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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Cloudy with a demand for equitable compensation

The California Faculty Association held their only day of striking on Monday with comradery and enthusiasm despite the foul weather.
Cloudy+with+a+demand+for+equitable+compensation

On Monday, the California Faculty Association’s strike for equitable wages, manageable working conditions and worker protections began early in the morning and continued into the evening.  

Signs calling for fairer contracts, better working and learning conditions, and highlighting outlandish disparities in budgeting allocation could be seen at every intersection across campus. 

Faculty picketing at the campus entrance of Chestnut and Second Street

The CFA decided to follow through with an October 2023 commitment to strike after California State University management officials issued an ultimatum to CFA representatives in a Jan. 9 meeting urging them to accept a 5% wage increase or risk facing major layoffs. 

Faculty members regarded the current pay, benefit and administrative budgeting structure as “egregious”. The frustration stemmed from the unmanageable workload placed on instructors, lack of touch time available for faculty to connect with students and lackluster compensation given to lecturers who often carry the same course load as associate faculty. 

“At Stanford, they’re investing in their faculty and making sure students have the resources necessary to be successful,” associate professor and international relations coordinator, Adam Irish, said. “Chico State is investing in administrative salaries; not their students.” 

Irish said this resulted in decreased touch time between faculty, preventing students from having the support necessary to achieve their academic goals.

Picketing at the Normal Street roundabout entrance.

Associate professor and U.S. politics program coordinator, Michelle Rose, expressed concern for the higher education trend of adopting a corporate model which places a greater emphasis on growth as opposed to education of the student body. 

Chico State public relations manager, Andrew Staples, affirmed Chico State and the CSU’s full-fledged commitment to the education of the student body.  

“CSU spends about 75-80% of its budgets on salaries and the vast majority of that is salaries for employees who directly support students, these are your counselors, your academic advisors, your faculty,” Staples said.  “The CSU system is heavily invested in student success just like we are at Chico State.”

Picketing outside the campus entrance of the First and Salem Street roundabout.

While salary, parental leave and class cap size were the primary issues vocalized during the strike, the CSU administration’s unwillingness to embrace mental health in their Jan. 9 meeting was another major concern.  

Photography lecturer Aaron Draper pointed out that at least 80% of his students have at one point throughout the semester expressed the need for accommodation for mental health reasons indicating that the current mental health support system needs improvement.

When asked for comment, President Steve Perez said Chico State is committed to supporting the mental health needs of its students. Perez said Chico State maintains a student-to-mental health counselor ratio of 1,200:1. A ratio recommended by the International Accreditation of Counseling Services. 

Promptly at noon, the formalized rally began between the Bell Memorial Union, Student Services Center, and Meriam Library. Of the array of speakers and topics discussed, equitable compensation for the faculty remained the most prominent.  

Picketing on Warner Street at the entrance to the Science building.

“All we’re asking for is [pay] to keep up with inflation,” biological sciences lecturer Juan Araujo said. 

CSU management said meeting the CFA’s requests was not financially feasible.

Araujo, along with history lecturer Robin Averbeck, strongly refuted this claim pointing to independent audit reports that have found the CSU administration to have enough reserves to meet CFA requests.

Staples and Perez reminded everyone that these reserves are there for a reason and come with stipulations.

These stipulations require money be put toward needs such as student housing and emergencies, which prevents funds from being reallocated to salaries.

Perez also said if the university encountered a situation in which they were unable to generate cash flow, the reserves on hand would only sustain operations for around 30-days.  

Monday evening, at 10:13 p.m., Perez sent out an email announcing that the CFA and CSU had reached a tentative agreement and the strike had been canceled, effective immediately. 

Further details regarding the tentative agreement between the CFA and CSU are still unfolding. 

Shane Aweeka can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Shane Aweeka, Reporter
Shane is a senior at Chico State, scheduled to graduate this May with a bachelor's degree in public administration and a minor in international relations. In September, Shane will begin working towards his master's in the Netherlands in a program focused on global political economy or international politics. He looks forward to contributing to The Orion’s efforts this upcoming semester and developing an understanding and appreciation for the art of journalism. Outside of school and work you can find him skiing or surfing.

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