Without a public mandate and without open discussion within democratic processes, the administration of the California State University is transforming California’s great public university—“The People’s University”—into the image of a For-Profit higher education enterprise.
This is the overall assessment of “For-Profit Higher Education and the California State University: A Cautionary Tale,” a white paper the California Faculty Association released Tuesday at a meeting of the CSU’s Board of Trustees.
For years, the faculty on campuses up and down this state have tried, in vain, to get CSU administrators and its Trustees to rethink the path they are on. Some of them, having decided that the era of public funding for higher education is over, have set a course for our state university system that threatens to nail the coffin shut on public higher education.
Sadly, the voices of CSU faculty and staff have been ignored. We attend CSU Trustees meetings persistently, where we are allowed three minute-speeches. Our resolutions and our endless attempts to involve CSU managers and Trustees in the process of shared governance have not moved them to reconsider.
That is why the California Faculty Association felt it had to place our concerns and unanswered questions before the legislature and the public.
We find that legislators and Californians in general are as concerned as we are about the direction in which this great 23-campus public university system is headed.
We all continue to witness CEO-style salaries and skyrocketing student fees; we see matriculated students who find they can get the class they need in Extended Education—but only if they can pay the extra bounty in the form of much higher fees. And we see a huge investment in an online project that seeks to compete in new student markets at a moment when we cannot even serve the students we already have.
The California Faculty Association is not content simply to raise questions and sound the alarm. We have been doing that for years to no avail. We believe the time has come to make changes to ensure that the managers and Trustees responsible for our public university are held accountable for their decisions by the legislature and by the public. It is simply not acceptable for the leaders of the CSU to be seen as tone deaf and out of touch.
The time has come for the law to change so that ex officio members of the CSU Board of Trustees—the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of education, and Assembly speaker, each of whom have critically important responsibilities for running this state—can send their own designees to Trustees meetings to participate in discussions and cast votes on behalf of the constitutional state leaders and the legislature.
Bringing those voices to bear on decisions that the Trustees make would bring an important perspective to decisions being made and serve the leadership body well.
It is also time for the law to provide that the CSU Board of Trustees include greater numbers of faculty, students, and non-faculty represented staff. More of these voices of experience—from the trenches—could help the leadership body maintain a clearer understanding of the impact of initiatives that may look clever during meetings at the Chancellor’s Office, removed from any campus, but that create nightmares for those of us who must implement them and whose education is affected by them.
It is time to protect our matriculated students, who through no fault of their own, find that the only way they can move toward their degree is to take courses offered through the For-Profit arm of the CSU—extended education—at a much higher cost. We believe it is only fair that these students pay one price, no matter what part of the CSU offers the course.
These few measures can help us move toward more meaningful discussions and review of the path our public university is on today.
It is a discussion this nation failed to have when For-Profit edu-businesses promised to solve the problem of access to higher education. The result has been a disaster for too many students—a lifetime of debt with nothing to show for it. This is NOT the model we should emulate.
We should, instead, be fighting shoulder to shoulder for solutions and a renewed commitment to PUBLIC higher education.
Lillian Taiz is President of the California Faculty Association. See the full report, fact sheets on related legislation, and more information athttp://www.calfac.org/forprofitcsu