On Tuesday, the California State University Board of Trustees approved a budget to be sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for approval in January. The 2007-08 budget requests just over $3 billion in state general fund support and assumes $1.3 billion in student fee revenue and $183 million from reimbursements. Although this totals to just under $4.5 billion, CSU still needs $937 million to catch up from past economic dry years.
Alice Sunshine, communications director of the California Faculty Association, stated that although the board has not voted on raising student fees, if the governor does not provide an extra $54 million, then students’ fees will most likely be increased in January.
Patrick Lenz, Assistant Vice Chancellor of budget development, said last year the governor bought out student fees “probably because it was an election year.” This year, however, California has a $5 billion deficit and the election is over.
In the CSU budget, Lenz says they are asking for $27.6 million more (above the compact) for compensation.
The California Faculty Association, California State University faculty, students and Los Angeles Senator Gloria Romero waited patiently from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. yesterday, before forcing the Board of Trustees to listen by taking over the microphone, the public seating area, any extra space and eventually the members’ seats.
Following the agenda, the board members spent close to two hours discussing foreign exchange student policies before moving to create a committee to further investigate the issue. Board of Trustees Chair Roberta Achtenberg called for a two-minute break before opening up the floor to public comment, but found her seat again after CFA President John Travis took the microphone.
“We have been patient for a long time,” Travis said and added that Romero had been waiting for three hours.
As some board members, CSU presidents, and Chancellor Charles Reed began to stand up and leave, Romero took the floor.
“If they wish to run out and hide, they can, but I’m gonna put my words on record,” Romero said.
As Romero spoke, 23 members of the CFA, including Travis, filed up to the board members and handed out a pledge for them to read and sign, then joined arms and waited while protestors in the public seating area chanted and shouted at the board.
The pledge, according to Romero, was to partner with legislatures to roll back student fees, stop executive perks and negotiate in good faith with the CFA.
“As trustees sat and pretended not to hear, there were over 1,000 students outside,” Romero said. “Don’t ignore those student and faculty voices. Sign the pledge, we can do it together.”
CFA members unfurled a banner that said simply, “Sign the Pledge: lower fees, end of perks, fair contracts now.”
The chancellor, board members and CSU presidents sat uncomfortably, stared stoically and made no move to read or sign the pledges as students and CFA members shouted at them.
“Not one of you is willing to sign it?” a voice in the crowd asked incredulously.
A chant of “shameful” carried around the room.
“You can’t pretend that we’re not here! That the students don’t exist. You take our dollars but not our voice?” another student shouted from the crowd.
A chant of “More classes, lower fees, help our students get degrees,” began and died down into moans and boos as the meeting was adjourned and the members and executives filed out.
CSUN President Jolene Koester sat and watched as the faculty members and students shouted about executive perks. When asked how she felt about the chants, Koester urged people to look at the salaries and perks of comparable universities around the country.
Koester added that as a member of the CSU advisory board, which hears issues from the CFA, she has no say in the contract negotiations.
“I think it’s wonderful that so many people are out here today,” Koester said.
This Executive Transition Program was reformed on Tuesday to read that executive must “perform work,” identify a CSU job they will return to and executives who retire or take jobs elsewhere will not be eligible. This reform will only take effect for those hired after Wednesday, meaning that Chancellor Reed, his top four executives and 17 of CSU’s presidents are exempted from the new rules.
The lawsuit effectively asks that no more executives are paid for leaving their office and that money paid out is given back to CSU. According to Travis’ attorney Glenn Rothner, the 26 defendants have been served and now have the opportunity to respond.
“Sometime next year this should be heard before a court,” Rothner said. “We wouldn’t have filed it if we didn’t believe we’re right.”