Cal State University Chancellor Timothy White met with protesting California Faculty Association (CFA) members at an open forum where he answered faculty and student questions Tuesday.
The chancellor’s visit comes two months before the anticipated bargaining process for a 5 percent General Salary Increase and 2.65 percent Service Salary Increase between the CFA and the CSU comes to an end.
In the event that the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the union has the legal right to strike for five days. The CFA has announced it will strike April 13 to 15 and 18 to 19 in all 23 CSU campuses.
White opened the forum by discussing the basis for the strategic planning vision of the CSU system. The “touchstones” of the vision include quality, student learning and success, benefit to the public, diversity and social and environment innovation, which all circle around the notion of inclusive excellence, White said.
“It seems to me that those six concepts … are really at the core of what the CSU ought to be thinking about in the five, 10, 20 years in front of us,” White said. “We will achieve and execute these touchstones only if we are inclusive of people, inclusive of ideas, inclusive of places and seek excellence in what we do.”
The primary goal of the CSU system is empowering students to succeed, White said. This goal includes getting students to earn their degrees sooner by taking care of the social, financial and academic needs that affect their ability to earn
The forum then opened up to the floor, where two students and three faculty members inquired to the chancellor regarding the budget and faculty raises.
Michele Barr, Ed.D., CSUF chapter president for the CFA, questioned the chancellor about faculty raises.
“The money is there to fund this proposal, you simply cannot deny that,” Barr said. “The question remains, Chancellor White: why are you unwilling to fund a long overdue, well deserved, proper raise for all unionized employees of the CSU?”
The $97 million that the union and the CSU lobbied for from Sacramento was used for student growth, IT and facilities, White said.
“Had we taken that money and then turned it around and spent it on increasing compensation, what do you think would happen this year when I go back and say ‘Hey, I’m asking for more again?’” he asked.
White said that he would lose credibility because instead of increasing student enrollment like he told the state he was going to, he would have paid people.
“I got the emotion, I got the issue and I just have to have a multiyear solution to a multiyear problem,” White said. “I cannot spend the money we do not have.”
One student commented, “I’d much rather be in McCarthy Hall than a pretty building as long as my professors are relaxed from not having to work multiple jobs.”
If an agreement between the CFA and the CSU system cannot be met, the chancellor acknowledges and respects that the union has the legal right to strike, White said.
“I think we all need to think deeply about a strike action … but ask ourselves individually, ‘Is it right to do for our students?’ White asked.
His question was met with yeses from CFA members around the room.
White replied that the faculty’s answers differed from his, and that he would be happy to “banter back and forth,” but thinks it would be helpful if the faculty would give their decision to strike more thought.
Barr, who helped lobby for the additional $97 million, said senators and assemblymembers she talked to believed more money should go into the CSU budget, but their concern was that it would never make it down to faculty and that there was nothing they could do to make sure it would happen.
“We understand that there’s all these things that money has to go for. The question is: ‘Why are we always bumped to the bottom of the list?’ Barr said.
Some CFA members believed CSUF President Mildred García did not support the union during the chancellor’s visit.
“What I was sad about is … President García did not look at us (CFA members picketing),” Gulhan Bourget, CSUF associate professor in the mathematics department, said. “Her faculty, she did not greet us.”
White left the forum to the CFA, who chanted, “fight for five.”
The chancellor’s next scheduled visit is at Cal Poly Pomona on Feb. 18.