By Dina Martin
CSU faculty, students and other supporters demonstrate at an entrance at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Just a month after thousands of California State University faculty participated in a first-ever strike on two campuses, faculty and students received another blow when they learned that the midyear triggers in the state budget would result in another $100 million in cuts to CSU, California’s largest public higher education system.
“Our state’s economic problems have taken a terrible toll on all of the services that are critical to a healthy and prosperous state. We believe the time has come for an honest and fair effort to put the state’s fiscal house in order. That effort must include new revenue,” says Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 faculty throughout the CSU system.
The new cuts generated by the state budget trigger as a result of lower-than-projected state revenues occur on top of a $650 million reduction already in place. The additional cuts reduce CSU funding to $2 billion for a total reduction of 27 percent.
Faculty, meanwhile, have become angry enough over the deteriorating financial conditions, the chancellor’s misplaced priorities, and the lack of progress in contract negotiations that they held a historic one-day strike Nov. 17 on two campuses, CSU East Bay and CSU Dominguez Hills.
“The CSU community is tired of seeing the chancellor give huge raises to executives while student fees are hiked, faculty pay is stagnant, class sizes keep growing, and class offerings and faculty jobs are eliminated,” Taiz says.
Beginning in the early morning hours, CSU faculty accompanied by many of their students picketed the entrances of the two campuses, effectively closing down the campuses. Faculty from other campuses in Northern and Southern California arrived by the busload to bolster the numbers. Also providing support were CTA members from nearby chapters as well as CTA Board members and officers.
Borrowing from the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, speakers on both campuses yelled out “Mic check!” as their messages were carried through the crowd.
“Today’s strike is about something very real: a modest pay increase,” CTA Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki told the crowd at a noon rally at Dominguez Hills. “But it is also about so much more. It is about faculty and students standing up for what is right and what is fair, and it is about challenging Chancellor Reed’s priorities.”
AT CSU East Bay, CTA President Dean E. Vogel presented a resolution of support for the strike and told the CFA it had the full backing of 325,000 educators statewide. Civil rights activist and Princeton professor Cornell West arrived later in the afternoon to demonstrate his support for the faculty as well.
Despite the success of the strike, impasse was declared in the negotiations between the CFA and the CSU administrator, leaving the possibility open for more actions in the semester ahead.