Open Letter to East Bay’s Campus Community

Cody Konno, Contributor

Hello, CSU East Bay Campus Community,

You may have already seen my open letter to the University. Some of you may not know that since then this letter has been purged/redacted/deleted and is no longer accessible. Many people have reached out to echo my sentiments and to express how they wish they could have read the letter in its entirety. Below is the letter that was deleted by Cal State East Bay. Please feel free to share with others in this strong and dedicated community.
When one person can cause this much strife for a powerful institution, what can many do?
Thank you


Dear Campus Community,
I have truly enjoyed my tenure with my department, team, and affiliated partners in the Institute for STEM Education. I am immeasurably grateful for the personal and professional support I received from my colleagues and peers since starting at this institution in 2013. This is why I regret to inform you that I have resigned from my position as Administrative Coordinator of the Institute for STEM Education at California State University, East Bay, and will be transitioning to a new, fully-remote opportunity effective Friday, April 22.
As with my own journey, I have seen how this institution has much room to grow. The disenfranchisement of highly-qualified and highly-committed individuals who are rightfully seeking professional advancement is a reflection of our, often unforgiving, societal culture which rewards callous productivity, rugged individualism, and, ultimately, prioritizes profit over People. I deeply regret that my passion and potential to grow in this role, as well as support the Institute’s future goals, are stunted by a system that does not see value where our supervisors and project partners (who are often inherently better informed about the complexities of our work) consistently do.

