from all Colleges, including the COES.
As a result, the COES became the victim of disproportionate budget cuts. First, the COES suffered the initial 10% funding reduction in 2009, and subsequently in 2010, the SFSU’s implementation of the additional line item budget cuts in the funding of COES’ FERP positions.
Consequently, when both budget cuts described above were implemented, the COES absorbed a disproportionate 12% to 15% annual budget deficiency between 2009 through 2016.
To the contrary, based on data provided by the Provost’s office, during the same time period, the remainder of the Academic Affairs college units experienced an average of 7% cuts to each of their total budgets.
Recognizing the disproportionality of the COES budget cuts between 2009 and 2011, per the agreement with President Corrigan, upon Dean Monteiro’s request, Provost Rosser (Provost Gemello’ successor) dipped into certain financial reserves to provide the COES supplemental budget operating revenue relief.
However, in 2012, after the arrival of new SFSU President Wong, Provost Rosser recharacterized her supplemental financial contributions to the COES and referred to them as “bailouts”.
Shortly after President Wong’s ascension to the presidency, despite his predecessor President Corrigan’s and current Provost Rosser’s “agreement” with Dean Monteiro to replenish the disproportionate, annual COES budget cuts, it became clear to Dean Monteiro that President Wong and Provost Rosser would NOT restore the COES budget.
Ultimately, instead of acknowledging that her annual supplemental financial contributions were designed to discretely “cover” the disproportionate budget cuts absorbed by the COES each year, privately, Provost Rosser erroneously explained that her annual supplemental disbursements to the COES was a mechanism required to address Dean Monteiro’s annual "overspending" and "financial mismanagement.”
Dean Monteiro’s budget cut protests were met with unfounded, false public assertions issued by President Wong and affirmed by Provost Rosser that Dean Monteiro and the COES were not the victims of disproportionate budget cuts, but instead, President Wong and Provost Rosser falsely, publicly proclaimed that Dean Monteiro had overspent and mismanaged his COES budget.
When Dean Monteiro challenged the annual budget cuts, and the erroneous charge of “budget overspending and financial mismanagement” publicly exclaimed by Provost Rosser and ultimately President Wong, Provost Rosser and President Wong retaliated against Dean Monteiro.
First, after initially approving three new hires for the COES, the Provost and President Wong tacitly “disapproved” the appointments by blocking the first appointment shortly before the official offer was communicated to the candidate. However, Rosser and Wong then reinstated approval of the first appointment, but blocked the second and third appointments until SFSU student protests and State legislators intervened and forced President Wong to allow processing of the last two appointments.
Next, the President actively thwarted Dean Monteiro’s ability to raise monies for the COES from private donors -- an annual fundraising practice that, heretofore, had not only been encouraged by the Provost and President, but in which, historically, both the Provost and President had actively participated.
Further, President Wong went out of his way to disrupt COES fundraising events and activities, and disallowed access to certain potential private donors to the COES.
Notably, after the honoree on behalf of his private donor, offered to move an approximately $1.5 Million private donation to endow a COES Faculty Chair that, per the wishes of the donor Dean Monteiro would manage in his capacity as Dean of the COES-- President Wong, as per his right, with the support of Provost Rosser, blocked Dean Monteiro’s ability to manage the deployment of the donation, reconfigured the purpose of the $1.5M, and stripped Dean Monteiro of his rights to manage the disbursement of the private donation.
Subsequently, Wong and Rosser softened their position and still, in contradiction of the terms dictated by the major donor as conveyed by the honoree, conferred upon Dean Monteiro a temporary three (3) year term to manage the donation.
Finally, President Wong publicly and wrongfully accused Dean Monteiro of inciting SFSU minority student protests, violence and hunger strikes as a way to protest the systematic COES budget cuts.
Importantly, as reported by protestors, the most incendiary acts included President Wong’s inflammatory statements, one in which President Wong publicly acknowledged that with regard to budget cuts, the COES had been the victim of “ a screw job”, and that he “would not fix it”.
In fact, President Wong publicly proclaimed that, but for a California State University (“CSU”), 23-campus moratorium (that expired on July 31, 2017) on making changes that could negatively impact ethnic study programs, that he would fire Dean Monteiro.
Given President Wong’s proclamation of his intent to terminate Dean Monterio’s employment, coupled with the SFSU’s lack of response to the formal Administrative Complaint Dean Monteiro filed earlier this year with the SFSU, in order to protect his rights and preserve the integrity of the COES, Dean Monteiro decided to file a lawsuit against the SFSU.