INSIDE Chico State
0 November 6, 2001
Volume 32 Number 6
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Signs Ahead …

Paul Persons

photo: Jeff Teeter

I have always enjoyed odd road signs: “Men Working in Trees,” “Open Range Watch for Cattle,” “Slow Children,” and “Shoulder Work Ahead” —which I have been tempted to have reproduced for my orthopedic surgeon.

The Statewide Academic Senate has prepared and adopted a report titled “The California State University at the Beginning of the 21st Century: Meeting the Needs of the People of California.” The report makes three recommendations requiring legislative action and nine additional recommendations. The first three recommendations ask that faculty be provided the opportunity to devote one-fifth of their assigned workload to research, scholarship, and creative activity; that current budget formulae be revised to restore and enhance the quality of education and encourage new program development; and that CSU campuses be authorized and funded to offer the Ed.D.

The other nine recommendations ask for lower student/faculty ratios, increased staffing levels, increased salaries and benefits for faculty and staff to reach competitive levels, adequate resources to recruit and hire additional tenure-track faculty and reduce the teaching load to a maximum three-fifths of the total work load, completion of deferred maintenance, modernization of classrooms, and the upgrading of physical plants. The report provides a historical analysis and referenced support for each of the recommendations, and recognizes the importance of the CSU in powering California’s economy and providing the educated citizenry vital to a democratic society.

I think it fair to state that the vast majority of faculty at CSU, Chico would agree with most, if not all, of the recommendations. However, my financial crystal ball predicts hard times in California, at least for the next couple of years. The state may have a deficit of $8–9 billion next year with a substantial energy contract to service over the next 30 years (unless FERC requires that the contracts be renegotiated). It is not likely that taxes will be greatly increased in an election year, which leaves spending reductions as the major budget-balancing tool. State agencies have already been asked to prepare for significant budget cuts. The possibility of a hiring freeze looms. Is this the early 1990s all over again?

Is it possible to accomplish the Statewide Academic Senate’s recommendations without additional funding? With careful planning and appropriate priorities, I think it is possible. The CSU prides itself on being accessible, affordable, and providing a high-quality education. To provide access to a growing population of students, we will need more faculty, staff, buildings, and classrooms. This will take additional funds. Maintaining affordability currently translates as no increased student fees. If student fees are not likely to provide additional revenue, faculty and staff will once again be asked to “power up,” to do more with the same or less financial support.

That means that student/faculty ratios will likely go up. It is also likely that faculty will be called upon to teach more courses, especially if enrollment is allowed to increase and there is a reduction or freeze on hiring.

As the campus looks ahead, I believe we should not increase enrollments without first serving the students we already have. Many students complain that they cannot get the courses they need to graduate.

If we want educational quality at a time of reduced state financial support, we should be reducing, not increasing, the number of students. Chico is currently planning to increase student enrollment from the target of 14,250 FTES for 2001/2002 (actual FTES for fall 2001 was more than 14,800, although it will go down to 14,350 next year) to 14,350 FTES for 2002/2003 and 14,450 for 2003/2004. The university needs the revenue, with current funding based on the number of students, to meet budget goals, including funding the Common Management System and justifying renovations and/or construction of new buildings.

It is all quite complicated, based on budget formulae that are antiquated and unsuited for an old campus that needs extensive renovations. It is also quite simple. If you have the same number of faculty and staff, and you are serving more students, faculty and staff will have to work harder. You will either teach larger classes or more classes.

I remind everyone that “providing educational excellence in a teaching-centered collegiate institution” is a top priority. The faculty, staff, and administration have all worked very hard to build and create the excellent reputation CSU, Chico enjoys.

I suggest that we not increase our enrollment until all students can get the courses they need, faculty workloads can be reduced, all faculty have suitable offices space, students have the recreation space they need, student-parents have child care, new faculty and staff are hired as needed, and deferred maintenance is performed and/or new buildings, especially the Student Services Center, is built.

I’m afraid the signs ahead read: “No Parking,” “Recreation Fields Closed,” “Class Full” and “Caution: Budget Crisis Ahead.”

Paul Persons, chair, Academic Senate

 

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