By: Richard Gomez
Among the “big boys” in our city, Fresno State ranks right up there as an influential giant. The decisions it makes and the values it demonstrates are visible and important. Often the university has shown leadership, supporting academic freedom and exploration beyond conventional wisdom, as should be expected of a true university.
Fresno State has enabled speakers from many sides of Middle East controversies to be heard on campus. It has embraced the Summer Arts program, bringing avant-garde artists in many media to Fresno. It has been home to education conferences questioning many of the presumptions behind the prevailing federal policies encoded in No Child Left Behind while engendering the alternative and successful University High.
Sometimes, however, and especially when questions of finance come to the fore, Fresno State has appeared to be expedient rather than principled. What is to be understood about the value of academic aspiration when the most prominent building on campus is named for a supermarket chain? And when that same building, and a new campus complex, avail themselves of the many financial advantages given to universities while entering into direct competition with the City of Fresno’s downtown auditorium and with nearby business interests, we should ask if this is the proper way to finance a university.
Recently, two areas have come to our attention where again, Fresno State has the opportunity to choose principle over financial expedience.
The first of these has to do with an on-campus organic production and education program, where financial woes are causing the College of Agricultural Science and Technology to consider reallocation of acreage that is in the second-year transition to being certified organic. With less than one acre in certified organic production on the campus farm, the program is a far cry from the 25–35-acre program that was originally proposed. What has the potential to train the organic farmers of the future and provide technical support for the increasing number of Valley farms converting to organic production is instead being threatened by revenue-generating activities that have little to do with education and agricultural outreach?
The second concerns the salient presence on, and tacit endorsement of, radio station KMJ created by the contract between Bulldog athletics and the station. The university’s administration may think of this simply as a profitable business arrangement. But the broadcast of the university’s athletic events and the many shows featuring Bulldog coaches is embedded among highly partisan, disrespectful and even hate-promoting talk shows, where opposing voices are literally drowned out by bullying hosts. This programming is the antithesis of academic dialogue and the marketplace of ideas. It is time to question if the context of KMJ programming is suitable for a major university presence.
These situations provide an opportunity for Fresno State to step back and realign its priorities with the mission of the college.
Richard Gomez is currently a council member of the Fresno County Green Party. Contact him at 559-408-3320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.