Open Letter to President Lynn Mahoney

Posted on November 18, 2022

Dear President Mahoney,

It is generally agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic and its side effects have affected higher education enrollments nationwide.  While we share your concern about these enrollment shifts, we are skeptical of the efforts to address them that you gesture to in your “November 2022 Budge Update” communication.  

Your approach bears a striking resemblance to the Provost’s January 28, 2021, “Directive Memo on Academic Affairs Budget Realignment.”  Increased faculty workload, major cuts in instructional costs, reducing funding for and control over departments, elimination of long standing research programs — the proposals from both communications appear the same even as the crisis has been renamed. We fought—successfully—against the Provost’s Directive Memo.  We will continue to fight against this vision of the university.

We strenuously disagree with your characterization of the “core” of our university as administrative (i.e., “scheduling of classes and enrollment management”) rather than educational. The first puts management at the center of things; the latter puts students, faculty and staff at the center of things. We also reject your admonition that faculty are somehow doing something wrong and need to “think” or “behave” differently.  While this view may justify administrative oversight, it excludes faculty from critical decision-making.  The core activities of our university are teaching and learning. Faculty, staff, and students are the experts in these areas; this knowledge and experience should play the major role in planning and allocating resources.  Hard times don’t diminish the  importance of shared governance; in fact, times of “crisis” demand more and better shared governance.

You write that: “ . . . I think we can do this and continue to support our faculty’s research and creative activities with a 3:3 teaching load.”  We see this qualified commitment to the 3:3 teaching load for tenure track faculty as a thinly veiled threat.  We would remind you that the 3:3 load was established through a process of shared governance, a process and collaborative decision – – faculty and administration – –  that we will defend.  We also reject the usual administrative technique to meet budget shortfalls – – the treatment of lecturer faculty as a reserve army of disposable labor.  Budgets cannot be balanced on the backs of our colleagues.  

While metaphors like “silos,” turf,” etc. add an ominous tone to your communication, this kind of language is unfortunate and unhelpful.  The best path to understand our current situation, to communicate it, and to begin addressing it lies in more and better transparency, not greater obscurity.

The financial challenges facing our campus largely originate beyond this university’s control, but the way to address those changes is through collective conversation and collaboration. The CFA has joined with CSU administration to fight for the resources we need to fulfill the university’s mission. 

In the meantime, if the university is truly drifting toward the kind of crisis you intimate, we can only start to meet this challenge when all parties are willing to think about the difference between the necessary and the dispensable.  For us, the latter should for instance include administrative bloat and duplication, exorbitant campus police budgets, and any costs not directly related to teaching, learning, and research.

So long as we agree on one goal – – to maintain and even improve the academic experience for our students – – financial uncertainties do not have to reduce and impoverish a university.  


CFA-SFSU Chapter Executive Board

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