Cal State faculty rally for higher salaries, trustees seek more state funding

Faculty members protested the CSU trustees meeting in downtown Long Beach Tuesday as part of an effort to get a salary increase.
Faculty members protested the CSU trustees meeting in downtown Long Beach Tuesday as part of an effort to get a salary increase.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

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The battle over salaries between California State University and its faculty intensified Tuesday in Long Beach when hundreds of faculty from 23 campuses protested the university’s latest pay proposal.

The rally came as the trustees agreed to ask for millions more in state funds to support student enrollment and other university needs, but not for salary increases at the level the faculty seeks.

On Wednesday, that debate may sharpen further when the trustees take up a proposal to lift the cap off campus presidents' salaries, a move that the university says is needed to attract and keep top talent. 

The university is offering faculty a 2 percent raise, which Cal State said is what other employees are getting. That’s not enough, said Dona Nichols, who teaches communications at San Jose State.

“I can’t afford to send my children to the same school where I teach," she said. “I have three kids in community college right now because I can’t afford to pay the [Cal State] tuition, which has skyrocketed.”

The faculty union has demanded a 5 percent increase, arguing that it is in line with raises at other public institutions. The gap between the two sides is $68.9 million, according to the Cal State Chancellor's Office. 

The union represents 26,000 faculty members and recently voted to authorize a strike if contract negotiations fail. 

In the first day of its two-day meeting, the trustees approved the university's request to seek $103 million dollars more in state funds than lawmakers had promised the university in the next fiscal year. 

Dorothy Wills, union chair and an anthropology professor at Cal Poly Pomona, worries that salaries are falling behind other universities. She said that she's been teaching at the university since the 1980s, and that a 1.6 percent raise last year was the first pay increase she has received since before the recession.

"My daughter who got out of law school three years ago now makes as much money as I do, and I'm at the end of my career," Wills told KPCC.

Willis also voiced concerns about student debt and said that future scholars may not be able to pay off debts by teaching.

Faculty and supporters also planned a vigil for Nohemi Gonzalez, the Cal State Long Beach student who died in the Paris attacks on Friday.

This story has been updated.