Improving students’ access to mental health services and ending retreat rights for executive managers are at the forefront of CFA members’ legislative priorities this year.

Senate Bills 11 and 808  are co-sponsored by CFA and progressing through the legislative process after hearings last week in the Senate Education Committee. Faculty and a student testified urging senators to vote yes on both bills. 

SB 11 is our counseling bill calling for lower student-to-counselor ratios.

Michael Lee-Chang, a Sacramento State student and representative of Students for Quality Education, spoke about hiring more counselors to ease the workload and improve student access to necessary mental health services.

Three people standing
CFA Counselor Committee chair Susan Chen and Michael Lee-Chang, a Sacramento State student and representative of Students for Quality Education meet with State Senator Caroline Menjivar after testifying on Senate Bill 11 last week in Senate Education Committee

“SB 11 is crucial. Students deserve the right to have a counselor. They deserve to have mental health support from their campus, their home for the next few years, their place of education, a place where they should feel comfortable,” said Lee-Chang. “It should honestly be the bare minimum that a student should be able to meet with a counselor without having to wait incredibly long and be able to speak openly about their concerns, their feelings, and how they are just doing. It’s important because it’s basic human needs.”

“Meeting the ratio allows counselors to form effective partnerships with the campus community which is crucial to connect with greater numbers of traditionally under-represented students who may not have experienced counseling before,” said Susan Chen, chair of CFA’s Counselors Committee, San Francisco State University counselor, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Chen testified on the importance and reality of counselor faculty, that they “contribute to student success and graduation.”

The bill would also create a CSU pathway to become mental health counselors.

Campuses also need to hire more counselors who identify from historically marginalized communities, Chen told senators in her remarks.

“SB 11 will allow more students to benefit from the support and guidance that a caring counselor can provide,” said Chen. “Adequate staffing allows us to increase responsiveness to student needs, reduce wait times and provide students with culturally competent care by diverse counselors who know our students and the context of their experiences.”

SB 11 passed out of committee unanimously, 7-0, and is off to the Senate Health Committee next.

Last week, CSU faculty and staff testified for much needed changes to how the CSU addresses sexual discrimination & violence and Title IX complaints and incidents.

Title IX complaints became a national issue after a February 2022 investigation by USA TODAY revealed then-Chancellor Joseph Castro authorized a lucrative settlement for the then-vice president of student affairs in the days leading up to Castro’s promotion. Students and faculty rallied immediately, demanding justice and structural changes for survivors of sexual and gender violence. 

CFA leaders sent this letter last May to CSU Trustees that outlines the ways in which the CSU system has failed survivors of sexual violence. Part of our advocacy then and now with SB 808 is to address these “golden parachute” deals for disgraced executives, who have covered up sexual harassment investigations.

SB 808 would prohibit retreat rights for any campus president, provost, or senior administrator who violated CSU or campus Title IX policies, require a report to the chancellor’s office and legislature on the number of sexual harassment complaints filed, time it took to complete investigative process, and disposition of the cases, and require campus presidents and a vice president or vice chancellor to approve all sexual harassment settlements.

SB 808 passed 6-0 and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Andrea Terry, professor of communication studies at Sacramento State and CFA Chapter campus executive board member, spoke about the continued incidents of sexual and gender violence across the CSU system, despite that “CSU executives have spoken at length about how seriously they take the need for reform of Title IX incident handling, and how we should trust them to take steps. However, just a few weeks ago, the press broke stories about lawsuits against the interim chancellor over Title IX issues. ‘Just trust us to take action’ is not very convincing or comforting.”

“How many scandals do we need to experience? At (Cal Poly Humboldt), a dean groped two students and ‘retreat rights’ made him unfireable,” said Terry during her testimony. “This is not our CSU. It is clear what we are doing now is not working; there needs to be outside accountability.”

As these bills move through the legislature, collective support is necessary to increase mental health resources for students and increase transparency and accountability due to systemic abuse and harassment on CSU campuses. Students and faculty can advocate for SB 11, can send a message of support here. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and community can send a letter of support for SB 808 to lawmakers telling them we need accountability to address sexual and gender based violence in the CSU.

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