|Students, professors cope with CSU strike
While California State University students are already paying their first tuition installment for fall 2012, their professors have voted to go on strike. The protest, which would delay the upcoming semester, has been building for some time and is in direct response to the administration’s failure to meet teachers’ contracted raises. With the budget shrinking every semester, class choices and flexibility are slim to none. Classrooms have become more packed, causing teachers to lose control over the quality of their student’s education.
Inclusive of all 23 campuses, it would be one of the largest strikes in California and possibly the country, which would draw much needed attention to the issue at hand: education has become a business instead of a service available to anyone who wants it.
“I know some people at my job have had to drop out of school, and wait a year or two before going back just because they could not afford the tuition,” says Jessica Kitavi, a recent graduate of the teaching credential program at Sonoma State University. “I feel very strongly about education, and that it needs to be taken a lot more seriously than it has been in these last few years.”
With tuition hikes from nine to 14 percent in the last year, lower acceptance limits and major classes disappearing, it has become a battle to graduate on time. Rachel Wheeler, a kinesiology student at SSU, supports her professors yet remains concerned about the impact both the strike and tuition hikes would have during her final year as an undergraduate, “I feel like it would prolong my senior year, which I wouldn't like all that much.”
The building tension also stems from the inconsistency of pay amongst members of the union. While Chancellor Charles Reed continues to oversee the increase of presidents’ annual salaries to more than $300,000 along with free renovations to their homes, the number of campus faculty has decreased and the ones left to struggle with overstuffed classrooms do not see a dime of it.
“Ideally, the strike will force the CSU back to the bargaining table to reconsider the distribution of resources within the system,” explains Dr. Lauren Morimoto of the Department of Kinesiology. “Unfortunately, the ex-chancellor did not seem to have the same priorities as the faculty.”
In the midst of the bitterness felt toward him and the system’s most difficult hour in history, Reed, who has been chancellor of the CSU system for 14 years, has announced his retirement. Whether or not the appointment of a new chancellor will cause any changes has yet to be seen because the lack of support toward colleges is statewide. Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown instigated major cuts to Cal Grant, a program that provides much-needed financial aid to thousands of students every year. The cuts were made to help cash-strapped California in order to avoid what he deems the “bigger-bad.”
Votes were cast back in April, and although the official game plan is still being negotiated, the strike is in its preliminary stages. It is clear patience is at an end when it comes to unsuccessful collaborations with executives and their failure to put the needs of students and faculty at the same level as their own. “I don't want to strike,” says Morimoto. “But I am willing to in order to protect quality, affordable education for Californians.”