Thursday, March 5, 2015

CSU- Ivy League Talent; Bush League Wages

by Seth Sandronsky 
The good news for the professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches employed by California’s State University system is that their salaries stand out from those paid to them in the years 2004-13. The bad news is why they do. The “why” is to be found in a research report titled Race to the Bottom: CSU’s 10-Year Failure to Fund Its Core Mission, which the California Faculty Association (CFA) produced collaboratively with state university faculty members, and released on Tuesday. In it, the 23,000-member union faults administrators of the 23-campus system for allowing faculty salaries to stagnate over the past decade. (Disclosure: The CFA is a financial supporter of Capital & Main.)
“We hold all the 23 CSU campus presidents accountable for the current state of affairs as well as the system leadership,” Lillian Taiz, CFA president, told Capital & Main by phone. “When faculty are hired onto a campus, it is the campus president who sets the tone for salaries.”
The CFA report is the first of four Race to the Bottom papers that, according to the union, “analyze the impact of California State University administration’s priorities and decisions on CSU faculty, students and public higher education.” Tuesday’s report, in part, compares faculty pay over 2004-13 between the state’s higher education systems.

Consider this data, culled from government and private sources:
“Over the past 10 years, while the average CSU faculty salary on every campus lost purchasing power, the average University of California faculty salary on each U.C. campus increased in real dollars,” according to the CFA report. Further, at California community colleges, “a comparison of tenure-track salaries in the two systems shows similar results to those of the U.C. Only 28 of the 72 community college districts had a reduction in their average tenure-line faculty salary that was as bad as that at every CSU campus.”
When CSU campus presidents pursue spending policies that lowball faculty salaries, the local impacts are widespread, according to Taiz – an opinion confirmed by Kevin Wehr, a sociology professor at Sacramento State and its current CFA chapter president.
Before the Great Recession Wehr organized junior faculty members on campus to oppose a so-called “experience penalty.” That is, their pay was lower than the salaries of new faculty hires under Alexander Gonzalez, then the Sac State president who oversaw that hiring practice.
“The president of CSU Sacramento has had the ability to address low faculty pay and specific cases of salary inversion and compression for more than five years,” Wehr said in an email. “He has the money, but has chosen to use it for other priorities — not the problem of low and unequal faculty salaries, which has caused an inability to attract and retain great faculty, and has contributed to low morale on campus.”
Furthermore, some faculty work longer instructional hours to compensate for their stagnant pay. This situation of increasing work time can and does cut the hours faculty require for research (e.g., reading and writing in order to upgrade courses), said Darel Engen, an associate professor of world and ancient history at CSU San Marcos, during a CFA-organized Tuesday telephone news conference. As a result, students’ learning conditions suffer.
The failure of wages to keep up with consumer prices such as rent has pinched faculty, notably those who live and work in and near urban coastal areas, where real estate inflation is higher versus that of inland communities.
According to a March 3 CSU statement, “As soon as the state began to re-invest in the CSU in 2013-14, the university made increasing staff salaries a top priority. The system remains firmly committed to increasing employee compensation as funding is restored.”
However, the flatlining of CFA faculty pay spans the years before, during and after the Great Recession, the nation’s worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Laurie Weidner, a spokeswoman for the CSU Chancellor’s office, confirmed to Capital & Main that the 2008-09 recession did slow tax revenue to the system. She was, however, unable to explain the trend of stagnant faculty pay from 2004-07.
Flat pay from 2004-13 for CFA faculty fits into a broader national story of labor, both in and out of unions, losing economic ground. A case in point is a 35-year trend of wage stagnation in the U.S. economy, according to Elise Gould, a labor economist with the Economic Policy Institute, based in Washington D.C.
“Since 1979,” Gould recently wrote, “the vast majority of American workers have seen their hourly wages stagnate or decline.”
The CFA’s second report in its series is due out March 24.
Reposted from Capital & Main. 

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