CSU Chancellor faces faculty protests, anti-racism questions at Sac State during visit
California Faculty Association asks Joseph Castro for fair pay for faculty
November 4, 2021
Joseph Castro’s first visit to Sacramento State as California State University Chancellor had students and the California Faculty Association coming out to voice their concerns, both in the open forum as well as in protest in the University Union on Wednesday.
Many members of the CFA came out to call for action from Castro in regard to ongoing negotiations regarding pay, contracts and social concerns. Students and staff raised concerns regarding Sacramento State’s delayed action on its anti-racism plan and to call for changes to how or if the university’s police department should continue operating on campus.
CFA demands for pay raise, support for faculty
Members of CFA protested outside the University Union Ballroom as Castro and Nelsen spoke at a forum to students and faculty.
Janeth Rodriguez, field representative for CFA, said the association was arguing for the chancellor to agree to a fair contract for faculty.
“Faculty haven’t gotten raises even though they were able to carry the CSU through the pandemic,” Rodriguez said. “The CSU has received a ridiculous amount of money through the federal stimulus as well as through the state. It’s not because they don’t have any money. It’s because they don’t want to.”
During the open forum event with Castro and Sac State President Robert Nelsen, one attendant said lecturers face uncertainty with their contracts and asked what it would take for Castro to commit to five-year contracts and a path to tenure for lecturers.
Nelsen agreed with Castro, saying he could not get in the middle of bargaining but that he would like to see longer contracts for lecturers so that they have stability.
During a press event prior to the open forum, Nelsen spoke about faculty compensation.
“Our faculty do not earn what they should earn,” Nelsen said. “They are not paid what they should be paid. We’ll work with the legislature to ensure that they get raises, that they are adequately compensated.”
Kevin Wehr, a professor of sociology at Sac State, said CFA is arguing for a 4% raise this year and next year instead of the 2% raise they received this year, which Wehr said does not keep up with inflation rates.
“The chancellor’s team, I think their favorite word in the English language must be ‘no,’” Wehr said. “The CSU doesn’t want to give us anything for all the work we did last year. They don’t want to recognize it. They say ‘thank you very much, we appreciate it, but we’re not going to pay you anything.’”
Nelsen and Castro address racism at Sac State
Wehr spoke directly to Castro in regards to anti-racism and current CFA bargaining.
“President Nelsen has said that he wants this to be an anti-racist campus, and we’re still, obviously, waiting for more progress on that,” Wehr asked. “In our contract negotiations, we have explicitly had several anti-racist and social justice proposals, all of which have been rejected by your team. We have demanded an alternative to policing on campus. So, if you won’t put it in the contract, if you won’t put anti-racist language in the contract, then it remains a racist document. Why won’t you take action on anti-racism and social justice demands?”
“Our negotiations are ongoing, we have not finished our negotiations, and we will see how they go forward,” Castro said. “I think you’ve heard me say that I support the efforts here of this campus to be anti-racist, and we will continue to do that across the system. We will continue to negotiate in good faith on all the things you brought to the table, and let’s see how things go.”
“If you don’t have an anti-racist policy, then your policy is explicitly racist,” Wehr replied.
“I know that’s your point of view, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. But we can disagree, that’s OK,” Castro said.
Rodriguez also said CFA was advocating for more diverse representation in faculty to better reflect the student body.
“Sac State is the second in the system that’s the worst offender when it comes to faculty representing student body,” Rodriguez said. “Even though you have a really high percentage of Latinx students, the faculty doesn’t reflect the student body.”
Rodriguez said having faculty that does not reflect the student body creates additional work and pressure on faculty of color, something Rodriguez called “cultural taxation.”
“What that creates is cultural taxation on faculty of color, because they have more students who would potentially come to them for help than a faculty member who is not a faculty member of color,” Rodriguez said. “When we think about student learning outcomes and what that looks like, it’s much better to have faculty representation that reflects the student body.
Nelsen discussed the lack of representation in faculty, specifically saying the disparity between Latinx faculty and students were “not numbers we want to see.”
“We’re proud of being a Hispanic Serving Institution,” Nelsen said. “We need to do more. We need to have more individuals who look like our students teaching our students. That means in our recruitment, we make sure we are intentional.”
Castro added that one major concern in retaining faculty would ideally be addressed in the budget.
“I support him [Nelsen] and our presidents throughout the system in making sure all our staff and faculty have the support they need to be successful,” Castro said. “We’ll be coming out with our budget request at the board meeting next week. It'll be the largest request we've ever made.”
A common thread for questions to Castro and Nelsen was Sac State’s commitment to its anti-racism plan, and its need to address better student representation seen in the makeup of the faculty. Nelsen addressed the recent mass exodus of Black administrators at Sacramento State, saying the university needed to work together to retain the faculty.
“We are forming a task force to make sure that we do not have an exodus as we’ve had recently,” Nelsen said. “We have a wonderful anti-racism and inclusive campus plan. There are recommendations there that we have to put in place.”
Wehr also discussed anti-racism initiatives that CFA is advocating for, including alternative conflict management on campus.
“President Nelsen has said he wants to this to be an anti-racist campus,” Wehr said. “We want to see a change in how conflict is handled on campus. Currently, the only thing you can do is call the cops, and we all know calling the cops in a conflict situation especially puts at risk our BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] faculty and students.”
Concerns raised over police on campus
In the open forum, Yahaira, a representative from Students for Quality Education who requested their last name be kept private due to their status as an undocumented student, asked if Castro or Nelsen would work to limit the presence of police on campus and look into other methods to make sure that students and faculty feel safe.
Castro said he believed that the CSU can serve the needs of our students, faculty and staff through our police department.“I do believe we can invest, and will invest, in the needs of our students and faculty and staff while we do everything to ensure the safety of our campus, and I think that does include continuing to have a police department on each of our campuses that serves our needs most effectively,” Castro said.
Nelsen spoke of his commitment to make sure that all students feel safe, including an advisory police group committee that will aim to increase the number of social workers and counselors to work in the police department.
“It hurts to hear that you don’t feel safe,” Nelsen said. “It hurts. I want you to feel safe. That’s why we do not allow ICE on campus and we have a way to make sure that if they do come on campus, they will not be arresting anybody on campus or taking anybody from campus...That said, I want you to know that I do respect our police, and I do believe they keep us safe.”
Another student present at the forum, Lillyana Sanchez, said Castro and Nelsen cannot support students while supporting campus police.
“We’re the students, we’re paying tuition, we’re trying to tell you our problems, and you’re blatantly ignoring it,” Sanchez said. “Do you support us, or do you support police? Because, personally, I don’t believe you can support both of us.”
Castro said he appreciated Sanchez’s point of view.
“We can have a difference of opinion, that’s OK, but I do believe that we can serve the needs of our students, faculty and staff through our police department as well,” Castro said.