The inauguration today of new Cal State Northridge President Blenda J. Wilson has been described by administrators as the beginning of a new era for CSUN and a signal of new openness toward the surrounding community.
But some students and faculty said Thursday they were annoyed officials canceled classes for the event and have said the cost of the celebration--estimated to be $35,000--is exorbitant.
Fabio Escobar, founding member of the campus's Green Party, said students shouldn't have to miss classes to participate in the event. "We are here for education, not for P.R.," he said.
"I think the idea behind the inauguration is fine, but to cancel classes!" said another student, Aviv M. Ilan, who is majoring in journalism and English. "No other events ever merited shutting down classes before, unless it was an earthquake or riot or something."
Other students have less quarrel with the decision to cancel classes than with the timing.
"I really, really needed that one day of class," said Shiela Dalrahim, who is a biology major. "It's just that toward the end of the semester we are all really stressed."
A few students and faculty members have voiced concerns through the student newspaper in recent weeks; one woman wrote a letter demanding a refund of $6.24 for the day's worth of tuition.
University spokeswoman Kaine Thompson defended the decision to cancel classes, saying the inauguration, the first in 23 years, is "well worth it. The campus was well-informed that this event was going to take place, so it's surprising that some seemed to think it was last-minute." She said the expenses were paid from donations, not public funds.
Others dismissed the criticisms. Few CSUN classes are held Fridays, and Student Body President Sal Damji praised the celebration as "a good way to get the university's name out."
Faculty President Louise Lewis said despite some complaints, the dissent was "minute, vocal but minute."
"It's not just a new president," said Lewis, who supports the cancellation of classes.
"We are going to see a lot of change here."