Cal Poly faculty and staff have legitimate reasons to be angry about compensation. As administrators of a state-funded university, my leadership team and I have been forced to make difficult choices.
Those decisions can be scrutinized from many different perspectives, but they are based upon what we believe will drive the success of our students and university as a whole.
On that measure, the university is accomplishing its goals. Cal Poly is one of the highest-ranked universities in the nation in terms of return on investment for students. Cal Poly is also in the enviable position of having extremely high enrollment demand.
While the national average for university enrollment is significantly declining, Cal Poly had approximately 55,000 applications for roughly 4,500 openings this academic year.
Both of these points illustrate the success of the university, even while budget realities have forced difficult decisions.
To be clear, we know our success begins and ends with our faculty and staff. Fair compensation for Cal Poly employees is a serious issue and remains a top priority. We continue to appeal to the state to restore our budgets, which were slashed during the economic recession. While we appreciate the additions to the California State University budget approved by Governor Brown this month, we are still operating in a shortfall.
We also recognize that we need to look differently at our financial future. We have to discover new ways to generate additional revenues, such as public-private partnerships and increased effort on generating private support. Indeed, the expectation of all CSU presidents is to increase private support in the face of reduced state funding.
Some have criticized the university for hiring too many new, non-faculty employees. If one looked solely at the numbers without the broader context, a compelling but misleading argument could be made to support that point.
Consider Cal Poly’s Advancement Division, an area where significant hiring of non-faculty positions has occurred. Advancement is responsible for generating private support, which is especially important in light of the shortfall of state funding. The division had been severely cut during the recent economic recession and was in dire need of being staffed appropriately.
As we responsibly restored the Advancement Division, those new positions have more than paid for themselves by raising $143 million in the past three years alone. It is important to note that these funds cannot be used for salary increases.
Yes, we added more non-faculty staff to the university’s payroll, but the larger picture demonstrates that those positions, along with others like them, provide critical value to the university.
There are many other examples of management professionals being added who directly support student and faculty success, including student advisors and counselors, academic services professionals, disability resource specialists and peer managers.
I am committed to increasing compensation for Cal Poly employees — it is a top priority — but it is also important that there be a clear understanding of the entire picture without any misconceptions. The contract the faculty union agreed to with the CSU system led to an average increase of 3 percent, with some faculty receiving as little as 1.6 percent.
We at Cal Poly put our words into actions and committed an additional $2.5 million in compensation increases for faculty and staff. While not enough, the distribution of that $2.5 million was initiated this year and will continue over the next three years.
I steadfastly believe in transparency and look forward to continuing the conversation about this and other important issues with Cal Poly faculty and staff, including ways we can be more efficient with our budgets. It is only through constructive dialogue that the campus community can come together and work on potential solutions.