Whistles and chants of “We are, we teach the 99 percent!” resounded outside of California State University Los Angeles’ King Hall lecture building on Tuesday.
Dozens touted signs reading “My education, my future” and “Enough is enough!”
“We’re out here standing with faculty, students and staff to push the Chancellor and administration to put priorities in the right place,” said Melina Abdullah, the chapter president of CSU L.A.’s California Faculty Association (CFA). “They need to put money in the classroom—treat faculty fairly so we can provide the best learning conditions for our students.”
The faculty union represents all instructional faculty, librarians and coaches in the CSU system, which enrolls about 412,000 students, according to its website. It is the largest university system in the country, awarding about half of the bachelor’s degrees in California.
On Monday, the CFA board authorized one-day strikes at CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU East Bay. In preparation for the November 17 strikes, each CSU will hold an informational picket on their campus this week.
Abdullah, a nine-year faculty member, emphasized what she calls “bread and butter” issues. Abdullah said that under CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, faculty salaries have gone down 10 percent, and that he is considering cutting health and insurance benefits.
“Faculty salaries are not middle class salaries,” she said. “Many faculty members struggle to make ends meet—raising kids, worrying about retirement and putting kids through college.”
Abdullah said the priority, however, lies with the CSU students.
“I believe that all students, all people, have a right to affordable, quality higher education,” she stated.
A handful of CSU L.A. students came out to support the faculty and joined in on the picketing. Second-year student Sofia Lizarraga commended her professors for standing up for students’ rights.
“I think tuition prices are already too high and it’s unfair that they [administration] want to keep increasing them,” she said.
Lizarraga said the administration should reevaluate where they are sending funds.
“Financial aid for students and salary benefits for our instructors should be the focus,” she added.
Overall, Professor Joel Ellwanger said, the faculty just wants a place of excellence.
“We don’t want students to feel bad about the education they’re getting from the system, or faculty to feel bad about working conditions,” he said. “We want to come to work and feel good.”
Ellwanger said he hopes the informational pickets across all the CSU campuses will help bolster support for improving the school system.
An hour into the picketing, the crowd marched through campus, drawing attention and relocating to another major CSULA building. Many students cheered the picketers on, snapping pictures and video on their cell phones.
“Don’t just watch, join us!,” yelled one picketer.
Abdullah said she hopes the informational pickets educate the public. She said she wants everyone to understand that the cuts at CSUs not only hurt the students, but also damage the state of California.
“We turn out the majority of nurses, social workers, public safety officers and educators,” Abdullah acknowledged. “If we divest from that system, we’re not breaking just the CSU promise to students; we’re breaking a promise to the state.”
If next week’s strike doesn’t move the Chancellor and administration, CFA is ready to push forward, Abdullah said.
Ellwanger added, ”I don’t fear retaliation or consequences of picketing or striking, I fear the consequences of not doing anything at all.”
This was written by Teresa Rosales for Neon Tommy. Photos also by Teresa Rosales.
Cal State LA Professors March for Students | Neon Tommy