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Cuesta faculty members protest low pay on first day of semester


During Tuesday’s protest, Cuesta faculty could be heard chanting: “What do we want? Fairness? When do we want it? Now!”
Photos by Alexander Bissell / Cuestonian

By Andrew Gregg

Cuesta faculty and staff members picketed on the first day of the spring semester to protest what they are calling unfair compensation, while insisting that the administration’s offer of a one percent increase in salary is insufficient.

Over two dozen Cuesta professors were assembled outside the library on Tuesday morning bearing signs with the slogan: “The Time Is Now: Fair Pay for Excellent Work.” The protestors donned red shirts with white text which read: “We don’t want to strike, but we will” and “Cuesta faculty don’t deserve to be at the ‘bottom.’”

Out of 11 comparable schools, Cuesta faculty are paid the lowest — ranking 11 out of 11 — according to data compiled by Cuesta’s teachers’ union, the Cuesta College Federation of Teachers.

According to the CCFT, it would take a 7.66 percent raise to match the average salary of the 11 comparable schools. The union is proposing a 2.5 percent increase. In addition, it is seeking compensation for all part-time faculty members for meeting with students during office hours.

Debra Stakes, president of the CCFT and earth sciences professor, said that Cuesta’s low ranking is unfair and hurts faculty members.

“The faculty here are really dedicated and they serve the students,” Stakes said. “Everybody here wants to be an excellent instructor … [low pay] hurts the faculty because it becomes increasingly hard to pay your bills.”

Stakes went on to say that 60 percent of full-time faculty work “overload,” with many faculty members taking on extra classes at Cal Poly to make ends meet. Part-time faculty, she said, have to work at many different institutions in order to earn a livable wage.

“The administration keeps asking faculty to step up and do more and more,” Stakes said. “The chancellor’s office — the state — is asking faculty to reformulate their curriculum to be more efficient. So there’s all these things outside of teaching and they want us to keep stepping up and volunteering to do extra work, and then they’re not giving us any extra money.”

The administration weighed in on the claims made by the CCFT.

“The district has a fiduciary responsibility to proceed cautiously with increasing expenditures in the face of declining enrollment and the rising costs of CalSTRS and CalPERS,” said Dan Troy, Cuesta’s assistant superintendent. “We have offered the faculty an offer similar to what other campus groups have accepted/received for the year 2016/17.”

The CCFT has also asserted that, according to Cuesta’s financial documents, the college can afford to fulfill the CCFT’s requests. The issue, according to Stakes, is that the college doesn’t want to.

“They want to save the money for other priorities and give faculty as little money as possible because it gives them more budgetary flexibility,” she said.

Stakes said that the extra work, coupled with low pay, has undermined faculty morale.

“Faculty are demoralized and angry, and have to choose between whether they serve themselves and go teach some other place, or whether they’re gonna stay here and take care of the students,” she said. “The faculty have never been so demoralized as they are now.”