Civil Rights Movement

As the intensity of the Civil Rights Movement grew in the 1960's, one of the emerging issues was the lack of access to higher education for a segment of the population in our communities. These individuals had the motivation and desire to obtain a four-year university degree, but lacked the financial means and academic support to encourage their success. They also typically came from the inner cities where high schools and community colleges were unable to provide the environment and resources, to adequately prepare them to compete in the university climate. These individuals also came from families whose members had never had the university experience and therefore were unable to provide the proper guidance in seeking opportunities in higher education.

San Francisco State University

In 1968 students on campuses statewide were bringing the issue of access and other concerns to the attention of the administration and making their demands known through sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes. One of the most famous strikes occurred at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) during the spring of 1968. After five months of protesting, the longest university student-led strike in history, the administration finally responded to a list of demands presented by the strike members, which included faculty, staff and students. The administration was asked to create a special admissions program for underrepresented students of color, reserve 400 slots for special admits, rehire faculty member Juan Martinez (one of the founders of the Third World Liberation Front and a strike leader), create six to seven faculty positions for the special admit students and finally, to remove the ROTC from campus. Most of the demands were met with the exception of removing the ROTC and the university actually hired about four or five new faculty. Reginald Majors was the first EOP Director at SF State. Several other EOP pilot programs emerged at this time, which as a result of the 1969 Harmer Bill (SB 1072) eventually developed into systemwide, State-funded EOP programs.

EOP Struggles Statewide

Dr. Bert Rivas, former Associate Dean of Student Affairs at the Chancellor's Office, recalled that EOP directors systemwide struggled to gain legitimacy on their campuses during those conservative times. Even though the Harmer Bill assured funding systemwide, the policies to guide EOP were limited and loose; each program depended on the ingenuity of their local director and the supportive political and administrative "generosity" of the campus President and/or the campus directors of Financial Aid, Admissions and Relations with Schools. Most EOP directors had limited support or authority to carry out their responsibilities.


In the late 1960s, Dr. Rivas noted that EOP recruited from 75% to nearly 95% of all low income minority students on each CSU campus--perhaps closer to 95% in the system. Initially, systemwide procedures were not in place to handle admissions of students who did not meet admissions requirements. Most campus EOP directors were forced to implore the Admissions directors for admissions slots. Since recruiting was done by what was then called Relations with Schools (RWS), EOP had to contend with a very conservative approach to recruiting low-income minority students. In the middle to late sixties, Dr. Rivas continued that the system and most of the individual CSU campuses frowned upon and sometimes prohibited the term "recruitment". Most campuses discouraged EOP from seeking students other than through the traditional information meetings that were held by RWS directors. These meetings were held at select locations, not necessarily at high schools, and were scheduled one year in advance about once every three to six months for only part of the year. This made it very difficult for EOP directors to effectively recruit low-income minority students.


Prior to 1973, EOP struggled to become a truly multi-ethnic program. All CSU campuses were divided into Chicano and Black EOP programs; i.e., each program had separate budgets and Chicano and African-American students would go to their respective programs for services. Asian and American Indian students were forced to go with either of the two programs to receive services. Fortunately, Dr. Rivas pushed to combine the programs under one director across the CSU.


In the mid-1980s, monies that once were protected when the Harmer Bill was passed became "touchable". Campus presidents had total discretion to allocate operational dollars to EOP. Although most campuses continued to receive the same funding, on some campuses, year-by-year funding was reduced. In spite of the growing need for EOP services, many campus presidents have not allowed the programs to increase proportionately.

Where is EOP Now?

For over 50 years, EOP has continued to increase the access, academic excellence and retention of students who have been historically underserved through its ongoing tradition of changing lives through continuous innovation. Today, EOP support services exist on all 23 CSU campuses. Although, campuses have adapted their structure and services to meet the unique needs of their particular campus, all programs continue to provide a commitment to those in our communities who are low-income, first generation college students and have the motivation and desire to seek a college education.

In 2019, EOP celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a conference that celebrated the students who shaped California's history through activism and social justice. It was an observance of those who made access to higher education a reality and an opportunity to recognize those who continue this movement today and for those who will lead us into the future.

For a more detailed look into the SF State College Strike, please visit the archives at Welcome - SF State College Strike Collection (sfsu.edu)