Today, 124 UCSB professors will participate in a system-wide walkout to protest faculty pay cuts resulting from the latest round of budget cuts, with even more expressing their support for the walkout.
Like every other organization associated with the state of California, the UC has been having some trouble with finances lately. Funding from the state has fallen significantly, leaving system and campus administrators scrambling to fill a widening budget gap. In addition to raising tuition and student services, UC President Mark G. Yudof and the Regents decided to implement a policy of faculty furlough days — essentially a pay cut in the form of unpaid “days off.” Unfortunately, the nontraditional work schedule of a college professor does not lend itself to the furlough model, and much of the faculty discontent over the recent round of pay cuts stems from Yudof’s decree that professors are not allowed to take their furloughs on instructional days.
It’s not hard to see where walkout supporters are coming from — less pay for the same work doesn’t sound good to anyone. University professors are among the best educated, most highly-respected members of our society — their years of valuable experience and invaluable wisdom are certainly worth every penny they earn and more. No one is happy to see them suffer the hurt of pay cuts.
Walkout supporters claim professor no-shows on the first day of class will “spread the pain” of recent budget cuts to educate students and encourage them to be more aware of the financial crisis crushing UC. But haven’t students felt the pain of the budget crunch enough already? UC-wide tuition has increased 9 percent from last year, with the Regents eyeing massive additional increases over the course of this academic year. At UCSB, the department of Student Affairs — which covers campus services from Student Health to CLAS to the Career Center — has seen its budget cut nearly 20 percent in the past five years, with all of the cuts eventually being felt on the student level.
Academically, departments have been forced to offer fewer classes, while changes in unit-limits on GOLD will result in more crashers than ever before. With the quarter system giving time for only 20 lectures in some classes, students with selfish professors could lose over 10 percent of total class time to furlough days. Sure, we’ll still get the same grade and the same degree, but if the true point of a university education is to actually learn something, this is obviously not ideal.
Imagine the confusion and dismay of thousands of freshmen who receive e-mails from professors cancelling their first day of class. Worse, imagine the mess when enrolled students show up for class anyway, not wanting to forfeit their increasingly rare seats to would-be crashers.
Almost every American has somehow felt the effects of the current recession, and unfortunately the UC cannot afford for its faculty to be an exception. Walkout supporters decry faculty pay cuts but offer no viable alternative — would they prefer to further raise tuition, cut services or put off vital maintenance work?
When all is said and done, this walkout will hurt more than it will help. Faculty discontent over the furlough policy is understandable, but this response, as exemplified by the walkout, is selfish rather than constructive.