The California Faculty Association members discussed contract bargaining and the CSU 2006-07 budget at the University Club Feb. 22.
James David Ballard, president of the CFA’s CSUN Chapter, presented the teachers union’s barganing points to a packed room of about 30 to 50 professors.
Ballard said the reason for the meeting was to tell their side of the story.
“The economics of being a professor has changed,” Ballard said, explaining how difficult it was to live in the Los Angeles area on the wages paid to faculty.
Today, there are 218 fewer tenure track permanent positions than 20 years ago and almost 70,000 more full-time students in the California State University system, Ballard said.
Susan Meisenhelder, CFA leader of political action/legislation, said she believed the deadlocked negotiations between the union and the CSU was more than a struggle over wages and benefits.
“Most of the issues with faculty contracts affect the quality of education for our students,” she said.
She outlined what she said the CFA members believed were necessities for quality education in the CSU.
The first step was to have personal interaction with students, she said. Second was higher salaries that attract and retain the very best educators, and third was a stable teaching workforce committed to the CSU.
The CFA wants more tenure track faculty, a reduction in the number of Weighted Teaching Units faculty members must teach, an increase in pay for professors with over-sized classes, and an improvement in student-faculty ratios, according to Meisenhelder’s presentation
“The value of a stable workforce for students is undeniable,” Meisenhelder said. “A stable workforce really is the backbone of a good education.” The Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) was also discussed.
According to Meisenhelder, FERP allowed retired faculty to either remain as a full-time faculty member for one semester of the academic year or work part-time through the year for up to five years.
She said the decision was made to cut that time down to two years and the CFA wants that decision reversed.
She said the CFA is also hoping to negotiate a plan that would allow part-time faculty members who have been teaching six years to receive a three-year appointment that would include benefits such as a retirement plan.
“Our salaries are less than UC (University of California) salaries and are actually lower than many community college (salaries) as well,” Meisenhelder said.
“We do have options in our employment,” Ballard said. “We choose to stay here because of our students and the community. But we do have options.”
The calendar for the 2006-2007 academic year also has been changed.
“The calendar impacts how we teach. That calendar is unacceptable,” said Barbara Swerkes, kinesiology professor and member of the Faculty Senate, in reference to the current calendar.
“The economics of being a professor has changed,” Ballard said.
Faculty members are expected to teach classes during summer with the same number of students as in a regular semester, and while students receive the same amount of units during a summer course, professors are paid less.
If a department chair wants to teach a class during summer (for more income), that should be doable, he added.
“We, the group of us, have a lot more power than I, the individual,” Ballard said. “Bargaining is about power. The CSU believes they own it. They want you (faculty) to work for less money in the summer, and we’re saying no.”
Koester or other administration officials could not be reached because of press time.