Faculty asks ‘what’s next’ at furlough Q & A ,the CFA sponsored event that sparked heated discussion among its attendees

Yazmin Cruz

Tables for "Vent at the Tent," where the students are given the chance to write down their complaints or record them on video, are set up in from of the Oviatt Library Aug 24, 2009.
Tables for "Vent at the Tent," where the students are given the chance to write down their complaints or record them on video, are set up in from of the Oviatt Library Aug 24, 2009.

As faculty and professors from different California State University (CSU) campuses met with California Faculty Association (CFA) leaders for a question-and-answer session at CSUN, bickering and twittering took place. But in the end many vowed to take action.

More than 75 faculty and professors attended the event, which was held in the Orange Grove Bistro. Many more that were not able to attend followed the discussion on Twitter.

The session was meant to be spent answering technical questions regarding faculty and professor furloughs. Instead, it quickly turned confrontational, with CFA leaders defending themselves against the accusations of a handful of those present.

“We have to use this anger and frustration and turn it into action,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz.

But action and the lack of organization is what some thought was lacking in the leadership team.

“I don’t understand why competent leadership would deliver us to the chancellor,” said a CSUN science professor sitting in the first row, who in the heat of the moment did not identify himself.

With this remark, he sparked a fire of comments both for and against the union. But others wanted to move the conversation on to the “real issues,” which not only included questions about the future of faculty and professors’ jobs but also the actions they might take to encourage students to get involved.

“I want to act now,” exclaimed Kathleen Young, a full-time CSUN professor in the Department of Health Sciences. “I don’t want to analyze this anymore. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

Professors and faculty along with the CFA will be taking action in different ways. During the first week of class, as many students try to crash classes they need to graduate, they may find themselves sharing in the anger and frustration of their professors. Professors are not being allowed to give out permission numbers, said Taiz.

Those that are able to get into the classes they need might learn about the professors’ dilemma not by sharing it, but by hearing about it firsthand.

Martha Lopez-Garza, a professor who holds a position in both the Chicano/Chicana studies and gender and women’s studies departments, will take the opportunity during the first day of class to educate her students on the subject.

“This is a teaching moment,” said Lopez-Garza, who has taught in the CSU system for 16 years. “There is so much more to teach students yet less time to do it in.”

Professor Sirena Pillarolo, who has worked for the CSU system for 14 years and is a part of the modern and classical languages and literatures department, said she had spent some time during her summer break e-mailing future students to keep them aware of the situation.

Meanwhile, the Northridge chapter of CFA is sponsoring a four-day event called “Vent at the Tent” where faculty and students alike can air their grievances regarding the statewide budget cuts. The event takes place Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I will be walking all my students to the CFA tents during the last five minutes of class,” Pillarolo said. “I’m proud of those students that are already getting involved.”

Students for Quality Education, a student organization that aims to fight for the betterment of students’ education, attended the question-and-answer session to show their solidarity and support.

“We are here because we care about our education,” said Daniel Santana, a member of SQE. “These furloughs and tuition hikes are shutting the doors for students.”

But these students are not the only ones getting involved, according to James David Ballard, sociology professor and president of the CSUN CFA chapter. The CFA will have tents out in the quad area during the first week of classes where student volunteers from cinema and television arts (CTVA) will assist them. At these tents, students who wish to express their discontent with the furloughs will be able to do so, on camera.

“We can’t sit and scream in our campuses,” Taiz said. “We have to get it out there. All things are not the same as usual.”