Media Briefing Transcript
Race to the Bottom series

The following are transcripts of the comments made by California State University faculty during media calls held in correlation with the release of CFA’s “Race to the Bottom” series papers.

The California State University has more than 25,000 faculty and more than 400,000 students, making it one of the largest university systems in the world. What happens to California’s state university has serious implications for the future of our state and for society in general.

Media Briefing Transcript — March 24, 2015

This call focused on the second paper in California Faculty Association’s Race to the Bottom series, “Salary, Staffing Priorities and the CSU’s 1%.”

On the call were:

  • Lillian Taiz, Professor of History at Cal State Los Angeles and President of CFA
  • Kevin Wehr, Professor of Sociology at Sacramento State and President of CFA’s Capitol Chapter
  • Leslie Bryan, a Theater Arts and Liberal Studies Lecturer at CSU San Bernardino and CFA’s Associate Vice President for Lecturers in Southern California
  • Dorothy Wills, Professor of Anthropology at Cal Poly Pomona and President of the CFA’s Pomona chapter
Lillian Taiz

CFA decided to launch a series of papers this spring because it’s time, at long last, for CSU’s leadership to fix the problems that have been created by 10 years and more of misplaced priorities and problematic choices.

Our first paper took up an issue that obviously is very important for anyone who works and hopes to be middle class in America–salaries, specifically faculty salaries.

It found that in contrast to every other educational sector in the state and similar systems around the country, CSU faculty lost significant purchasing power over the past decade. Clearly faculty salaries have not been and are not now a priority for CSU management.

The second paper we are releasing today tackles the question, “Well then, what has CSU management prioritized?” We have tried to answer that question by comparing staffing and salary data for CSU administrators as well as faculty.

The data in the second paper is as stark as that of the first. It shows that over the past 10 years, in contrast to faculty, the CSU has prioritized growing its management and executive ranks.

For example, the data shows that the numbers of managers and executives in the CSU grew faster than permanent faculty positions. System wide, while the numbers of managers and executives grew by 19%, permanent faculty positions actually fell by 3%.

On some campuses the loss of permanent faculty positions was much worse—as high as 25% on one campus alone. Meanwhile, on 20 out of 23 campuses there was a net increase of managers over the past decade

One of the more ominous findings for the CSU in our paper is that there is no “next generation” of permanent faculty in the pipeline. We can talk more about that, but let me just say, that this issue has serious implications for future students in our system.

Our paper also shows that the purchasing power of presidential salaries has grown in contrast to those of the faculty. Indeed, the gap between the average faculty salary and the average campus president’s salary has widened by a whopping $30,000 in real dollars. And salary is just the beginning. Executives enjoy a long list of perks.

We will take questions in a bit, so let me pass the mic to someone else for opening remarks. But let me finish by saying that the faculty have had high hopes for CSU Chancellor Timothy White who took the reins from Charles Reed just two years ago. We continue to hope for the best from him. He must support those of us who make our students successful.

We cannot continue a trend that prioritizes the CSU’s 1% over those who deliver on the actual mission of the California State University.

Kevin Wehr

On my campus, Sacramento, we have seen increased hiring of managers and increasing pay to managers while faculty pay has stagnated or even declined in buying power.

At the same time those managers have failed to replace retiring tenure line faculty. Instead they are hiring faculty into temporary jobs.  This is a problem because tenured faculty are the stable workforce who can provide advising and mentoring over the time a student is in college.  

We are here when they arrive and there when they leave and there when they need letters of recommendation to start their career.  

Over the last ten years at Sac State, tenure line faculty has declined by 22% while we have 9% more students and 16% more managers! So there are fewer employees to manage, but more well-paid managers doing less work.

Leslie Bryan

I would like to address some of the issues tackled in this paper regarding hiring faculty on temporary appointments.

The findings in this paper speak to my own experience, and more importantly, to a profound change happening in the nature of the CSU itself. Lecturers in the CSU are hired on temporary appointments to teach subject matter content to students. These teachers are fully qualified. However, these kinds of temporary jobs pay much less than regular permanent jobs and usually offer fewer benefits. 

The jobs are limited to teaching only, so there is not time for Lecturer faculty members to spend with their students.  In fact, many Lecturers don’t even have offices in which to meet with students. This paper shows that there is a rapid increase in the number of managers in the CSU but the increase in the number of faculty is much slower. 

But the most damaging finding is that all of the increase in faculty jobs consists of temporary jobs! 

In fact, not only are the number of permanent jobs for faculty down – the jobs that provide stability for us and provide the time for effective quality teaching— but the bulk of those who hold those permanent positions are older faculty.

The number of probationary faculty on the tenure-track – that is the ones headed for permanent teaching jobs – has gone down 31%!

In essence, this is turning teaching in the CSU into the equivalent of a fast-food job because of the fast-food style of hiring. Expendable.  High Turnover.  Good enough to get the job done and out of the way. This is NOT what we promise students when they come to the California State University. But that is where we are headed.

An unstable workforce leads to unstable students graduating as an unstable workforce for California.

