Time for the CSU’s Top Brass to Look in the Mirror

As soon as he took office, Gov. Brown set a new standard for a more frugal and more focused model of state government. Even as he tackled a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall he demonstrated, by eliminating cell phones and state cars, that priorities matter, in small ways as well as large.

The Governor wants to ensure that California’s public institutions live up to the mission for which they were created.

It is in that spirit that the California Faculty Association launched a CSU Waste Whistleblower web page where people can log on and anonymously submit tips about state funding that is being wasted, misspent or improperly used on the California State University’s 23 campuses or in its offices in Long Beach or Sacramento.

We think the CSU’s top managers should get their priorities straight. We don’t have spare dollars for pet projects and unnecessary perks. They must demonstrate that they will spend every taxpayer dollar on providing students with a quality education.

We already know about numerous examples of inappropriate spending within the CSU system. For example:

Highly-paid CSU Presidents receive expensive “car allowances” of $12,000 annually when nearly all other Californians maintain, purchase, or lease automobiles at their own expense.The CSU Administration spent $400,000 on outside lobbyists even though the University has its own Government Relations Office in Sacramento with a full-time staff of nine employees.

Between 2000 and 2008, as the number of students in the CSU grew by 27 percent, the number of administrators shot up by 23 percent while the number of instructional faculty rose by only 11 percent.

In just one year, between 2007 and 2008, as the economic crisis set in, the CSU increased the number of full-time equivalent administrators by 3 percent, but slashed the number of full-time equivalent faculty by 1 percent; meantime student enrollment was up by 2 percent.

Former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo President Warren Baker, who is also listed as “Special Assistant to the Chancellor” on Forbes.com earned as much as $200,000 a year moonlighting on other jobs while serving as President of the University.

The CSU has spent more than $4.3 million on a no-bid contract for an outside consultant to “improve labor relations” (a task at which the consultant failed miserably) even though the Chancellor’s Office and all 23 CSU campuses already have an army of full-time labor relations staff, including a Vice Chancellor paid more than $300,000/year.

We are receiving information like this from the public and encourage people to continue to send us their tips about waste in the CSU so we can take action and hold people accountable. We need to help the CSU Chancellor make better choices.

The faculty wants to ensure that every dollar allocated to the Cal State University is spent with a laser focus on our mission — providing California’s students with a quality education. It is this mission that helps to keep our state a leader in innovation and a magnet for good jobs and which creates an active and informed citizenry for our democracy.

lillian taizThe CSU’s state funding has been slashed many times during the past 10 years. The result has been over-crowded classrooms, tuition hikes that have priced out students, enrollment limits, cuts to student services and the elimination of programs.

The budget cuts are terrible for the CSU. That is why it is so important to bring an end to waste, and establish a management culture in the CSU that values both careful stewardship of taxpayer dollars and a focus on quality education in the classrooms.

Lillian Taiz

Lillian Taiz is a professor of history at California State University, Los Angeles and President of the California Faculty Association.

Republished with permisssion from The California Progress Report.

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