Spring 2023 Issue 2

Page 1

Designer Stands Out Dyslexia and Education Non-traditional Courses
Into the SF State-Verse


I’m writing this just two days before we’re supposed to send off the magazine to print. This issue has been a challenge for all of us here at Xpress. We’re slowly but surely amping up coverage of SF State and the city that surrounds it, and with this commitment comes the waves of stress and anxiety we’ve all grown so accustomed to.

That being said, I have to congratulate the amazing team of writers, editors, photographers and designers we have here for the work they’ve put into this second issue. They were committed enough to this publication to keep up the good work throughout spring break, and all of the team here at Xpress continues to show incredible improvements in all areas of their reporting.

This second issue comes just as some of us here return from the Associated Collegiate Press Spring Media Conference that was held in San Francisco this year. Xpress magazine was honored with awards acknowledging our website, magazine and publication as a whole during the conference – we deserved each and everyone of them. Meeting so many other journalists in the same boat as us helped us realize just how much potential we have to grow.



Managing Editor

Photo Editor

Multimedia Editor

Diversity Editor

Copy Editor Design Editor

Design Assistant

Engagement Editor

Online Editor

Staff Writers

Eian Gil

Zackery Stehr

Aaron Levy-Wolins

Oliver Michelsen

Ciara O’Kelley

Caroline Van Zandt

Daniel Hernandez

Sydney Williams

Myron Caringal

Sarah Bowen

Angelina Casolla

Nathan Hitchcock

David Blakeley

William Reuter

Kamal Taj


Tatyana Ekmekjian

Leilani Xicotencatl

Tam Vu

David Jones

Chris Myers

Gina Castro


Adrian Jose Fernandez (middle), 25, a creative writing student and student-instructor, chats with fellow students as business marketing student Jake Redmond (right), 22, looks on during the Writing on the MUNI class at SF State. ON SF State Spider-Punk poses while on top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Multiple SF State students roam around campus dressed as Spider-man.


Spotify Playlist

A collection of the magazine staff’s favorite songs for this issue.


Avant Garde Designer Stands Out

SF State alum gains traction and sells out fashion shows.


Dyslexia and Education

Dyslexia and its effects on 20% of the population.


SF State-Verse

Marvel isn’t the only place with superheroes who sling from webs.


Exploring the NonTraditional EXCO courses offer a curriculum that traditional courses can’t compete with.



SF State’s Budget

What is all of SF State’s revenue being spent on?

How to scan code: 1: Open Spotify 2: Tap search button 3: Press search bar 4: Tap camera icon on far right

Designer Stands out in San Francisco’s Fashion Scene

Teodore Mata gains traction and sells out fashion shows with his over the top wearable art

Story and Photography Teodore Mata works on a mannequin in Daly City.

Teodore Mata Teodore Mata Teodore Mata Teodore Mata

One of Teodore Mata’s designs hang on a mannequin in his dining room in Daly City.

TTeodore Mata, 25 years old, stands over his kitchen counter twisting and toiling with a piece of canvas fabric that he found on the street. Only weeks before it had belonged to a painter as a drop cloth. He turns the fabric and pins it into place to create the shape of a rose. He walks to the mannequin in his living room and hovers the rose over one of his latest pieces, a beige paint covered jacket with a fabric rose large enough to take up the greater lower half of the jacket.

At first glance you wouldn’t be able to tell from Mata’s minimalistic uniform — trousers and white button-down shirt outfits — that he is the designer behind the small, San Francisco-based, avant garde brand, Teodore Mata. Mata began designing clothes in 2019 as a hobby and started posting his designs to Instagram. His elaborate drapings and over-the-top designs garnered attention, earning him over 4,000 followers on the app. Since then, Mata has sold out two fashion shows in San Francisco and hosted his biggest show yet with over 100 attendees earlier this year.

“Teo is a very humble person,” said Ysabelli Cusi, one of Mata’s models. “When I first met him, he was really shy… but I think it’s very telling of his genius.”

It was never Mata’s goal to become a fashion designer. During the day, Mata works as a supervisor at a popular museum near Fisherman’s Wharf. He originally studied and graduated from SF State with a Journalism degree.

“I realized that I might have done the wrong thing, because my brain wanted to do something more creative…I decided to just suck it up and go with it,” Mata said. “Ever since… 2019, I started doing this fashion stuff. And at first, it was for fun. It still is for fun, but it just grew, and grew.”

Early on, Mata’s designs gained the attention of people beyond San Francisco. Lilas Ferdi, Mata’s pattern-maker, is based in New York and reached out to Mata back in 2020 after seeing his work online and taking a liking to his aesthetic.

“Teo is really good at building relationships with people from all around the world … It’s good for his business, his brand showing that he can adapt to everyone’s kind of like or desire,” Ferdi said.

To the untrained eye, Mata’s designs seem impractical and excessive. Each piece is intended to be a wearable piece of art. Mata draws inspirations from nature – or rather his fear of it.

“In a sense everything that I’ve made is kind of a representation of my fears,” Mata said. “They’re all so personal to me. I almost feel like … everyone sees my emotions and my thoughts through the clothes…everyone in the crowd is seeing how I felt. They just don’t know it.”

Mata has never received formal training in fashion design or apparel construction. Aside from recalling watching his grandparents sew growing

up, Mata just did “what felt right.”

