Cuts mean more work, fewer classes

On the heels of a study slamming California State University faculty members’ too-high workload, teachers at Chico State fear new budget cuts will make things even worse.

The fact that the university might stop trying to fill some of the 32 faculty vacancies translates into fewer available courses for students—a slippery slope that some teachers fear will lessen the quality of education at the university.

The Academic Senate, at its Feb. 4 meeting, debated the issue of saving money by not filling vacancies.

President Manuel Esteban tentatively expects $10 million in cuts, even after the CSU Board of Trustees’ recent approval of student fee increases.

If all faculty searches were halted, speculated Professor Paul Persons, and each potential new hire were to have taught eight courses, the math means “that’s 240 courses that we don’t have. … How are we going to serve the same number of students with that many fewer searches?”

While Esteban acknowledged that CSU Chancellor Charles Reed’s directive has been to allow the searches to continue, as seemingly required under the union contract with the California Faculty Association, that might not be what really happens at Chico State.

“A lot of the searches will be cancelled,” said Esteban, who has been asking deans whether hiring for vacancies would mean they couldn’t balance their budget without laying people off. Then, Esteban said, he “looks the other way” and leaves it to the deans, and if that leads the CFA to file a grievance or angers the chancellor, so be it.

Esteban, who is retiring this year, said it would be morally wrong to hire new faculty members only to have to lay them off if the budget got worse, as happened once in the past. Also, if there were layoffs, it wouldn’t be the tenure-track professors on the block but more likely the part-timers who have been “giving of themselves” to teach here for many years.

“We need to protect the people who are here and not necessarily who might be coming,” the president said.

But 32 vacant positions and counting is a lot at Chico State, where professors continue to age and retire each year.

Professor Kathy Kaiser, who sits on the statewide Academic Senate, reported the results of a report completed in December 2002 that found CSU faculty members work more hours than their counterparts at University of California schools, private colleges and other universities nationwide. They teach one more class a year, are less positive about their jobs and don’t feel as rewarded for effective teaching as their counterparts, the study found.

Professor Sam Edelman said the study’s findings include several recommendations and lay out the rationale for redefining an appropriate workload.

When asked by Professor Jim Morgan to take “a political ride” and contemplate how partisan politics will play in the final state budget, the increasingly punchier president said, “I love political rides.” Esteban said that the best thing for Chico State would be if the Legislature lets Gov. Gray Davis’ January proposal through as is.

"We’re not going to be able to take a $10 million cut and expect that we’re going to be doing the exact same thing," Esteban said. "The term ‘quality’ is not going to mean the same thing."