Faculty gives CSU trustees a lesson

Hundreds of California State University faculty took education to another level Nov. 14, marching on the CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach and calling for an attitude adjustment.

“It was the biggest turnout of faculty that I know of in CSU history,” said Jim Smith, spokesperson for the California Faculty Association. “It shows that it’s not just CFA leaders who are feeling this way.”

The union members were particular miffed because, one day after Chancellor Charles Reed handed down the edict that each campus cut 1 percent of its budget, the Board of Trustees OK’d a 2-percent raise for its own members, Reed and the college presidents. With the raise, Reed now takes in $311,448 a year and Chico State University President Manuel Esteban makes $204,804.

That same 2 percent is on the table for the faculty, but the CFA is holding out for more, asking for a 6.3-percent raise as mediation continues.

CSU Spokesperson Clara Potes-Fellow said, “The CSU intends to continue to negotiate until an agreement is reached.” She said the chancellor does not intend to impose a contract.

Smith sounded skeptical, because that’s what’s happened every year since Reed took over. The teachers, he said, are still fighting to close a “salary gap” between CSU faculty members and those elsewhere.

Smith said last week’s rally was an extension of the CFA’s education efforts, such as the teach-ins held at the CSU campuses last month. “There’s less tenured faculty, there’s larger class sizes [and] the resources have been shifted to the administration.”

CFA’s president, Susan Meisenhelder, pleaded with the trustees to reassess their priorities, as did state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat who has been a professor in the CSU.

Beau Grosscup, president of the CFA chapter at Chico State University, said that while he doesn’t think anyone from Chico was able to make it to the rally, the group had its support—and many petition signatures.

He said the trend is toward “the Wal-Mart model” of public universities—relying more on part-timers. But Grosscup said that what offends him the most is that neither the chancellor nor the board is pressuring the Legislature to give the CSU more. “It’s a very cautious, hand-out approach. They don’t make the case for public education.”

Campuses are scraping to find a place to cut their 1 percent—a share of $25 million that Reed says must go system-wide. Chico State’s share would come to a little over $1 million.

Potes-Fellow said the cuts, required due to the energy crisis and “the downturn in the state economy,” are at the discretion of the campuses. But they can’t come from tenured faculty positions.

The CFA hopes trustees were listening to them. "Time will tell," Smith said. "They certainly couldn’t have slept through it, that’s for sure."