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Students walk passed boxes that the Fresno State CFA chapter used in a skit called “Race to the Bottom” to illustrate the plight of CSU faculty and students on Thursday in front of the Kennel Bookstore. Paul Schlesinger / The Collegian

Letter to Students from CFA Fresno State Chapter President

Special to The Collegian

Diane M. Blair, California Faculty Association, Fresno State Chapter President

By now most students know that the faculty on our campus and across the 23-campus California State University system are in a labor dispute with CSU management. You’ve seen faculty members wearing red, you’ve read statements regarding possible strike actions in your syllabi, and you’ve probably seen signs around campus about the “Fight for Five.”

So why have you heard faculty saying, “We don’t want to strike, but we will?”

The specific argument is over how much faculty members will be paid. For more than 10 years, the pay of CSU faculty has remained flat and lagged behind inflation. The average faculty member at Fresno State has lost the equivalent of over $13,000 in purchasing power in the last decade, and this is a serious problem for faculty and our families.

This is also a serious problem for CSU students because it’s harder to hire and retain talented faculty for your classes. In addition, more than half of your instructors work on temporary assignments at low pay. Most of them do not get full-time work in the CSU, so they must rush to other jobs or teach classes at other institutions to make ends meet. This disinvestment in faculty is really a disinvestment in the classroom and the university’s core educational mission.

Even with the campus-wide equity program implemented by President Joseph Castro last year, the average earning at Fresno State (what faculty actually take home in their paychecks before taxes) is less than $48,000. The CSU Chancellor’s office likes to talk about average base salaries, but that assumes everyone works full-time. Even when you consider full-time base salaries, the average faculty salary at Fresno State is still less than $63,000. CSU faculty members are by far the lowest paid educators across the state, and that includes not only the University of California system but the community college system and K-12 teachers as well.

As faculty we care about our students and we want every student to succeed. We want and believe that teaching in the CSU can and should be a solid middle class job that enables us to support our loved ones while we help students get college degrees and secure their own place in the middle class.

We hope a satisfactory resolution will be reached between faculty and CSU management. We will keep students updated throughout the semester regarding any possible strike actions. In the end we believe we must stand up for ourselves and for the importance of our role protecting the university’s core mission. We think this is an important lesson for our students, too. There is a point when people must say, this has to be fixed, and we will not give up until it is fixed.