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.
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?