Mata was raised by a young, single mother in Inglewood. Moving from home to home, he recalls feeling neglected.

“There was a lot of tension in the family growing up… Everyone was separated,” Mata said “And I took notice. And maybe in some ways, that’s why the clothes look so unique and look so different, because I’ve really embraced all those emotions… just taking them out on the clothes.”

Mata has drawn inspiration for his work from various aspects of his life. “Scraps” was Mata’s first fashion show in 2022. The garments appeared deconstructed, distressed and worn. Mata recalls creating “Scraps” at a time when he was unhappy in his life – he still has a hard time looking back on the collection.

When asked if his family had ever attended any of his shows, Mata dropped his gaze and held both of his hands in his lap.

“They’ve never been to any of my shows,” Mata said. “I would wish that they did. Cause, it’s literally about them. The showcases are about me too but I’m showcasing what I felt. And a lot of my feelings come from my childhood.”

Despite his difficult upbringing, Mata has created a new home for himself in SF with his friends and colleagues. Luiza Costa said that she got one of her first real modeling opportunities working on Teo’s latest show, “Interlude.”

“It’s been beautiful throughout,” Costa said. “The first time meeting him to now it’s a constant beauty in my life. I’m basically sworn to model for Teo for forever. I don’t see why not.”

Although Mata’s brand takes after his name, Teodore Mata is composed of an entire collective of people with an appreciation for art and fashion.

“It’s such a team effort,” said Juliane Roberts-Hansen, Mata’s stylist. Every single one of us has played such a key role and it really couldn’t have been done without any of us.”

Mata worked collaboratively with his team to create all three of his past collections. His goal is to make his brand his full-time job in the near future. No one, including Mata, gets paid for their work aside from the occasional income from ticket sales at shows. They all do it for the love of the craft and hope that one day the brand will become a fashion house. For now, Mata funds his brand and supports himself with his full-time job at the museum.

Since gaining attention, Mata has felt pressured to produce collection after collection. He has considered quitting many times since starting but worries about the impact it will have on his team and the future.

“I think I would really be losing out on an opportunity… and I have no intention of quitting anytime soon.”


Illustration by Daniel Hernandez

Illustration Assets by Leilani Xicotencatl and Tatyana Ekmekjian

Multiplication tables with rows and rows of numbers sit in front of me, from 1x1 to 10x10. Ms. Smith announces the challenge: finish the test within three minutes without any errors. Before we even start, I’m out. I consider my options: act like I don’t desperately want that vibrant, sweet blueberry Jolly Rancher or feign illness.

It’s too late. My face turns hot and red. The shame hits and I shut down, frozen, staring at the test doing nothing. Ms. Smith pulls me outside, which is awkward enough. She knows about my dyslexia – all my teachers do. At the start of the school year my Personal Education Plan, or IEP, makes the rounds. But it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. I think Ms. Smith knows this. She doesn’t give me a Jolly Rancher. Instead she tells me about Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Leonardo da Vinci, some of the world’s greatest minds, all of whom were dyslexic.

Yes, this story may sound corny and cliche – but it worked. That moment in the hallway of Sutterville Elementary School was pivotal. It was the first time I felt that a teacher really saw my struggle, saw me.

According to Public Law No: 115–391 (First Step Act 2018), dyslexia is defined as: “an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader, most commonly caused by a difficulty in the phonolog-

ical processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, and spell.”

Dyslexia can affect a person’s most basic skills needed for reading, writing and math. It affects 20% of the population, about one in five people, and is the most common learning difference according to Sally E. Shaywitz, a professor of pediatrics and co-director at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, writing for the Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology.

With and Without Dyslexia

Like other learning differences, dyslexia is lifelong and not something that can be “cured.” With the right support, most people gain the skills to read and write proficiently. By no means is a dyslexia diagnosis an academic death sentence, but it can have a lasting effect throughout an individual’s life. It can vary in severity, which means every dyslexic person has different needs and accommodations to help them perform in school.

Up to 15% of students enrolled in higher education have a learning difference. Typically that difference is dyslexia, according to Gregory Richardson, a professor at the Department of Special Education at California State University, San Bernardino, writing in the scholarly journal Educational

College is a time for students to explore their academic interests – for those with dyslexia, additional support can sometimes be the a key factor in the quality of education.

Some people, like myself, get lucky and are diagnosed at a young age and get support throughout their early education. Some are not as fortunate and don’t end up getting a diagnosis until much later, if they even get one at all.

Diagnosis and Transition from High School to College

Steven Jenkins is a senior at the University of South Florida, majoring in Chemical Engineering. Jenkins was diagnosed in his senior year of high school after a teacher, whose son has dyslexia, talked to him after class one day.

“He talked to me about dyslexia and other related disorders,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t know there was a name for that. I thought I was just a poor reader and writer.”

Jenkins wishes he had been diagnosed earlier in his education and gotten more support at school. Jenkins recalls basic class exercises like “popcorn reading” and reading off the white board as a source of anxiety.

“When you’re talking and everyone is just staring at you, you obviously get bullied in school, I got into more fights than normal kids,” Jenkins said. “We would write something and switch with another student to basically check our work and talk about it. I remember specifically I had written the word ‘sure’ as ‘shur.’ I knew that was wrong, but I did it anyway. That was one of those moments where the whole class laughs at you. I had a lot of those kinds of moments.”

