Brendan Pringle is an English senior and Mustang Daily conservative columnist.
Meanwhile, students face a 9 percent tuition increase for the upcoming year, in addition to the proposed “Student Success Fee” that may be introduced by the Cal Poly administration. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Education reports that approximately “8 percent of students who entered repayment of their loans defaulted on them.” Isn’t the purpose of higher education to increase opportunity? Obviously not.
Amidst these pressures, students are likely to buy into faculty propaganda. However, the CSU’s problem (and, consequently, Cal Poly’s problem) extends far beyond administrative greed. Here are the underlying reasons Poly students must pay the piper now for their education:
Two bills seeking to end the ridiculous increases in executive salaries were inevitably stalled in Sacramento — one to cap CSU administrative pay increases to no more than 10 percent in a year that tuition increases; the other to prohibit pay raises for the top dogs at Universities of California (UC) and CSUs in bad budget years. In all honesty, neither of these plans would make a dent.
Even if salary increases seem to fall significantly behind those of administrators and executives, we can’t forget that the CSU paid $60 million in faculty raises, and still provides fantastic pension plans across the board. It may be true that some of our professors are overworked (many don’t have teacher’s assistants such as those frequently found in the UCs), but our professors sign up to be public servants. There is always the alternatively “stable” path of private university or other private sector contracts.
In contrast, Gov. Scott Walker took a broader approach to fixing a similar issue in his own state of Wisconsin. A major part of his plan was that wage increases would not be able to exceed a cap based on the consumer-price index. The media demonized Walker, but his plan actually saved the Wisconsin education system from widespread layoffs and other major educational cuts.
CSU Board of Trustees member Bernadette Cheyne appropriately criticized the California Legislature, commenting: “Let our elected officials take responsibility for their integrity or lack thereof, and let us not be implicit in compromising it by offering them a way out at the cost of our students.”
Excessive pensions and stiff contracts
Pensions for California employees are literally bankrupting our state governments. Recently, while other state employees increased their pension contributions from 5 to 8 percent, CSU employees remained strangely exempt. Shouldn’t they have to pay their “fair share”?
Also, while the faculty union is clearly against any possible pension reform, it doesn’t seem all that worried about its “younger generation.” According to CalPensions.com, the union acquiesced to pension plan reductions for new hires without even bargaining over it. This obviously was a blessing for the budget, but nonetheless reveals the selfishness and greed of those who are supposed to be “fighting” for our faculty.
In addition, why is it that the students always seem to “lose” when a Cal Poly employee gets fired or demoted? Former women’s volleyball coach Jon Stevenson left the university with a separation agreement of $133,000 and 440 hours of vacation. We can also be sure that former dean Mohammad Noori was given a nice sum as well prior to his demotion. It’s simply how these contracts work.
Lack of oversight
You might be surprised to discover that the total CSU budget is 5 percent larger than it was in 2007-08. As California Public Employees’ Retirement System points out, it seems as though the CSU’s federal stimulus funds of $823 million “only allowed the university systems to continue their bloated salaries for school administrators.”
But the waste doesn’t just stop at “bloated salaries.” At least salaries are transparent. It also appears that the CSU system seems to lose its grip on employee benefits and reimbursements. A recent audit of former CSU Vice Chancellor for Information Technology David Ernst’s expenses between July 2005 and July 2008 revealed that he received a total of $152,441 in reimbursements.
Apparently, Ernst was reimbursed for $39,135 in unnecessary travel expenses (he reportedly spent $475 a night at a Shanghai hotel), $26,455 in meal expenses and $43,288 to make the trip from his home in the Bay Area to his office in Long Beach, “despite university policies to the contrary.” Ernst resigned and now works for the UC system.
Has the CSU system learned its lesson? No. Rather, CSU still thinks it “‘impractical’ to establish defined limits for reimbursing the costs of lodging,” citing the “variety of locations around the world where it does business.” In other words, expect more wasteful spending in the future. Ernst is not alone; unfortunately, many tenured professors and administrators on our own campus and others have likely advantage of the CSU’s outrageous blind spot. Who or how — we may never know.
The faculty union can continue to protest against administrative greed, but we mustn’t forget that this is only the tip of the iceberg. As students and citizens, we must chip away at these other barriers in order to halt our unending tuition increases.
And trust me, we don’t have much more time or money to waste.