Chancellor Castro Says No to COVID-19 Leave; We Hear You about Repopulation (Too Bad Chancellor Castro Doesn’t Seem To)

Welcome back, CFA family! We hope all of you had as stress-free and relaxing a break as can be asked during an ongoing pandemic. Here’s to a brighter future for you, your families, our colleagues, and our students throughout 2021. CFA leaders continue to push back against CSU management during these tumultuous times. Leaders spoke on a dozen or so topics during Board of Trustee public comment period. We will have more on that in next week’s Headlines. To read what our speakers said, make sure to follow @CFA_News on Twitter.

The start of the semester means the start of new leadership. Despite being on the job for a little more than three weeks, Chancellor Joseph I. Castro and his team seemingly understand the needs of faculty less than his predecessor. On Tuesday, the chancellor’s labor relations team wrote to us that the CSU currently “does not find a paid course reduction program to be operationally feasible,” and will not be extending the CSU’s COVID-19 Temporary Paid Administration Leave program (CPAL) through the Spring Term.

In other words, the chancellor does not believe you need relief. Castro’s team did not offer any explanation for his decision, nor did Castro’s team propose an alternative to CFA’s request for a course release (or its equivalent for counselors, coaches, and librarians) for faculty who need to care for children currently without in-person school or childcare during this pandemic.

This lack of care and concern from the new administration is alarming to many of you who have families or are looking out for your colleagues with kids at home. The CSU must do right by our faculty. We will continue to push for COVID-19 Paid Administrative Leave (CPAL).

Faculty are the backbone of the CSU and run this union. Your voices should be heard by this new administration. If you have not already done so or have additional ideas, please fill out this form and join our fight to get relief now.

In the past few weeks, we reached out to you in special messages on January 12 and January 20, even though most of you were on break. CFA leaders asked you to share your experience and ideas to take to Chancellor Castro’s labor relations team on the topics of repopulating campuses after all these months of closure due to COVID-19, as well as the need for paid leave for parents and those with dependents who are struggling to perform all the added work that comes with sheltering in place.

As of today, we received more than 500 responses to let us know your thoughts. First, thank you for engaging during the break! We truly appreciate your participation and commitment to a better higher educational system.

Many of you emphasized the need for extending paid administrative leave and shared that you continue to grow your families while teaching in the CSU. One of you wrote, “Thank you for acknowledging the enormous burden we working moms have had to bear.” Another wrote, “Since the fall, my childcare situation has worsened – not improved – and I’m at a total loss as to how I’m supposed to continue to proceed to teach effectively and parent effectively.” We know this pandemic has squeezed women out of the workforce, with women accounting for all of the jobs lost in December. We do not want to see this happen at the CSU.

As for Fall 2021, we heard many versions of “I don’t feel safe returning to campus without a vaccine,” along with questions about vaccinations for students and other members of the CSU campus community.

Echoing those concerns, CFA President Charles Toombs said during Tuesday’s public comment period at the Board of Trustees meeting, “Chancellor Castro – faculty, students, and staff are expecting bold leadership from you on campus repopulation; faculty are frustrated, worried, and concerned about their working conditions and the learning conditions for students. Work with us to implement a better plan forward for the good of the system.”

One of you asked, “Will classroom occupancy and class size be adjusted to allow adequate space in the classrooms?”

Another wrote us that they are “left with making the decision to risk my own health by searching for an off-campus preschool or the risk to my mental health by continuing to juggle supporting my children in virtual kindergarten and preschool at home while also teaching, struggling to keep up with research, and committing to service.” And unfortunately, there are far too many of you with similar stories.

We heard from numerous lecturers that repopulation plans would have to do something to account for large lecture-style classes that can have upwards of 100 to 150 students in a single sitting. We also heard faculty when they said the CSU needs to ensure safe office spaces for those who share offices.

“Because lecturers disproportionately teach the largest classes in the CSU and have a larger teaching load than T/TT (full-time tenured and tenure-track) faculty, lecturers will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 should the CSU not adjust class sizes and scheduling to ensure adequate social distancing and other steps to ensure a safe teaching environment,” said Meghan O’Donnell, CFA Associate Vice President, Lecturers, North. “On most CSU campuses, faculty are forced to share office space with other faculty, and this is especially true for lecturers. Sadly, on too many of our campuses, lecturers have no office space at all and are forced to hold office hours in busy, crowded locations like university libraries and coffee shops.” 

We need proper ventilation and sanitation in buildings or some variation on this environmental safety concern was a common refrain in the messages you sent.

So many of you have students’ needs on your minds and acknowledged that the COVID era students really need to have different graduation standards and support.

Again, we heard you, and we conveyed these ideas to the Chancellor’s team. Sadly, their response thus far has been dismal at best; however, this is just the start of our negotiations with the CSU and we will continue to update you on Fall 2021 developments in the weeks to come.