When Jenkins got to college and found a major that focused on math and science it became a lot easier for him in school. Originally Jenkins planned to go into a blue-collar trade, but after receiving the diagnosis it gave him hope that he was capable of succeeding in higher education.

“I had spent the entirety of my childhood thinking I was stupid, and at the very end of it when I had my science teacher tell me ‘you’re not, you just have a problem,’ it gave me hope,” Jenkins said. “It gave me the idea that I could be good at something. I could be seen as someone who wasn’t stupid.”

In college, Jenkins was given accommodations such as extended time on tests and assignments. Jenkins said he hasn’t used his accommodations for more than a year, but he relied on them heavily when taking general ed classes. That extra time was exactly what he needed.

Noemi Elizabeth Perdomo is a Latina/Latino Studies major, a member of Associated Students Board as a student representative and an advocate for students with learning differences. She transferred to SF State from Skyline in 2018.

Perdomo not only has dyslexia, but another learning difference as well. She doesn’t like the term “learning disability” but instead prefers “learning difference.”

In high school, Perdomo said she had a special education plan that placed her in classes with about 10 to 12 other students, compared to the standard 30-student class. The smaller classes allowed for more individual support. But going to Skyline after high school, the class size ballooned to a standard 20 to 30 students.

Perdomo enrolled in Skyline’s Educational Access Center, where she received accommodation and counseling from advisors. She said the advisors there were very helpful during her time at Skyline.

However, transferring to SF State was what Perdo -

mo describes as a nightmare.

“I didn’t know what I was doing…I went crying back to my community college counselor and was like ‘I think I chose the wrong institution,’” Perdomo said. Luckily, Perdomo’s former counselor at Skyline created a checklist for setting her up with Financial Aid, the Educational Opportunity Program and Disability Program Resource Center at SF State.

“At Skyline, it would be more of a support system but also a counselor telling you, ‘OK, you’re going to take these classes,’ etc.” Perdomo said. “At State, they’re like, ‘Oh you have to go talk to your advisor I can’t tell what classes.’”

This was a big difference from the support she received at Skyline, where the counselors would help plan her academic path. At SF State, the Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) only helps students with receiving accommodations and obtaining documentation.

Abigail Schwartz grew up in the Boston and Lexington Massachusetts area and now lives in Chicago. Schwartz has a bachelor’s in Psychology and a master’s in Political Psychology. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at around 6 years old.

Schwartz was given support and Wilson/Orton Gillingham tutoring that specialized in teaching reading and writing.

“That was hours a week from the age of 6, and that was really tough, to be honest,” Schwartz said. “ I feel like I had to work a lot harder academically than other kids at that age.”

Her accommodation in high school took the form of having a laptop in class, which led her to face hostility from some of her teachers.

“Kinda sad- funny, but my American Sign Language teacher — and this is really funny because we learned about the American Disability Civil Rights Act in this class — was really hesitant to let me use my laptop on tests because she thought I would somehow cheat,” Schwartz said. “I don’t know how much you know about American Sign Language, but that is borderline impossible. She would be there signing live in front of the class and then having us write down what she would be saying. Like if I’ve invented the technology that can motion capture you signing and create an English transcription I think I deserve an A.”

Throughout high school, students and faculty questioned Schwartz about if she actually had a learning difference because, for the most part, she did well in school, graduating just shy of a 3.5 GPA. Some thought she was just trying to “play the system,” to be

allowed a computer in class.

With high scores on her AP and SAT exams, Schwartz got into universities in the U.K. Her distaste for American high schools and her perception of them as being a toxic competition for high grades, sent her to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, which she referred to as “the best University in Scotland.” Notable alumni include Prince Willliam and his wife Kate Middelton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

At university, Schwartz said her dyslexia wasn’t an issue since she was still able to have a computer and extended time on tests. Schwartz enrolled in her university’s disability program but only met with them about once a year to check in about her accommodation use.

Using Accomodations and Academic Support

SF State’s Disability Program and Resource Center is where students with any disability or learning difference registers their documentation and receive counseling for their accommodations. Currently, there are six advisors that can assist students with getting accommodations for classes, according to SF State’s DPRC staff and faculty page.

According to director Nicole Redding, DPRC currently has just about 2,500 students registered, with 640 being registered for “learning disabilities,” which includes students with dyslexia.

However, students who are looking to get a diagnosis for any learning difference, including dyslexia, have to find testing facilities or professionals off campus. The DPRC web page lists different clinics around the Bay Area that offer assessments, though most come at a cost.

Reddings said that some clinics offer a “sliding scale” that takes into account an individual’s income and access to insurance to come up with a reasonable cost. She said other factors like what specific test an individual needs also affects cost. One of the Clinics that offer the sliding scale service includes UC Berkeley’s Psychological Clinic and Center for Assessment.

“So I would estimate that the cost is somewhere just between $500 and $1,500 and how much someone pays depends on what their resources are including insurance,” Redding said.

According to Redding, many of the students coming to DPRC with dyslexia already have some form of documentation of a learning difference. She adds that

and Reviews.
MYTH: Dyslexia can be outgrown FACT: Dyslexia is a lifelong issue. However yearly monitoring of phonological skills from first through twelfth grade shows that the disability persists into adulthood. Although many dyslexics learn to read accurately they may continue to read slowly and not automatically.

when students come to receive accommodations, it’s more than just turning in paperwork.

