CSU Faculty Furloughs

In response to the California budget crisis, CSU faculty voted to accept furloughs this academic year that would result in about a 10% cut to our pay. As expected, the CSU administration has failed to demonstrate that our furloughs have actually saved jobs. In fact, from what we've heard, next semester there will be even more layoffs, and the administration is talking yet again about raising tuition. From my vantage point, it looks like furloughs have not accomplished the goal of saving faculty and classes.

These furloughs have, however, changed my relationship with my job.

First, a confession. I'm a (recovering?) workaholic. For my first three years of work at Fresno State, I had the equivalent of a course overload every semester so that I could work with a tutoring center at a local public school. In my years at Fresno State, I've frequently sacrificed a personal life in order to work hard for the good of my students and my institution. I've volunteered to be on many committees and to serve in leadership positions. I've done workshops at local schools and districts, most of the time not receiving any payment except the satisfaction of knowing that I'm helping schools, teachers, and students (which is a great reward in my book). My philosophy has been that I can fit it in if I really care about it.

When we submitted our furlough plans (we were allowed to choose some of the days we would be on furlough), we also committed not to work on those days. For the first time in my academic career, I've had work-free days . . . because, yes, I have almost always worked on weekends. I'm still adjusting to this concept since furloughs happen in the midst of a busy work week. But I'm also learning to fill those days with socializing, yard/house work, my own personal projects, and exploration of new terrains and interests.

The result has been a surprise to me. Finally, I actually feel like I have a satisfying balance between a personal life and work. Moreover, furloughs have made me rethink what I do on weekends. I know I can't have my weekends be completely work-free, but I'm going to do my best to at least avoid grading on the weekends. And I'm feeling much less guilty about weekend time spent on things other that work. I think the furlough system is curing me of my workaholic ways--and many of my colleagues are experiencing something very similar.

Furloughs aren't fair to students who are paying higher and higher tuition, only to be forced to stay in school longer because they can't get into the classes they need. They aren't fair to faculty who have devoted their working lives to providing a good education and working for the good of the university. I will continue to spend 90% of my working life doing the best job that I possibly can. But for the 10% that constitutes my furlough days? The doctor is out.

2 thoughts on “CSU Faculty Furloughs

  1. JT

    Since the states finances have gone down the toilet, tuition at the CSU and UC schools have gone up a whopping 30%. At the same time, there has been a cut in "non-essential" staff, and forced furloughs amounting to a 10% pay cut to existing teaching staff, along with a 10% cut in their teaching responsibilities. Keep that figure in mind; professors are now teaching their students 10% less. Now let's talk about 2010. From a recent meeting with the CSUB President and the ASB there will be more cuts. They are talking about non-tenured professors. They are also talking about increasing fees (again). And while I haven't heard anything about additional furloughs yet, it wouldn't surprise me to see them increased as well.
    So let's sum up what we know. Fee's have gone up 30%+ and will likely go up again in 2010. Non-essential personnel have been cut, professors have been forced to take furloughs amounting to a 10% cut in pay, and students are receiving 10% less instruction (for a 30% increase in fees). Now let's extend what's happened in 2009 into 2010 and see what we can predict things will look like. Fees will increase 10% (a conservative guess). Non-tenured teaching staff will be cut by (let's be conservative here) 10%. Existing teaching staff will take another 10% cut in pay by increasing furlough days (again, I'm trying to be conservative).
    What does all of this mean to me as a student? I'll be paying 40% more for my masters degree than I would have just 5 years ago. For that additional 40%, I'll be receiving approximately 20% less of an education.
    Assuming I can still graduate on time (reduced staff means they will either have to increase class size, cut the number of classes, or some combination of both) I will be receiving a degree that is "devalued" by 20%, for 40% more.
    When I go to apply for a job and my employer asks, "Where did you graduate from?" and I tell them either a CSU or UC school, I'll immediately fall to the end of the line as my degree will be worth 20% less (remember, I received 20% less classroom instruction because my professors were furloughed, or the non-tenured ones were laid off).
    What an enviable place to be. I will have worked my backside off, maintained my 3.0 GPA to remain in my masters program, completed all of my courses, fulfilled all of my 960 hours of field work, only to find myself at the end of the line for every job I apply for because I have 20% less of an education because my state can't manage to balance its' budget and fund education.
    Needless to say, when I graduate, and I will graduate, I will be leaving California as have so many of the educated and highly educated. Jobs that need highly skilled, educated people in California will go unfilled. Companies that need those highly skilled workers will find themselves relocating to areas that can supply them with the workforce they require. Since California can't manage itself, it will find itself being managed. The gold rush for the Golden State has ended. There is no gold here, no silver, not even any lead. If you aren't here, don't bother coming. If you're here now, take a hard look at your reasons for staying, because your employer certainly is.

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  2. Kathee

    JT, thanks so much for your passionate and intelligent response. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that CSU and UC graduates find themselves less marketable because of the reduction in instruction--but I'm glad you brought that to my attention. I hope you are involved in some of the demonstrations that have been happening at CSU's. The administration and the state government need to know about our collective frustration about what's happening. . . . as do the general citizens of California. The state needs to invest in its future by providing complete funding for higher education!

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