Opinion » Shredder

Priorities

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Gotta love Cal Poly. Whenever the university wants to do some fancy but superfluous improvement project like its Recreation Center, it asks its students if they’re willing to raise their own fees.

“Hey, kids, would you be willing to have your parents pay extra money every quarter so you can have a multi-million-dollar, 165,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art workout center and swim complex? We’ll throw in a climbing park and sand volleyball courts. You would? What a surprise!”

Asking college kids—most of whom do not pay their own tuition, many of whom don’t yet understand the value of money since they haven’t had to work and support themselves, and all of whom have insufficiently developed frontal lobes and hence undeveloped decision-making abilities—to spend someone else’s money to benefit themselves is like asking your dog to hold onto your beef jerky for a minute while you look for a new tennis ball.

Let’s face it: It’s easy for people to spend other people’s money, which is why I’m running for Congress! Just kidding. Actually, I’m looking for a job as a personal shopper. Just putting that out there, but keep it on the down low. My bosses don’t know.

Cal Poly is now planning to ask students to vote to upgrade the University Union, which was originally built in 1969, expanding it with new lounge and study areas, services, amenities, and facilities including—wait for it—a bar and grill serving beer and wine. 

“Hey, kids, would you be willing to have your parents pay an extra $600 a year so your cool liberal professors can hold office hours in a pub? We’ll throw in nachos and fiery chicken wings. You would? What a surprise!”

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute! I thought Cal Poly was a dry campus.” Well, the operative word is “was.” While you were hosing drunken vomit off your driveway or trying to figure out how to green-up those brown spots on your lawn from nighttime student pee breaks walking home from some noisy house party down the street, Cal Poly has been slowly chipping away at its “dry campus” legacy. (By the way, did you know there’s good money to be made in alcohol sales? What a surprise!)

First it was beer and wine at events hosted by the president, then tailgating at homecoming, then libations at PAC-SLO events, and now if it’s after 5 p.m., you can get a drink at Vista Grande restaurant on campus any day of the week. “I’ll have a Firestone 805! Keep it local!”

In the meantime, while President Jeffery Armstrong awaits the student vote and his decision about moving forward with the new campus bar, the California Faculty Association is preparing an April strike over its 5 percent pay raise demand. It will be the first system-wide strike in CSU history. 

“Hey, kids, would you like to have five days off from classes? The Rec Center will still be open. You would? What a surprise!”

At Cal Poly, enrollment continues to increase, and classroom shortages have led to classes starting as early as 7 a.m. and running until 10 p.m. Many lecturers share tiny windowless offices including trailer-like “temporary” offices. Class sizes have grown larger as have faculty workloads. Meanwhile, the number of administrators has gone up, as has their pay, while faculty pay has stagnated and the CSU is offering them only a 2 percent raise. Cost of living increases? Never heard of them? Inflation? Nah, not our problem. Added costs of trying to buy a house in SLO? Commute!

This is the “corporate model” of higher education you’ve been hearing so much about: cut labor costs by hiring fewer tenure-track faculty and instead hire less expensive lecturers and offer them zero job security (That’ll cut down on complaints!); increase through-put to get students in and out faster … even if their education suffers (Keep the widget assembly line going!). 

Look, I’m not sure it makes a ton of sense to engage in a five-day strike over a 3 percent pay difference, especially since striking faculty will lose five days’ salary, and especially since the strike is largely symbolic—it’s not as if the strike will shut down production on an actual factory or stop the flow of tuition money to the CSU system—but sometimes workers have to take a stand.

College should be about treating teachers and students fairly, about preparing people for the workforce, about imbuing a responsible work ethic. Can students learn that while their teachers are being exploited?

I’m not against students having a nice place to work out, release stress, and find a date for this weekend’s kegger. I’m not even against Cal Poly being a wet campus with a bar, restaurants, or even a hotel. What I am against is a lack of prioritizing what’s important on the part of the administration (Hint! It’s not increasing YOUR salaries!).

How many administrators does it take to screw the faculty? Apparently all of them, and they need to be well paid—and possibly drunk—doing it. 

The Shredder stands with workers, students, and beer! Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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