CSU professors deciding on strike

Faculties from Cal State Universities all over the state have scheduled a vote on a resolution in April to decide whether or not they want to strike.If the resolution passes, a series of two-day rolling strikes will be held on all 23 campuses from April 16-27.According to a press release, “The faculty action occurs at a time when the CSU Management has faced a barrage of criticism for ever-rising student fee hikes and tone-deaf executive pay increases.”This isn’t the first time executives in the CSU system gave pay raises.

According to Cal Watchdog, former CSU Chancellor Ann Reynolds resigned in 1990 after she gave herself and 26 other executives a series of hefty pay raises. At the time, Herbert Carter, the chairman of the Cal State Board of Trustees, was her second in command.

During Carter’s time as chairman, heavy salary increases have been approved without public input even though the state was out of money, according to Cal Watchdog.

According to a Los Angeles Times article published in February, Republicans, who blocked Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointment of Carter to a second term, didn’t like that Carter participated in raising student tuition fees last year by 12 percent and in giving the president of the San Diego State campus a $400,000 pay package. Democratic leaders canceled the vote when the Republicans said they wouldn’t provide enough votes to confirm him. Those who were opposed to Carter’s appointment believed he was part of the problem, with top executives receiving $300,000 to $400,000 per year.

There seems to be a great divide between the two sides over the question of whether or not sitting presidents are receiving raises. According to the Chancellor’s Office and CSU Public Affairs, CSU executives haven’t received raises in a few years.

“There haven’t been any raises since 2007,” said Erik Fallis, who works for CSU Public Affairs.

However, according to the California Faculty Association, there have been pay raises for CSU presidents within the last year.

“A number of campus presidents in the last year who have been brought on and been given raises over what their predecessors have been making,” said Brian Ferguson, who works with the California Faculty Association.

Many outgoing presidents may be replaced by newer, more inexperienced presidents.

“In many of the cases, the presidents who have retired or left the job have been replaced by folks who are younger and less experienced. They make even more money, so it’s a questionable use of the university’s money at a time when student fees are going up and faculties and staff are facing layoffs and class sizes are getting bigger,” Ferguson said.

However, the raise the president of San Diego State received didn’t come from the board.

“Fifty thousand dollars of it came from private donations and another $50,000 came from the university,” Fallis said. “CSUSD’s budget is $800 million.”

Elizabeth Chapin, who works for CSU Public Affairs, thinks it’s because he was new to the school.

“As a new employee, San Diego State’s president did receive a salary higher than that of the retiring president,” said Chapin in an email.

However, Ferguson said people would like to see the money spent elsewhere.

“Whatever money is being spent would be much better spent on CSU students rather than on executives,” Ferguson said. “Whatever resources CSU has really needs to be spent in the classroom.”

Although top executives haven’t been given these raises, tuition costs have been going up over the last few years, which Fallis said is due to school budget cuts.

In fact, the Board of Trustees has had to raise tuition because the legislature had lowered funding by $1 billion during the last few years, Chapin said.

Ferguson agreed that there have been massive cuts in the CSU system.

“The CSU has suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in the state budget over the last half decade,” Ferguson said. “Higher education has been under siege with a series of budget cuts over the last few years. It’s the view of the faculty and the students that are out here rallying in Sacramento, as well as members of the legislature that there are some misplaced priorities in terms of how what money we do get is being spent both on the salaries of incoming campus presidents. Money is best spent in the classroom and on students.”

Chapin said CFA walked out on the last talks with CSU administration.

“The CFA continues to show that they are not committed to the negotiation process. The faculty union bargaining team has previously walked out of negotiations with university administration,” Chapin said.

Ferguson, on the other hand, disagrees.

“The sides are still negotiating contracts, and at one point in the negotiations our side decided that we were deadlocked in negotiations,” he said. “We needed to move into mediation and get a neutral third party to see if we could jump-start the talks.”

CSU faculty last went on strike in November at Cal State East Bay and Cal State Dominguez Hills. The strike shut down those campuses for a day.

“In November, faculty union leadership stepped away from finding common agreement the day after denying classes and services to thousands of CSU students at Dominguez Hills and East Bay,” Chapin said.

A strike would require a majority vote from the faculty.

If the resolution passes, it will be the largest higher education teachers strike in U.S. history.

About Richard Anderson