CFA Comments before the CSU Trustees
May 2018

  • CSU Trustees Committee on Governmental Relations: Jennifer Eagan
  • CSU Trustees Committee on Educational Policy: Jennifer Eagan
  • CSU Trustees Committee on Audits: Kevin Wehr

Jennifer Eagan, CFA President
addressing the CSU Trustees Committee on Governmental Relations

On funding for the CSU: I want to thank Chancellor White, Chair Eisen, and Trustee Simon for attending and speaking at our April 4 event that we co-organized with Students for Quality Education.  We are very pleased that the Chancellor and the Board have agreed to not introduce fee increases this year and fight for funding in the capitol where the burden belongs.  I think that our advocacy will increase the budget for the CSU come June.

Kevin Wehr and myself are returning to Sacramento tonight to join Assemblymember Medina’s press event tomorrow.  For the next month the budget push is the top priority of CFA, even as students are taking finals and faculty are submitting final grades.

On SB 968 for more mental health counselors on CSU campuses: I want to take this opportunity to urge the Board to take a support position on SB 968: ‘Post-secondary Mental Health Counselors,’ which would require CSU to provide at least one full-time-equivalent mental health counselor for every 1,500 students on a CSU campus. Those counselors should be full-time regular employees; not part time employees who will churn in and out.

In spring 2017, nearly 40 percent of college students said they had felt so depressed during the prior year that it was difficult for them to function. Of 63,000 students surveyed at 92 schools, a majority 61 percent said they had “felt overwhelming anxiety,” according to an American College Health Association survey.

In 2013, the RAND Corporation found that almost one in five California college students reported psychological distress within the prior 30 days. And, that rate of crisis, more than five times higher than in the general population, is growing.

The Board has talked openly about homelessness and hunger on campus, taking the lead from student activists in SQE and CSSA. Mental health services are equally necessary to student success. Mental health services are not luxury items like lattes and dry cleaning; they are essential for students and should be part of the graduation initiative. 

Not only could your support of this bill get us some much needed counselor staff, but could also help take away the stigma that students feel when they reach out for help.  Let’s make sure that that help is there for them when they reach out.

Jennifer Eagan, CFA President
addressing the CSU Trustees Committee on Educational Policy

On handling public controversies: These comments are directed to our campus presidents. Your faculty and students need you to respond to public controversies with more grace and more truth. We need you to vigorously defend the rights of faculty to speak out on controversial topics and to use your own freedom of speech to publically and categorically call out racism.  My intention is not to replay the past, but to look forward.

President Castro “This was beyond free speech. This was disrespectful,” Respectful speech generally doesn’t have to be defended as free speech.  The fact that you don’t like the content or tone or mode of delivery of the speech doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t defend the rights of faculty to speak their minds.

We need our presidents to do better by our faculty.  Your first impulse when a faculty member says something distasteful shouldn’t be to throw them under the bus.  You should prize the rights of free speech and academic freedom over your own comfort and donors to the university.  Please stop responding to public controversy from the perspective of risk management.  I appreciate that you changed your stance after public pressure to do so, but the fact remains that your faculty expect and deserve better from you.

President Armstrong said: “Personally, I think it’s awful what they did.  But I also can’t put my personal feelings on top of an individual’s constitutional right. When I say that, I know that makes people mad. When I say it, and I say it tonight, it’s going to make them mad. But if I don’t say it, I’m not doing my job.”

“I don’t believe we have a culture that is racist. I believe we have had some incidents that are awful and we are working very hard to get at the root cause and help people understand.”

Students wearing blackface may be within their rights, but that wasn’t the most important thing to say at that moment. Your first instinct seemed to be to protect the perpetrators rather than think about how Black students and other students of color would feel about the incident. 

Then you denied that there is a culture of racism and seemed to caulk the incident up to a few bad apples. Our students of color know that racism exists in our society, is systemic, and impacts their lives. You should have thought about them first. This is racism, please go ahead and say it out loud.

I am calling out two presidents for these incidents, but I hope that the Chancellor and all of the campus presidents will take this as a call in to think about the impact of your public statements. 

Faculty speaking out on controversial topics and racist incidents on campuses will happen.  We are calling on you to think about what you’ll say and do when these happen on your campus, and think about how you can protect the rights of faculty, the university as a place that generates ideas, and how you can honor the experience of students.   

Kevin Wehr, CFA Secretary
addressing the CSU Trustees Committee on Audits

On CSU Budget Transparency and Accountability Bill AB 2505 (Santiago): AB 2505 by Assemblymember Santiago is a common-sense, good-governance bill.  The bill would increase transparency in how the CSU spends taxpayer dollars, asks the CSU to report to the Legislature on its budgeting  and hiring practices, asks for regular reporting on student access to the CSU, and requires regular audits.

The Legislature has granted significant discretion to CSU management, but this has not been met with intellectual or fiduciary responsibility. We have heard in this room and out of this room, over and over, from students, faculty, staff, citizens, and from the very highest of elected officials “where does the money go?”

There always seems to be enough money to hire new administrators, but never enough to increase enrollment, or open up more bottleneck courses, or address critical needs for students and those who serve them directly in the classroom, the library, in counseling, and on the athletic fields.

Those asking “where does the money go?” were recently supported by the findings of the California State Auditor, who showed that managers do not effectively oversee their budgets, don’t have adequate policies, nor can they account for hiring decisions and actions. This means that any broad notion of transparency and accountability is precluded from the outset.

We have heard the CSU respond that this bill is too costly.  We have also heard that the CSU believes that it is unnecessary and duplicative of efforts already in place.  Well, you can’t say that you can’t afford this bill AND simultaneously say that you already do it.