Sac State faculty, California Faculty Association members on compensation inequality

Blanket increases in CSU presidential compensation set stage for future negotiations


Johnathan Rutz

(L-R)Philosophy Lecturer and CFA Membership and Organizing Co-Chair Jonathan Chen, Assistant Art Professor Mya Dosch and Sacramento City College student Pascal Dao running a CFA awareness booth outside the Sacramento State Library Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. The booth was meant to spread awareness on recent salary increases for the highest earners in the CSU system.

Stacy Hanson and Johnathan Rutz

Covered in snacks and handmade posters, tables are arranged in the Sacramento State Library forum to entice students to stop by. Dressed in bright red California Faculty Association T-shirts and massive mascot heads, faculty and union members convey an important message to students willing to listen.

The message: the highest earners in the California State University system had gotten a raise, important bargaining dates and compensation studies are on the horizon and faculty are just as financially strapped as ever.

“Compensation hasn’t changed,” said Jonathan Chan, philosophy lecturer and CFA membership and organizing co-chair. “Well, I should say it’s better than it would have been had we as faculty not pushed for more rights and more protection and pay increases. [CSU presidents’] housing allowance is $60,000. That’s more than I make in a year.”

Philosophy Lecturer and CFA Membership and Organizing Co-Chair Jonathan Chen stands outside of Mendocino Hall Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. “No human being who truly cares about public education would ever be willing to accept that amount of money knowing that students are the ones who suffer most as a result of this,” Chen said. (Stacy Hanson)

In July of 2022, the California State University Board of Trustees put in motion a policy of executive compensation increases approved in 2019 but postponed through the pandemic. CSU presidents were given a general salary increase of 7%, with 14 presidents receiving additional retroactive raises from pandemic-era evaluations of up to 10% per year since 2020.

These increases equated to tens of thousands of dollars more a year in compensation.  

“[Nelsen’s] $24,000 raise is how much I make in a semester,” Sac State lecturer and CFA Lecturer Delegate Emily Bukowski said. “I like to joke that it’s the original gig work because I think, as it was originally created, the intent was ‘Oh, you’re a working professional but you like to teach.’

Combined with benefits packages, some CSU presidents are making well over $500,000 in total wages, from data reported to the California State Controller’s Office.

“Paying our senior leaders competitively is imperative to the CSU success and is in line with our values,” Board of Trustees Chair of the Board Wenda Fong said during the July meeting. “This has been a long time coming.”

Increases for executives came after bargaining with the CFA for their own retroactive compensation faced struggles in the final moments of the 2022 agreement, according to CFA Chapter President Margarita Berta-Avila. A 4% general salary increase for faculty in 2021 was supposed to be accompanied by another in early 2022, but was dropped to 3%.

(L-R) California Faculty Association Field Representative Janeth Rodriguez, Assistant Art Professor Mya Dosch and Philosophy Lecturer Jonathan Chen running a CFA booth outside the Sac State Library Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. The CFA was spreading awareness on recent CSU presidential salary increases from the July Board of Trustees meeting. (Johnathan Rutz)

Berta-Avila highlighted how Gov. Gavin Newsom and other elected California leaders withdrew $100 million from the CSU’s unallocated ongoing funds, effectively denying a final 1% pay increase to faculty at the last possible moment. Faculty, staff and students were given “minimal to no support from [CSU] management” for that year of bargaining, according to Berta-Avila. 

Professor and CFA Department Leader Michael Vann said faculty union members were surprised to receive smaller than promised raises this year.  

“That was disappointing and frustrating, especially as right after we found out about that is when the inflation spiral kicked off,” Vann said. “This is the nature of the disconnect between high-level administrative pay scales in universities around the country and what faculty get paid.”

CSU presidents received general salary increases this past July, along with 14 of the presidents receiving additional, retroactive “equity” salary adjustments from over the pandemic. Those presidents received anywhere from 14% to 29% salary increases, equating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional pay. (Graphic made in Canva)
(Johnathan Rutz)

Vann said he worked as a “classic freeway flier,” having to commute and teach between multiple Southern California UC campuses at a time before joining Sac State in 2005. He said tenured faculty forget that not all of their colleagues don’t have a chance to enjoy the security that comes with tenure.

“After six years of that, [I was] contemplating leaving the profession,” Vann said. “Faculty need to remember that many of our colleagues, who are not in tenure-line, are in vulnerable and potentially precarious situations.” 

Bukowski recalled one particular instance where she lost $800 per month due to a class that was dropped because of low enrollment numbers.

“We’re not in it for the money,” she said. “But it’s not great. A lot of lectures, even if they’re teaching 15 units in the CSU, will pick up courses at community colleges for supplemental income.”

The CFA and the CSU will be back at the bargaining table come spring 2023, just in time for the conclusion of the CSU faculty compensation study’s results scheduled to release sometime in January through March.  

“I don’t want a tenure-line job,” Bukowski said. “I don’t wanna deal with all the administrative stuff I don’t wanna have to be department chair; I specifically don’t wanna do that. I’m not especially interested in research, I’m here because I’m passionate about teaching.”