Something is Rotten in the CSU

For the last several years, students have been paying higher and higher tuition in order to attend the CSU. The most recent tuition hike, in November of 2011, was 9% (while the one planned for this fall is 11%), and student protesters were met with the now-standard response of unaccountable authority figures: they were pepper-sprayed, and in some cases, forcibly subdued ( The CSU is facing the possibility of massive cuts to its budget next year (in the area of 250 million dollars), and student enrollments are going to be frozen for the 2012-2013 academic year (and shut off entirely in Spring 2013). Faculty, whose contract was simply disregarded by Chancellor Charles Reed (who argued that given the budget crisis he could not honor the negotiated pay raises of 2.5% for the years 2008-2009 and 2009-2010), have not had a raise in pay since 2007.

But this spring, the trustees of the CSU met in Long Beach to consider the matter of pay raises for executives-specifically for two University presidents who were switching into new jobs ( Each raise in pay (in the neighborhood of $30,000 per year) was approved, along with housing benefits (an extra $60,000 per year in one case, and a University-provided mansion in the other) and car-expense allowances (amounting to $12,000 per year in each case).  

Something is rotten in the state of the CSU. But where might that rottenness come from?

On March 23, 2012, The Washington Post published an editorial by David C. Levy, the former Chancellor of the New School (a college within NYU), that made the following claim about the costs of higher education and the need for reform: “Overlooked in the debate are reforms for outmoded employment policies that overcompensate faculty…” (

This, no doubt, will be echoed in California by CSU Chancellor Reed and his $300,000 to $450,000 per year fellows with their additional  housing allowances ($60,000) and car allowances ($12,000) that exceed many (even most) CSU faculty salaries. According to men like Levy and Reed, the problem with higher education, the real driver of rising costs, is that faculty get paid too much. It isn’t the fact that even State universities like the CSU are paying their executives between $300,000 and 450,000 per year (along with an ever-burgeoning layer of vice-presidents, provosts, directors, deans, assistant deans, assistant directors, special project managers, etc., who make anywhere from $150,000 to nearly $300,000 themselves). No, it’s the $35,000 per year full-time adjunct Professor, and the $60,000 per year Assistant Professor, all the way through those Full Professors who are making $85,000-$90,000!

According to Levy, “faculty salaries make up the largest single cost in virtually all college and university budgets.” This, of course, is Management-Consultancy 101. It is the Bain Capital way of thinking about assets and costs–problematic enough in the world of profits and losses, but absolutely to be resisted in the world of public education–unless, of course, we want our public universities to become profit-driven enterprises like the University of Phoenix, with template-driven courses, low-paid instructors, and massive “economies of scale.”

The point is simple: cost reductions will help keep executive pay high, and they certainly aren’t going to campaign to lower their own salaries are they? Tuition will rise, as it has for the last several years in a row, but only so far. The logical target, the target which has been planned for ever since the for-profit, factory education movement began, is the faculty. If the faculty can be outsourced, turned into something like script-readers in a call center (and make no mistake, that is the goal of many of the people who run for-profit education institutions, as well as those in the non-profit world who envy their methods and “cost” savings), then the last vestige of inconvenient resistance will have been eliminated. This will take some time to achieve, and the raising of administrative salaries that we see now in the CSU, along with the raising of tuition, and the concomitant refusal to honor signed contracts with faculty–well, all of that is just the beginning, just the opening move. But now that the move has been made, it will not be unmade without a struggle.  

This spring’s activities by the CSU Chancellor’s office in Long Beach have made clear who its leaders value. It isn’t the students. It isn’t the faculty. And it most certainly isn’t the taxpayer–for while CSU executives impose ever-higher tuition rates on students, and simply refuse to honor signed contracts with faculty, they are giving themselves raises, houses, and cars. Oh, and throwing themselves expensive parties, too (

It must be nice.