A $1 million budget that was originally allocated for faculty recruitment this year by CSUN President Jolene Koester was instead used for upgrading a series of computer labs on campus throughout the year, according to administration officials.
“The reason for that is most of the ($1 million) would otherwise go for faculty salaries,” said John Chandler, CSUN spokesperson. “But when you’re recruiting people, they aren’t on payroll yet, so we’re not spending that money yet.”
Typically, the faculty hiring process takes about a year, from the initial recruiting to the application process. The hiring time is considerable, but the university is committed to hiring the best faculty they can find, Chandler said.
Every year the Academic Affairs Department is given a budget to hire additional faculty by the university.
Last August, in her sixth annual convocation address, Koester made a commitment to add an extra $1 million to that budget.
The actual number of new tenure-track hires for fall 2005 was 19, said Diane Stephens, director of academic resources.
None of those hires, however, came from the extra money Koester allocated for faculty recruitment.
Instead, the funds were used during the 2005-06 school year for computer lab upgrades and classroom technology improvements, Stephens said. She said that next year the there will be an additional $1 million dollars available for recruiting new faculty.
Because they did not have to spend the $1 million on new salaries, the university made the decision to use the funds on new technology, Chandler said.
“The expenditures in the first year for the computer labs were done on something that was basically a one-time expenditure,” Chandler said. “The ability to buy a bunch of new computers and install new technology in the labs is a high priority for the university.”
Others see things differently, however, and believe CSUN could have focused on allocating the $1 million to other priorities.
“It seems that the priority could have been to add additional classes,” said Dave Ballard, president of the Northridge Chapter of the California Faculty Association. “If it had been made the priority, they could have found a way to use the one million to bring in more temporary faculty and add classes this year.”
The university hopes to recruit up to 63 faculty members for fall 2006, Stephens said.
Although the exact number of temporary faculty members hired this past year was not disclosed, Stephens said CSUN hires temporary faculty every year for a variety of reasons, some of which are to cover additional sections of courses that are in high demand.
Adding part-time faculty members was not seen as an appropriate solution for the university. Additional part-time faculty members this year would not be in the budget for next year, Chandler said.
Some said having the additional lectures now would not only benefit students, but faculty as well.
“The workload at CSU doesn’t compare to other schools,” Ballard said. “Tenure-track faculty members are responsible for advising students and are often involved with the curriculum. There’s an intense workload, and the salary structure and cost of living is more difficult than years past.”
The demand for more faculty and classes is something administrators said they are addressing.
“The hiring process for tenure-track takes a year. Meanwhile we filled labs and hired temporary faculty while the searches go on,” said Harold Hellenbrand, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, via e-mail.
Others don’t see those efforts, however, as being enough to meet current class needs. Some students expressed frustration at the lack of a sufficient number of classes.
“This semester, because two out of the four classes I needed were full, I have to take classes that I don’t need, just to carry a full load so I don’t lose my financial aid,” said Vanessa Vasquez, undeclared sophomore. “There just aren’t enough classes for all the students. I think that’s why some people take so long to graduate, they don’t offer enough classes.”
Ballard said the administration’s decision sends the wrong message.
“It is a matter of priority,” Ballard said. “If the priority is our students, and getting them to graduate faster or at least on time, then the university could have found a way to have added more classes this year.”
Several administrators said their decision was timely and justified.
“We are looking for several dozen new positions across all the colleges,” Hellenbrand said. “We have increased the allotment of dollars for the salaries of each position. And, in the case of the sciences, we provided a sizable pool for start-up funds, so hires can continue technical research here. We (also) hired temporary faculty and replaced equipment.
“We were asked to fill in ‘x’ number of needs this year while we ran the process to hire full time tenure-track for next year,” Hellenbrand said. “So, the funds were spent as directed. I wish it were possible to get the money on a Monday and have new tenure track faculty here Tuesday. But it is not.”
Ultimately, a combination of being able to upgrade computer labs and provide students with something that they want is the reason why the university chose to use the money on the labs this year, Chandler said.
“It’s a decision of priority,” Ballard said. “Although computer labs are nice and students might appreciate them, the budget could have been put to better use if the priority had been to fill class needs. Another computer lab isn’t going to change things. Adding classes that students need will.”
The $1 million commitment made by President Koester will still be honored, Chandler said.
“That was an ongoing budget commitment the president made, so it wasn’t a one-time commitment, it was a recurring commitment made for faculty recruitment,” he said. “For the first year we didn’t have to spend that money, by (and) large, on salaries, but for the second year and thereafter then of course we will.”
The search for new faculty members has been satisfactory, with the university receiving several acceptances for positions across the different colleges, said Hellenbrand.
A projected 50-60 new faculty members should be arriving Fall 2006, Hellenbrand said, adding that the actual number of new faculty members will depend on the salaries that the deans are able to negotiate with the hires.
That could come as relief to the existing professors teaching this year.
Ballard said many faculty members might not have even been aware that there was an extra $1 million for faculty recruitment and that it might have been used this year for additional temporary faculty and classes, Ballard said.
“It’s like an ad on TV; it gets lost in the noise,” Ballard said, regarding the likelihood that faculty members were aware of the administration’s decision to use the money for computer lab upgrades across the campus.
“It’s hard to see the problems that may arise,” he said. “It’s like peeling an onion, and getting to the core, and in this case it means we didn’t get new classes. (Administrators} see things differently.”
Sandy Archila can be reached at email@example.com.