CSUN student Grace Castaneda, 20, is participating in a hunger strike to protest university cuts.  I m willing to do it until my body says I can t do it
CSUN student Grace Castaneda, 20, is participating in a hunger strike to protest university cuts. I m willing to do it until my body says I can t do it anymore. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Hours into her fast Wednesday, Cal State Northridge hunger striker Sarah Garcia pined for scrambled eggs or cereal.

Anything but a strike regimen of juice made from fresh kale, apples and celery. | See photo gallery.

"I went to get some tea - and was staring at the muffins," said Garcia, 19, one of four hunger strikers at Cal State Northridge. "But it's worth it, 'cause someone's gotta make a change.

"They have to meet our demands."

The CSUN fasters were among a dozen students at six California State University campuses to launch a hunger strike in response to funding cuts.

The hunger strike was followed by an announcement Wednesday that members of the California Faculty Association had voted to authorize a two-day strike following nearly two years of deadlocked contract talks.

The hunger strike, organized by Students for Quality Education, is in response to a 318 percent hike in tuition over the past decade, students said. The student group is funded by the CFA, which represents CSU professors and staff.

Among the student demands: That the university freeze tuition, safeguard current classes and cut administrator pay and perks.

Until those demands are met, students say they'll go without until their stomachs rumble or worse. The hunger strike is being supplemented by a diet of fresh vegetable juice.

"I'm willing to starve until our demands are met," said striker Matthew Delgado, 20, a sophomore majoring in English and photojournalism, whose last meal was a pineapple. "I'll go until I become seriously ill."

Throughout the day Wednesday, the CSUN hunger strikers rallied students to protest the effect of a $1 billion loss in state funding to CSU since 2008.

Further cuts are expected.

The Cal State cutbacks have compelled administrators to raise fees, slash staff, cut admissions and freeze enrollment next spring at 23 campuses attended by 400,000 students.

In the past year, tuition rose by 23 percent.

The striking students demand a five-year freeze in student fee hikes, a scuttling of car and housing allowances for campus presidents, a reduction in administrative salaries before further class cuts and free-speech rights extended to entire campuses.

The students have been invited Friday to discuss their concerns with administrators, officials said.

"Our main concern is the students' health," said CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith. "It's the end of school, they're studying. We wouldn't want them to jeopardize their health."

Friction over university downsizing wasn't limited to students.

Cal State employees voted overwhelmingly to authorize their union to declare a two-day strike if a new contract cannot be reached with administrators.

The strike vote by professors, counselors and other staff was approved by 95 percent of union members, with about 12,500 members voting.

"The message to Chancellor (Charles) Reed is absolutely clear: The CSU faculty have run out of patience and it is time to address the issues before us so that our faculty can get back to the business of providing quality higher education to the students of California," said CFA President Lilian Taiz.

CSUN student Matthew Delgado, 20, is participating in a hunger strike to protest cuts on CSU campuses.  I ll go until I become seriously ill,  he says.
CSUN student Matthew Delgado, 20, is participating in a hunger strike to protest cuts on CSU campuses. I ll go until I become seriously ill, he says. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

The CFA announced the results of the strike vote at a news conference at Cal State Long Beach.

The rolling strike - the largest faculty strike in California history - would affect all 23 CSU campuses this fall.

Under the plan, groups of campuses would go on strike for two days each, one immediately following another.

CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp has said the administration is hopeful that a settlement can be reached before professors form a picket line.

Negotiations are slated for today and Friday.

The administration has demanded a freeze in salaries, which haven't changed since 2008. Employees want a 1 percent raise and a guarantee of academic freedom. 

Despite all the campus cuts, employees note the university is awarding a 10 percent pay raise to campus presidents.

At Cal State Northridge, a banner announced CSU Chancellor Reed earned $451,500 a year. Among the hunger strikers were Garcia, Delgado, 20-year-old Grace Castaneda and 18-year-old Raiza Arias.

Faculty members urged students to pay heed.

"These students are putting their bodies on the line for their education, your education," said Martha Escobar, a professor in Chicano/a studies. "You don't have to be a martyr, an activist, to do something in your everyday lives."

Castaneda, who prepared for the strike by eating one small meal a day, said she was already feeling the loss.

"Right now, I'm getting kind of sick," said Castaneda, a Los Angeles native majoring in political science and sociology. "I am hungry. I miss food - red meat, a steak... a Chipotle burrito.

"(But) I'm willing to do it until my body says I can't do it anymore. ...I am not doing this in vain."


Staff Writer Kelly Puente contributed to this report.

dana.bartholomew@dailynews.com

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