CSUSM faculty demonstrate for higher salaries

CSUSM faculty demonstrate for higher salaries
Ann Fiegen, right, a business librarian at Cal State University San Marcos talks with a student during a noontime demonstration to help generate support for a faculty salary increase. Photo by Tony Cagala

SAN MARCOS — Cal State San Marcos faculty members staged a noontime rally on campus Tuesday to generate support for a 5 percent raise for full-time faculty throughout the California State University system.

The rally is occurring amid a vote being taken statewide by members of the California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 full-time professors and teachers that would authorize a strike if the CSU Chancellor Timothy White does not grant teachers’ demands for the raise. White’s office has offered a 2 percent salary increase, which has been rejected by the faculty union.

The two sides have declared an impasse and have entered into a “fact-finding” phase governed by three neutral arbiters. If a salary agreement can’t be reached following the conclusion of the fact-finding phase, the faculty could authorize a strike.

Union leadership said that the state university’s teachers have had one raise since 2007 — a 1.6 percent salary increase in 2014 — and as a result, many teachers find themselves working multiple jobs and taking other measures to stay financially afloat, which takes away from the time they can spend focusing on their students.

Of the 23,000 union members statewide, the majority — about 13,000 — make under $40,000 annually, according to faculty association statistics.

“The misnomer is that professors make a lot of money,” said Darel Engen, a history professor and president of the Cal State San Marcos chapter of the faculty association. “Our teachers have basically gone eight years without a meaningful increase and they can’t afford to go longer without one.”

The cost for a 5 percent raise for faculty system wide – about $63 million – could be covered without raising student fees, Engen said.

“The Governor (Jerry Brown) just added $97 million to the budget for the CSU system; the money is there,” Engen said. “Faculty sacrificed a lot during the hard times, and now that times are good, we are just asking for our fair share.”

Darel Engen, a history professor and president of the Cal State San Marcos chapter of the faculty association, explains why faculty members are seeking a 5 percent salary increase. Photo by Tony Cagala

Darel Engen, a history professor and president of the Cal State San Marcos chapter of the faculty association, explains why faculty members are seeking a 5 percent salary increase. Photo by Tony Cagala

Faculty members donned bright-red shirts emblazoned with the message “I don’t want to strike, But I will” and spoke to the fluctuating crowd of students and passersby about some of the sacrifices the school’s faculty made during the recession, including forfeiting most of an 11 percent salary increase that was approved just before the recession began.

“Striking is the very last thing I want to do,” said Alyssa Sepinwall, a decorated history professor who spoke during the rally. “But the way the CSU system has treated faculty over the last 10 years is not right. Faculty salaries have remained flat, and their purchasing power has declined.

“We believe in public education…but we shouldn’t have to do this at the cost of feeding our families,” Sepinwall said.

Faculty members also called for a closing of the pay gap between teachers and administrators, which they said has become even more disparate since the recession.

Among the visual illustrations used at the rally were large photos of several high-ranking administrators, including CSUSM President Karen Haynes, juxtaposed to smaller photos of professors. The size represented the salaries of the respective administrators and teachers.

“How many students have been inspired…by an administrator,” Engen said. “We are the people that students see, and the ones who inspire them to work in their respective fields.”

David Avalos, a professor of visual arts at Cal State San Marcos, casts his ballot during a strike authorization vote on Tuesday. Photo by Tony Cagala

David Avalos, a professor of visual arts at Cal State San Marcos, casts his ballot during a strike authorization vote on Tuesday. Photo by Tony Cagala

Several students on hand agreed with their professors’ takes on the situation, calling the gap in pay between administrators and teachers too high.

Emily Ramirez, a senior history major, said she has heard anecdotes of teachers having to work at multiple college campuses and are unable to have regular office hours because they are constantly on the run from one job to the next.

“I understand if you want to structure the school system like a business, the managers will make more, but it doesn’t have to be as much as they are making right now,” Ramirez said. “Our education is at hand when they are not getting paid, and I think that sums it up.”

The faculty strike vote will conclude Oct. 28.

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