Raise the standards, raise the pay

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by Anthony Berteaux, Senior Staff Columnist

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The dialogue surrounding faculty compensation has for far too long been treated with deafening silence. Our knowledge, and therefore our opinion, on faculty salaries have been skewed toward those who we deem worthy of debate — specifically when it involves administrative executive salaries, particularly those of presidents. The conversations surrounding the astronomically highly-paid executives in higher education institutions always make headlines. What often gets pushed to the wayside is the dialogue involving faculty salaries.

Beneath the sensational headlines about thousands of dollars going to administrative executives and football coaches in the midst of budget cuts, there’s a real struggle when it comes to faculty compensation and the quality of higher education.

Recent contractual concerns within the California State University system breaks the silence on issues regarding faculty salaries and reveals a priority struggle when it comes to the quality of higher education.

The California Faculty Association has issued letters to President Hirshman to call for a salary structure reform in light of increasing class sizes and workload. Faculty members have been working without contracts since June 30, and they’re calling for the implementation of fair and just contracts.

“The biggest issues are salary and workload,” San Diego State CFA Chapter President Charles Toombs said. “We haven’t had raises since 2008, and we also have faculty members who have been working here for a long time and they make less than newer hirers.”

According to Toombs, with the increasing workload and class sizes, current compensation is not proportionate to cover the required research projects.

Students, alongside faculty members, need to advocate for fair contracts in support of those who constantly strive to deliver high quality education.

However, the system as it is now erodes morale as it forces faculty to work ridiculous hours with minimal pay.

Over the past few years, SDSU has seen a near exponential growth when it comes to class size. In 2006, SDSU’s undergraduate faculty to student ration was 18.9:1. Fast-forward to today, the ratio reflects the influx in undergraduate student class sizes to a whopping 30:1.

Class sizes have increased by 58 percent in eight years and for faculty who have taught here for the duration of that period, the increase in class sizes has lead to a relative increase in workload.

However, while the assumption is that teachers get paid for the amount of work they do, faculty salaries have stagnated at the same rate while work load and class sizes have not.

In 1998, it was reported the average weekly salary for a full-time faculty member of the CSU system was $1,223. Today, that number has increased to $1506.

While this 23 percent increase of faculty compensation seems modest, it’s an atrocious injustice, especially when we observe how executive salaries have nearly doubled — not to mention the 245 percent spike in student fees.

While administrative executives receive ridiculous pay hikes, it’s students and teachers who pay the price.

When did higher education become about university executives with six-figure salaries, while teachers and students are left to struggle with the consequences?  Where do the priorities lie in this situation?

Although this isn’t an issue pertaining solely to faculty, the issue surrounding faculty pay is one that wholly defines higher education for us students. If our administration fails to treat our faculty with respect and a fair contract, teachers will suffer. But ultimately, students will suffer the most.

“Our working conditions are directly connected to learning conditions,” Toombs said. “If faculty are struggling with salary and workload issues, it does impact our abilities to deliver quality education.”

This movement isn’t entirely about money. It’s about a pursuit of quality higher education for all students and faculties.

Faculty members are the backbone of our education. The neglect to treat faculty with respect is the neglect of quality education at SDSU.

Negotiations are still ongoing for the CSU system, as they’ve agreed to a 3 percent salary increase this year. However, there’s a lot of needed catch-up in regard to how faculty has been treated for the past decade.

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