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Falling on deaf ears

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It’s common knowledge that university faculty members are a bunch of self-important whiners sucking at the government teat while indoctrinating students in their leftist philosophies. They teach a few hours a day and then spend some time “researching” or something, flirt with a co-ed or two, and then go home to their fancy houses and drink highballs and calculate how far off summer is so they can drink full time, right?

So why in the world is the scuttlebutt around Cow Poly about how terrible the pay is and how the big bad administration is abusing the faculty and staff instead of lavishing them with more pay, perks, and free parking? Cal Poly President Jeffery Armstrong, to appease these prima donnas, deigned to offer them a “listening session” on Thursday, April 16.

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Dozens of faculty members, as well as a few students, packed into the University Union “listening session,” which started with Cal Poly Provost Kathleen Enz Finken talking for six minutes, followed by Prez Jeffery “Me, defensive?” Armstrong talking for another 13 minutes before they got to any “listening.”

First, here’s a little context about the CSU system: From 2004 to 2014, the number of administrators making sweet, sweet six-figure salaries grew by 19.2 percent, while the number of full-time faculty was cut by 3 percent. Administrators and managers have seen salary increases of 24 percent, and the average campus president’s salary has risen by 36 percent. Faculty member salaries have been stagnant. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

At Cal Poly during the recession (2008 to 2014, remember that?), the student population increased from 18,516 to 19,246 (I’ll help with the numbers: that’s up 3.9 percent, if you can’t do the math) while the number of professors decreased from 683 to 603 (down 11.71 percent), and the number of lecturers increased from 438 to 526 (up 20.09 percent), while the number of administration and management increased from 183 to 226 (up 23.50 percent). Still with me after all those numbers? Then I’ll ask this: Why pay a tenured professor $91K a year when a lecturer will work for $40K, right?

Oh, and President Armstrong makes a $350,000 annual salary, and receives a $12,000 yearly car allowance and a $30,000 bonus from the Cal Poly Foundation. But hey, his job is hard! I mean, he said he’s doing the best he can under the circumstances! Give the guy a break, right?

Ag business professor Wayne Howard kicked things off by noting that Armstrong has said faculty raises are a top priority but instead has hired more administrators and increased their pay instead of faculty pay. Wayne has a hope of seeing something more substantial than a promise about faculty salaries, but Armstrong said by way of explanation, and I quote: “Up until this point, we have not been able to implement [a faculty pay] equity program. We couldn’t do it. Period.” Which is no explanation at all. He just couldn’t. Trust him. Yes, sure, he could hire more administrators and give them fat paychecks, but you little peons who actually teach the students? There was no money for you. Maybe later.

The president then refused to apologize for adding 17 “development officers,” which other people have dubbed “administrative bloat.”

Come on, faculty! You teach college! Have a little vision! Armstrong’s looking at the long game! His almost doubling of development officer administrators now is going to bring in tons of new money to the university to pay you later. In other, more Popeye-esque terms: Armstrong will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. More accurately: Keep teaching, quit bitching, and later, if we have some money down the road, maybe we’ll be able to catch your salaries up with inflation. Maybe.

Next, linguistic professor Johanna Rubba got up and started giving Armstrong an earful about gender equity, pointing out that it’s illegal to pay women in similar positions with similar responsibilities less than men.

She talked about demoralization, which could be countered by fewer promises and more action. She started ticking off items on a wish list, too: Close the gender gap. Put more money toward faculty salaries. Prove that the professors are worth having around

Again with a direct Armstrong quote in response: “We’ve delivered as much as we can right now. We have to plan for the university in the best way possible.”

In other words, it was more important to hire and pay these administrators than pay you. Get over it.

The problem with tenure, as Armstrong is no doubt discovering, is that when you screw tenured faculty, they’ll call you on it. Sadly, the message Armstrong probably heard is the one in his own head: “We need to hire more underpaid, powerless lecturers with no job security and less sass.”

Will Cal Poly remain one of the best public universities in the West under this strategy? Did Wimpy ever cough up all of that promised dough for the hamburgers he scarfed on Olive Oyl’s dime?

 

The Shredder says, “I yam what I yam.” Send ideas to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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