Chico State: We Have No Confidence

For, if anything, if a university is not a community where truth-telling is paramount, it loses its soul and forfeits its purpose. — Paul Zingg, Response to Resolution of No Confidence, December 9, 2015

On Thursday December 10th, the Academic Senate at Chico State discussed a Resolution of No Confidence in university President Paul Zingg, Interim Provost Susan Elrod, and Vice President for Business and Finance Lorraine (Lori) Hoffman. After nearly three and a half hours of pre-written statements, comments from faculty, staff, and students, and discourse between the Senators, the Senate voted 24-8 in favor of an amended Resolution of No Confidence in the ability of the three top CSUC administrators to manage personnel and budget matters effectively.

The primary focus of the University is student learning and yet, financial and business decisions have been made since 2004 and more recently, that are contrary to best learning practices. The best practices for learning in undergraduate education include:

Good practice in undergraduate education:

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty,
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3. encourages active learning,
  4. gives prompt feedback,
  5. emphasizes time on task,
  6. communicates high expectations
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Source: Chickering and Gamson, Seven Principles for Good Practice in undergraduate Education (file available here)

During the Great Recession of 2007-2010, drastic and unavoidable cuts were taken to preserve the University and provide ongoing service with the least amount of disruption to students. Those cuts were necessary and unavoidable, but were also felt by all across the campus, although to varying degrees.

In the years since the Recovery of the U.S. economy began, the University has continued cuts to faculty, staff, and class offerings, increased class sizes, and replaced full time tenure track faculty with part time temporary lecturers, resulting in a model of administration of campus resources that is contrary to Best Learning Practices.

It is the new model of learning due to increased teaching demands dictated by the Executive Management, that resulted in the motion for the No Confidence vote by the Academic Senate. Criticism of the Resolution by President Zingg, Interim Elrod, and VP Hoffman included a lack of specificity in the resolution.

In his response to Academic Senate regarding the No Confidence Resolution vote, President Zingg argued the following:

There are many other aspects of this resolution that, I believe, fail the test of clarity and responsibility through innuendo and anecdote, unsubstantiation and vagueness. What, for example, does “the lack of focused leadership” mean? What personnel policies and processes have not been developed and implemented “effectively”? What is the definition of “effectively”? How have budget matters lacked transparency and good-faith information sharing?

In the spirit of truth-telling, clarity and responsibility, and without innuendo and anecdotes or unsubstantiated vagueness, we present the following:

  • Tenure track faculty decreased from 408 to 355 faculty between the years 2011 to 2015, a reduction of 13%. Tenure density declined from 69% in 2010 to 58% in 2014-15. These cuts have resulted in increased faculty to student ratios, which decreases contact between students and faculty in meaningful learning experiences,decreases reciprocity and cooperation among students, and also inhibits active learning, and inhibits prompt feedback on assignments,
  • Tenure track faculty have been largely replaced by temporary lecturers. While this has somewhat stabilized the faculty to student ratio, the work load for tenure track faculty in non-teaching duties has increased as there are not enough faculty to take on committee and advising work, assessment reports, retention and hiring duties, among other non-teaching activities that support student learning.
  • The number of staff decreased from 965 in 2009 to 891 in 2014 which increases demands on faculty due to lack of staff support, exacerbating the effects of higher faculty to student ratios.
  • Between 2010 and 2015, the number of full time equivalent students increased from 14,640 to 15,764, a gain of 8.4%.
  • While staff and faculty cuts have been deep, the number of managers and administrators has risen since 2004. Chico State had one of the worst losses of faculty in the CSU system, losing 14% of its faculty between 2004 and 2014, while the number of administrators has grown by 8% in the same time period.
  • While faculty salaries have increased by only 4% between 2004 and 2014, the salaries of the top 21 administrators within the Office for Business and Finance at Chico State have increased an average of 18% between 2011 and 2014* (Click here for Salaries of Management from Office of Business and Finance).
  • While faculty are fighting for, and being repeatedly denied, a 5% salary increase in the next contract, the President’s salary, although stagnant up to 2013, increased by 3% in 2014 and by 2% in 2015, a raise that equated to $5,758 increase in 2015 to President Zingg’s $287,885 salary, in addition to the $50,000 per year housing allowance and $12,000 per year car allowance the president has received in his tenure at Chico, a similar package other CSU presidents receive. Zingg’s raises in the 2014 and 2015 created a real increase in his salary of just over $14,000 since 2013. .
  • While faculty at 20 other universities in the California State university system are recovering their purchasing power since the Great Recession, Chico faculty have lost $13,154 in purchasing power since 2008, while President Zingg has gained $22,823 in purchasing power with his salary due to a 36% increase in the President’s base salary between 2004 and 2014.
  • Finally, the academic year 2015-16 budget was not released to individual departments until late November 2015, which revealed funding at lower levels than college deans, department chairs, faculty, and staff had been led to expect.  These cuts resulted in lecturers losing class assignments that had already been assigned, exacerbating the effects of higher faculty to student ratio, and also the projected loss of student employees who provide direct service to students in department offices, as peer advisors, and as library student staff. For lecturers, this means a loss of income for the semester and no prospects picking up other classes at other colleges since all scheduling at other colleges is complete early in the semester.

