CFA Maritime members are organizing with students to improve safety conditions on CSU Maritime’s annual summer cruise.

For years, university management has had a hard time recruiting faculty for the summer training cruise since faculty are underpaid and overworked, basically on call during the two-month cruise.

“CSU Maritime administration’s cost-cutting is a health and safety issue for faculty and students,” said Aparna Sinha, CFA Maritime President and CSU Maritime Professor. “Our licensed cruise faculty go on cruise for 65 days, away from their family, to give CSU Maritime students a comprehensive learning experience, leading to U.S. Coast Guard Licensing as deck and engine officers for the U.S. Merchant Marine. Management needs to foster a supportive and sustainable environment that empowers our faculty to continue delivering high-quality education and training.

“This cruise is one of the most unique experiences our campus offers. All license-track students complete the summer training cruise as sea training as part of their degree requirements. We are the only Maritime school on the West Coast and administration has an opportunity to appreciate our faculty who make this unique experience successful,” Sinha added.

A group of people marching with signs.
CFA Maritime members rally on campus in front of the Training Ship Golden Bear.

The Training Ship Golden Bear sets sail every summer to provide real-life maritime experience and application of what students learn in class on campus while also fulfilling sea time requirements for a Merchant Mariner’s license. During the training cruise, students carry out all ship operations under the supervision of licensed faculty and ship staff as the ship runs down the West Coast and travels to international destinations as far as New Zealand, Japan, and Portugal. 

CFA members worked diligently for two years to secure the expiring MOU, and are now addressing staffing and compensation concerns for the cruise. An average of 12 CSU Maritime faculty (a mix of academic year and temporarily hired staff and faculty) and 260 students attend the annual voyage.

With only four licensed engineering faculty anticipated for this year’s cruise, CSU Maritime mechanical engineering senior Garrett Dasigan said class sizes are too large for students to receive the individualized attention and quality education they need.

“The faculty are the reason why we learn as much as we do. Without them there is no learning,” Dasigan said.

The situation is so dire, administration relies on contracting out through maritime associations, but even those mariners don’t want to sail because the pay isn’t competitive. And they aren’t teachers, Dasigan points out.

Not only are CSU Maritime faculty experts in their fields, they are experienced educators.

“For general licensed engineers, they all have the ability and skills to work in an engine room, but not all of them have the skills and credentials to be able to teach that. That’s definitely a big part of it – just having the background and knowledge to be able to answer student questions, being able to explain concepts, theory, and just practical applications to someone still learning,” Dasigan said.

CFA Maritime members are seeking improved compensation – instead of 34 percent of regular pay, they’re proposing 50 percent, along with additional compensation matching the extra work faculty are required to perform on the cruise, such as working on holidays or carrying out additional operational duties.

Faculty and students also are increasingly frustrated with Cal Maritime management’s lateness in scheduling the cruise’s start and end dates, and unwillingness to provide clean staterooms and facilities, healthy and quality food, and adequate internet so faculty, and staff can connect with family and friends while they’re away.

“There’s an expectation that we’re going to be working on the ship all the time, including prep work before we leave Vallejo, standing watches on the ship, standing watches while we’re in port. We’re working every day that we’re at sea and, many times, we’re working every day that we’re in port as well. We’re on call 24/7 when we’re out there at sea,” said Peter Hayes, CFA Maritime member and CSU Maritime Professor.

“If you want a world class faculty, you have to pay for a world class faculty.”

CFA members can support their CFA Maritime colleagues and students by signing on to this petition demanding fair compensation and a safe cruise learning- and workplace.

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