Professors to receive $6 million in backpay

summer Sundial

The California State University is months away from dispersing more than $6 million in backpay to professors who are owed money for improper compensation during three summer academic terms.

An arbitration decision handed down by Arbitrator Andria Knapp in September 2003 directed the CSU to issue a financial award in remedy to professors who the California Faculty Association claimed were not properly compensated for their work during the Summer 2001, 2002 and 2003 academic terms. Ongoing arbitration and disagreement between the two parties on specific elements of the final agreement have delayed the final payments.

CFA officials said thousands of CSU professors are affected. According to CSUN Academic Resources and Planning, the university will pay back between $2.7 million and $3 million to what Faculty Affairs estimates is close to 600 CSUN professors.

The backpay is rooted in what the CFA claimed was a case of the CSU not paying professors the appropriate salary for work completed during three summer terms. The CFA contested that professors who taught during those terms were not paid using correct models of salary determination. Knapp eventually agreed that the professors in question should have been paid using the “1/30 compensation rule,” which assigns every unit taught in the summer the same weight as a unit taught during the regular academic year.

Additionally, tenured faculty members who were teaching during those three summer terms are eligible for compensation for any indirect instructional activity they completed. This type of activity, which Penny Jennings, associate vice president for Faculty Affairs, said is easier to “define as what it isn’t instead of what it is,” includes the advisement of students not normally advised by those professors during the fall and spring semesters.

These professors are eligible to receive $100 for each unit taught during that time. CSUN professors who want to be considered for backpay for this reason need to file the proper documentation with the university by June 30.

CSUN administration and Faculty Affairs will spend the remainder of the summer determining which faculty members are eligible for backpay and in what amount.

CSUN is required by the arbitration decision to make a one-time, lump-sum payment to those individuals no later than Sept. 30, two years after the initial arbitration decision.

Diane Stephens, director of academic budget management at CSUN, said indirect instructional activity claims could produce an estimated $250,000 in additional backpay.

Michael Reagan, president of the CSUN chapter of the CFA, attributed the “slowness” of the payment delivery to what he defines as “typical” CSU operating procedure.

“This is just the way (the CSU) does business,” Reagan said. “It just takes them forever.”

Reagan said the CFA had to go back to the arbitrator a couple of times and that the “slowness” is not unlike other instances of both the CSU and CSUN taking too long to deal with other union matters, such as grievances.

CSUN’s financial obligations in terms of backpay involve the school’s unfinished transition into full Year-Round Operations during Summer 2001, 2002 and 2003, which had the CSU still funneling “buy-down” money into the university in a system-wide attempt to reduce the cost of summer classes for matriculated — fully admitted or regular term — students. CSUN’s “buy-down campus” status is one factor that both Jennings and the CSUN chapter of the CFA said contributed to the discrepancy in teacher pay.

“We did not see ourselves as a YRO campus,” Jennings said. “We saw ourselves as a buy-down (campus).”

Because CSUN still considered itself a buy-down campus operating a summer term, Jennings said the university did not realize its actual YRO status, and therefore did not pay professors according to the 1/30 compensation rule. Instead, the administration assigned wages for summer term using a “special” summer schedule.

“Why would teaching in the summer mean less pay?” said Alice Sunshine, communications director for the CFA.

This was the disagreement brought to Knapp, who eventually ruled in CFA’s favor, according to a statement by Edward Purcell, CFA director of representation. Following a March 2004 supplemental decision by Knapp, campuses like CSUN — “modified YRO campuses” — were notified that they would be responsible for backpay remedies for not following the 1/30 compensation rule.

CSUN restricted spending during 2004-05 in anticipation of the final arbitration decision, and individual colleges were asked to review their available funds to be prepared, according to Stephens.

Using what Stephens described as an “all-fund approach” for coming up with the total amount needed for backpay, the money will be drawn from several different areas of the university, including individual colleges.

The larger financial implications of the arbitration remedy are partly determined by another disagreement between the CFA and the CSU over the current economic state of the CSU.

Following Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised 2005-06 state budget, which was sent to the California Legislature May 13, the CSU has publicly characterized its economic state as more positive than the CFA has, citing a total CSU budget increase of $212 million as just one example of recent positive growth.

The CFA has been public with its concern that the revised CSU budget is largely insufficient to support the state’s higher education goals. In another statement from the CFA, an editorial comment from Purcell said “the arbitrator’s ruling in the YRO case is going to cost (the) CSU a substantial amount of money and administrative time at a period when, arguably, it is least able to accommodate those demands.”

Purcell also reinforced the CFA’s position that the snowballing effect of faculty backpay “didn’t have to happen this way,” and that the total payment could have been diffused over a period of three years had the compensation problem been addressed earlier.

In what a CFA statement described as an attempt by both parties to avoid further litigation with Summer 2005 YRO campuses, a Memorandum of Understanding was issued prior to the beginning of the summer. The MOU established new provisions that address the issues of the first arbitration and concerns over future faculty hiring and payment plans.

Under the MOU, the 1/30 compensation rule must be followed in future YRO terms at CSU campuses. Additionally, at least 43 percent of all faculty hired for summer YRO terms must be tenured or tenure-track professors.

Jennings said CSUN is on target to meet that figure, and she noted that the final figure, once all hiring is completed, is likely to be in the 60 percent range.