“It’s more what we call the interactive process to determine, first of all, whether or not a student’s diagnosis or a suspected diagnosis…rises to the level of disability and needing support,” Redding said.

When asked about the most common accommodations that students with dyslexia ask for, Redding said that although all accommodations are given on an individual basis, there are some commonalities. She lists examples like having access to technology and digital based materials.

“To use an assistive technology to help with tracking, to help with highlighting, to have it read out loud as you’re reading,” Redding said. “Another thing can be extended time on an exam.”

Perdomo feels that her accommodations fit her academic needs at SF State, adding that they really help with learning. One accommodation she has is to have a table in class as opposed to a desk, where she can have more room to work on notes.

“I’m like, ‘whoa that’s way too big,’ but it’s OK because I can spread out more,” Perdomo said.

Another is having a note-taker in class with her, though this accommodation, according to Perdomo, has sometimes been hard to fulfill. It can take a while for DPRC to find a note-taker. But she said as long as she can at least take photos of PowerPoints and other written notes from the professor, she is able to manage.

Redding said the process to find a note taker can take so long because it’s on a volunteer basis from other students who are in the same class as the individual with the accommodation.

“We’re finding another person who is attending the class and who is willing to share their notes with another student,” Redding said “That requires that the student has regular attendance…making sure that we find somebody who’s actually going to provide good notes.”

Karen Wiederholt is the faculty director of Upper-Division and Graduate Writing at the TASC tutoring center at SF State.

TASC is the tutoring service that is offered at SF State, which has tutors available in all subjects. According to Wiederholt, first-time hires go through two hours a week of paid instruction over Zoom starting the first week of school. The tutors at TASC are what Wiederholt calls “generalists”, meaning that they are trained in how to tutor reading, writing and other basic studies.

TASC offers three different types of tutoring: they have drop-in appointments Monday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., weekly or bi-weekly sessions with a regular tutor and one-time appointments, all of which are offered in person or via Zoom.

When asked about specialized training for how tutors can better help students with dyslexia, Wiederholt said that she wrote and designed an optional asynchronous course that goes over how to best work with students who are neurodivergent, which includes students with dyslexia. Wiederholt created this course because she wanted to learn more about people who are neurodivergent as she has a personal interest in the field.

“My daughter is autistic, and she has ADHD, and I just wanted to understand more,” Wiederholt said “For me to put together the course, it was really important to have it mostly in the voice of people who identify as neurodivergent. I wanted to offer more to tutors. Tutors are really interested in this, and they

ask for it.”

When asked why the course is optional Wiederholt says that, unfortunately, due to budget cuts and low retention of tutors, it becomes hard to decide what the department should prioritize when training.

Academic Culture and Microaggressions

Emily Smith Beitiks is the interim director of the K. Paul Longmore Institute on Disability, which seeks to build a culture and community for students with disabilities and learning differences.

Beitiks says that often people come to her who are trying to navigate DPRC, get accommodations and sometimes face microaggressions about using them from other students on campus.

“People saying, ‘Oh, it’s not fair,’ or, ‘you’re so lucky’ — not understanding that it’s not a boost but an equalizer,” said Beitiks.

Beitiks said in some cases students may not want to take advantage of accommodations due to feelings of anxiety when other peers may find out.

“There’s this discomfort when you’re not there for the test, and you’re kinda outed even though you might not want to be,” said Beitiks, referencing students who have the accommodations to take tests in a non-distracting environment, typically outside of their regular classroom.

Beitiks also stressed the need for professors to do their best to create an environment where students don’t need to rely on accommodations and not make students feel uncomfortable about using them.

“I don’t do timed tests because I don’t want students to be outed,” Beitiks aid “I allow students to use devices even though it may distract some of them and [they] are going to be doing things on their computer that are not paying attention to me because I know some students with learning disabilities are only going to do their best with a computer in front of them.”

Looking to the Future: Strengths

Helen Taylor is a Ph.D. Research Fellow at University of Strathclyde and an affiliated researcher at Cambridge. She’s part of a team doing research that

takes a new look at how dyslexia is approached. The project seeks to understand how dyslexic people actually play an important role in advancing our species’ adaptation through specialized and complementary ways of thinking. They break this down into strategies ranging from exploration — the seeking of new and unknown knowledge, and the exploitation of already known knowledge.

Schwartz said that she’s good at big-picture thinking, public speaking and has an eye for graphics, more specifically making things formatted more efficiently.

“I’m involved in a climate activism group [in Chicago], and there had been text made for a city-wide event with a bunch of organizations at it,” Schwartz said. “They had made this completely illegible text and I’m like I’m going to have to override your graphic. This is ridiculous I can’t believe they set it up this way.”

Jenkins is naturally good at math, and when he got to higher division math classes he finally felt like he found his place.

“When I got into differential equations that was the first time I really felt like I had a thing that was mine,” Jenkins said.

Perdomo said she’s always been good at advocating for students and building a community wherever she goes.

“My concept at Associated Students has been to advocate for students with a learning difference,” Perdomo said. “We are the ones who suffer a lot. When it comes to being an individual with a learning difference, we put a lot more work in.”

