Brendan Pringle is an English senior and Mustang Daily conservative columnist.

These past few weeks, we have heard the California Faculty Association unleash its primal cry over its salaries — and for good reason. The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees deceived them when their raises were not honored due to budget cuts. Chancellor Reed, or as I like to call him, “Alfred Hitchcock with more brow,” is a pushover to CSU administrative pressures and has soured many faculty members to the point of strike.

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:

Legislative failure

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, 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.

Join the Conversation


  1. After Jon Stevenson was fired for sexual harassment allegations, he threatened to sue the University. In order to avoid going to court, administration outrageously paid him $133,000. It is not “simply how these contracts work.” It is misleading for you to blame this on the teacher’s union or its contract negotiations when this is clearly an example of poor administration. Like students, the faculty is unnecessarily suffering as our state slashes funding and abandons its duty to provide affordable higher education. The union is a rare voice of reason in a political climate toxic to education. Aside from the union bashing, I agree with your grievances. Identifying the problems the CSU must overcome is the crucial first step. Now, we must come together and demand an end to the administrative waste, legislative failures, lack of transparency, and de-funding that is decimating the public CSU. We should start by demanding President Armstrong do his part. What happened to “the buck stops here?” A leader who’s $400k salary is the epitome of the problem isn’t going to take the necessary steps without some serious pushing. We must protest!

  2. First of all, I never blamed the Jon Stevenson instance on the teacher’s union. And I never “bashed the unions” in my article. I simply showed the facts. And if you read the first paragraph, I clearly said that the faculty has a right to the salaries they were promised. The problem is that the union leadership tends to simply blame the problem on “admin. greed” rather than addressing where the problems actually lie. There is a lot more that happens behind the scenes than administrators taking outrageous salaries.

    Indeed, Mr. Cooper, we must protest! 🙂

    1. I don’t get it. In the section titled “Excessive pensions and stiff contracts,” it seems you blame the union for pensions you deem high that were agreed upon at time when it was assumed the state was going to continue funding the CSU. Then you criticize them for not pushing for the same pensions in contracts signed in dramatically different circumstances.

      In the next paragraph, you fail to mention the reason Stevenson was fired, sexual harassment, and that blame lies with the administration for settling rather than sticking up for its students. You fail to differentiate between the administration’s “separation agreement” and the union negotiated “contracts” in the last sentence. Throughout the paragraph, it is implied it is the unions fault.

      1. These contracts are an agreement by both parties, so any way you argue it, both parties are equally to blame. In my article, I never favored one side or the other. The faculty should indeed pay more toward their pensions just like other state employees. The increase in contributions for other employees happened just recently, so there were no “different” circumstances. And to top it off, hypocrisy is hypocrisy: obviously the older teachers in the union don’t care about newer teachers enough to stand up for them. The union is fighting administrative greed, but what about their own greed (in this respect)? Is the union truly standing up for ALL faculty? Not really.

        Both sides are equally to blame. The financial situation has changed over the last five years, but neither party has responded in a way that actually helps decrease the cost for students (which is the point of attending a public university rather than a private). This is the argument of my article. Accept it or not, I have facts to back me up.

        1. Occasional instances of CFA members wasting money shouldn’t disqualify the union from protesting the administration’s institutionalized waste. I also think that it is important that all of the groups fighting to protect the CSU remain united. It is going to take a huge effort to right all of the wrongs identified as plaguing the CSU. The union’s baggage doesn’t outweigh its benefits. If we demonize the most powerful group fighting for us, it doesn’t bode well for our chance of success.

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