About 200 boisterous faculty members, joined by student supporters, gathered outside Cal Poly’s Administration Building Thursday to chant for higher pay and voice complaints about “administrative bloat.”
The crowd marched in one large circle, holding up signs reading “Money for Managers, Promises for Profs” and “It’s Gone Too Far.”
Drivers of passing cars honked their horns and stopped to yell out support for teachers as the protesters loudly blew whistles, raising the volume to piercing decibels.
The protest, organized by the university’s faculty union, came amidst widespread faculty discontent over raises they say are minimal and inadequate while the number of administrators has spiked by 39 percent between 2010 and 2014.
And, according to the union, the California Faculty Association, the amount of spending on university administrators rose by 43 percent from 2010 to 2014.
In comparison, they say most CSU faculty salaries increased by 3 percent during that period.
Cal Poly officials didn’t respond Thursday to questions from The Tribune about the accuracy of the union’s figures.
The protest came as the union prepares to start negotiating a contract throughout the CSU system for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“The administration has broken our trust,” said Glen Thorncroft, a mechanical engineering faculty member and former union president.
“They’re giving us a lot of lip service, and it has caused the faculty to lose faith. They say there’s not enough money in the pot to give to faculty, but they’re finding money to give to administrators.”
The faculty union also cited an increase in the total number of administrators from 160 in 2013 to 239 in 2014.
The average annual salary for administrators at Cal Poly is $107,000, compared to about $31,000 for lecturers, who make up 47 percent of the teaching body, and about $80,000 for all professors, union officials cited.
(A lecturer is a lower academic rank with a more open-ended status than a tenured professor.)
In 2013-14, Cal Poly’s faculty members received a bump of about $80 per month — their first raise in six years. They got another 1.6 percent increase this year, with some lower-paid faculty members getting a 3 percent hike.
The union presented a letter to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, who attended the rally and spoke with faculty and students.
The letter called for an immediate moratorium on the total amount of money paid to administrators, a rollback of administration salaries to 2010 levels in the next three years, and a match of future pay increases for administration with the same percentage pay increases for faculty.
“The Cal Poly administration and President Armstrong say that faculty pay is a top priority, but if you follow the money, that hasn’t been the case,” said Graham Archer, Cal Poly’s faculty union president. “It’s smoke and mirrors. Look at the bottom line.”
Armstrong said he agreed that the $2.5 million Cal Poly has set aside for faculty and staff equity pay increases over the next four years isn’t enough, but it’s the amount he says is available. The university administration is looking at ways to increase compensation, he said.
The $2.5 million hike has been criticized by the union as insufficient, also noting that it’s being shared by faculty and staff.
In the first year allocation of $500,000, not all faculty will receive money.
“There’s not enough money to distribute that $2.5 million to every group each year, and our goal was to start with the groups that most need it,” Armstrong told The Tribune during the protest.
“About half of (this year’s allocation) went to the College of Liberal Arts because it’s known they needed adjustments.”
Armstrong said that decisions will need to be made on how to allocate that additional $2 million over the next few years. And he said an advisory council on compensation issues, a group that would include faculty and students, is being formed.
Many of the new management positions are in fundraising, which helps bring revenues to the university.
But Archer said the union has calculated that this year, the university is spending about $6 million to $8 million more on administrator salaries compared to last year. Armstrong disputed the numbers.
“We’ve been looking at those figures, and I don’t have a specific number for you, but I can tell you that $6 to $8 million isn’t accurate,” he said.
Armstrong said about a third of the new management positions are paid for through Cal Poly Foundation funds, with the rest paid out of the general fund.
Cal Poly dairy science student Katarina Campisi, who joined a large group of students at Thursday’s protest, said, “it’s really unfair how faculty and students are being treated.”
“The teachers go above and beyond for us, and we want them to be paid because they work hard and they struggle to provide for their families,” Campisi said. “If there were more raises and hiring of more faculty, we’d have more classes and more would go back into our education.”
At a recent forum, linguistics professor Johanna Rubba said the California State University system — which isn’t able to fully fund the cost of Cal Poly’s operations — will have to recognize that having happy employees is a “good idea.” She said faculty members are tired of promises.
“We want to see action,” Rubba said. “I want more money devoted to faculty salaries. It’s got to be there somewhere. If you can hire more administrators and give them big salaries, you can raise faculty salaries. We’re worth it.”