Up until my first year at community college, doubts about if I had the capability to work at the college level hung over me. Coming out of high school, I was nervous about my academic abilities and that I would flounder in college courses, but to my surprise, I flourished.

My first semester at Sacramento Community College I made the dean’s list with the best grades I’d ever had in school. The college environment gave me the space to work at my own pace and focus on discussion based learning.

At SF State, I’ve found support with faculty and peers that help me continue to succeed. With my intention to graduate in Fall 2023, I’ve done things that third grade me would never have imagined.

Myth: If a child is not eligible for special education services or an IEP, then that child doesn’t have dyslexia
FACT: Dyslexia comes in many degrees from mild, to moderate, to severe, to profound. Most children with dyslexia will not receive special education services unless they are considered severe or profound. Although this remains true, even children with mild dyslexia can easily fall behind in school.

Marvel isn’t the only place with superheroes who sling from webs. Dive into SF State’s very own Spider-Verse.

Photography by Leilani Xicotencatl

Brian Leon, aka SF State Spidey, poses for a portrait while striking the iconic crouched spiderman position in front of SF State’s bookstore. Story by Ciara O’Kelley SF State Spider-Punk poses on top of a boulder in front of Burk Hall on SF State’s campus.

On Halloween of 2022, four different Spider-men strike the iconic crouched down pose for a picture at SF State. What looks like a scene right out of a Marvel movie is actually something arguably cooler: a gathering of SF State’s very own Spider-Verse.

SF State Spidey, SF State Spider-Punk and SF State Miles Morales are all students with a common interest: bringing joy to other students through the power of Spider-man. There was even a Spider Gwen, but she and Morales haven’t been seen since Halloween. SF Spidey and SF Spider-Punk attend school events, music shows and support students in the face of problematic speakers — usually religious antagonists with megaphones. On occasion, they’ll also pose for pictures in their Spidey suits.

“Aside from taking pictures with people and getting to participate in random events in the suit, I love talking to the other Spideys about spidey stuff,” said Spider-Punk, who takes after Peter Parker and prefers not to reveal his identity. “Like how we keep our identities secret and how we change in and out of the suits. Literally feels like the scene in No Way Home when the three Spideys are talking about their craziest villains.”

Not all of SF State’s Spider-men hide their identities however. Brian Leon announced that he was the man behind the mask on Jan. 1 in an Instagram post that read, “If anyone’s gonna reveal my identity, it’s gonna be me.”

People on campus were trying to “expose” Leon so he

took matters into his own hands.

“I revealed [my identity] because it was getting exposed by people that despise me,” Leon said. “So I decided to reveal it to take away the pleasure of them telling people.”

Leon, aka SF State Spidey, says Spider-man has been an integral part of his life for as long as he can remember.

“My parents brought Spider-man into my life straight out of the womb,” Leon said. “I’ve been dressing up as Spider-man since I was a baby. It’s kind of like my pajamas.”

Wearing the suit means more to Leon than just cosplaying. According to Leon, it’s become a way to connect with people on campus and even defend them from some uncomfortable situations.

Religious speakers have visited SF State’s campus before, carrying signs with phrases like: “Warning: Jesus haters, drunkards/liars, sexually immoral, murderers/ thieves, blasphemers, idolaters/ unbelievers, general sinners, eternal hell awaits! Repent and trust Jesus to be saved.” SF State Spidey has made it his mission to make them just as uncomfortable as they try to make students feel.

“The thing I’m best known for is helping the campus get rid of the ‘evil’ Christians forcing their beliefs on the students of SFSU,” Spidey said. “I pretty much make sure the students don’t do anything that will get themselves in trouble. I ease the tension and make things funnier. I basically entertain the crowd and drag away the attention from the Christians. It’s a sucky feeling

to be told your way of living is wrong, especially when you’re being told that in public.”

SF State Spidey has inspired others to put on the suit as well. SF State Spider-Punk and SF State Miles Morales have joined the fun and walk around campus alongside Leon taking pictures with students — the two of them even wear their suits to class.

“It wasn’t till I saw SF State Spidey do it on campus that inspired me to actually do it,” Spider-Punk said. “[Haters] may not understand now, and a lot of them might call me ‘Ripoff Spider-man’ now, but that’s OK because that’s only temporary. Wait until the new Across The Spider-Verse movie comes out.”

The new Spider-Verse movie is set to hit theaters this June and will be introducing even more new Spider characters throughout the multiverse, including Spider-Punk.

SF State Spider-Punk spends most of his time in the suit attending punk music shows and jumping into mosh pits. Despite how fun it sounds, there is one drawback to being a mosher donning a full costume.

“[The lenses] of my mask fog up every five seconds and make it hard to see,” said Spider-Punk. “It’s frustrating when I go into mosh pits and I can’t see at all. Thankfully another spidey is helping me fix that problem.”

Although SF State Spidey graduates in 2024 and is preparing to leave the suit life behind, he’s made it clear that “anyone can wear the mask,” and hopes that Spider-Punk and others keep this fun legacy alive.

SF State Spider-Punk poses while crawling the steps on top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Brian Leon, aka SF State Spidey, poses for a portrait among students while sitting on the Cesar Chavez Student Center steps.
Brian Leon, aka SF State Spidey, sits on a bench and checks his phone at SF State’s Malcolm X plaza.

