Saturday, July 04, 2009

A lot of questions about university furloughs

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The downward spiral of the finances of the state of California have come to the California State University in the form of a $583.8 million cut to the overall 23- campus system budget for the coming year.

After years of cutting the budgets of these 23 campuses over and over, this one has pushed the university administration to jump on the furlough bandwagon, made popular by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) as he struggles with a struggling state legislature and a whopping $26 billion state budget problem.

Schwarzenegger just added a third monthly furlough day for state workers, giving them an effective 15-percent pay cut in total.

In the CSU, a sketchy proposal has been floated by the central administration for two furlough days per month - about a 10.78 pay cut for all CSU employees. But because the CSU has binding agreements with the three unions representing the employees, each unit must vote to accept the furlough idea.

Two unions have voted to accept the idea of tw0-day per month furloughs, but the faculty - and its bargaining unit The California Faculty Association - have questions. A lot of questions.

The furlough proposal would reduce the proposed deficit, but leave as much as $309 million yet to be cut. That's $309 million out of a $583.8 reduction in funds. And at this point, Chancellor Charles Reed and the CSU Trustees are not saying how they would cut the budget sufficiently to cover this $309 million. In fact, through spokesmen, they have given the definite impression they haven't pondered it fully yet.


And when faculty have asked if agreeing to the furloughs would guarantee there would be no faculty layoffs - just for this academic year - the response has been that the administration won't guarantee anything.

Uh-oh, redux...

With $309 million not accounted for, it's easy to see why the administration wants to keep its options open. This total $583.8 million cut is unprecedented and will likely damage the university system in ways hard to imagine.

Still, before faculty vote to voluntarily reduce their salaries, the CSU Trustees should come clean about how they are planning to deal with the balance of the $309 million budget reduction.

If it is layoffs - in addition to the furloughs - the trustees need to say so. And they should be honest and put some numbers with the announcement.

If it is massive student fee hikes (30-percent fee hikes and higher are reportedly under discussion), those numbers should announced sooner rather than later.

And if the CSU Trustees and administration are planning both? Well, school starts in just seven weeks.

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