Not even echoes remained in the Glenn S. Dumke Auditorium at the California State University Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach by 1 p.m.
The trustees who cast their votes in favor of increasing the salaries of 22 California State University campus presidents and four system executives, along with those who were to reap the benefits of the vote, were nowhere in sight.
Only a handful of people remained in the large circular conference room, including students, faculty members and Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, who stayed to speak with the press and students.
Three hours earlier, the auditorium was full of outspoken and less vocal opponents, along with several other people who had separate concerns that were overshadowed by the salary increases.
Representatives from PeopleSoft urged the board to adopt the software for a more efficient system.
A former Dominguez Hills faculty member, Joseph Teixeira, spoke out against his termination, citing retaliation from his university administration when he acted as a whistle-blower in reporting violations of accreditation standards, student and civil rights, and state and federal law.
San Jose State University student Matt Neff came to inform those in attendance about the management of his school’s aviation program, saying that such issues regarding students’ education should be considered first before contemplating increasing pay for executives.
But most of the energy came from people’s disapproval of the proposed salary increases. The sound of angry voices bounced off the bright white walls of the airy auditorium straight toward the board of trustees and the campus presidents where they sat in the center of the room.
Gus Lease, an 84-year-old history of music professor from San Jose State, attended the meeting dressed in a suit with a cane in one hand and a worn leather briefcase in the other hand. He clutched a baseball cap bearing the acronym for the California Faculty Association.
He has “survived 11 college presidents” and has just begun his 58th year of teaching, Lease said. The exuberant professor, who was delighted when a telemarketer once told him that he only sounded 60, said he was both sad and angry about the increases in tuition and the salaries of executives. Lease told the story of a student whose father was a gardener who could not support his son’s dreams of attending college.
“I was so sad because this dad was almost crying,” said Lease said before the Board of Trustees’ open session began, leaning back in his chair becoming teary-eyed just by talking about the subject.
Back in the ’50s, students could pay $50 and still receive a college education, Lease said. If the CSU system could offer an affordable education in the ’50s, “they can afford to do the same thing now,” Lease said. Not only do students have to pay tuition and textbooks, but they also have to deal with rising gas prices, which is why Lease said he feels bad for students.
But the cost to fill a gas tank didn’t stop any faculty members from CSUs and Cal Poly Pomona from voicing their opinions. Even as a buzzer sounded marking the end of individuals two minutes to speak, opponents kept speaking and the trustees kept listening.
What the trustees couldn’t have heard were the murmurs among the crowd.
“He’s lying through his teeth,” said Yasha Karant, a computer science professor at CSU San Bernardino, as trustee Herbert Carter explained his reasons for supporting the hikes.
“Bullshit,” said another faculty member from Fullerton, who left without giving her name, as trustee Jennifer Reimer voiced her support for the increase.
Fred Nakamura of Long Beach State’s health center shared the sentiment, calling Reimer, a business administration master’s student, a “traitor.”
After the public’s comments, chairwoman of the board Roberta Achtenberg assured the speakers that their concerns “wouldn’t fall on deaf ears.”
But several minutes later, the approval was cast and before the meeting could end, the audience filed out as quickly as the majority of the trustees said “aye.”
Earlier during the meeting, CSU East Bay student Caroline Komata asked, “How many students have to stand here and bang on your doorstep?”
Komata recounted the 500 students and faculty members who protested the salary hikes at her campus, but it wasn’t enough to change the trustee’s votes.
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