Exploring the Non-Traditional

Gray clouds fill the dull, sunless sky. Hail from last night’s storm remains frozen on the ground. A break in rain gives way to a seemingly empty SF State campus. Yet four students find their way to room 106 of the desolate HSS building on this dreary Friday afternoon to participate in in-depth discussions about their favorite fictional character, Percy Jackson.

The student-run “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” course may have not been found on the original Experimental College roster, but the sentiment remains the same. A progressive peer-to-peer teaching of subjects chosen by students.

SF State’s original Experimental College, or EXCO, came to life in 1965 when a group of students who were unhappy with traditional teaching tactics and an out of touch curriculum developed courses that highlighted student interests, culture and current events. During this time students were also protesting racial discrimination, the Vietnam war and campus reform. In 1969, following a series of on-campus strikes, the program fell into disuse.

In 2017, SF State’s Experimental College was revamped to gain more perspectives from students. Students who take advantage of these niche classes can fulfill one upper division elective credit, while students who teach can earn up to four units. These intimate, after school club type classes the university provides are largely underutilized despite the interesting non-traditional topics, such as psychedelics and writing on the muni. However, the students who do enroll in these classes are genuinely interested in the subjects and lucky enough for them, classes can run with as low as one student.

EXCO’s mission is to “create a space for SF State students to develop leadership skills as they share their voices, backgrounds and passions in a mutually supportive community of peers.”

“Workshop on the Kennedy Assassination,” “Grass, Acid and Zen,” and “Planes of Social Consciousness,” were some of the classes included in the 1967 Experimental College course catalog. Here’s a look at some of the courses currently offered.

From dancing classes to mythical lore lessons, SF State’s EXCO courses offer a curriculum that traditional courses can’t compete with.
Adrian Jose Fernandez (left), a creative writing student and student-instructor, chats with students on MUNI in San Francisco, Calif., during the Writing on the MUNI class on Friday, March 3, 2023. The class is part of SF State’s Experimental College, a collection of student-teaching-student courses that range from Mexican folklórico dance to genealogy.

Writing on the Muni

As they wait at the Muni stop on 19th and Holloway, students discuss their favorite music and movies. It’s been over 20 minutes since the last train arrived at the typically bustling stop – the field trip day is off to a late start. The question, “Will the train ever come?” lingers in the air.

Creative writing major Adrian Jose Fernandez combines his love of writing and love of Muni in the appropriately titled “Writing on the Muni” EXCO course. Today the class is headed to Dolores Park for poetry writing. Immediately apparent is also Fernandez’s love of history, which he sprinkles in during the ride from the bus stop in front of SF State all the way to the stop at Church and Market Street.

He begins his poems with a list. On today’s list: the shoes everyone’s wearing.

“I like to say that this class is actually a writing group disguised as a field trip class,” Fernandez explained.

“Writing on the Muni” hosts a field trip every other Friday. And when the class

isn’t catching the train, they’re in room 104 of the HSS building for writing workshops. Students are encouraged to write whatever they are interested in, whether it be screenplays, poems, short stories, longer stories or even haikus. For Fernandez, feeding off the group energy contributes to the ease and quality of writing.

“The primary goal is to grow as a writer, and for all of us to encourage one another,” Fernandez said.

When Didi Gomez, a cinema major originally from Mexico, relocated to San Francisco last semester, she found it difficult to balance her work, school and social life. She enrolled in “Writing on the Muni’’ this semester to explore her new city and meet new people. Honing her writing skills is a bonus.

“It feels like a community,” Gomez said. “It feels nice, you can have this group of people you share your stories with.”


Mexican Folklórico Dance

When Debra Avelar-Casteneda was 7, she attended her first Mexican folklórico dance class to support her cousin who had trouble walking. Dance class was a cheaper alternative to physical therapy. As the muscles in her cousin’s legs grew stronger, Castenda simultaneously found herself on a path of self-discovery through folklorico dance.

“It made me feel more connected to my roots,” said Casteneda, an SF State senior dance major and first-generation Mexican American. “When you’re dancing, you’re just identifying as a dancer (not as Mexican or American), but you’re still being part of your culture, so it made me feel very much at home.”

Casteneda danced with groups such as Fuego Nuevo and draws inspiration from various artists she’s crossed paths with over the years.

On Thursdays at 4 p.m. she can be found spreading her love of dance and culture in Gym 123, as she instructs the class in both fundamental movements and history of traditional Mexican folklórico dance.

Daniella Shofani, 24, performs dance steps during a Mexican folklórico dance class in the gymnasium at SF State in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, March 2, 2023. Mexican folklórico combines dance with history and culture. The class is part of SF State’s Experimental College, a collection of student-teaching-student courses that range from Mexican folklórico dance to genealogy.


Ballet folklórico Mexicano students, Svea Leventon (red), Bryan Aguilar (green), Alara Tugcu (black) and Daniella Shofani (white), practice during class inside an SF State’s Don Naser Gym room on Thursday March 9, 2023. (Leilani Xicotencatl/ Xpress Magazine)

Senior dance student-instructor Debra Avelar-Castaneda poses for a portrait in the gymnasium at SF State.


Do you really know who you are? Albert Feaster helps “break it down to the compound” with a genealogy class that helps students trace their lines of descent and development.

“My approach to genealogy is to raise your level of consciousness, so you can accept whatever your truth turns out to be,” Feaster explains.

