Faculty criticize SDSU on budget, ‘You just spent $175,000 on a big party’

According+to+a+statement+from+SDSU%2C+in+eight+of+the+past+12+years+CSUs+were+not+given+funding+for+deferred+maintenance+from+the+state.

Courtesy of California Faculty Association

According to a statement from SDSU, in eight of the past 12 years CSUs were not given funding for deferred maintenance from the state.

by Christian Houser, Staff Writer

Some San Diego State faculty are in support of proposed legislation that mandates 53% of the total Cal State University budget must be spent on instruction. 

The percentage mandated to go to instruction would increase by a fixed amount until a floor of 53% is reached.

In the early ‘90s, 53% of the CSU budget was spent on instruction. According to Corpstate, In the year 2000, this percentage had decreased to 41% and has now fallen even lower to 34%. 

Scott Kelley, biology professor and one of the creators of Corpstate, said he is in full support of this proposed legislation.

“I have been deeply concerned for a long time now, especially about the growth of administration and management on this campus and campuses across the United States,” Kelley said.

According to Kelley’s site Corpstate, since the 1980s, the number of faculty in many departments across CSU has roughly halved while the total number of administrators has increased by 221%.

Kelley has felt the effects of these changes firsthand at SDSU.

“We used to have [repair] staff on every single floor of the biology department, and we used to have janitors come in regularly. We used to have resources and decent numbers of [departmental] staff. Now we have no [repair] staff, they’ve cut all of them, and they’ve cut janitor service,” Kelley said. 

Kelley said  SDSU is mismanaging funds that could be going to students in need.

“You just spent $175,000 on a big party. And you have students lining up at the food drive to get food,” Kelley said.

The “big party” is in reference to SDSU’s 125th Anniversary celebration that, according to the Times of San Diego, had an estimated cost of around $200,000.

“They tell you, we need more fees for students, you [students] should pay more. We don’t have enough money for faculty; we can’t fix your building that’s rotting, literally sewage leaks in my building. They can’t fix it, but they can build an entirely new campus,” Kelley said. 

In eight of the past 12 years, the CSU system was not provided any funding by the state for deferred maintenance, according to a statement from SDSU. 

“Since 2015, some limited state funding was identified for the system as a whole, and SDSU has received just under $60M for deferred maintenance and infrastructure since that time. These dollars have been directly invested in projects such as roof replacements, HVAC upgrades, and electrical infrastructure repairs, at both the San Diego and Calexico campuses, with the largest portion being dedicated to the replacement of one of the electrical substations on the San Diego campus,” the university said in an email statement.

While the university has received limited funding for these problems it is important to note that according to a California State Audit in 2018, SDSU’s total surplus was the highest among CSUs and was over $456 million. 

Savanna Schuermann, a lecturer in the Anthropology Department, has similar feelings to Kelley on the topic of mishandling of funds and said there needs to be more transparency about where the money is going. 

“It’s just the same old bullshit, the same status quo. Enrollment keeps going up; the university is growing. Pay for administrators keeps going up. The number of administrative positions continues to increase. Yet, at the same time, student fees keep increasing; tuition is going up. As a lecturer, I know the money is not going to me. Where’s all the money going? Anytime you try to ask, you get these really vague answers,” Schuermann said.

Schuermann asked for more information on the allocation of funds at SDSU and across the CSUs. 

“I think there is mismanagement of funds going on. Transparency is really important. If that means a thousand or two thousand page handbook detailing exactly where it goes, then put it out. We will read it,” Schuermann said.

Kelley and Schuermann said the call for 53% of the CSU budget to be spent on instruction would help foster a better education for students at SDSU. 

“That’s why we are supposed to be here. That’s why I’m here, is for students to learn. To crack those eggs open, to be excited about understanding the world and go change it hopefully. I don’t know if that’s really the mission of everyone. It seems like SDSU is more interested in its own aggrandizement and reputation rather than serving the students that are there right now,” Schuermann said.

Mark Dunster, mathematics professor and contributor to the proposal, said the legislative route is the best way to change how CSU is allocating its funds. 

“It should be an easy sell to the legislature because they don’t have to do anything except enforce it,” Dunster said.

This 53% proposal would not cost the taxpayer and would only ask for oversight of the allocation of funds as it had done in the past. 

“In fact, it used to be many years before I came. The legislature did allocate the percentage to instruction when they funded the CSU. Somewhere along the line, the chancellor and the long beach administration convinced them to allow the administration to take care of the funds,” Dunster said. “It’s like putting the foxes in charge of the hen house.”

SDSU said the budget process includes advisory consultation with the University Senate Committee and on University Resources and the President’s Budget Advisory Committee. The university also shares graphs and data on the university budget on its Budget Transparency Portal.

The university carefully assesses all budget concerns and works diligently to ensure the most appropriate allocation and use of financial resources to meet the mission and goals of the university,” SDSU said in an email.