In 44 years at California State University Northridge, I have endured four university presidents. They looked different, but they sounded the same with every president pledging to make the institution even better.
During this time, California State University Northridge has grown dramatically, budding from a college of 18,000 to over 39,000. The number of the faculty is gigantic, and the administration is even larger. You really don’t get to know many professors outside your tribe – which we call a department.
The presidents look all imperial, wearing a perpetual smile. They all want to grow the academy, not so much because they have a feeling of place, but because in developing the university they increase their influence. Like most of the faculty, they cannot fully accept that they are at a teaching institution, and they feel they deserve to be at a prestigious research university.
Not that CSUN is an academic ghetto; the president gets paid over $300,000 plus a year, has a housing allowance and a chauffeured car. There are additional perks such as sitting on corporate boards, each paying them what a professor earns in a year.
However, that is not enough for an ambitious president whose aspirations are stoked by the daily adulation that comes with the job. I saw changes in our last president Jolene Koester who went from a likeable, engaging person, to I am the president and I know best. At first we had intelligent exchanges on the morality of R.O.T.C that by the end were confrontations. Koester went from being a fairly democratic person to resembling the former president Brenda Wilson. She thought it was the job of the faculty to protect her from the students, and she resented it when you chose to support the students.
However, for all my criticism of Jolene, I commend her for eliminating the football program in 2001. CSUN had had a football program for the first forty years of its existence. However, football was expensive, and it detracted from the academic programs, and the development of other sports.
Even so, the athletic department was not hurt. Indeed, it has a FTE of only about 44 students, and has a budget larger than the College of Humanities. And, head coaches still got paid more than full professors.
In my then 30 years at CSUN I never attended a football game although I religiously follow the University of Southern California and the University of California Los Angeles games. The truth be told, there was little support for the football team. The only faculty members that I knew who attended the games were administrators who the presidents commanded to attend.
Two years ago I grew suspicious of petitions circulated by Jason Aula who had led a similar failed drive for a revival of football at Cal State Long Beach. Aula said that “the main reason I believe (football) is essential to the university is (that) without the football team, you do not get the college experience many people expect.” Aula posed as CSUN alumnus. Digging deeper, I learned that Aula was enrolled at CSUN for one unit, which technically qualified him as a student. He had done the same thing at other campuses.
Aula intruded into my space when he threatened to get rid of the murals in Chicana/o Studies, and to have MEChA expelled from the campus. For good measure he vowed to get me fired.
In an exchange of emails he called into question my patriotism and copied every politico who would listen. He drew in Jim Gilchrist, the head of the Minuteman Project. They were supposed to hold a demonstration in front of the departmental classrooms.
I then copied the politicians he had copied, and called their attention to the violence of the Minutemen Project. Gilchrist grew angry because I called his organization baby-killers for its role in the assassination of nine-year old Brisenia Flores in Arizona in 2009. I also wanted students to be aware of who Aula was so I posted a photo of him.
Well, now Aura is again pushing football and posing as a concerned student who wants his fellow students to have a richer college experience.
I grew concerned when I heard that now President Dianne F. Harrison was enthusiastic about bringing back football. Of course the program would be paid for by increasing student fees something that is not unique to her administration.
CSUN is a commuter university and only a few students bother to vote. The faculty will not kick in because, according to our contract, it has to go to a vote. In view of the current state of their labor contract, I really doubt whether they would vote to tax themselves.
Football is a costly proposition, and I doubt whether the state will pay for the construction of a stadium at a time when it is cutting corners by withholding food stamps from the poor. According to the Associated Students Fiscal Impact Analysis a student activity fee would have to be as high as $243 to fund the projected expenses of a football team and its stadium.
I do not believe that it is moral to force students to pay for what amounts as tuition when many have two or three jobs, and ten students cram into a two bedroom apartment to make ends meet. Students are already paying for three-quarters of the cost of the academy’s instruction. (In 2001, the Matador football team made$26,000 in ticket sales; the program cost $1 million to run).
The arguments I hear made are similar to those that I heard when they were proposing to build the Valley Performing Arts Center: The San Fernando Valley has over a million and a half residents and football will bring them all together. We need a big time stadium to build a sense of community.
That argument offends me. If CSUN wanted to be part of the San Fernando Valley, why didn’t it call itself California State University at the San Fernando Valley? Was it because Northridge sounded a whiter? The truth be told, the history of the San Fernando Valley is one of name changes to erase the Mexican presence. Arleta broke away from Pacoima, Mission Hills from San Fernando, North Hills from Sepulveda, and West Hills from Canoga Park. CSUN plays to the Northridge Chamber of Commerce, and hardly notices that the Parthenia Housing Projects are in Northridge. It took student revolts to let Mexican and black students on this campus.
Now they say that President Harrison wants to bring back football, which games will cost $25 to $50 to attend — as if poor people had that kind of money. Haven’t our fearless leaders learned anything from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion? Beautiful but where are the brown and black faces? “Please say it ain’t so, Dianne.
I am usually very critical of President Barack Obama’s education policies. However, he had a good idea about basing the rating of colleges and universities on the affordability of tuition.
You want to build a sense of school spirit – lower student costs so they can afford to work less, and have more time to spend on campus.
Now I am waiting for the California Faculty Association and faculty leaders to be heard. It does not hurt to remind them that a small group of minority and progressive students are always there for them when they want a raise. Maybe it is payback time.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013