1994 – A mural depicting Malcolm X was painted on the student union building, commissioned by the Pan-African Student Union and African Student Alliance. The mural's border contained yellow Stars of David and dollar signs mingled with skulls and crossbones and near the words "African Blood." The next week, after demonstrations on both sides, the school administration had the mural painted over, and subsequently sand blasted. Two years later a new Malcolm X mural was painted, without the controversial symbols.
2013 – The Science Building was found to have "unsafe levels" of airborne mercury, lead and asbestos in the basement as a result of reports that pesticide-laden Native American artifacts were previously stored with a material now known to be highly hazardous. As a result of the contamination, over $3.6 million was spent for remediation of the pervasive contamination. University Administration terminated several employees who reported the contamination, resulting in several wrongful termination and whistle-blower lawsuits, including one by the recently hired director. In July 2014, Cal/OSHA cited the university for various health and safety violations in the Science Building, which included SFSU failing to locate asbestos in the building and warn employees about the hazards of mercury. SFSU previously ran into trouble with its Environmental Health and Safety program when the director prior, Robert Shearer, was accused of taking bribes from a waste disposal firm in exchange for at least $4 million in university funds.
SF Students hold signs in solidarity and support of the Third World Liberation Front 2016, the name of the court students on a hunger strike to defend the SF State College of Ethnic Studies, during an emergency press conference in the Quad Monday, May 9
2017 – A group of Jewish students accused SFSU of encouraging anti-Semitism, and excluding Jewish student pro-Israel activist groups from campus activities. These students filed a court case, however a federal judge dismissed the suit in 2018. The suit was later settled out of court, with the settlement including a provision to hire a new Director of Jewish Student life.  In 2019 the university granted Zionist student groups equal rights with other student groups.
2020 – SFSU faculty Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa were hosting a virtual class lecture on Zoom (software) by Leila Khaled, a Palestinian political activist with a militant history, when the Zoom canceled the broadcast due to Khaled's history of violent actions towards civilians. The event brought SFSU into a tense national news debate.
2023 – At the conclusion of a speaking event hosted by Turning Point USA entitled Saving Women's Sports, former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines stated she was physically and verbally attacked by activists on the SFSU campus while attempting to speak about her opposition to the inclusion of transgender athletes in women's sports. University police officers moved Gaines to another room, where she remained barricaded for three hours. The university police stated that no arrests have been made, and an investigation is ongoing. PEN America, a literary and free expression advocacy organization, called the incident a "disaster."
The university awards bachelor's degrees in 115 areas of specialization, master's degrees in 97, and a doctor of education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership. It jointly offers three doctoral programs: a doctorate in education in partnership with University of California, Berkeley with a concentration in special education, and two doctorates in physical therapy with University of California, San Francisco.
The most popular undergraduate majors are Business Administration, Biology, Kinesiology, Engineering, English, Communication Studies, Psychology, Criminal Justice Studies, Sociology, and Cinema. The student-faculty ratio at San Francisco State University is 23:1, and 27.1 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
In 2020, San Francisco State was ranked the 19th top university in the United States by PayScale and CollegeNET's Social Mobility Index university rankings. In 2022, the Philosophical Gourmet Report listed San Francisco State University as one of the top eight universities to earn a terminal MA in philosophy. SFSU was one of the first California State University campuses to offer a doctorate of education. It was also instrumental in the establishment of the International University of Kyrgyzstan (1993). The university is the only one in California to offer a bachelor's degree in technical and professional writing. It is also the only university in the California State University system to offer a master's degree in Classics.
In 2011, SFSU ranked 18th among the top 20 undergraduate schools whose alumni went on to be admitted to the State Bar; many subsequently ran for public office. The university's College of Extended Learning offers the only American Bar Association-approved paralegal studies program in San Francisco.
In 1969, the longest student strike in U.S. history resulted in the establishment of the college of Ethnic Studies and increased recruiting and admissions of students of different and varied ethnic backgrounds.
In 2010, Forbes ranked San Francisco State as the 11th most diverse college in America, citing 51% minority students. Among 121 Western Universities, San Francisco State was ranked sixth in terms of campus diversity by U.S. News & World Report in 2013. In 2016, San Francisco State was ranked as the most diverse student body among the 100 largest American universities by Priceonomics.
San Francisco State has the second largest Asian and Filipino American enrollment percentage in the Cal State system.
The school first adopted their mascot, the Gator, in 1931. After a call for a mascot by the student newspaper the Bay Leaf, students suggested the "alligator" for its strength and steadfastness. The students also suggested the spelling "Golden Gaters," with an "e," in reference to the Golden Gate. Students voted in favor of the name, but after numerous "misspellings" by the newspaper, the use of Gator, with an "o," stuck.
Associated Students host the San Francisco State Folk Festival. including 5th Annual San Francisco State College Folk Festival April 15–17, 1966. 7th Annual San Francisco State College Folk Festival April 24–27, 1968, 2nd Annual San Francisco State College Folk Festival 1963, with Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter (lyricist) 6th Annual San Francisco State College Folk Festival in March and April 1967, 4th Annual San Francisco State College Folk Festival 1965. San Francisco State College Folk Festival, September 25, 1970.
KSFS is a college radio station run by Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) students, streaming online, at 100.7 on Comcast Cable radio in San Francisco, and at 88.1 FM near the SFSU campus mini transmitter.