These longterm business and finance decisions have been the backdrop to a poor campus climate due to these decisions and because the Executive management has fostered a culture of fear of retribution due to longterm intimidation of employees to go unchecked. But more importantly, these business and finance decisions have compromised learning and inhibited Best Learning Practices at Chico State and for those reasons, we have no confidence in President Zingg, Interim Provost Elrod, and VP Hoffman.

CSU campus presidents have clearly prioritized managers on their campuses over tenure-line faculty in making their staffing decisions. That set of priorities has enormous ramifications for current, and future, students.
Not only are students today missing out on a stable faculty workforce over the course of their college careers; future students face an even bleaker prospect.

 

Source: California Faculty Association, Race to the Bottom: Salary, Staffing Priorities and the CSU’s 1% (file available here)

For direct links to resolution, responses, and data, click below:

Senate Document: Amended Resolution of No Confidence

Letter: Paul Zingg Response to No Confidence Resolutionfile available here

Letter: Petition Against No Confidence in Support of VP Hoffman

Report: Chico State Campus Climate Survey Results

Senate Document: Resolution in Support of Increased Staff

Data: *Salaries of Management from Office of Business and Finance

*Data compiled from www.transparentcalifornia.com

Temporary Lecturers Step From the Shadows at Chico State

Last week, Tony Waters commented to me that something has changed in me this year.

“You’re acting like an Assistant Professor,” he said to me late last week. “You’re not slinking through the shadows like all the other lecturers any more. After ten years you are starting to participat in faculty governance, and everyone was glad to come over to your house to meet the job candidate last week. It works! People respect your experience and views, and do want you to be involved in the department in the same way that an Assistant Professor would be, even if your are still a lecturer. Maybe if you act out the role, it might come true.”

I hadn’t really thought about it much.

I considered Tony’s observation and I realized, I have been acting differently as of late. Nothing specifically has changed, except that I have some longevity at Chico State now, more than ten years, and that means I have a contract that protects me, somewhat, as I walk through the halls. I’ve also learned the culture, how to talk to people, who to talk to, and who not to talk to, all things that make me more confident to speak up more, be more engaged in department and campus happenings. Also, as my teaching schedule has become full and as a result, I am more present day to day, I am more comfortable in my office, my building.

Most lecturers here don’t enjoy the same privilege of such longevity and security, and the confidence and comfort that comes as a result.

Tony’s astute observations were correct: lecturers at Chico State (and I suspect elsewhere), have historically stayed in the shadows around here, and recently, something is changing, but not just with me; other lecturers are stepping out of the shadows to have their voices heard as well.

