The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN teachers and students speak out at CFA forum

CSUN faculty and students gathered together in the Sierra Center March 9 to have an open discussion with a faculty union representative about the current contract dispute and the latest bargaining issues with the California State University system.

The CSUN California Faculty Association chapter president David Ballard led a discussion that touched on many important issues regarding the CSU bargaining positions versus what the CFA demands. Ballard encouraged faculty to ask CSUN president Jolene Koester, why the CSU is taking certain positions at the bargaining table.

One of the main concerns for faculty is salary inversion. Salary inversion is what many teachers say creates tension among faculty because teachers recently hired now make almost as much as professors who have been at CSUN for several years.

“When I came here I had a fairly low salary, but now I have worked myself up to a more acceptable salary,” said biology professor Paul Tomasek, who has been teaching at CSUN for 11 years. “New incoming faculty is coming in (with a starting salary) just a little bit under that. So, what I’m making now after so many years is just a little bit more than what new faculty is making.”

Tomasek said he understands that new faculty need higher salaries, otherwise they will not come to teach at CSUN because of better offers from better-paying schools, but “there is no mechanism in place to float everybody up, and that’s a big problem here,” he said.

With the current situation at the CSUs, it is hard to recruit new professors to the system. Rising housing costs in Southern California, lack of space and time available for professors to do research, available equipment and start-up funds are things that hurt CSUN in its recruitment process, Tomasek said.

“I understand that it is hard to provide everything that is needed, but we are really not competitive,” he said.

Everybody in attendance was encouraged to fill out a form entitled “Ask Jolene?” that had seven prominent issues that are said to be under negotiation at the bargaining table. Besides salary inversion, the event covered topics such as inadequate general salary increases, heavy workloads for faculty and what the rational is for the CSU to request an annual fiscal disclosure from faculty, which Ballard said “is none of their business.”

Union officials said problems talked about at the meeting do not just happen at CSUN but are taking place at all of the CSU campuses, and some are hit harder than others.

David Bradfield, CFA chapter president at CSU Dominguez Hills, was at the meeting and said their campus missed the enrollment target by 8 percent, which may mean that approximately $4 million has to be returned to the CSU.

Bradfield said CSUN has the right to expect more from Koester. He said she received a $47,580 raise in 2005, the largest of all CSU presidents, which put her at a yearly salary of $255,020. Bradfield said the universities should pay faculty salaries that not only attracts new teachers, but also retains the quality professors that are here.

Some students took the time to share their perspective on the situation and how it has affected them. Two students held up a sign saying “My stomach is empty, my pockets are empty, but classes are more than full.”

Alvin Henry, sophomore music industry major, one of the students holding the sign, shared his personal experiences from what he said lack of funding has led to for students on campus. He said when professors have too big of a workload it hampers advisement for students, which in turn leads to it taking longer for students to graduate, as it has for Henry’s older brother. He said his brother has been at UC Irvine and CSUN for a combined seven years now.

“I understand where (the teachers) are coming from completely, because I know it makes it harder for them to be motivated coming to class and wanting to teach us when things outside of class is affecting them,” Henry said. “Having to drive to another school just to make some extra money so that they can pay for their homes or their cars or taking care of their families, all those distractions on their mind takes them away from the classrooms and teaching the classes that they love.”

Elizabeth Berry, communication studies professor, said what stood out the most for her during the meeting was “how universally angry and unhappy faculty and students are about the quality of the education,” she said.

“This whole thing needs a shot in the arm and I hope the president can start working on those issues quickly,” Tomasek said.

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