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Ivory tower or gold mine?

Tyler Dilts received a master's degree and a master of fine arts degree from Cal State Long Beach and has been employed there for the last decade as a staff member and contingent faculty.

In the latest of a long series of decisions that serve to increase the wealth and influence of those at the top of the bureaucracy while reducing the accessibility of California State University to the students it was designed to serve, the Cal State Board of Trustees last week approved an obscene pay raise for administrators across the state.

Chancellor Charles Reed’s salary will climb to $421,500 a year -- a raise of $44,500. That means that his increase alone is greater than the annual salary of most of the part-time and non-tenure-track faculty of the university, who teach 60% or more of the classes at many of the largest CSU campuses. (I made about $39,000 last year.) And what’s more, the raises for administrators come at a time when we teachers are already considered too expensive; increasingly, classes are taught by graduate-student teaching assistants and a new class of employees who will be hired to teach even before earning a bachelor’s degree -- for an even lower salary.

As part of last week’s decision, the salary of the president of Cal State Long Beach, F. King Alexander, will balloon by $29,121 -- to $320,329. Again, the increase is greater than the annual income of many of the university’s full-time non-teaching staff members. These figures don’t even take into account the many benefits top administrators receive, such as Cal State-supplied housing (Reed and Alexander live in fully staffed, multimillion-dollar homes in the Long Beach area), cars, first-class travel and other perquisites.

The great irony -- or perhaps hypocrisy -- is that even as the trustees and administrators argue that this graft is absolutely necessary to attract and retain qualified individuals, those same individuals are repeatedly demonstrating their incompetence by offering less and less to our students for more and more money. Continuing tuition increases, cuts in student services and academic opportunities, dramatic reductions in basic-skills instruction and ever-increasing class sizes are severely limiting the educational prospects of the students the Cal State system was created to serve.

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The Cal State administration has created and fostered a system that exploits low-paid faculty and staff members in order to fuel the ever-encompassing self-indulgence of those at the top of the hierarchy. Students become not only insignificant but virtually nonexistent in this mode of thinking. Teaching and learning, the very activities that many of us joined Cal State to perform, have become subservient to maintaining the lifestyles of those at the top.

A survey of the political bumper stickers in the faculty and staff parking lots at your local Cal State campus might suggest a Democratic slant, but the ideology that rules the institution should not be in any way mistaken for liberal. Those ruling the system seek only one thing -- the conservation of their own status, money and power.


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