Most of last week’s CSU Board of Trustees meeting was a quiet affair, but many students, faculty, and community members used the public comment period to relay urgent appeals to Trustees, covering topics from COVID-19 to contract bargaining to fossil fuel divestment.
CFA members marked a second end of a school year under COVID-19 restrictions, praising the durability and persistence of faculty, students, and staff during the devastating pandemic.
“It is graduation time and what a year it has been. Even as we struggled with anxiety and trauma, we confronted the reality of students who had to learn from home but could not work from home because they are in service and retail industries. We celebrate them today,” said Sharon Elise, CFA Associate Vice President for Racial and Social Justice, South.
“The student who lost three family members to COVID-19. The student who learned she has bipolar disorder. The student who came out as transgender. The student who shared they were spit upon on a public street because they are Asian. The student who marched in protest for the first time because Black Lives Matter. The students who showed up to class and showed their faces on screen. The students who didn’t share their face on screen,” Elise added.
Meghan O’Donnell, CFA Associate Vice President for Lecturers, North, used her one minute of public comment to recognize the sacrifices of faculty and inspiration of students during COVID-19. She also called out the lack of leadership from Chancellor Joseph I. Castro and how it hurt faculty work and student learning.
“As we mark the end of this difficult year, it is critical that we acknowledge the role that faculty have played, not only in ensuring quality education for our students, and protecting the mission of the CSU, but it has also been faculty that have led the way in ensuring safe and fair working conditions during this crisis. When the Chancellor’s Office made proclamations and then punted responsibility to figure out implementation to campuses, he forced over-taxed and exhausted faculty and staff to negotiate with their administrations to defend rights and ensure basic fairness during this pandemic,” O’Donnell said.
“Despite this, our faculty are remarkable and resilient. It has been the faculty of CFA at the chapter level and in campus senates, who have worked tirelessly to ensure colleagues are protected in evaluations and RTP, who fought for COVID-19 relief for their peers, and when the relief that faculty needed never materialized from the CSU – because the CSU is too insensitive to care – it has been faculty who provided mutual aid and care for one another. And it continues to be faculty, in solidarity with our students, fighting to implement racial justice demands that push the CSU to be accountable to the racial reckoning happening across this country – not just in press releases and platitudes, but in concrete action,” she concluded.
Kevin Wehr, CFA Vice President and Chair of Bargaining, chastised CSU management for their bargaining proposals calling for insensitive and unnecessary take backs. Chancellor Castro’s negotiating teams seem unwilling to address systemic concerns on behalf of parenting faculty, Black, Indigenous, and faculty of color.
“Beyond this, your team continues to propose insensitive changes to our contract — the most recent of which puts up unnecessary barriers to the exercise of bereavement leave and reduces access to family care and medical leave… in the middle of a pandemic. It is beyond my comprehension the workings of the mind that dreamed up such take backs while the faculty and our families are literally suffering through the bereavement process and caring for family who are ill and at risk of death,” Wehr told Trustees.
“The tremendous efforts that we, the faculty, put forth during the past 14 months must be recognized and it must be compensated. On (May 14), the CFA team passed a comprehensive salary proposal that recognizes the heavy workload of the past year, as well as other problems with the salary structure. We have faculty who suffer low starting salaries, faculty who experience salary inversion and compression, and others who feel a stagnant salary and face a future with no further prospects for promotion or in-range progression. And we propose a working group on race and gender pay gaps — that which we know exist, but can be difficult to identify and remedy,” he said.
“Our compensation proposal is fair, it is just, and it recognizes the incredible amount of work that we performed to keep this institution afloat, and to ensure the graduation of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 — an historical achievement,” Wehr concluded.
Student teaching associates with UAW 4123 also spoke during public comment about their contract bargaining, urging CSU management to recognize and compensate their critical work. Students for Quality Education spoke about the need to defund University police and reinvest in safer, healthier campus programs. Even more students urged the board to include protecting students subject to harassment based on caste systems into CSU policies.
Other speakers with Divest the CSU continued their advocacy to end investment in fossil fuel companies, building on similar resolutions by CSU stakeholders, including CFA. Chancellor Castro announced he was setting up a task force to study divestment from coal, oil, and gas.