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.