For the California State University Board of Trustees, top priorities on the first day of their meeting included addressing a new collective bargaining agreement with faculty and developing a plan to reduce the current deferred maintenance backlog.
Faculty members from multiple CSU campuses attended the meeting during the collective bargaining committee Tuesday to urge trustees to deliver on improvements for the faculty in a new contract. The current bargaining agreement expires June 30.
Andy Merrifield, Ph.D., a political science professor at Sonoma State and the chair of the California Faculty Association bargaining team, said across the CSU schools, faculty are currently overworked and undercompensated for the high-quality education they are asked to provide.
“Though they are from different disciplines, different campuses, different ranges and different ranks, the story is the same,” Merrifield said.
Elaine Bernal, who teaches organic chemistry at Cal State Long Beach, said with the current contract, it has become difficult to care for her two children, one of whom has chronic asthma, while teaching as many as eight courses per semester.
“It is a challenge to grow professionally, especially after being hit with a $10,000 bill the week before Christmas because a doctoral fee waiver was incorrectly applied by Academic Affairs and Budget and Finance, and be hit with an additional $400 a month in taxes due to that fee waiver,” she said. “With ongoing challenges like this, what is it going to look like when my oldest (son) goes to college 10 years from now?
The board examined informational reports regarding a massive backlog of deferred maintenance projects across CSU schools to start formulating a plan to make the necessary repairs. CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White emphasized that solving the deferred maintenance backlog should be a priority.
“We have just in the deferred maintenance side, we’re at $1.8 billion, with a B, growing by $100 million a year,” White said. “And it is unsettling and inappropriate for us as stewards of this state asset to simply say, ‘well, this has to continue to growing because we can’t solve it.’”
Students from Cal State Los Angeles urged the board to implement an academic requirement in the curriculum for ethnic studies courses.
“I believe that the people that have the power … are there to keep the status quo intact and if we were to make ethnic studies a requirement for all students to take, that would be the opposite of what society really wants,” said Jelani Hendrix, a recent graduate in pani-african studies.
Hendrix’s passion for the creation of an ethnic studies requirement derives from his own personal experiences as an African-American, he said. He said he encountered violence while living in El Sereno, and said he believes that if people were better educated about race and ethnicity, those types of situations could be prevented.
“(Ethnic studies) promotes critical thinking, it promotes being active in your community through education,” Hendrix said.
Students advocated for a complete tobacco ban on all CSU campuses.
Trailblazers for this cause include CSUF, which has prohibited cigarettes on campus since August 2013, San Diego State University and Cal State Sacramento, which is en route to become a tobacco-free campus in fall 2015.
Alexandra Rossi, a student at San Jose State University, said she hopes all other campuses can follow these footsteps and expressed her passion to ban all tobacco products.
In her address to the board, she recalled a campus cleanup event held at the San Jose campus where students picked up 11,000 cigarette butts within an hour and called for a systemwide smoking ban.
Students also proposed the prohibition of e-cigarettes and vaporizers, even though they produce vapor and not smoke.