CFA COVID-19 Message: Financial Position of CSU, CFA, and CalPERS

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this message finds you and your families safe and secure.  Even though sheltering in place can be isolating, data shows our efforts at social distancing appear to be slowing the spread of the coronavirus in California.  I am thankful for everyone’s efforts to keep our communities safe.

As CSU students, faculty, and staff adjust to these trying times, I know many are looking to the future and asking difficult questions, especially regarding the havoc this public health emergency is wreaking on our individual and collective financial outlooks.  I want to provide updates today on the economic positions of the CSU, CFA, and CalPERS.

You no doubt have seen some of the recent “doom-and-gloom” forecasts for higher education.  CFA is monitoring plans by CSU management, the state legislature, and Governor Newsom to prepare for a COVID-19-related economic downturn.  It is possible that higher education sectors, including the CSU, will see a drop in enrollment for the 2020-21 school year, but we do not yet know whether this will happen, or, if it does, to what extent.  CFA is in contact with the Chancellor’s Office to obtain any data administrators will use for modeling Fall 2020 enrollment.  CFA’s top priorities moving forward are keeping us whole, employed, safe, and healthy.

Let me reassure you that CFA is developing our own preparations for possible hiring “chills,” spending freezes, and operational changes at the CSU.  Crises can offer periods of challenge, but also opportunity.  Now is the time to reinforce our commitment to student learning, equity, and quality.

For our part, CFA has been fiscally conservative and our union is in good financial shape.  Our careful conservatorship has shielded CFA to a great extent from the current market volatility.  We will continue to safeguard our assets, which come only from our members in the form of dues.  Member-paid dues fund CFA’s work protecting faculty rights and jobs, and advocating for faculty, especially in times of crisis.  It is precisely in moments like this that you can depend on your union. If you are not yet a member, or know a colleague who is not, sign up for membership here. 

Our retirement fund, CalPERS, is built for the long-haul, so we shouldn’t be alarmed about drops that match the stock market as a whole.  You can read these CalPERS FAQs for more information, and can use to manage your account online.

A few other tidbits to keep in mind as another week of working from home comes to a close:

  • Campus presidents are communicating in varying tones and quantity about COVID-19, and we have heard very little directly from Chancellor White about what we can expect this fall. The rumor mill is alive and growing, so we urge members to consult with your chapter CFA leaders before spreading information or jumping to conclusions.
  • Administrators might be pressing faculty and staff to plan for virtual work beyond the summer term. To be clear, there is presently no call at the state or federal level to shelter in place this fall. Any work toward contingencies should be considered preparedness planning only at this point.  CFA is interested in making sure that administrators and technology corporations understand that the emergency steps we have taken to shelter in place are not sustainable or appropriate going forward. We have learned a lot from this experiment, but I think most of us agree that employing remote and virtual learning modalities exclusively is no way to run the CSU.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your chapter CFA leaders.  Contact information for northern California campuses can be found here and southern California campuses here.

CFA’s work in the past several months has been to protect the health and safety of faculty, students, and staff, while preserving our contractual rights.  Though a frightening and unnerving time, these are the moments for which Unions are built.

Thank you for staying strong while we navigate this unchartered territory together.  Thank you for all you’re doing to keep your communities safe and to keep your students learning, well, and connected.  This is a sacred weekend for many of our Jewish and Christian faculty. I hope you will take time this weekend with your family and friends – whether it’s in person or at a distance.


Charles Toombs, Ph.D.
President, California Faculty Association
Department of Africana Studies
San Diego State University