My Questions for Chancellor White

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On Monday afternoon, CSU Chancellor Tim White addressed students, faculty, and staff in the New University Union’s multi-purpose room and responded to questions from the audience. Unfortunately, only a few of those lined up to ask questions were able to do so.  As one who didn’t have a chance to speak, I’d like to pose my questions for the Chancellor here in the pages of The Pioneer. I’ll begin with a response to White’s oft-repeated admonition to his audience that “we” must live within our means:

Chancellor White, it takes a lot of nerve for someone making over $430,000 a year, with a free mansion and a car allowance, to tell an audience of students and faculty, who earn perhaps a fifth or even a tenth of your income and who must pay to live in the most expensive housing market in America, that “we” need to live within our means. I’m quite certain, sir, that everyone in this audience would find it pretty simple to live within your means, but my question to you is, could you survive within the means the institution that you lead provides to us? I suspect not.

Of course, you are correct when you blame this situation largely on Sacramento’s quarter-century or more of disinvesting in higher education. Yes, our political leaders have failed the CSU (and the UC) miserably. But my question is, what are you doing about it? I’m now retired, but I taught at CSUEB for over 25 years, won both the Outstanding Professor and Sue Schaefer Service Awards, served three separate terms as chair of the Academic Senate, 15 years on the Senate Executive Committee, nine years on the system Academic Senate and nine years as a department chair, and never once did I witness a single trustee, Chancellor or other top administrator forcefully demand from the state the level of funding actually required to fulfill the CSU’s responsibilities under the Master Plan. Instead, I’ve seen an ugly parade of woefully inadequate budget requests occasionally masquerading as bold initiatives, several failed “compacts” with multiple governors and now today, from you, word of some sort of four-year starvation plan of which you seem inexplicably proud. No, rather than fighting for us, the alleged “leaders” of the CSU have regularly bombarded faculty, staff and students with resigned exhortations to accept public disinvestment as a “new normal” and repulsively cynical calls from the wealthy to “live within our means,” even as you dishonestly claim to preserve “quality.”

Until you and the trustees actually begin to demand and fight for the funding necessary to run a proper university system of this size, don’t come to us with crocodile tears about the skinflints in the state capital.

And, given the low level of state funding you’ve managed to obtain, can we address how you’re spending that money? My question is, given that funding has decreased, how do you explain the continued growth in the numbers and salaries of top system managers? Since 2005, CSU expenditure on managers and supervisors rose by 48 percent, but expenditures on faculty by only 25 percent. Perhaps you haven’t noticed that when a CSU campus president or other top administrator departs from the university the replacement hire is just about always offered a salary no less than that earned by the person being replaced, and sometimes they are rewarded with near-instant raises far beyond any available to less privileged employees. President Morishita, for instance, received a 10% raise just six months after he was hired, without a competitive search, I might add. In all my years here I never received a raise of such magnitude.

By contrast, when a faculty member departs, a full-time replacement is only hired when at least one or two others in the same department have left as well. And then, do you really think the new hire is offered a salary equivalent to or above that of the person being replaced? Of course not. New hires start at the bottom and work their way up. Only administrators get to start at the top and keep rising.

In short, Chancellor White, I it seems you just don’t get it. The CSU can readily afford the inordinately modest 5 percent salary increase your faculty seeks, even without dipping into your $2 billion in reserves that you conveniently failed to mention. As a retired professor I have no skin in this game, but I can promise you that I will still be there on the picket lines in April with my former colleagues and so will the national organization that I help lead, the American Association of University Professors. My final question to you is, where will you be?

By Henry Reichman, Professor Emeritus of History at CSUEB and serves as First Vice-President of the American Association of University Professors.