California faculty to protest CSU budget

The California Faculty Association is planning a major rally in Sacramento Wednesday to protest the lack of funds Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing for the California State University system.

The governor is currently proposing a $92.1 million increase to the CSU budget for the 2018-2019 state budget, over three times less than the budget increase of $282.9 million that the CSU system requested this past November. This $282.9 million increase would be used to help pay for standard increases in costs, as well as a graduation initiative to help combat the projected deficit of available college graduates in the California workforce in the near future.

 An update to the budget is scheduled to come out in May, meaning funding for state colleges could be increased. It will be up to the state Legislature and the governor to come to an agreement on a final spending plan for 2018-19 fiscal year. Chancellor Timothy White called the current budget, “concerning and surprising,” noting that the budget will limit critical university needs in the future. 

The CSU system has been underfunded for over a decade,” said Elaine Newman, professor of mathematics and stats and chapter president of the CFA at Sonoma State. “There was a change in priorities for the state. Back when your professors were in college, it was practically free.” Further complicating matters is a lack of space and classes, which exacerbates the upcoming labor shortage.

According to Jennifer Eagan, a professor of philosophy at Cal State East Bay and the CFA statewide president, CSUs turn away more than 30,000 qualified students each year because of these problems. Gov. Brown has yet to make an official response to criticism from the CFA and similar groups, but has stated his overall reason for prudence in his budget plan: “California has faced ten recessions since World War II and we must prepare for the eleventh.” Gov. Brown’s fears of recession go back to the beginning of his most recent term as California Governor, where the state was in a $27 billion deficit.

If the CSU’s budget is not increased, they will transfer these costs onto current CSU students’ tuition. Eagan notes Brown has set aside $7 billion in a rainy day fund. “[The fund] was meant to protect the state when there is a downturn,” Eagan said. “But at the CSU, we never recovered from the last downturn.” 

Eagan said that the CFA has not heard much interest in the CSU system from the governor’s office for some time now. “We think that it’s starting to sound like the governor doesn’t care about public higher education,” Eagan said. Newman noted that if the state wanted to accommodate every potential student in California, the budget needs to be increased by $400 million, more than either the Governor’s current proposal or the CSU administration’s current request.

This building frustration has led the CFA to hold a rally, working together with the CSU administration to try to get lawmakers to listen. Many teachers, students and administrators from across the CSU system plan to be there. “I strongly encourage students and faculty to come to Sacramento,” Newman said. “It’s important to show our leaders in Sacramento the people in CSU and their suffering.”

For students and faculty interested in going to Sacramento to support higher education in California, the demonstration is to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the state capital building Wednesday. If students are unable to drive or reach Sacramento by other means, the CFA is happy to help get them there. They will supply mass transit to those who RSVP. Once done, a shuttle will be available at the flagpoles near the main entrance of Sonoma State’s campus at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Sonoma State plans to leave by 2 p.m. To RSVP for this service, visit the CFA webpage here: https://www.calfac.org/rsvp-freethecsu.