Faculty, students urge legislators to support important CSU budget allocations

CFA activists and members of Students for Quality Education spoke to the need for more tenure-track faculty, improved mental health counselor-to-student ratios, and increased student access during an April 2 Legislative hearing on the CSU budget.

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 on Education Finance hearing focused on CSU programs, the graduation initiative, and state budget, which under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal, would receive an additional $562 million in funds for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

CFA members and students also will speak in support of the funding allocations for the CSU during a Senate Budget Subcommittee 1 on Education hearing on Thursday, April 4.

Several faculty and students testified April 2 in support of the additional CSU funding, and advocated for specific ways the funding should be allocated, including $35 million to hire more tenure track faculty, and $20 million to bring counselor-to-student ratios up to at least one mental health counselor per 1,500 students, which is the International Association of Counseling Services’ recommended standard. Only five out of 23 CSUs currently meet that standard.

At San Jose State, there is a growing problem of students losing or not being able to afford housing and living out of the cars, and it’s taking a toll on their mental health, said Chris Cox, a Sociology Lecturer. One student failed to graduate on time because he had lost his housing. Last semester, Cox rushed to find emergency mental health support for a female student who had a gun put in her face before a midterm.

“If we’re really serious about seeing some improvements in graduation rates, we need to recognize the fact that issues like homelessness and food insecurity among our students also have mental health impacts,” Cox said. “One of the best ways that we can improve graduation rates is to make sure our students have the mental and emotional support they need, in addition to the financial support that they need, in order to be successful in the CSU.”

Several Chico State students also echoed the need to improve counselor-to-student ratios on campuses. Adela Gutierrez-Diaz, a Chico State senior, told legislators she was taking a class in Butte Hall when a student committed suicide by jumping off the building to his death.

“Administrators, counselors, and the community at large tried their hardest to help mitigate the disaster of losing a student at campus during classes but we had already lost that dear student and our mental health resources were back to what they were before his death a month later,” Gutierrez-Diaz said, listing the names of five other students who committed suicide. “We need your help, all of you, so that students on all CSU campuses have the resources to get help when we are in need of it. We need proactive measures rather than reactive, and we need the money that is asked for so that these measures begin to fortify and support our California State University students. After all we are the future of California.”

Several faculty also spoke to the need to dedicate funding to tenure track hiring, noting that students deeply benefit from having faculty who hold permanent, tenure-line jobs.

“The relationship between tenure-track faculty and student longevity, as well as student success, has been widely documented,” said Cecil Canton, CFA’s Associate VP of Affirmative Action and a Sacramento State Professor. “We need more tenure-track faculty in the CSU.”

Fifty years of research confirms that faculty who are able to mentor students through their programs help facilitate their path to graduation, noted Lillian Taiz, CFA’s Political Action & Legislation Chair.

“Using CSU management’s own data, the university has a significant pool of fully qualified faculty already teaching in the CSU as Lecturers (faculty on temporary contracts). These fully qualified teacher/scholars could easily be reclassified as tenure track faculty to help address the system’s need at significant savings to the university system,” Taiz said. “We urge you to support funding to increase the hiring of tenure track faculty for the good of our students in the CSU.”

Faculty and students also advocated for Gov. Newsom’s proposal of allocating $62 million toward a 2% growth in student enrollment, but asked that growth be measured by headcount instead of full-time-equivalent students (FTES). Doing so would increase the number of actual students who get into the CSU (8,571 by headcount), instead of calculating enrollment based on how many units students take.