Lecturers don’t stay in the shadows by choice, instead several factors make our presence on campus sporadic and uncertain, a little dodgy even, or maybe even “slinking,” as Tony observed.

First, we are temporary employees, regardless of how long we have been employed by the university. This category of employee works fine for faculty who teach part-time because they have full-time, “day” jobs somewhere else, and who might choose to teach only at their leisure. But the title “temporary” implies that this job is seasonal, or “as needed”, “back up personnel”, “fill in” and it is a reminder that we are not permanent. It implies that we are expendable.

We internalize that temporary status, and it makes us feel as not fully part of the university, like we don’t quite belong. But others also identify lecturers as temporary and because lecturers come and go with the changing of the seasons, the permanent faculty and staff see individual lecturers as expendable, and therefore, not fully part of the university.

A few months ago while chatting with the head of one of the departments at Chico, I asked about how a specific lecturer who I had recommended for the job was doing. She replied, “I guess fine. I don’t know. Is he even teaching this semester? I don’t even know which lecturers are teaching this semester, we have so many.” She laughed at her own lack of knowledge about which lecturers were teaching at that moment in her department.

But think about that: lecturers are so expendable that some department heads do not miss them when they are gone.

For the lecturer, though, perhaps the worst thing about being “temporary” is that it means, regardless of how long someone has served the college, they can be laid off without cause.

You might be asking yourself how that is different from any other job, so let me give you a scenario:

Doctor Lecturer (temporary) earns her PhD at a prestigious university but unfortunately, due to no fault of her own, is unable to secure a tenure track job at the time of graduation due to the economy (the Great Recession in the U.S. in 2007-2009). Doctor Lecturer finds a temporary teaching job at Chico State to make ends meet and teaches for 10 years at the university. Doctor Lecturer earns high teaching evaluations from both students and peers, contributes to research in her field by publishing journal articles, mentors students in graduate programs, and serves on university committees, even when she is not required to do so. Doctor Lecturer takes whatever classes are offered at any time of day or evening, without being asked what she would like her schedule to be. Doctor Lecturer teaches whatever class subjects are available to teach. Doctor Lecturer’s schedule is largely determined by what is leftover after the tenure track faculty have made their “wish lists” of their preferred schedules teaching classes in their specialty. After ten years or so, Doctor Lecturer is finally offered a full-time schedule of 5 classes per semester (but not permanent, tenure track appointment) after outlasting all the other lecturers in the department, and makes a decent salary.

Doctor Assistant Professor (tenure track and therefore “permanent”) earns her PhD at a prestigious university and happens to graduate from school at a time when there are a lot of new faculty being hired across the nation. Doctor AP secures a tenure track job at Chico State, and begins her career full-time a few months after graduation. Doctor AP is given a reduced work load in the first few years (2 or 3 classes per semester) so she has time to do research and publish, she serves on a few campus committees, and is paid full-time wages that are $15,000 – $20,000 higher than Doctor Lecturer’s full-time salary. Doctor AP is asked what the ideal teaching schedule would be, and consulted on which classes she would really love to teach. In addition to classes that she has to teach due to demand, Doctor AP would love to teach the same courses Doctor Lecturer teaches so one or two of Doctor Lecturer’s classes are assigned to Doctor AP. Since there are no other courses to offer Doctor Lecturer, and Doctor AP is permanent, Doctor AP gets the courses, leaving Doctor Lecturer with a reduced teaching schedule, and reduced pay. For each reduction of a 3 unit course, Doctor Lecturer loses 20% of her pay. In extreme cases, all of Doctor Lecturer’s classes are given to permanent faculty and Doctor Lecturer loses all of their classes, regardless of performance.

This difference in temporary and permanent status is not the fault of either the lecturer or the tenure track faculty: it’s a function of the institution of higher education. The institution relies on annual budget variations from the State revenue and also variations in student enrollment, so there needs to be wiggle room in the budget somewhere. That “somewhere” is in temporary faculty and temporary staff budgets, which falls under “Operating Expenses.” Other items that fall in that category are office supplies.