Dorothy Wills

I would like to talk some more about campus presidents. One of the privileges of a campus president is they retire to a different but very well- compensated life, after their time as president.

For example, on my campus, Cal Poly Pomona, the last president, Dr. J. Michael Ortiz, served from 2003 to 2014. He retired. And in addition to his pension, he was taken into the “executive transition” program, which compensates him over $200,000. He has two appointments.  One is as a consultant.  And the other is to help the new president transition into the job Ortiz left.  His consulting duties are unspecified. 

In fact, the info the public has about the actual income of CSU presidents is inaccurate or incomplete—it’s actually much higher. They get free housing or a housing stipend that is as big as a middle class salary all by itself. Many living expenses are free; there is a large car allowance—about $12,000 a month

Look in the CFA White Paper to see many other free benefits listed.  And these are for people who actually can pay for these things better than a middle-class worker. On top of that, the CSU foundations have been persuaded to make up for what it is judged the salary lacks. CSU foundations, which most people think exist to provide scholarships to students, actually add around $30,000 to the salary of some CSU executives.

It actually was shocking for me to hear at a Trustees meeting when the previous chancellor described the top executives of the CSU as sorely underpaid CEOs. It is important to notice that this was a reframing of the 23 campus presidents to see them in the image of CEOs in private business.  Apparently, the worry is that they make less than CEOs. 

Of course, they are not in private, profit-making business; they are in a public university. When CSU executives speak about their own benefits, they talk about themselves as highly specialized and trained experts in a highly competitive field. This reminds me of the special work I had to do to get a Ph.D. in anthropology and the work I do to teach it everyday.

I speak four languages besides English. I’ve done extensive field work. And I teach specialized anthropology classes. You would think they would fork over big bucks to get somebody like that. But management seems unable to perceive the faculty this way.

When I retire in a few years, the CSU won’t have many of the people like me among its permanent faculty, and many of the courses I teach students will probably go away.

Media Briefing Transcript — March 3, 2015

This call focused on the first paper in California Faculty Association’s Race to the Bottom series, “CSU’s 10-year Failure to Fund its Core Mission.”

On the call were:

  • Lillian Taiz, Professor of History at Cal State Los Angeles and President of CFA
  • Jennifer Eagan, Professor of Philosophy and Public Affairs & Administration at CSU East Bay and CFA Chapter President of CSU East Bay
  • Darel Engen, Associate Professor of World and Ancient History at CSU San Marcos and CFA Chapter President at San Marcos
  • Molly Talcott, Associate Professor of Sociology at Cal State Los Angeles and CFA Chapter President at Los Angeles
Lillian Taiz

Thanks to all of you for joining us today.  In addition to reporters and bloggers, I know we have CSU faculty members listening in—welcome.

CFA decided to launch a series of working papers this Spring because it’s time at long last for the leadership of this university to fix the problems that have been created by 10 years and more of bad priorities and problematic choices.

This first paper takes up an issue that obviously is very important for anyone who works and hopes to be middle class in America– salaries.

The paper lays out the historical and comparative landscape for faculty salaries in the CSU. 

While many of us lived through this difficult decade, even we were shocked by the starkness of the data. The bottom line is that over more than 10 years the choices made by CSU executives have had consequences that are damaging to the university and our students, not to mention the faculty and our families.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who has been reporting on higher education that there is a large body of research on education that demonstrates the critical role faculty play in the learning process and student success. 

We do this work in classrooms, labs, libraries and playing fields up and down the state.

Yet, as this paper shows, the executives who have run the CSU for the past 10 years have year after year failed adequately to fund that obvious driver of student success—the faculty.

That failure has happened in good times and bad, when there is more state funding and less state funding, when tuition goes up and when tuition is frozen.  No matter what, faculty salaries have been left to stagnate.

I think what shocked us the most in our research was that our situation is not representative of all segments of education in California. The CSU stands out.

What this paper shows is that even though all segments of education took substantial budget cuts during the recession, no other segment of education in our state or at comparable public universities in the nation allowed its faculty to lose ground the way CSU faculty have.

Compared to the University of California, the Community Colleges, and even hard hit K-12, CSU faculty salaries have won the Race to the Bottom in education. 

I am certain you have questions about these findings and I’m glad to discuss them further with you.

Jennifer Eagan

I’d like to point out a few features of the Race to the Bottom paper that are particularly relevant to our discussion today. 

One is how the paper compares our salaries to similarly situated professionals, including professionals in public service. 

You can see on page 3 a chart that shows that Firefighters receive an average salary of $125,000. Police receive $97,500, nurses $87,480, and the list goes on. The chart shows truck drivers earn an average $55,000.

If you look at the chart above that one on the same page, you will see that many faculty members make much less than these similar positioned professionals.

These kinds of jobs are typical when we in the United States characterize who we mean when we speak of the middle class. 

Public university faculty have been and we hold should be a solid sector of the middle class in California.  And yet, what this report shows is that we instead typify the concerns about the loss of that very middle class.

