Faculty hiring expected to increase with higher budget

State Hornet Staff

With fiscal challenges and restrictive budget cuts for over three years, Sacramento State has finally seen progress in hiring with more than 40 new faculty members set to begin next fall.

The university will bring 40 to 50 new tenure track hires across the seven colleges in multiple disciplines. Though not every department will see a new faculty member, there will be roughly five to ten per college and will be the largest employment of new faculty in several years.

In his 2013 spring address, President Alexander Gonzalez said although hiring is not where the university would like it to be, it is moving in the right direction.

“I’m pleased by our ability to make progress with the resources we have,” Gonzalez said.

Due the state budget cuts to the California State University system, there have been fewer  tenured faculty hires.

Over the past four years, the CSU has decreased the total number of faculty and staff by more than 3,000.

At Sac State, the number of tenure and tenure track faculty decreased from 734 in 2008 to 609 in 2013, while the number of lecturers increased from 724 in 2008 to 754 in 2013.

Fred Baldini, chair of the Sac State University Budget Advisory Committee, said as the budget cuts grew in severity, the campus decided that instead of implementing layoffs, it would just not fill positions that became available.

As the university loses faculty members due to retirements or other employment opportunities, it puts pressure on enrollment because with fewer educators and no new hires, the amount of students wanting to enroll in courses becomes much larger than the number of available seats.

As a result of the cuts, class sizes increased, faculty was asked to teach more and administrative functions were consolidated.

“Now that the budget is going up slightly, we can start strategically hiring in areas where there is a need,” Baldini said. “We’re expecting to be hiring next year, as long as the budget remains stable.”

Even with the progress made, new pressures have arisen for not just Sac State, but for higher education in California in general.

Frederika Harmsen, Sac State provost and vice president of academic affairs, said due to fiscal challenges public higher education faces, universities have to be more strategic now than they have been.

“They must look for new efficiencies and ensure they are focused on core competencies,” Harmsen said.

For Sac State, though this long overdue cohort of new faculty is a relief for all, it is still just the stepping stone for progress. Issues regarding enrollment numbers and the faculty-to-student ratio have not been relieved.

Sacramento’s California Faculty Association President Kevin Wehr said though he is pleased with the change, it is not nearly sufficient.

“There’s clearly too few faculty and there’s clearly too few staff,” Wehr said. “This leads to overwork of faculty and it leads to a decline in the quality of education that we can provide.”

Wehr said it simultaneously becomes a working condition issue for faculty and a learning condition issue for students when there is not enough attention to be given to each student.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, for 2013, the Sac State student to faculty ratio is 28:1, with 17 percent of the university’s classes fewer than 20 students.  

Despite these numbers, Wehr said he does know anybody who in teaching four classes only has 100 students and all the faculty he speaks with are carrying 150 plus, leaving a more accurate ratio around 40:1.

Wehr said compared to other CSUs, Sac State’s ratio is about normal, although other campuses have been hiring at a much faster rate. CSU Northridge, over the past few years, has hired 150 faculty members.

Coinciding with the state budget cuts to the CSU, Wehr said he believes the hiring of educators is not where it should be because of the administration’s prioritization of the allotment of money given to Sac State.

“It’s a set of priorities that is established by the administration, and from my perspective, those priorities are misplaced,” Wehr said. “I think our No. 1 priority should be our students. Everybody will tell you the same thing, but they don’t all act in the same way.”

Wehr said he sees managers being hired at three times the salary of a faculty member, meaning that for each new associate dean, associate provost or associate vice president, the university could be employing two or three or more faculty.

“People argue that there is a place for management and that’s certainly true,” Wehr said. “But managers don’t teach students, managers manage.”