The recent motion to discuss a No Confidence vote at Chico State brought by a lecturer stems from the late November reduction in the Operating Expense budget at Chico State, and the resulting reduction in course offerings that lecturers had already been scheduled to teach in Spring 2016. We’ve lost about $5 million across the campus for the Spring 2016 semester. The budget cuts do not impact the salaries of permanent staff and faculty, and there’s only so much paper and staples we can save from the Operating Expense budget, so the next, and biggest, target, is lecturer pay.

We are under constant threat of these reductions in the university system, which leads to the second factor that makes us slink through the hallways: we are afraid of losing our jobs, and it makes us powerless. We slink because we worry about offending the wrong administrator, the wrong student, the wrong colleague, who might decide to make a complaint, or decide, at our next performance review, to skewer our reputation, and deny promotion or even deny us courses.

But that’s changing at Chico State, at least this week. The shadows are a little less crowded, and the voices are getting louder. The lecturers are stepping out of the shadows, and I suspect will make their way to the Chancellor’s office, and the Governor’s steps, before this journey ends.

Click on the links below for other posts about the work environment at Chico State and the university system from Marianne and Ethnography.com. 

Lecturers Lean In

Second Class PhD

Shared Governance or Managed Dissent at Chico State

The McDonaldization of Higher Education

When the Red Ink Stops Flowing

Chico State and Shared Governance: Lecturers Lean In

Festering discontent at Chico State seems to have reached a point of boiling over in recent weeks following the abrupt resignations of two provosts since 2012, the loss of dozens of faculty across the campus in recent years, and a 2015 Campus Climate Survey which revealed significant dissatisfaction among the faculty and staff. The underlying issues revolve around the concept of “shared governance,” a term which the administration at Chico State and the California State University Chancellor’s office claim to value, but many faculty and staff say isn’t happening.

Shared governance in the California State University system, in theory, means that decisions about how the institution functions are a co-operative process where the staff, faculty, and administration work together to decide and implement best practices. But somewhere along the way, particularly at Chico State, the practice of shared governance has disappeared, at least in the opinion of some faculty and staff.

Last Thursday, one of the lecturers at Chico State had had enough, and presented the Academic Senate with a laundry list of perceived affronts to shared governance, and claimed a lack of transparency in numerous areas including budgeting and scheduling of classes.

The lecturer presented a motion to Chico State’s Academic Senate to discuss a vote of No Confidence in our campus president, provost, and the vice president of business and finance. After passionate, impromptu speeches from several faculty, the Senate voted 29-3 to allow for a discussion to hear the No-Confidence argument at the next meeting, scheduled for Thursday December 10th.

In theory, shared governance would have representatives from all groups of staff, faculty, and administration of the campus at one, decision-making, proverbial table where issues such as budget, planning, workload, and class scheduling including class size and class assignment were discussed. Open dialog without the fear of retribution, and where every member’s opinion was welcomed, is the key element to shared governance. But theory and practice have veered in far different directions lately at Chico.

In practice, there are two tables at Chico State: the big table, where the administrators sit, making big decisions and the kids’ table, where permanent staff, tenure track and tenured faculty sit.

This division reminds me of my grandmother’s house, and Sunday dinner, when I was growing up.

Almost every Sunday afternoon during my childhood, my extended family gathered at my grandmother’s house for dinner. Most Sundays, there was enough room for the 10 or 12 cousins and aunts and uncles to sit together at the big table, but every once in a while, extra friends or out of town cousins would show up, and Grandma’s big table was too small to fit us all. When news came that too many relatives were expected for dinner, she’d send one of the boys to fetch her card table, a rickety old square of plywood covered in vinyl, with unstable folding legs.

While the big table was a massive slab of cherry wood polished to a high shine, adorned lovingly with an intricately embroidered table cloth, and topped with fresh bouquets of flowers from my grandmother’s garden, the extra table was just big enough for the younger grandkids, and always me, the youngest of the family, to gather around for dinner.