We in California’s state university are responsible for students, including the education of the very middle class people described in these charts—firefighters, police, and nurses.  And yet, our salaries have sorely lagged behind.

On another feature in this paper, I call your attention to purchasing power. When we look at our salaries in terms of purchasing power, which you find on page 4, you can see the inflationary impact on salaries on all 23 CSU campuses. 

It is particularly striking when we look at high priced areas.  The loss of purchasing power, which actually is a pay cut, has a profound impact on our families and on our ability to purchase things we would expect middle class people should be able to afford.

For example, here where I teach, at CSU East Bay near San Francisco, we hear faculty members talk about not being able to afford a college education for their own children.

In the parking lot there is a sea of 10 year old cars.  We are not able to buy houses. These are impacts on our families forever into the future. 

Finally, I’d like to point out that as the paper explains, this is not just a hiccup caused by the 2008 economic crisis.

Although that crisis was painful, the downward trend for CSU faculty started before that crisis, and it is persisting despite the recovery. 

Darel Engen

The findings in this paper speak to my own experience.  I simply do not make enough money to get by.

You would think that with my level of education and the importance of the work I do to help educate our young people that I would be paid at least enough to pay my bills. Afford a house. Feed the kids. Send them to college someday. But I don’t.

In fact, I have had to work extra teaching two courses every summer for the last 18 years just to make ends meet.

I am not saying that faculty should not work summers. We do and we must.  It is part of our job to revise our courses, prepare new ones that are relevant to our students, and do scholarly research in the summers, not only to further our professional field, but also so that we remain current and are able to provide cutting edge education to our students. 

By teaching in the summer, I can’t use that time, as professors are supposed to do, to keep my courses fresh and relevant and to work on research that will improve the quality of my teaching.

That puts me in a bind, but I have to prioritize paying the bills to support my family.  So, given the situation we are in, that comes at the expense of doing all aspects of my job as well as I can. 

At 51 years of age, with a PhD, almost 20 years of full-time teaching experience, and what most people would think is a respectable job, you would think that things should be better.

And, as difficult as it is for me, as CFA Chapter president, I see so many other cases among my faculty colleagues that are even worse. 

Because of the extra employment I took on, I was able to pay off my student loans.  Many faculty on my campus are still paying student loan debt 20 years after graduation. 

For lecturers, the faculty working on temporary appointments, it’s even worse still.  On their salaries, apartment rents are barely affordable if at all and their student loan debts are millstones on them.  I see it all around me–Lecturers working greater than full-time loads at multiple universities just to make ends meet. 

Because we are professors with a lot of education, people tend to think we get paid a lot. 

We don’t. 

Even my students are not always aware of the situation.  They think the increasing tuition goes to our salaries but as this paper shows it doesn’t. 

Our salaries stagnate whether tuition goes up or not, and this is just not right.  What’s more,  it’s bad for public higher education.  There’s just no way we’re going to be able to continue to provide quality education at the CSU under these conditions.  And as the CSU goes, so goes the economy of California and the well-being of its citizens. 

Molly Talcott

Thanks everybody for being in this news conference with you. I’ve been a faculty member at Cal State LA since 2009. I was hired in a furlough year so I actually started at an even less salary than what was negotiated.

I left a tenure-line job at a research university to come to Cal State LA because I truly and deeply love to teach and I love my students. What I did not know at the time was I was really making a harmful financial decision for myself in leaving that job to come to Cal State LA.

Until the last contract, I’ve been steadily losing purchasing power. I’m an example of what Dr. Eagan and Dr. Engen are talking about.

I pay, for example, over $400 a month in student loans. It’s about 13 percent of my monthly pay. And I just got a letter, just yesterday actually, that my mortgage has now increased $400 a month as well. I have not received anything like the kinds of increases needed in the several years I’ve now been serving at Cal State LA.

As I said, I love to teach—that’s why I came to this university system. I care deeply about my students. I work 6 to 7 days every week,very long hours. I taught until 10 pm last night.

I have peers with similar qualifications, with a PhD, at the very same university I earned my PhD at in the UC system, who easily make $20,000-$25,000 dollars more than I do. They’ve had regular raises to keep up with costs of living. And raises that recognize their role as a faculty member and the many contributions we make to our students our university community, and the fact that these contributions deepen as we gain more experience in the system.

My friends in the UC system literally gasp in disbelief when they hear how much I am paid. And as financially strapped as I feel, I have colleagues who have been in my own department who have taught there three and four years more than I have who make even less than I do. Colleagues that did not even crack the $60,000 mark after a decade in the CSU until these very recent raises.

I’ll give you a sense as chapter president of a lecturer faculty member who teaches at Cal State LA. Last spring, a group of us—mostly tenure line faculty—took up a collection for her. Our lecturer colleague, who has been teaching at Cal State LA for decades—received an eviction notice from her one-bedorom apartment. Her gas was shut off. And she now takes the Metro and bus to work across metropolitan Los Angeles. This is just example of one of the ways in which CSU faculty are being pushed out of the middle class.