Mental health counselors bill vetoed; CFA says “We are not giving up!”

Despite broad, bi-partisan support among state legislators, Governor Brown has vetoed SB 968, a bill to improve student access to mental health counseling on California State University campuses.

In his veto message, Brown wrote that more resources for student mental health care is an “understandable goal” but they should be found “within the budget process.” He said the ratio of students per counselor should be “the purview of the boards or local campuses.”

SB 968 would have adopted the maximum ratio recommended by national experts, which is one counselor for every 1500 students. CSU campuses have chosen much larger ratios and some are double the recommended maximum at one counselor per 3000 students or more. The result is that students must wait too long to get help.

“The Trustees and the campus administrations are displaying spectacularly bad judgement,” says Lillian Taiz, CFA Political Action and Legislation Chair. “They’ve heard repeatedly from the counselors working on our own campuses that the level of student mental health care in the CSU is at best not responsible and at worst dangerous.”

Taiz points out that counselors have worked hard to communicate their concern as they addressed the Trustees, testified at the Capitol, written about the shortage of counselors, and even mounted art installations on the campuses to illustrate the problem.

“The Counselors have repeatedly warned the Trustees, Chancellor’s Office, and campus administrators,” Taiz says. “When leaders fail to act, we must seek legislation in order to protect our students.”

This issue affects every CSU faculty member who has ever had a student struggling and on the verge of giving up.

Taiz, an Emeritus Professor of History, points out, “When faculty can get students counseling help promptly, there is a much greater likelihood that our students will stabilize, hang on, and get to graduation.”

SB 968 also would have required tracking the number of suicides on CSU campuses. At the moment, the CSU like most public universities, do not track student suicides.  Nationally, there are reports of an increase in student suicides.

Taiz says, “We are not giving up on this issue because people’s lives, our students’ lives, are at stake.”


FOR TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY: In addition to student mental health care, CFA also advocated in the legislature this year for greater transparency and accountability in the CSU. CFA’s work contributed to stronger measures, both through language in the main 2018-19 state budget bill and through a policy bill, AB 2505.

AB 2505 began in response to a scathing state audit of the CSU that identified the CSU administration’s weakness in budget management, and in spending and hiring decisions, including the use of “off book” money.

Now that it has been signed into law by Governor Brown, CSU management must make an annual report on current hiring practices for CSU positions, including executives, management personnel, faculty, and staff, and they must compare their present practices to “best practices” at other public higher education systems.

Also, in addition to the big CSU funding win in the 2018-19 state budget, language in that budget bill,—which is SB 840 in item 6610-001-001 about the CSU,—spells out specific topics that must be made public, including:

  • How the $75 million allocated to the CSU Chancellor’s Office’s Graduation Initiative is budgeted and used by each campus, along with an explanation of how that spending has led to “student success” in general and for students who are low-income, historically under-represented, and first-generation.
  • Growth in management, faculty and staff positions, with an explanation of how each area of growth has contributed to student success.
  • The ratios by campus of tenure-line faculty to students, and of Lecturers to students.
  • The number and amount spent by campus of newly hired tenure-line faculty, and of current Lecturers hired to the tenure line.
  • The number and types of classes added to the university’s offerings.
  • How an increased number of student enrollment slots and associated funding is allocated to each campus, as well as to student services to be supported with that funding.

CFA Associate VP Rafael Gómez addressed the CSU Trustees in September on how they and the Chancellor are spending the increased 2018-19 state funding for the CSU, which was won after a robust campaign by faculty and students earlier this year.

“CFA is pleased the governor signed AB 2505,” says Gómez, “and CFA looks forward to seeing and analyzing this new report.”

SB 1421 “RIGHT TO KNOW”: As of CFA Headlines deadline time, SB 1421 was waiting on the governor’s desk.

CFA co-sponsored this “Right to Know” bill to reduce some of the secrecy around police officers’ behavior. This would include allowing the public to see records of investigations into sexual assault by police officers, cases of dishonesty in investigations, and uses of deadly force.

Other sponsors include the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.