At the big table, the adults and older cousins ate off of my grandmother’s good, tulip embossed dish ware, and talked about politics, the state of the world, and caught up on the news of the neighbors and distant relatives. Big announcements were made at the big table, and big decisions were decided at the big table.

At the big table, large bowls of mashed potatoes and sugared peas and fried chicken were passed around the table generously, and the gravy boat was always well within easy reach when my father he wanted an extra ladle of gravy.

Sitting at the big table meant access to information that might affect you, the chance to chime in with your opinion if the right time arose, and at least, when the potatoes were passed around, people acknowledged that you were at the table and offered the same food, and seconds if you wanted, as the others at the table were offered.

Sitting at what was known as the kids’ table was different. I often sat with distant cousins who I rarely saw and barely knew, and who I didn’t have much to talk about with. Sitting at the kids’ table meant bickering over petty topics, like who had the best music collection, and who could produce, on command, the best exhibition of unbridled flatulence.

Sitting at the kids’ table was fun, and meant we didn’t have to hold our forks properly, we could hide our peas under a congealed lump of gravy, and we could swap food with our cousins if we didn’t like something on our plate. We could run off and play well before the adults were done at the big table, and never had to do the dishes, although we always had to clear our plate from the table, scrape the remnants of the meal into the compost bucket, and stack the plate next to the kitchen sink. We were free to wander to the back of the house to the “kids” room, where a stereo and oversized speakers, Monopoly boards, children’s books, and puzzles awaited us.

In the kids’ room, and at the kids’ table, we were free from the adult world.

But being at the kids’ table also meant that if I wanted a second helping of mashed potatoes, I had to trek to the main dining room, stand quietly behind one of the adults sitting at the table, wait to be acknowledged by an adult, and then ask politely, “may I have another scoop of mashed potatoes, please?” The adult in charge of potatoes decided if I had had enough potatoes already, and if he or she thought I could have more, he or she also decided how much more I could have, which was always less than what those at the table were allowed.

There was a hierarchy at my grandmother’s house, enforced by the decision makers, and never questioned by the kids, at least openly. We had been trained to sit at the kids table, and be grateful for what we got.

There was a third element in the hierarchy at my grandmother’s house, and there is a third element at Chico State as well: the people who can’t make it to the table at all because they either were never invited, or were too busy with other obligations to attend. At Grandma’s house, if we failed to show up for dinner, or came late because we had other obligations, we got second hand news and a small plate of leftovers with congealed gravy and a pile of peas. Leftovers were never the same as being there for dinner. And the information we received was old news by the time it reached a tardy cousin and all the big decisions had already been made.

By the time I was 7 or 8, though, I had decided that I didn’t want to be at the kids’ table anymore, and when my cousins ran off to the kids’ room after dinner, I stayed in the living room and listened to the adults talk and paid attention when the evening news and 60 Minutes came on. I leaned in, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg,advises, even though I didn’t know it at the time. And that’s what that lecturer did last week, and what I imagine other lecturers will do this week, when the Senate discusses the No Confidence vote: they are leaning in, demanding their place at a table, any table.

It’s been 18 years since the last time I sat at my grandmother’s for Sunday dinner, but I recognize the hierarchy just the same, although this time, it’s where I work. The discontent brewing and boiling over at Chico State is a lot like my grandmother’s hierarchy: those at the big table, those at the kids’ table, and those who were never invited to the table at all.

As a lecturer, I know I won’t be invited to the big table. Still, I take heart from the fact that the current rebellion was initiated by previously voiceless lecturers who are threatened with class cancellations and layoff two months before Spring Semester starts.  No, we won’t be invited to the big table, yet. But maybe, if we all lean in together, the lecturers at Chico State will at least get invited to the kids’ table, and maybe some of us will pull up a chair, and ask for seconds.