San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Faculty wages are an emergency; the time to reassess CSU funding is now

A tentative agreement has been reached, but CSU can do better
Illustration by Bella Hodges.

After California State University management walked out on negotiations with the California Faculty Association earlier this year, the union responded with a historic systemwide strike, demanding improved working conditions and better pay.

One day into the strike, CSU and the CFA reached a tentative agreement. Notably, the parties settled the union’s call for a 12% raise with a 5% general salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2023, a service step increase of 2.65% for the lowest-paid faculty, and a 5% general salary increase contingent upon the state not reducing the CSU budget for the 2024-25 academic year. 

At face value, these increases seem like a step in the right direction. Still, the service step increase falls short of the CFA’s demand of an additional $10,000 to the salary floor, and the second 5% general salary increase is dependent on the state budget for 2024-25  —  making this raise entirely theoretical.

Instead of relying on speculative funding from a state facing a historic $68 billion budget deficit, the university should look inward for available funding. 

Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor from Eastern Michigan University, was commissioned by the CFA to analyze the institution’s finances. 

His conclusions maintained prior CFA claims that CSU is in “strong financial condition” with “a high level of reserves and annual operating cash flow surpluses.” 

With annual operational expenses falling far below CSU’s generated revenue, plenty of funds are available to increase faculty wages without touching the university’s $2.5 billion in reserves.

Yet, CSU has refused to tap into these funds, claiming they must be saved for emergencies. 

With many lecturers having to teach at multiple campuses simply to make ends meet, their compensation is undeniably inadequate. In a post-COVID world marked by economic uncertainty, rampant inflation, and an exorbitant cost of living, CSU should classify the current faculty conditions as an emergency.  

Currently, the lowest-paid lecturers at CSU have a starting salary of $54,360, forcing many to pursue a second source of income. Inflation has increased California’s average cost of living to $53,00042% above the national average — barely covered by a $54,360 base pay. Inflation of this gravity must be accounted for when addressing salaries.

The answer to the funding problem is one that CSU has at its fingertips, should they choose to use it. Designated for economic uncertainty, catastrophic events, capital and short-term obligations, it is understandable that CSU wants to maintain its reserves for financial security. 

However, the annual operating cash flow surpluses could adequately fill the remainder of the union’s demands in general salary increases and base pay minimums without drawing from any of the university’s reserves. Yet, CSU maintains that it cannot meet the CFA’s demands.

Inadequate wages directly contribute to adverse work environments. The ramifications of poor working conditions are evident among non-tenured faculty, with clear evidence demonstrating the negative impact on student graduation and retention rates.

Of course, faculty is not to blame for worsened student outcomes. Instead, the system that reinforces these fiscal barriers should be held guilty. As an institution that prides itself on student success, CSU must work to avoid the consequences of inadequate pay. 

Non-tenured faculty cannot be expected to deliver optimal student success without proper compensation. 

CSU cannot justify withholding sufficient wages while in a budget surplus if faculty members continue to be underpaid and the quality of student education suffers. 

With billions of dollars in reserves and surpluses, CSU can increase wages without jeopardizing the potential to operate in times of necessity.

As the nation’s largest 4-year public university system, CSU sets an example for adequate faculty conditions and compensation. The bargaining agreement is not representative of what acceptable standards should be.