Mckinley Bruckner is a political science sophomore and California Faculty Association intern. The views expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News editorial.
To the students of Cal Poly,
And our fellow students at California State University (CSU) campuses,
I am a political science sophomore, and I stand with faculty in their/our fight for a five percent general salary increase and here’s why:
Faculty work hard to support students and Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy — providing a top notch education across the university. In 2008, faculty confronted mass lay-offs in the face of financial recession, but elected to protect their jobs and thus the quality of a CSU education by accepting a pay cut, which included furlough days. They also accepted what was essentially a pay freeze, and as a result most, if not all, faculty have not seen any meaningful change in salary since.
Meanwhile, CSU students fought for and ultimately won a freeze on tuition from the state legislature in 2013, which will be in effect until next year. Cal Poly, however, was sneaky. Along with many other CSU’s, Cal Poly implemented campus based fees (ours is $790 per year, the highest in the system) to compensate for the lost state funding.
Together, students and faculty protected the value of a CSU education, but took the brunt of the financial responsibility and burden during the financial recession. This would all be fine if our system was founded on principles of top-down governance, prioritizing the needs of administrators, or excluding large populations of California from its higher education system.
FORTUNATELY, the CSU was founded on principles of equity, accessibility and quality — principles President Jeffrey Armstrong and Chancellor Tim White seem to only pay lip service to. The CSU fills the mandate of California’s Master Plan for Higher Education. The plan designates the CSU to provide a tuition-free higher education to all Californians who meet the criteria for admission. During the past decade, the California State Legislature has slashed the CSU’s budget — and one might think it should be up to the legislature to fix our budgetary issues. In reality, the legislature has stabilized the CSU budget this year, and has largely restored funds to pre-recession levels; yet, faculty wages remain stagnant and it looks like the CSU’s Board of Trustees will vote to start increasing our tuition again next fall.
But here is some perspective — Cal Poly fees have increased 43 percent since 2010, while administrative salary spending has increased 41 percent in that same timeframe. Simultaneously, faculty wages continued and continue to flounder in suppression. In fact, faculty have less purchasing power now than they did in 2004. Interestingly, the University of California and the California Community College System have managed to protect, and substantially increase its faculty’s wages. It turns out, this is a matter of priorities — the CSU’s administration does not adequately value education, quality teaching conditions or fair wages. The CSU is on a dark path to where much of our country has already gone — a bureaucratic takeover, privatization and an abandonment of civic (or in this case, student) participation.
On all of our CSU campuses, lecture hires are growing at rapid rates — lecturers are nontenured and poorly paid instructors are noncontingent appointments. As our administrations continue to pursue this model of education — many of our faculty must teach at multiple campuses or consider leaving the institution all together. This affects our ability to get classes, explore academia freely, graduate on time and pay for our education. This trend must end.
Students have the opportunity to continue to voice our opposition to high tuition prices, poor faculty working conditions, and an abandonment of the CSU’s core principles. That is why we MUST join faculty on the picket lines this April. It is our chance to put our collective feet down and demand a better education, and a system that is accessible for all California students without issue. The strike will not affect your graduation time — nor does the university have the ability to punish you in any way for talking about the strike, participating in the strike or supporting the strike — just as faculty cannot force you to participate in the strike or boycott.
A strike is a political event; you have the freedom to choose and participate in the process as much or as little as you want — something I and faculty emphasize, as President Armstrong does not. With that being said, if you don’t demonstrate and voice your opposition to a continued demise of the CSU, your silence may lead to higher tuition for a crappier education. Let’s continue the momentum we built by knocking down the outrageously proposed $600 student fee increase to build a new University Union. Let’s stand with faculty on the picket line, and pledge our support in their and our fight for a better, more accessible and more valuable CSU education.
Go to https://goo.gl/4iyrQy for more information and to RSVP for the boycott.
Letters to the editor may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Letter to the editor” to be considered for publication. Submission should not exceed 700 words, and should include a headline, and your year, major or position. Letters are subject to minor edits for grammar, style and clarity.