Bargaining, campus repopulation plans, racism and social justice, and mental health resources were at the top of CFA’s agenda for the March CSU Board of Trustees meeting.
Several CFA leaders called on CSU management and Trustees to include stakeholder groups like faculty, students, and staff as CSU and campus management develop plans for resuming some in-person instruction and services for fall and to address systemic racial and social justice shortcomings within the nation’s largest public higher education system.
CFA Vice President and Bargaining Team Chair Kevin Wehr reminded Chancellor Joseph I. Castro that actions speak louder than words. CFA has proposed more than a dozen updates at the bargaining table centered on rights, respect, and justice, as well as structural improvements for the lives of faculty and students at the 23 campuses. We have modeled good-faith bargaining with the CSU, while CSU leadership continues to propose a degradation of rights for our members.
“A conference every two years on the topic of African American History and Achievement sounds lovely. But when your management bargaining team outright rejects CFA proposals that would explicitly address histories of racism, exclusion, and bias within the university — these actions speak far louder,” Wehr said during public comment.
“In America today, and on our own campuses, police forces are used as weapons against Black, Indigenous, and people of color. In contract negotiations, we proposed an alternative method of dispute resolution that would allow faculty to avoid having disputes escalated by police. This was rejected by the management team. We proposed a rebuttal process for student evaluations of teaching effectiveness which contain or reflect bias by race, gender, or other predispositions. This, too, was rejected outright,” Wehr continued. “Actions speak louder than words. If you have any intention of following through on the pretty rhetoric, then take concrete action with us in negotiating an actively anti-racist and socially just Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
At the March 23 and 24 meeting, Trustees heard a report on establishing a biennial symposium – once every other year – to recognize the contributions Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni have made to the CSU. An every other year symposium does not show meaningful change, said Chris Cox, CFA Associate Vice President of Racial and Social Justice, North.
“Engaging in anti-racist work implores us to go beyond symbolic acts of recognition and into a deep commitment of resources that help to provide a better learning experience for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students,” Cox told Trustees. “This includes a greater investment in hiring more Black faculty and staff, particularly in tenure line positions; greater mental health support and financial support for Black students, including full-time counselors on each campus; more mentorship for students, including properly funded student success centers on each campus; greater support for cultural taxation that faculty of color experience; and much more.”
Many members of Students for Quality Education also addressed the CSU’s lack of resources for faculty, students, and staff of color. SQE member from Humboldt State Skylar Fisher noted the lack of faculty diversity.
“The CSU currently has a problem of under-representation of BIPOC faculty according to data available on the Cal State website,” Fisher said. “… As of Fall 2019, in terms of part-time faculty, only 0.7% were American Indian or Alaskan Native, 5% were Black or African American and 61% were white. At the same time, for tenured full-time faculty, 0.5% were American Indian or Alaskan Native, 3% were Black or African American, and again 61% were white.
“If we want to take a stand against white supremacy in our institution, we are going to need to do better than this. This is honestly embarrassing for an institution that claims to promote diversity and the Board needs to work harder to create a more diverse faculty body that is representative of the students within the CSU system,” Fisher added.
San Francisco State licensed therapist Susan Chen touched on the importance of mental health counseling to student success. At the bare minimum, the CSU needs to adapt the International Accreditation of Counseling Services (IACS) standard of 1,500 students to each counselor.
“The inhumane treatment of people crossing the southern border, the killings of Black people by police with impunity, and anti-Asian violence underscore the critical need to support hiring counselors who reflect the identities and experiences of CSU students,” said Chen, who also chairs CFA’s Counselors Committee. “Hiring more counselors is also smart fiscally. Mental health support improves student success, reduces attrition, and closes the achievement gap which are key CSU priorities, important to our collective future.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Psychological Association described a “growing crisis” with the state of mental health on college campuses, as the number of students seeking help for serious mental health problems skyrocketed over the last decade. Our campuses were already dangerously understaffed and the need for mental health services due to the stress and anxiety of the current crisis has only increased. It is urgent that the CSU respond to this demand. The CSU should hire more counselors and more counselors or color to help with our students’ transition back to campus, some of whom may be grieving from the added stresses of virtual learning, a year of isolationism, and loss of loved ones during the pandemic.
When it comes to repopulation planning, speakers gave voice to faculty concerns about safety and workload with yet another curriculum delivery method expectation. CFA is alarmed to hear that many CSU campuses are proposing overly complicated Fall 2021 plans with a multitude of different modes of instruction, and in some cases, pushing “hyflex” instruction that would require faculty prep and teach the same class in both virtual and face-to-face modes at the exact same time. These proposals vary across the CSU, but thus far none have articulated adjustments for workload or compensation for faculty, despite the extraordinary burden that will be placed on them in order to meet the demands of these various modalities.
“On all campuses, instruction is moving to a cornucopia of hybridized modes. Faculty remain concerned about everyone’s health and safety in a hodgepodge of face-to-face and online options,” said Susan Green, CFA treasurer. “At Chico State we have 11 different ways a class can be taken. A hybrid model that allows students to take a class in-person, while other students simultaneously take the class online, that is also recorded for asynchronous use by a third set of students at their convenience, is the preparation and teaching of three different courses, not one. Memos and meetings asking for ‘volunteers’ to create more face-to-face instruction, is falling on untenured and lecturer faculty. It is coercive and hardly voluntary. Faculty are unfairly asked to pit safety against the sheer need for employment during a global pandemic.”
CFA urges Chancellor Castro to do better in working with faculty and staff to make Fall 2021 as successful and safe as possible. Employees are part of the solutions, not roadblocks to them.