CSU faculty struggle living own community

Sixty percent of California State University faculty are unable to afford to live in their respective campus communities, according to a new report issued by the California Faculty Association.

The findings were based on a survey that the association conducted in the spring in which 20 percent of CSU faculty responded. The union represents the roughly 25,000 professors, lecturers, counselors and others who teach at the 23 campuses of the California State University system.

The finding that six out of 10 respondents can’t afford housing in their campus community particularly resonates with Sonoma State faculty, said Elaine Newman, the SSU chapter president for CFA. 

“It is very expensive to live in Sonoma County, and SSU faculty are among the lowest paid faculty in the CSU system,” Newman said. “More than half of CSU faculty earn less than $40,000 per year.”

But CSU administrators are balking at the report, saying that it is being released just as the faculty union is scheduled to begin salary talks.

“The California Faculty Association’s claims about the university’s investment in faculty and its impact on students are not only misleading, they are being made because the union is attempting to enhance its position in salary negotiations starting in May,” said Laura Weidner,  assistant vice chancellor of public affairs for the CSU system.

She said the CSU system has invested $129.6 million in employee compensation and is adding $65.5 million more for the 2015-16 budget.

Weidner described the average salary as “competitive,” and said, “the average tenure-track salary is $83,847 while the average full professor salary is $93,653 for 9.5 months of work.”

However, the CFA report claims CSU employees are among the working poor. The survey findings are part of a series of reports titled “Race to the Bottom: Losing Ground and Losing Faith.”

According to the union’s studies, 95 percent of lecturers make less than $4,000 every month, while 43 percent make less than $2,000 a month. Seventy-two percent of those who responded worked additional jobs to bring in more income, while 77 percent did this off campus. Some held jobs completely unrelated to academics.

Among full-time professors, 88 percent said they make less than $6,000 monthly. Among the respondents who have children, 86 percent said they are unable to financially prepare for their children’s college careers, according to the student.

Rollin Richmond, president of Chico State, addressed the problem on Wednesday by initiating a Campus Equity Pay program, which establishes a salary threshold according to assistant, associate and full professor ranks and includes specific changes on an individual-by-individual basis. 

The program helps address such problems as new faculty being hired at higher rates than senior faculty and helps long-time faculty members who get stuck at certain pay rates and cannot progress. The campus joins Fresno State and San Diego State which have adopted similar policies. 

According to ssufacultyforqualityeducation.org, SSU employees are among the worst paid in the CSU system. Out of 23 campuses, SSU ranks approximately 22nd, just above Humboldt.

“In May, CFA will begin bargaining again for salary increases,” said Newman. “Right now the chancellor of the CSU is offering 2 percent raises for two years. Faculty salaries over the last 10 years have not kept pace with inflation, so essentially we have taken a pay cut . . . Two percent hardly makes a dent in that kind of salary slide backwards.”

Newman said she wants students to become aware of this issue and realize that they are also negatively affected. SSU president, Ruben Armiñana, has declined to comment on the matter.

The faculty association plans to release another paper in the next few weeks to address the toll it is taking on SSU students in addition to faculty.