Wrong kind of furlough

Canceling classes penalizes students, hurts university

Ordinarily Chico State University students would have returned to classes on Tuesday (Sept. 8) following the three-day Labor Day weekend. But this was a furlough Tuesday, and the campus was closed and classes canceled.

We understand that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s mandate that all state employees take three unpaid furlough days a month is not fair to university instructors. Ordinarily they’re expected to take their furloughs on days when they don’t have classes. What that means is that, while their workload remains the same, their salary goes down by 10 percent.

The teachers no doubt welcomed the shutdown. It enabled them to stretch the long weekend even more. For those teachers whose classes were canceled, it meant getting some relief from work for the loss of income the furloughs are causing. Non-teaching staff no doubt also enjoyed the longer weekend. And certainly many students welcomed the longer break from classes and books. Others, who take their school work more seriously, staged a “study-in” on campus Tuesday to protest the furlough. We’re with them.

We understand that these campus-wide furlough-day shutdowns will happen rarely, only about six times this academic year. But it’s a shame—and wrong, we believe—to cancel classes in order to satisfy the mandate. Students come to the university to learn, and when classes are canceled, they learn less. They’re paying much higher fees than any of their predecessors. Many are self-financing their educations by taking out loans. It’s a disservice to them—and to the mission of the university—to reduce the amount of direct teaching hours they receive.