A new report from an independent fact-finder says California State University should give its faculty a raise.
The non-binding 16-page report acknowledges the Great Recession "severely impacted" CSU, but it recommends a five percent raise for faculty before the end of the university's fiscal year June 30.
"During the most challenging economic times, the faculty agreed to forego negotiated increases and also endured a 10 percent cut in salary, due to furloughs," wrote Bonnie Prouty Castrey, the chair of the fact-finding panel.
Raising salaries for faculty, she wrote “is in the interest of students, who need caring faculty and certainly in the public interest as our country needs a well educated population.”
The report recommends Cal State take money from programs already funded this academic year – it didn’t say which ones – even if it means delaying those programs for a couple of years.
Cal State said that's fiscally irresponsible.
"The University cannot agree to this when funds for this year have already been distributed to the campuses and are fully committed" Cal State Associate Vice Chancellor Bradley Wells said in a four page dissent of the findings. "Any attempt to pull back from these other high priority commitments would cause significant harm to students, faculty and staff, and California."
CSU had countered the faculty's demands with an offer of a two percent salary increase.
A 1 percent increase for faculty adds up to about $16.5 million, but “me too” agreements with the university’s other unions would raise that mount to nearly $33 million.
The ongoing impasse underlines the vastly different approaches to mending the damage done by the recession to the nation's largest public university system. While faculty pushes for faster restoration of salary lost by its members, administration is taking a restrained approach that they say is driven by Sacramento's pace in restoring funding.
"The only way to achieve our shared goals for students, faculty and staff is greater financial investment by the state. I hope to see lawmakers continue to Stand with CSU, as they did this past year," CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said in a written statement.
Each side used the report's reallocation recommendation to back up its position.
"Their claim that they cannot afford these raises was never established in the evidence of the report. They seem to keep trying to find the right argument, but it does seem like they just don't want to pay the faculty this increase. It's a matter of desire, not being broke," California Faculty Association President Jennifer Eagan said.
"The report acknowledges that the University does not currently have the funds to pay the CFA what it has requested, and we agree," the CSU's Wells said.
Both sides agreed with the report's findings that pay for CSU faculty lags behind faculty at similar institutions nationwide and that something needs to be done about it.
That gap is stark.
According to the report, the last salary survey comparing CSU faculty pay with other faculty at similar institutions found that salary for full faculty lagged 24 percent. Salary for assistant faculty and associate faculty lagged 7 percent and 10 percent respectively.
State funding cuts during the recession are largely to blame.
In the three years before the recession CSU faculty had received salary increases ranging from 3.5 percent to 5.7 percent. Then between the 2008-2009 and 2012-2013 academic years there was no increase and a 10 percent pay cut in 2009-2010.
CSU faculty negotiated a 1.34 percent increase in 2013-2014 and a 3 percent increase the year after that.
The California Faculty Association has been in salary negotiations with the university since last May.
The fact-finding report is the last step before the union can legally carry out a strike on April 13 at all 23 Cal State campuses.
The union and the CSU have just over two weeks to reach an agreement.
If the union does conduct a strike, all campuses will remain open to provide student services, according to the university.
This story has been updated.