Complexities behind the faculty strike

Columnist Shane Welch.

The faculty strike scheduled to occur in April across all 23 California State University campuses brings up difficult questions in regard to budget allocation.

On one hand, the California Faculty Association demands a five percent increase, citing stagnant wages amid higher costs of living and higher wages at comparable colleges.

On the other hand, the CSU administration cites that even though the money allotted to CSU activities has increased, it does not come close enough to meet the demands of increased application rates for students.

For both circumstances one thing is clear: Access to an affordable education for students and attracting the staff and faculty capable of providing a quality education are a top priority.

Access to a quality college education for many Californians has been part of California’s public postsecondary educational system since the enactment of the Donahoe Higher Education Act in 1960. The act provided the framework for how California’s public colleges and universities run today. The way these institutions run should be reassessed to accommodate modern challenges.

One of CSU’s biggest advantages is in-state tuition, one of the most affordable in the nation, an advantage that’s increasingly compromised through a budget which is stretched thin.
According to the CSU’s Budget Central news resource, state funding was renewed to the equivalent levels of funding before the economic recession that hit in 2008.

STAR // Nicole Detmers

However, universities have to make due with this budget despite an increase of around 50 thousand more students since that time. Each campus has roughly 2,000 more students than it did before the recession.

Despite the large need for more resourcesto accommodate increasing student enrollments, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said in an interview with Sacramento’s Capital Public Radio last year that the CSU is not looking to increase the average full time tuition rate of $5,472 for the 2015-2016 academic year.

“Our students and our board were not ready to do that at this time,” said White.

The first report in a series of reports by the California Faculty Association titled “Race to the bottom,” argues the notion that CSU’s budget woes are a result of increased enrollments and strenuous budget cuts doesn’t add up; as administration at other university institutions, such as the University of California, and various community colleges have done a good job at protecting the salaries of faculty and staff despite inflation and budget cuts due to the recession.

The report demonstrated the average salary adjusted for inflation between 2004 and 2013 for UC staff rose around $6,000 at the same time that the average purchasing power for CSU faculty fell around $10,000.

There is a wage disparity between CSU staff and CSU administrative personnel as well. According to the second report in the California Faculty Association’s “Race to the bottom” series of reports, most CSU administrator wages have increased generously between 2004 and 2014, with an average salary increase of $22,917 for campus presidents,while at the same time the average salary for faculty decreased $9,056.

At Sonoma State University alone the average change in salary for full time faculty was $4,505, while managers and supervisors averaged $20,616 in increases in salaries.
Compensating for staff wages through reshifting administrative wages won’t cover the difference, and raising tuition goes against the CSU system’s vision for affordable and quality education.

Perhaps the goal of access to quality education starts at the picket lines, but ultimately ends at the ballot, prioritizing better wage for staff and continuing to provide affordable education for California’s students.