CAL STATE UNIVERSITY: In 2016, Let’s Unite our Struggles Against Privatization and Racism
By Rose L. and Florence Oppen
The Continued Impact of Increased Student Fees
CSULA adopted the Student Success Fee in 2012. 2016 marks another year of extra fees implemented at this campus and one we know is set to move forward in the coming year. It’s important to note that this fee is not implemented throughout the whole CSU system. Furthermore, it was not implemented with the whole support of student body at those campuses. Students at CSULA, CSU Dominguez and many other campuses rose the banner of “Fuck the Fees” and demonstrated against it.
We understand that fees are a loophole to the tuition hike and the privatization project of the public university system which is currently carried out by Gov. Brown. The recent fee “addition” is only a continuation of the ever increasing shift of the cost of education on students, which started in 2009.
Why were these fees implemented on the various campus? At the end of 2014, a scandal broke out after reports of ill spending at CSUs, in particular at CSU Los Angeles, such as on lavish parties, and spending hundreds of dollars on gifts for Chancellor after his retirement: “fancy parties, alcohol, $7,000 season tickets to the Hollywood Bowl, and top LA restaurants are a number of things this donated money is paying for.” This was just what got uncovered by the press, but this is just the tip of the corruption and misuse of public funds at the CSU system.
As the faculty union, the CFA, has showed: “From 2004 to 2014, the CSU net operating budget increased by 33 percent while spending on managers spiked by 48 percent, with faculty salaries growing by “only” 25 percent.” The money allocated for the CSU is eaten up by very well paid administrators, (the average full-time salary for a CSU manager was $106,149), and not to faculty (average full time yearly pay of $64,479) or students. According to the 2014/15 year much of it went to Advising and Retention, what was felt on the ground didn’t see much of that. High impacted departments by the under-funding, such as Sociology, are facing difficulties in providing adequate advising services to students. Appointments were thrown out and students had to remain flexible to walk-ins.
We understand that administration is prioritized and that it comes at the expense of students and the expenses are placed on students, faculty and staff. We continue to say FTF and push for a democratic campus in which students, faculty, and staff are priority and participate in direct control. We still call for a bailout for students. Student for Quality Education participated in a nation wide rally on Nov12 with demands to: 1. have tuition-free public colleges 2. cancellation of all student debts, and 3. have a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers.
Only Those Who Fight Escape the Planned Hikes
Brown went through with his 2015/16 budget that successfully calmed the student movement at UCs, where students fought back the proposed tuition hike of 5%. He also managed to save K-12, and slightly reversed extensive damage of cuts in the years prior. K-12 sector also saw mobilization, in SoCal we saw the mobilization of LAUSD. We stress that this was positive but the state of education remains fragile.
While we are proud of the mobilization and winnings that our fellow UC and K-12 gained, it’s important to note that this budget largely ignored the needs at the CSU level. CSU made a request of $269 Million for the 2015-16 year’s budget to admit more students but the Gov only allocated $119.5 million. The high impact of students in the recent years can be felt in overcrowded classes in 2015 school year, computer labs, in the packed advisement offices, and most definitely in parking.
At CSULA, the students have been mobilizing with a recent history of actions which include fights for mandatory ethnic studies, women and gender studies, solidarity events with Ayotzinapa, and with Black Lives Matter. This year marked another set of actions, a call for gender neutral bathrooms which we can expect to see in next year, walkout for Mizzou, and the fight for 5% with California Faculty Association.
BSU Walks out in Solidarity with Mizzou and Strikes a First Victory
Students at the University of Missouri experienced continuous racism and fought back offensively on the ground by calling the resignation of the President and Chancellor who did nothing to address the racial discrimination. These demands were met after the whole football team came out in support and threatened to strike. This inspired similar waves of actions on different college campuses across the country.
On November 12, Black Student Union(BSU) at CSULA called a walk in solidarity with Mizzou. However, they did not stop there, they began to question the problems that black students face on our campus. This lead them to draft a list of demands to address the low(and declining) number of students at CSULA. This includes specific efforts in recruitment for black students in high schools and community college, creation of a Pan African Studies Master program, hiring of black tenured track professors and health workers, and joining a call to divest from prison industrial complex among many more demands.
After Afrikan Black Coalition reported a huge scandal: the University of California (CSU’s public higher education sister system) had a $25 million investment on the private prison companies, which as we know contribute to that mass imprisonment and further segregation of Black working people in California and the rest of the country. In response to that finding, the BSU in all UC campus but also at the CSU organized protests demanding the immediate divestment of public money from for-profit prison systems. Facing a growing movement on the ground, UCs voted early December to divest $30 million. This was a first important victory, that shows that mobilization pays, but the struggle continues. Now, students remain on the ground, demanding the further divestment from Wells Fargo & Co, one of the largest investors in private prison companies. This divestment would amount to some $425 million.
The CFA Prepares for a State-Wide Strike
The California Faculty Association represents 23,000 faculty, lecturers, librarians, and other workers in education in the 23 campus CSU system. After almost 10 year stagnation on wage increase, CFA began negotiations for an increase of 5%. They’ve adopted the nationwide Fight for Fifteen($) slogan and are calling on students and community to support The Fight for Five(%) efforts in California. They continue to reject the 2% offered, recent fact finding show that there is enough funds to grant a 5% raise. The strike vote was well over 90% members voting for a strike if demands are not met.
Last Fall the CFA held several action on campus, including a protest in the Chancellor’s office of CSU Long Beach and actions at San Francisco State. During the Million Student March students expressed solidarity with the faculty. Faculty has also expressed solidarity with the call to $15 minimum wage for campus workers, one of SQE’s (Students for Quality Education) key demands. This unity in struggle will be challenging but very important if the demand of 5% is not increased.
In January the CFA entered the final “FactFinding” stage of negotiations with any significant movement from the administration. So a state-wide strike is more than likely to occur in the Spring.
We need to support the CFA’s demand for better wages and for improved contract security and quality education, and use the opportunity of the strike to bring back our key demands regarding the affordability of education (roll back the fees!) and the fight against racism!