This disparity between what a manager sees in their employees, and what the California State University, East Bay system sees, is often so great that it has had direct impacts on this campus’ employees’ attempts to break through their own respective glass ceilings.
A University bottleneck is actively stonewalling personnel growth. What does it say of the East Bay system when a manager can provide numerous, objective examples of the skills, expertise, and initiative that their employees are clearly demonstrating, but their requests for a salary increase or title reclassification are either: met with offers that insult our campus’ talent or their requests are unilaterally denied with little to no constructive feedback, justification, or identifiable guidelines for the decision?
Frequently, employees and managers are told that salaries are intended to be equitable across classifications to promote fairness across the CSU system. However, these intentions inherently suppress collections of classifications at the same, low compensatory thresholds. By design, a fair compensation offer will always appear inequitably high if, in comparison, the rest of the employee body is always kept abysmally low.
How can we build confidence in our systems when a Human Resources representative will not respond until the very last day that is allowed by the CSUEU agreement to follow up on your request? Or when they choose to only have that conversation via telephone to avoid any records of what was discussed; using the lack of a paper trail to change or conveniently forget information? Practices that should signal inefficiency or inability are simply standard operating procedures as seen just in my eight years of experience at this University.
When a department has one, highly-qualified, internal applicant who is then denied to have met the minimum qualifications, thus avoiding the CSUEU-mandated interview, how is this department meant to address rising rates of staff turnover? What if that department is still struggling to fill this position and many others? Managers who are often the most informed to advocate for their department’s needs are given no tools, feedback, or authority to challenge these systemically imbalanced decisions. Inevitably, this results in current employees performing work beyond their job description for compensation below their worth.
Departments and programs are struggling to hire qualified or motivated long-term employees. In part, this is due to restrictive guidelines on personnel advancement, nonexistent negotiation processes, and archaic hiring practices that leave California State University, East Bay ill-equipped to compete with a shifting workforce culture and growing collective of informed workers. This, “take it or leave it,” approach to employee compensation and advancement also does not account for the specialized and/or externally-funded nature of these diverse programs which often have greater flexibility and opportunity to provide competitive offers on behalf of the University than other departments or programs bound by University funds.
In many cases, even our own unified and active CSUEU can attest to how limited their authority is against a system with such a great imbalance of power. Our negotiated agreements include processes that are designed to empower People Operations such as In-Range Progressions, Reclassifications, and Arbitration. Yet, evidently, tools of empowerment, or even simple email follow-up, are rendered ineffective – obstructed by unclear internal practices that allow Human Resources representatives to approve or deny requests with opaque discretion.
While our CSUEU agreements determine salary ranges, they do not determine individual offers. Final decision-making ability is frequently at the whim of a handful of reviewers. This discredits the expertise of many, including managerial staff who are working with tied hands yet often the most qualified to know the details of their team’s accomplishments. Additionally, this does not create a competitive offer or professional culture in comparison to more progressive institutions.
This pattern of power imbalance is a theme that runs throughout the campus system and leaves employees to fend for themselves. In this highly-individualistic culture, employees are expected to advocate for themselves against a system that is often working against them. In a common instance, employees who have been performing complex duties outside of their role for a long period of time, are expected to then convince Human Resources that the work is actually as complex as they describe or forego their hard-earned salary increase or reclassification. Complicated duties are reduced to inaccurate summarizations that demean the skills and services our campus community provides. How does someone advocate for themselves against a system committed to misunderstanding them?
As a first-generation, queer teenager from a low-income Latinx family, starting out in my first professional role, I connected strongly with the committed and diverse body of students on this campus. Yet, like many of them, I was woefully ill-equipped for the learning curve that came with transitioning to the workforce. At 18, I was expected to arbitrate, advocate, and defend myself against a team of Human Resources professionals who practice this culture of profit-over-People for a living. This lack of support and resources innately discourages advancement and is evidence of a culture that is not designed to support employee growth and wellness.
As Ultimately, we cannot expect any Human Resources office to fully understand the detailed complexities of every single program and employee within their jurisdiction. No one will ever be qualified to make an independent decision of that overwhelming nature. This unilateral responsibility to determine the worth of an employee’s time and effort is a disservice to them and to us. The lack of separation of this power, and the lack of significant oversight, mirror the illogical practices of other violent institutions that often are in charge of investigating themselves and, coincidentally, seem to always find themselves not guilty.
A commitment without action is performative at best, manipulation at worst. California State University, East Bay’s distinguished commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion falls short in its own policy and practices in relation to its support of employee professional growth and development. This inherently and disproportionately has impacted the highly-talented but underserved communities who sought professional opportunities at the University. This is systemic violence by all accounts.
What is the cost of consistently telling qualified employees that they are not good enough? That they are not as skilled as they think they are? The cost is immeasurable. Employees are time and time again gaslit by individuals at their own institution on the merit of their qualifications and experience – experience that other institutions are actively seeking and compensating appropriately for. This inherent dishonesty in practice begets imposter syndrome; creating a culture that not only destroys morale but convinces good people that they are not worthy and that they actually are unskilled. Too often, leaving the place you love becomes a necessary act of self-preservation.
In my experience alone, there are clear examples of the lack of transparency and communication, and the unclear or arbitrary internal practices that generate a continuous loss of integral staff and faculty. The loss of employees who have expressed nothing but support for this University and its community, as well as their ambitions to grow, and have clearly demonstrated their expertise is not by accident, it is by design. The significant turnover of valuable employees combined with the practice of overwhelming current employees suggests that our campus systems ultimately do not support the professional growth and wellness of the entire personnel body but rather the bottom line of the institution.

I am disappointed. I am sad. I am not surprised. But more importantly, I am not alone. I know across this campus there are others here who share a journey similar to mine and face similar roadblocks. My time here has been like wading in the safe waters of a surf broken bay; supported by a network of individuals committed to collective success, connected by structures that, at their core, are designed to support the People.
In the past eight years, I have had the absolute pleasure to have grown close to and learned so much from a vast network of passionate and talented campus community members who have shared their own struggles, dreams, and plans for their future and for this University. I am more than confident that this sentiment is shared among a growing population of the campus community who seek restorative justice, not the same pattern of systemic violence perpetrated against the vulnerable.

As I cast out into rougher waters, I am so incredibly grateful to have started this path at California State University, East Bay. Thank you to every single person who let me be a part of your life as I went through this journey. The experiences both professional and personal have been nothing but the perfect foundation for the future ahead of me. I would not trade it for the world.
When our systems fail us. We must look within, at ourselves, but also at how we treat each other. A system is nothing but the People who push the paper. Know your worth and be vocal about it. Everyone in this world deserves so, so much more, and no one will give it to you.
Together, we must take it.

Cody Konno