Taped to associate professor Tom Bensky’s office door is a spoof on Cal Poly’s “25-35 hours/week/unit” sign. It reads: “furloughs/lost pay, 76-192 dollars/week.” Bensky’s sign refers to the amount of money faculty and staff are losing because of the furlough program requiring them to take unpaid days off work. Frustration with the furlough program is not uncommon among faculty and staff at Cal Poly. Disappointment in California State University Chancellor Reed resonates throughout the California Faculty Association (CFA).
With a budget cut of $564 million to the CSU system, Reed proposed this summer to reduce the salaries of nearly all CSU employees by 10 percent since salaries make up 85 percent of the total budget. In addition to these mandatory furlough days, 40,000 fewer students are being accepted into the CSU system.
Bensky said he was let down by Reed’s proposals to decrease the deficit.
“I was disappointed in the chancellor because I didn’t see any creative solutions from his office,” he said.
He isn’t the only one unsure about the chancellor’s actions. Faculty who are members of the CFA voted on Reed’s actions; 79 percent said they had no confidence in how Reed is handling the budget crisis.
Around 8,800 CFA members voted on Reed’s furlough proposal, 54 percent in favor and 46 percent against. The CFA and the CSU came to an agreement at the end of August to implement mandatory furlough days for faculty and staff instead of laying off university employees.
Though furloughs are saving jobs, the days of unpaid leave will affect some faculty and staff more than others. CFA President professor Rich Saenz believes that junior faculty members on the tenure track are taking a greater pay cut than any other faculty members because they were counting on pay raises they did not receive.
“Essentially, they’re living with a 25 percent pay cut,” Saenz said.
CFA Associate Vice President Elizabeth Hoffman agreed that the junior faculty are taking a harsher pay cut because they have also been without a pay raise for two years. Some of these younger faculty members factored in those pay raises when buying a home or a car or starting a family.
The 10 percent reduction in pay has resulted in faculty members signing an agreement that they would essentially work 10 percent less. Bensky said he still grades papers and does work on his furlough days to keep up.
The furlough program ends June 30, but Saenz thinks that furloughs will probably be implemented again next year unless a new program is created to help decrease the deficit. Bensky, on the other hand, said that he would be surprised if furloughs passed again because of the problems furloughs have caused. He said it seems like no one is sure of what to expect for next year regarding furloughs.
“I think we’re in for a roller-coaster summer,” he said.
Another program begun this year is cutting student enrollment numbers to save the CSU system money. Over the next two years the CSUs will be letting in 40,000 fewer students than previous years, Reed said.
High school seniors and transfer students are applying for early decision since the CSUs will close their application acceptance period after Nov. 30. Already this year the CSUs have received more than 266,000 applications, which is 52 percent higher than the number of applications they received at this time last year.
“Denying students admission and access to the CSUs is one of the worse things that can be done during the recession when students want to go to school but we cannot educate the same amount of students with half a billion dollars less,” Reed said in a teleconference call with a CSU newspapers.
The goal for the CSU this year was to decrease enrollment by a total of 10,000 students. Already this fall, 4,000 fewer students were admitted to the CSU system and an anticipated 6,000 fewer students will be admitted in the spring.
Hoffman said that the reduction in the number of students to be admitted is disappointing.
“It’s hearbreaking in the short run, but it’s heartbreaking in the long run for California,” Hoffman said.
Journalism sophomore Kelly Whelan thinks the reduction is both beneficial to students already at Cal Poly but unfair to students who want to attend college. She said Cal Poly should focus on the students already enrolled and keep class sizes down. It is unfortunate that students are being denied admission when they are eligible for the university, she added.
“It seems really unfair for students who want to go to college. Especially during these economic times,” Whelan said.
The uncertainty of the furlough program is keeping Bensky and all faculty and staff waiting for a sign of development with the budget from the Chancellor’s Office.