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Stand Up and Deliver : One California faculty that is trying to rise to the occasion

It is easy to lose sight of the future during a recession and an accompanying budget crunch. And one big investment in the future is the California State University system, which, according to its new chancellor, Barry Munitz, is now at risk of being unable to deliver “a reasonable level of quality at the current resource base.”

The Cal State system--down $60 million in its operating budget, even after a substantial tuition increase--no longer can be sure of making good on the promise of providing affordable higher education. That system has been one important component in making California a leader.

The signs of a painful retreat are all around in this young semester. At Cal State Fullerton, the dropping and adding of classes, a traditional game of musical chairs, is being played to a cacophonous tune: There aren’t enough courses. At San Diego State, President Tom Day welcomed the new year by warning that the university might have to lay off tenured faculty. At Cal State Northridge, there is talk of the 6-year undergraduate degree.

If there is a silver lining, it can be found in the classroom. There, teachers and students meet face to face.

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At Cal State Fullerton, to cite just one campus, faculty members and department chairmen are rolling up their sleeves: Classes designed for only 50 are accommodating 125; teachers are taking on, almost cheerfully, a heavier teaching load.

These days, one hears often enough of professors who put research ahead of students. Here, by contrast, is a touch of campus heroism--the resolve to make do. Sacramento, buffeted with its own unattractive budget choices, must come to terms with this important building block of California’s future, the Cal State system. But the “can-do spirit” of faculty in a trying new semester is a hopeful sign.


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