Furlough Firestorm: Effects linger beyond class cancellations

By Amy Salisbury: Editor in Chief

Students and faculty alike felt the brunt of the statewide furloughs affecting our campus during the last academic year. The question on the lips of many is whether furloughs will continue this year and cause further class cancellations and forced faculty pay decreases.

The answer is no, for now at least. Although Governor Schwarzenegger signed an executive order for state employees to take three furloughs a month in July 2010, Cal State employees will not be subject to this order.

The furlough mandate comes as a response to the state’s remaining budget deficit of $19 billion, warning that funds could deplete as early as October, according to Cal State Public Affairs.

Chancellor Charles B. Reed said in a news release to the California State University system, “Our employee furloughs ended June 30 and were part of an overall plan to address the massive budget cuts of the past two years.

“While the CSU is not required to reinstitute furloughs, we will continue efforts to cooperate with the state’s effort to minimize the impact on the state general funds,” said Reed.

Chancellor Reed’s statement does not address, however, the general tone of Cal State faculty toward the idea of continuing the furlough process.

Dr. Don Barrett, a Sociology professor here at Cal State San Marcos, presides as the President of the San Marcos chapter of the California Faculty Association.

“Since CSU faculty throughout the state would have had to vote to agree to a furlough, the general assumption has been that faculty would have not agreed to it.”

Dr. Barrett, along with many professors here at CSUSM, felt that furloughing professors was not only unfair, but also counterintuitive.

“…Pay raises that were promised in our 2005 contract have not been paid and the furlough was clearly not a reduction in work but just a cut in pay, so faculty do not seem to be willing to go through furloughing again…Furloughing simply doesn’t work for faculty.”

Dr. Marie Thomas, the Vice President of CFA on campus and a Psychology professor, said that furloughs went beyond salaries to affect a professor’s ability in the classroom.

“As much as I tried to provide students with a positive experience in class, I felt that the furloughs caused me to fall short of my goals.”

Dr. Thomas said that the faculty morale would suffer severely as it had in the past academic year if furloughs ever returned.

“The uncertainty of the budget situation; the difficulty that some faculty had paying their bills because of the reduction in pay; the stress of ‘not working’ on furlough days, knowing that the work would still be there the next day—all of these things contributed to a decline in faculty morale.

“And when faculty morale is negatively affected, it can’t help but affect students!” said Dr. Thomas.

Dr. Barrett and the CFA urge students to vote on the issues that affect them and their education within the state of California. Since the state remains without a budget, it is imperative, according to Dr. Barrett, that students understand drastic cuts will begin in Spring 2011 and beyond if no budget appears soon.

“[The CFA] feel it essential to make sure the voting population understands the issues and gets out to vote in the November election, and have plans for activities along those lines.  If the legislature is aware that demand for services is going to affect their ability to be elected in November, then hopefully they’ll act now.”

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California