CFA Sonoma Chapter Responds to the Campus Based Equity Program

April 19, 2015

Dear Colleagues:

For those of you who received a pay raise through the campus-based equity program that is permitted by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the CFA and CSU management, congratulations!  You deserved it!

In fact you deserved more, as did many more faculty at Sonoma State. Unfortunately, the final equity program put in place by the administration does not fulfill its original promise.

In December 2014 President Arminaña met with representatives from CFA to lay out his proposal. He promised to bring SSU faculty up to appropriate CSU percentiles. At the time, the CSU had produced a chart giving us those percentiles by rank and discipline from 2013.  These numbers were to be updated to the 2015 numbers to account for year one of the new CBA. By the time I was presented with the actual details of the plan, the 2013 numbers had only been partially adjusted to reflect the 1.6% for the first year GSI. Apparently the Chancellor’s office was unable to provide SSU with actual 2015 percentiles even though that data is available.  Many of these salary percentiles from 2013 were below the SSI max and should have also included the 3% SRA (which substituted for SSIs in year one).  SSU faculty are among the lowest paid faculty in the system and by looking at the “correct percentile” for new salary placement, even after this program is implemented, we will still be among the lowest paid.

In December, President Arminaña made several other promises as well. First, the proposal was to provide between $320,000 and $400,000 (implemented in two phases over 6 months) for equity salary adjustments.  One CFA representative explicitly asked what would happen if the cost of bringing SSU faculty up to appropriate percentiles would cost more than this.  President Arminaña assured us that he would do what it would take to fix inversion on this campus, and bring SSU faculty in line with our CSU colleagues’ salaries based on disciplines.  At present, the funding allocated to the plan is only about $230,000.  I have received no clear explanation for the change.  Under the plan:

Faculty with more years of service at their rank, especially full professors with many years of service, are not being raised to any more than the 50th percentile of the CSU salaries (midrange pay for long term service).
Relatively higher paid faculty at SSU, who are still lower paid than their colleagues around the state, are not receiving anything from this proposal, and as outlined above, these are not the correct CSU percentiles.

Clearly the proposal as outlined in December was scaled back.

Secondly, the President promised that AVP Barnard would work closely with me to flesh out the details of the program. Despite numerous email requests to the AVP and one meeting where no specifics could be discussed because “we didn’t have all the data yet”, I only received an email explaining the program as a fait accompli, which was a far cry from the more collegial meeting of December and the promises made at that time.

Finally, the amount of money that President Arminaña set aside for this program pales in comparison to some of our sister campuses.  For example, Bakersfield, another campus that tends to offer low starting salaries to faculty and has fewer faculty, is putting together a program estimated at $350,000.

While the faculty who received raises will appreciate the extra money in their pockets, the relatively small amount of money given to the equity program indicates that the ongoing problems at SSU will continue.  SSU faculty are among the lowest paid in the system with the highest number of permanent faculty below the SSI max, and SSU has the lowest percentage of the overall budget going to direct instruction.  We are losing many highly accomplished junior faculty to industry, other university systems, and even other CSUs. Administrators here complain that it is expensive to pay for our promotions because it costs more to bring us up to the minimum salary at the next rank. The fact that it takes more than 7.5% to move someone with a minimum of five years in rank to the next rank demonstrates just how low they have been paid for years!

Now we are hearing that the promise made to hire an average of fifteen new faculty each year for three years will be scaled back to six new hires. This number of hires will not replace the number of faculty who are leaving, let alone rebuild the healthy ratio of permanent faculty to temporary faculty of the past.  This academic year our tenure density (percent of faculty with tenure or in tenure-track) is just 56%, the lowest ever!  Why only six new hires?  Management claims no more is possible because of the small raise we received in the first year of the contract, and because of the “requirement” that new tenure track faculty have reassignment time during their first two years to help them be successful in their scholarship.  It is true that SSU may have to pay more for reassignment time for faculty in their first two tenure track years than many other campuses, but only because other campuses have provided at least two years of such reassignment time for years.  So this inconvenience arises because we have saved money at the expense of many of our newest faculty members.

A series of excellently researched papers produced by CFA, “Race to the Bottom,” explain the situation. (Please go to The first paper, “CSU’s 10-year failure to fund its core mission,” details how faculty buying power got worse, akin to a pay cut, over the last ten years.  At SSU, faculty buying power decreased by an average of $9481.  Paper two, “Salary staffing priorities and the CSU’s 1%” observes that while the average SSU FTEF salary increased by 8% over the last decade, SSU administrator’s salaries increased by 28% (both numbers are on the wrong side of the CSU average – faculty less, administrators more).  Finally the third paper, “Losing ground and losing faith,” explores the qualitative data collected from a recent CFA survey that shows that a significant number of CSU faculty are among California’s working poor and an even larger number can’t afford to live where they teach.

To get more than the 2% the Chancellor offered for years two and three, we have to be willing to fight hard in the coming year.  We re-open on salary for years two and three of the CBA in May.  As part of our agreement to re-open on salary we retained our rights to collective action, including the right to strike if we exhaust all other options under the statutory process.  I can and will stand up and so will our diligent activists at SSU and throughout the system.  But we can’t be successful unless all of you stand up with us.  If you are angry because you are falling behind, and/or because some relief in the current contract didn’t make up for the losses of the last several years, then unite with your brothers and sisters in CFA and act up and act out!    YOU and I are the union.

In Union,

Elaine Newman
Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
President CFA, Sonoma Chapter