Feaster can trace his own lineage all the way “back to the beginning,” and got into genealogy when he went looking for the truth and found it.

According to Feaster, if you don’t have a good understanding of who you are, it’s easy to accept anything you’re labeled as and be placed in a hypothetical box.

Recently, Feaster’s genealogy class visited the fifth floor of SF State’s library, better known as the Sutro library. The Sutro library is home to one of the largest genealogy collections on the West Coast and provides vast resources regarding ancestry such as historical and lineage society publications and archival collections. He tasked students with the assignment of filling out their family trees in order for them to get a better understanding of who they are.

Irene Arciniega, an SF State senior, didn’t know who she was when faced with the question. She’s hopeful the EXCO genealogy course will help her figure it out.

“I’m starting to kind of understand a little bit more about myself, I’m trying to figure myself out,” Arciniega said. “Specifically, the genealogy class. I feel like if you’re trying to learn more about yourself, it’s the class to pick out.”

Feaster took an EXCO course about “adulting” during his first semester at San Francisco State. Once he learned any student could instruct an EXCO course about anything they had knowledge of, Feaster signed on to teach about Genealogy.

“Taking a genealogy course, you will know exactly who you are,” Feaster explained. “You will find yourself.”

Albert Feaster , Genealogy exco course instructor, poses for a portrait in front of the book shelves inside the SF State’s Sutro Library., on Feb. 27, 2023. Genealogy is a way for one to gain knowledge on their lineage and development.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LEILANI XICOTENCATL Irene Arciniega, an SF State senior, writes on her family tree on a generation chart in the Sutro Library at SF State. The four generation chart asks for information from her parents, grandparents and great grandparents in order to provide accurate information of who they are and where they come from. Isle of the 4A of the Family History section inside the Sutro Library at SF State. The library holds one of the largest genealogy collections in the U.S. PHOTOGRAPH BY LEILANI XICOTENCATL

Cause and Effect

Undergrad and grad students pay thousands of dollars in tuition and fees. Where does the money go? How does it affect campus life?

Dripping with sweat from running laps for a half-hour on the Mashouf Wellness Center’s indoor track, SF State alum Octavio Salgado towels off before throwing his gym bag over his shoulder and heading down to the pool. Preparing himself for imminent disappointment, he saunters down to the pool, only to find the all-too-familiar sign that the pool is temporarily closed.

“It just got to the point where I needed to get my money’s worth, which might’ve been the first time I’ve felt slighted by the school,” Salgado said.

Salgado recounts having minimal student debt compared to his UC graduate counterparts, especially after taking advantage of financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

“The tuition and the fees can be overwhelming, but compared to UC Irvine and other schools I had looked into, it was a much more convenient opportunity for me financially,” Salgado said. “I’ve heard people saying even CSUs are too expensive for them, so they’ve decided not to go to school at all.”

Over the next three years, the university faces a 15% decrease in state allocation funding.

Over the next 3-5 years, the budget committee forecasts a $36 million reduction in its operating budget, according to the university budget meeting on February 23. The budget deficit is intrinsically tied to enrollment, which began declining in fall 2019, according to SF State Institutional Research.

Any enrollment drop affects students and the larger campus community. How enrollment funds SF State is complicated, but every student pays mandatory fees that contribute to their campus experience.

These fees fund the Mashouf Wellness Center, the Cesar Chavez Student Center and Associated Students. For fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters, the fee subtotals were $891 each.

Decreases in the budget can potentially lead to tuition increases, as well as faculty and staff layoffs. Those can affect educational outcomes, including students’ graduation time. Budget shortfalls can also result in class cuts and therefore more students in classes.

Opened in 2017, the Mashouf Wellness Center’s natatorium was a major addition to the university,

providing students with a place to swim, sauna and soak in the hot tub.

Currently, it’s been closed for over a year and a half with repairs finally scheduled to begin at a later date. The prolonged delays in repairs have been due to third-party contractor issues, according to a statement made by SF State Campus Recreation via their Instagram (@sfsu_campuserc) on March 17.

SF State History Professor Felicia Viator experienced similar frustrations to Salgado since the Mashouf Wellness Center pool closed in May 2021.

“I’m a regular swimmer so I’m used to pool shutdowns, but they usually last 48 hours at most,” Viator said. “Since then I’ve tried going to the gymnasium pool, but the hours are limited, and I found the doors closed and locked during the time the pool was supposed to be open.”

The gymnasium pool is open Monday to Friday in the afternoons and is outdated and not well-kept compared to the Mashouf Wellness Center pool, according to Viator.

Story by David Blakeley Photography by Tatyana Ekmekjian The SF State quad in a desolate state on a gloomy afternoon March 13, 2023 in San Francisco, Calif. With declining enrollment, campus becomes increasingly quiet.
It’s extra unfortunate when they realized that there was money coming out of their tuition for access to this area and they don’t have access.

“Many of the students I’ve had have never had access to [Mashouf’s] pool, hot tub and sauna,” Viator said. “It’s extra unfortunate when they realized that there was money coming out of their tuition for access to this area and they don’t have access.”

Part of the required fees all students pay includes a $175 per semester Recreation & Wellness fee.

