CSU students, staff mad

James Ballard

I would like to tell you about labor problems and how the faculty members at this university (in conjunction with faculty at all of the CSUs) are working toward a new and hopefully better contract. Why is this important to students? Because if contract talks continue like they have been over the last 10 months, it is possible that this term or in the fall semester you will see some job actions – a fancy term used by unions and management for protests, teach-ins, strikes, and other actions that express the anger, frustration and concern we as faculty feel over our working conditions; the deplorable classroom situations we face together with students, and the lack of respect that is afforded both of our groups when it comes to trying to improve the university.

Faculty members are unionized at this university and throughout the CSU. They bargain collectively for such typical items as pay and benefits (always important since we get so few raises and lag way behind our colleagues from around the country).

What many do not know is that we also bargain for more class offerings, smaller class sizes, better classroom conditions, and more educationally conducive working conditions that benefit students.

On the other side of the bargaining table sit the CSU administration – typically a chief negotiator and his or her small team of administrators from other CSU campuses. Behind this small group is a very important advisory panel of campus presidents who suggest contract terms and conditions that affect faculty members’ lives and the lives of students alike (including the CSUN president). Another layer of control over this process is the Board of Trustees for the CSU system itself. Standing in their way are 20,000 faculty members and 450,000 students, all of which have their lives controlled by these forces.

Tensions always exist in contract bargaining, but when the world view of these administrators and the everyday reality of faculty and students are so disconnected, problems arise and conflict ensues. Recently this happened when administrators received hefty raises while students got higher fees and faculty received next to nothing as a pay increase after years of no raises. For instance, the president of CSUN got a 22 percent pay increase and students get an 8 to 10 percent increase in their tuition – can you see the conflicts? The faculty received about a one percent annual raise after three years of nothing – is it understandable why we, like students, might get angry when they tell us that our issues are unimportant and that we are unreasonable in expecting better working conditions, more faculty, smaller classes, better pay and more attention being paid to the plight of students and faculty?

This is where we find ourselves right now – a situation where faculty and students disagree with the choices being made by administrators on those items that affect the everyday reality of what it takes to be an institution of higher learning. We disagree on the choices they are making by so generously rewarding those administrators who are the very group behind the fee increases and lack of attention to working condition improvements that would assist both faculty and students.

We find the actions of the CSU to be outrageous and are fighting within the contract bargaining process to get some relief for many of these issues. To date this has not been a fair fight – we bargain and the CSU dictates what they feel is right – but things are changing. “Are you angry yet” is the mantra of the spring term. You may hear it often, and when you do, remember why. If you care to join in a protest against higher fees and support your faculty members, please join us in our first significant protest of the year. Wednesday, faculty and students from around the state will converge on the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach to protest what is happening to the university systems, and to let the Board of Trustees know that faculty will stand up to such tactics, and that students should be the first priority of the university. We will gather at 9 a.m. at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach. For more information, go to http://www.calfac.org/CSU_equation.html.

James David Ballard is an associate professor of sociology and President of the Northridge chapter of the California Faculty Assoc. He can be reached at james.ballard@csun.edu