Faculty tells CSU Trustees: ‘Sustainability Report’ falls short

The following are comments made by faculty during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, January 26. 

CFA President Jennifer Eagan, Associate VP North Kevin Wehr, and Lillian Taiz, CFA’s Political Action/Legislation Chair, made the comments in light of a ‘Sustainability Report’ presented to Trustees.

Jennifer Eagan, CFA President and Professor, Cal State East Bay:

“This document charts the course for the CSU to capitulate to forces which would undermine our mission to provide quality higher education to CSU eligible students of California.  It reinforces the status quo instead of laying out a call to action to save quality public higher education.  It leaves me with the question, what exactly are we trying to sustain?

There are several troubling points in the report, and I will address only a few. 

First, this report suggests that expensive technological toys will enhance our graduation rates.  Such toys have limited usefulness, especially for our students who are the least acquainted with the university. 

Would you really would rather go shopping for glamorous gadgets that promise what they can’t deliver rather than financially support the employees that you have already invested in (though insufficiently)?  This is a waste of human capital. 

Why ignore all the research that proves that students’ success comes from interaction with their faculty members. 

It’s disrespectful to the faculty and staff who work with students day to day, and it’s disrespectful to students who deserve quality education and access to real experts.

Second, if access is important, what about funding enrollments?  That seems to be absent from this report.

Increasing enrollment is not a part of this report.  Instead this report seems to wish away students who are qualified to attend the CSU, but for reasons beyond their control need developmental work in English and Math.  This is a waste if potential human capital.

I know that even some of the authors of this report are opposed to unrealistic 4-year graduation rates for our students who work and instead of having financial support coming from their family instead have children of their own to take care of.   

That said, once again, let’s not capitulate to bad ideas that hurt our students, even when they are posited by people in power.  Let’s not capitulate to a No Child Left Behind styled model – one that invests in students who need us the least and disadvantages the students who will be amazing with just a bit more investment in their potential.

Faculty on the campuses and on the statewide academic senate have worked for years on improving remediation for CSU eligible students. Now, it seems that the authors of this report want to create a task force because they don’t like the faculty’s recommendations. 

The consistent answer coming from the faculty is that though there are some clever techniques and tools that can help students get up to speed on math and language skills, ultimately building skills takes face time with faculty and an investment in the faculty to do the intensive work.  This answer isn’t going to change; there is tons of research to support the faculty’s consistent recommendations.  

Please stop asking for another study that tries to get you to a different answer than the obvious one that faculty have already given you. 

What might real sustainability of the CSU and its core mission look like? 

I would suggest that a real sustainability report would prioritize the academic mission, figure out how to support people who are actually working with students by bargaining first before going to the legislature for funds, and would define real student success as the result investing in the human capital of your employees.”

Kevin Wehr, CFA Associate VP North and Professor, CSU Sacramento:

“This ’sustainability report’ (note the air-quotes symbolizing irony) is a self-fulfilling prophesy.  

This report’s definition of sustainability accepts the premise that because state funding in higher education has gone down in the past, that it will inevitably continue to go down, eventually perhaps to zero.  

ThIS report acknowledges that public-private partnerships are risky, and yet advocates for them anyway, without protections.  The faculty are concerned about public-private partnerships because they may compromise our curriculum, our research, our academic freedom, and the rights to our own intellectual property—not to mention the overall threat to our ability to provide high quality public higher education.  

These deals have the potential to make the CSU system an empty vessel for private interests.  In the future will we see the “Chevron Curriculum on Environment Ethics” or the “Pearson Course On Teacher Credentialing”?  

It would be truly criminal to take money from corporations that would subvert the mission of the university as a real educational and scholarly space, especially when many of these same corporations routinely dodge their tax responsibilities, which should go to help fill state coffers and fund the CSU in the correct manner: By the people and for the people.

The faculty, staff, and students are here to defend public higher education, not a curriculum that has been compromised by private interests and warped by people who are not scholars in their field.

Changing the Education Code so that the CSU can have more discretionary power is frightening given the CSU’s track record of discretionary spending.  This is an audacious recommendation, as evidenced by the obscene build up of reserves while faculty and staff wages have been stagnant.

We encourage more transparency about funding for the campuses as well as real transparency that this report hints at, but doesn’t spell out in any substantial manner.

CSU administration further, needs to stop crying about pension and benefits liability.  In 2015, instructional salaries and benefits for faculty are at an all time low of 31%.  That must be due to your oft touted “other spending priorities.”  that we hear so much about.

It is time that the Board of Trustees examined their budget as a moral document, one that should put core mission of instruction at the center, keep tuition as low as possible to ensure access to the people of California, and pay faculty a decent wage that allows us to fulfill this core mission.”

Lillian Taiz, CFA’s Political Action/Legislation Chair and immediate past president of CFA:

“There are a number of reasons that CFA strongly opposes the ’sustainability report’s’ recommendation that this Board adopt a tuition model that implements annual tuition increases tied to the rate of inflation—not the least of which is that the report is unclear as to which inflation measure you intend to use.

Many of you are new to this Board and so have not been here long enough to realize that student fee increases imposed over the past 15 years have already far outstripped inflation. 

Adding these proposed fees year after year on top of the huge increases already imposed since 2000 would be unfair to CSU students and counterproductive to the CSU’s mission of access and affordability.

Moreover, we have not missed the irony inherent in the tuition proposal in the context of bargaining. The task force stresses the need for the university to maintain its purchasing power. But dismisses it when applied to faculty.

That is one of our arguments against management’s 2% salary proposal.

While the Administration wants to bolster its own future purchasing power through automatic increases imposed on our students, they are unmoved by the fact that over the past decade faculty have already lost purchasing power averaging more than $9,000 per year system-wide.

Lastly, we would also like to emphasize that by putting student tuition increases on “auto-pilot” you abdicate your responsibility as Trustees. It is simply unacceptable to create a policy that insulates you from evaluating fully any proposal that may affect the ability of California’s students to attend the CSU.

When the Administration proposes tuition increases Trustees must discuss and assess the merit of each increase. And you must be prepared to hear what the students, faculty, staff and the community think about the proposal.  Automating student tuition/fee increases increasingly treats students like ATMs taking money from them and their families without having to be accountable for your actions.

We urge you not to adopt a policy that absolves you and future Boards of that difficult responsibility.”