According to the Summary of Campus Fees, spring 2023 additional student fees include the Student Health Service fee at $250, an Athletics fee at $68, a Student Body Association (aka Associated Students) and a Student Body Center, or Cesar Chavez Student Center fees at $54 and $82, respectively. These fees fluctuate slightly year to year, and can be controversial because students are required to pay them even if they don’t use any of the facilities or services, which includes the Mashouf Center pool. The unusual length of the delay in pool repairs was not a budgetary issue.

“What worries me the most is the headwind we face now because of lower enrollment,” said SF State Biology Professor and Chair of the Academic Senate Michael Goldman. “When one student doesn’t enroll, you immediately lose those tuition and fees, which is a large part of [SF State’s] operating expenses.”

According to Vice President of the SF State Budget Committee Jeff Wilson, nearly half of the budget committee’s resources to fund the university are derived from students’ tuition and fees. “Since our enrollment is down, our revenue is also down,” Wilson said.

In addition to decreasing revenue from tuition and fees, declining enrollment can reduce state funding the university receives.

“Even in the best of times, I’m concerned the CSU system and SF State, in particular, are poorly funded,” Goldman said. “The Chancellor’s Office could reduce the state funds they give to SF State because it is based on a quota of students enrolled.”

Since the 2019-2020 school year, the “target” enrollment figure has been 24,582 California resident, full-time enrolled students. Prior to this number it was lower, at 24,099, according to Goldman. Currently, the university is at about 21,679, approximately 17% below its target enrollment rate.

“The budget from the chancellor’s office is based on the target number of 24,582, but it is expected for them to lower both the budget as well as the target number since the university is not meeting it,” Goldman said. “The state does not provide the university with any funds for non-resident students, so they pay tuition at a higher rate.”

“The funding per student that we get from the Chancellor’s Office is much smaller than the funding per student in the UC system,” Goldman said. “Additionally, it does not keep up with inflation from year to year, so generally it gets worse over time.”

According to data published by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the 2022-2023 CSU funding per student is $21,643. The 2022-2023 UC funding per student is $33,956, according to data from the LAO.

SF State will be receiving three 5% funding allotment reductions in a row from the state starting next year, according to CFA San Francisco Executive Board President James Martel. These allotment reductions are not something the university has faced in the past.

The UC system is currently not facing such

monetary issues. According to the 2023-2024 Budget Report by the CA Legislative Analyst’s Office, the governor is proposing a $216 million (5%) ongoing General Fund base increase for the UC schools.

This would mark the second of five annual base increases included in his multiyear compact with UC. Additionally, the 2022-23 Budget Act provided the UC system with $51.5 million to its general operating fund to help grow enrollment by 4,730 resident undergraduate students.

Despite having the lowest number of students and the fewest campuses, the UC system currently possesses a greater amount of funding than the CSU (California State University) and CCC (California Community College) systems combined, according to the 2023-2024 Budget Report.

Beginning in 2024, the CSU plans to adjust SF State’s state support to reflect the university’s declining enrollment, said SF State President Lynn Mahoney. In effect, the university is currently receiving funds from the CSU state allocation for students that are

prioritizing both admissions and retention rates. The university has also formed an ad hoc group to look at other ways in which the university might generate additional revenues. An “ad hoc group” is formed to investigate one specific issue.

When revenues go down and expenses stay high, reserve spending comes into play. A “reserve fund” is money set aside for covering scheduled, routine and unscheduled expenses that would otherwise be drawn from a general fund.

“Reserve spending helps balance the budget,” Wilson said.. “These can be used to pay for faculty salaries, operating expenses and more. There’s not any direct assignment of cost based on the reserves.”

Some functions of the university, such as parking, housing and residential life, and dining services are self-supporting, meaning that the revenue generated funds their operations, Mahoney said. Some core operations, like instruction, are funded by a combination of tuition revenue and state support.

From a student standpoint, the cost of tuition

not enrolled. These funds will be redirected to CSU campuses who are experiencing increased enrollment, Mahoney said.

“We are in the process of aligning our spending with the reduction in revenue driven by lower enrollments,” Mahoney stated in her email to Xpress. “This includes aligning the course schedule with current student enrollment and demand, and prioritizing staff hiring to align with retention and student success goals.”

Unfortunately, these reductions in funding and enrollment can result in faculty staff layoffs for a semester or longer.

“I worry about job loss because lecturer faculty can lose a lot of work in these situations,” Martel said. “It’s very stressful for them, and it is hard on the students as well. It’s stressful for everybody involved.”

Increasing enrollment is vital to increasing university revenues, and Mahoney pledged to be

and fees compared to universities outside the CSU system is considerably lower.

“While it may seem expensive, the truth is, among universities, this is one of the least expensive places to get a really good education,” Goldman said. “The CSU system is a great educational deal for the whole state and should receive better funding.”

If the CSU system could garner more state funding, then the schools would not be forced to raise tuition and fees. Located in one of the most expensive cities in the country, SF State students need lower tuition and fees because of the city’s high cost of living.

The SF State Budget Committee forecasts enrollment growth beginning in fall 2024 through fall 2026, which will closely resemble fall 2019 enrollment numbers, according to the university budget meeting in November 2022. This increase would be instrumental in preventing tuition from rising. However, if enrollment continues to decline it is likely tuition and fees will rise.

Mashouf Wellness Center pool pictured from Font Blvd.
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