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Faculty Pay Protested at Cal State Fullerton

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Waving placards and beating drums, small groups of Cal State Fullerton professors staged a raucous daylong protest Wednesday, criticizing pay raises that they contend are significantly lower than those offered at comparable institutions.

“This is my 26th year here and this is the worst contract dispute that we’ve ever been in,” faculty union President G. Nanjundappa said as he and a dozen colleagues handed out fliers to students. “Our argument is: Upgrade the salary scales so we can attract quality faculty from other parts of the nation and retain existing faculty.”

Fullerton’s demonstration was part of a systemwide protest this week organized by the faculty unions at some of the 23 California State University campuses. About 40 Cal State Northridge faculty members, for example, also held signs aloft, yelled into a bullhorn and walked in a informational picket circle on the campus quad as folk music blared from a boombox.

Citing an independent study of university salaries, faculty members said they earned 7% less last year than their counterparts at 20 comparable colleges nationwide. The report did not identify the schools paying more than the Cal State system, but its sample included State University of New York at Albany, Georgia State University and USC.

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To narrow that salary gap, union members said they deserve at least a 6% overall pay increase, more than the 5% average the administration is offering.

Some professors also argued that the administration is trying to flatten salary scales to expand merit pay--a system some faculty call unfair and biased.

“It’s based on cronyism and favoritism,” said Dave Van Deventer, a Cal State Fullerton history professor for 33 years.

But university spokesman Ken Swisher said merit pay is based on peer evaluations measuring a professor’s number of published works, courses taught and other factors.

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“The issue here is accountability,” Swisher said. “We believe that faculty should be rewarded for outstanding performance.”

The administration is proposing to double the merit pay pot to 40%, making $16 million available to any of the 20,000 faculty members who qualify. Last year, 97% of the faculty received merit pay, Swisher said. With more money for merit pay, a professor could earn a 10% raise under the administration’s latest proposal, he added.

Even more, Swisher said, the administration is offering a 11% salary increase over the next two years. That increase would bring faculty to a pay level equal to those at other universities.

Contract disputes erupted in July when the faculty union rejected the administration’s proposal. Negotiations are at a standstill while a panel made up of faculty and university officials researches the matter in hopes of reaching a settlement recommendation. That process could take up to two months.

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Union members threaten to strike if the contracts are not resolved by then.

Wednesday, a tag team of Fullerton professors protested between classes so that students’ education would not be disrupted. Protesters passed out fliers to students and campus staff. Free peanuts and stickers also were doled out to generate support signatures on a petition to be sent to Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

“They totally should get better pay raises,” said Madusta Smith, a Fullerton junior who signed the faculty petition. “They put in a lot of hours after school to be there for us. It’s really sad that they have to be out here to fight for a raise.”

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Times staff writer Karima A. Haynes contributed to this report.


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