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Letter to the Editor: “We don’t want to strike, but we will”: Why Your Professors Are Ready to Strike

Darel Engen, PhD, Associate Professor, History Department

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The faculty of the CSU, including Cal State San Marcos, plan to go on strike for five days on April 13-­15 and 18-­19 if we not obtain a 5% raise by that time. We don’t want to go on strike, but we will, and here’s why.

Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, and you can’t put students first if you put faculty last. CSU faculty have been put last for ten years now, making it increasingly difficult for faculty not only to provide a quality education for their students but also simply to make a living and pay their bills. CSU faculty earn an abysmally low $45,000 per year on average, largely because two thirds of the faculty are non­-tenured Lecturers who receive even lower pay than tenured faculty. Moreover, CSU faculty have not received a significant general salary increase for ten years. We’ve actually lost money over that time, since a promised 11% raise in 2006 was cancelled and a 9.3% furlough pay cut was instituted in 2009. So, faculty aren’t really asking for a raise but rather just a partial recovery of what we’ve lost. Whereas faculty in the University of California, California Community College, and K-­12 systems have all received raises over the last ten years that have kept pace with inflation, only CSU faculty have not. Under these conditions, many faculty have had to take on additional employment just to make ends meet, which reduces the time they have for preparing courses, grading papers, holding office hours, answering student emails, and undertaking scholarly research. Faculty have been negotiating with the Chancellor’s Office for two years now to try to get a 5% raise but with no success. A strike is our final hope. We don’t want to do it, but we must, and we will.

It must also be stressed that a 5% raise for faculty need not be paid for by increased student fees. There is no direct connection between faculty salaries and student fees. While faculty salaries were flat over the last decade, student fees increased by over 134%. Where did that money go? Not to the faculty. However, the salaries of campus presidents increased by 36% over that same time. Moreover, the $5 billion budget for the CSU has been increased by an additional $216 million this year. The Chancellor has said that a 5% raise to all faculty could cost as much as $143 million. Assuming this rather high estimate is true, you can see that it’s still more than covered by just the budget increase for this year alone. There is simply no need to raise student fees in order to give faculty a 5% raise. The money is there already—the Chancellor simply does not prioritize faculty and the work we do to teach our students.

We’re sorry the Chancellor’s stubbornness has forced us to strike in order to get this small 5% raise/recovery. Professors hate for students to miss class time, but it’s necessary in order for us to be able to pay our bills and continue to provide quality education for our students. This is why faculty are ready to go on strike, and we hope that you, the students, will support our action. At the very least, please honor the strike by not going to your classes on the strike days, and if you want to do more, please write to Chancellor Timothy White at [email protected] to tell him that you support the faculty, and please also join us on the picket lines, if you can. Contact the leaders of Students for a Quality Education, Karen Guzman at [email protected] Emilee Ramirez at [email protected], for more information.

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The independent student news site of California State University San Marcos
Letter to the Editor: “We don’t want to strike, but we will”: Why Your Professors Are Ready to Strike