Cal Poly’s tenured density, the percentage of tenured or tenure-track faculty out of all faculty members, is the lowest it has been in the past 10 years. As of 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, 64.1 percent of faculty were tenured or tenure-track. Tenured density peaked at 73.4 percent in 2009.
From 2007 to 2015, full-time equivalent (FTE) lecturers increased by 70 members, FTE staff increased by 100 members and FTE tenured track or tenured faculty decreased by 20.
Since Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong’s first year in 2010, FTE faculty lecturers increased by 100, FTE staff increased by 60, administration increased by 83 management personnel and tenured and tenure-track faculty members increased by 93 members.
This means while administration, staff and lecturer positions all increased, tenured positions did not.
According to Graham Archer, Cal Poly California faculty advisor chapter president and architectural engineering professor, Armstrong’s Vision 2022 includes a goal to increase the tenured density to 75 percent in the next five years. This would mean either converting 176 non-tenure lecturers to a tenured track, releasing 176 lecturers in order to hire tenured professors in their place, or implementing a combination of converting and hiring.
University spokesperson Matt Lazier explained that the trend toward more staff is due to a focus on student support and services and that the decrease in tenure density is a result of high incoming student enrollment between 2013 and 2015. With more students than anticipated, the gap between instructors and classes was filled in the short term by lecturers.
These increases in administration and staff occurred at the same time that Cal Poly professors were refused raises to adjust for inflation. Additionally, some professors were placed back on wages from before cuts were made due to the 2008 recession. After threatening a strike, professors received increases in 2016 from the Chancellor’s office, gaining a 10.5 percent increase over time with an additional 2.65 percent service salary increase applicable to faculty who have worked longer at Cal Poly.
Associate Director of Forensics and communications lecturer John Patrick, who is non-tenure, said he has to work what he describes as “side hustles” to support himself and his family. He teaches at Cuesta, teaches full-time at Cal Poly and coaches the debate team while also picking up work with workshops and outside courses when he can.
Professors are paid below San Luis Obispo’s annual cost of living, according to Archer, who said the average is around $75,000. Two professors who were offered positions at Cal Poly last year turned down the position after hearing the pay, Archer said. One senior professor left Cal Poly in the past two years for the same reason. Archer is still struggling with his student loans and putting his five kids through college, and said his future retirement is uncertain given his circumstances.
“There is a scarcity of resources. We can argue and strike and all that stuff to get our salaries. And that’s a hard process and we are doing it but on the other side we have the administration and they can hire without asking anyone,” Archer said. “They can increase salaries without asking anyone and so they have done that.”