My Questions for Chancellor White

BY HANK REICHMAN

On February 29, California State University (CSU) Chancellor Tim White visited the CSU East Bay campus and addressed a public meeting of faculty, staff and students.  White was greeted by some 40 student and faculty demonstrators who later joined others in the audience.  As readers of this blog know, the CSU faculty union, the California Faculty Association (CFA), an AAUP affiliate, has announced that it will go on strike for five days in mid-April if the statutory procedure does not by then lead to an adequate agreement on compensation.  A brief question period followed White’s presentation. The lines of those wishing to speak were long, so there was barely time for less than half the potential questions.  I was among those who didn’t get a chance to speak, so I later wrote up my questions in the form of an op-ed piece that I submitted to the campus newspaper, which so far has failed to publish it.  [CORRECTION (3/15): Apparently it ran in the March 3 edition, which I did not see.]  Since I don’t want the effort to go to waste, here is what I wrote and what I would have said to Chancellor White had I the chance.

CSU Chancellor Timothy White

CSU Chancellor Timothy White

Chancellor White, it takes a lot of nerve for someone making over $430,000 a year, with a free mansion and a car allowance, to tell an audience of students and faculty, who earn perhaps a fifth or even a tenth of your income and who must pay to live in the most expensive housing market in America, that “we” need to live within our means. I’m quite certain, sir, that everyone in this audience would find it pretty simple to live within your means, but my question to you is, could you survive within the means the institution that you lead provides to us? I suspect not.

Of course, you are correct when you blame this situation largely on Sacramento’s quarter-century or more of disinvesting in higher education. Yes, our political leaders have failed the CSU (and the UC) miserably. But my question is, what are you doing about it?  I’m now retired, but I taught at CSUEB for over 25 years, won both the Outstanding Professor and Sue Schaefer Service Awards, served three separate terms as chair of the Academic Senate, 15 years on the Senate Executive Committee, 9 years on the system Academic Senate, and 9 years as a department chair, and never once did I witness a single trustee, Chancellor, or other top administrator forcefully demand from the state the level of funding actually required to fulfill the CSU’s responsibilities under the Master Plan. Instead, I’ve seen an ugly parade of woefully inadequate budget requests occasionally masquerading as bold initiatives, several failed “compacts” with multiple governors, and now today, from you, word of some sort of four-year starvation plan of which you seem inexplicably proud. No, rather than fighting for us, the alleged “leaders” of the CSU have regularly bombarded faculty, staff, and students with resigned exhortations to accept public disinvestment as a “new normal” and repulsively cynical calls from the wealthy to “live within our means,” even as you dishonestly claim to preserve “quality.”

Until you and the trustees actually begin to demand and fight for the funding necessary to run a proper university system of this size, don’t come to us with crocodile tears about the skinflints in the state capital.

And, given the low level of state funding you’ve managed to obtain, can we address how you’re spending that money? My question is, given that funding has decreased, how do you explain the continued growth in the numbers and salaries of top system managers? Since 2005, CSU expenditure on managers and supervisors rose by 48%, but expenditures on faculty by only 25%. Perhaps you haven’t noticed that when a CSU campus president or other top administrator departs from the university the replacement hire is just about always offered a salary no less than that earned by the person being replaced, and sometimes they are rewarded with near-instant raises far beyond any available to less privileged employees. [CSU East Bay] President Morishita, for instance, received a 10% raise just six months after he was hired, without a competitive search, I might add. In all my years here I never received a raise of such magnitude.

By contrast, when a faculty member departs, a full-time replacement is only hired when at least one or two others in the same department have left as well. And then, do you really think the new hire is offered a salary equivalent to or above that of the person being replaced? Of course not. New hires start at the bottom and work their way up. Only administrators get to start at the top and keep rising.

In short, Chancellor White, I it seems you just don’t get it. The CSU can readily afford the inordinately modest 5% salary increase your faculty seeks, even without dipping into your $2 billion in reserves that you conveniently failed to mention. As a retired professor I have no skin in this game, but I can promise you that I will still be there on the picket lines in April with my former colleagues and so will the national organization that I help lead, the American Association of University Professors. My final question to you is, where will you be?

csu_faculty_salary_history_0

6 thoughts on “My Questions for Chancellor White

  1. I am an alum of CSUEB, and was fortunate enough to be a student of Dr. Reichman’s. I am also the spouse of a professor at CUNY, and I can say that, with a few localization changes, every word of this post could just as easily be directed CUNY’s administration.

  2. Previous Chancellor was exposed for corruption and quickly removed. Till he was suddenly caught, it appeared as if he was providing “dynamic academic vision’ to the CSU system. The persons hired by corrupt former Chancellor should be reviewed.

    There is inherent incentive for faculty to not teach and become Administrator(s) for more pay and power over faculty. The problem become magnified when persons with no aptitude for teaching and with very limited teaching experience successfully become top administrators in the CSU system. There are many such examples existing in the CSU system, e.g., president(s) hired without proper selection process. The system has to be purged ASAP from such top administrators who are parasitic and harming the academia. Some are there just padding up their retiring pension(s) with no interest in upholding academic excellence or students’ interest.

    CSU Board of Trustees should amend the existing rules to ensure that no top Administrators should serve more than 3-4 years and to earn the right to be administrators again s(he) should revert back to Faculty / teaching for 3-4 years. This will keep them grounded in humility and reality on students/faculty’s problems and on upholding academic standards. Drastic surgical measures are needed to reform and downsize the administrators / bureaucracy. Let me prove my point by theory of negation (starting with a positive here). Let us assume that current CSU Chancellor Office system is perfect and efficient; so it implies we need to maximize this efficiency by creating four more Deputy Chancellor Offices. Each such office will supervise six CSU complexes ensuing close supervision and enhancing efficiency in the CSU system. These deputy chancellors should have similar pay packages like Chancellor with free house and car; so they focus on performance of their duties. When hospitals need to cut cost, it is administrators who are fired/downsized and not doctors/nurses. Same is applicable here in CSU System. My best wishes to CSU Board of Trustees!

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