Furloughs for California

Today was the astronomy department’s orientation.  Turns out that California has no money – who knew?  But until this meeting, none of it really affected me directly.  Admittedly, something not affecting me is not a good excuse to not care about it, but I tend to avoid getting all caught up in money-related issues.  Experience has taught me that people gripe a lot more than anything actually happens (though it’s possible that’s just me being oblivious in many cases!).

Regardless, this has changed.

All of SDSU’s faculty are required to take two furlough days per month because of a lack of money.  This means, for example, if you are an undergraduate student taking a class that meets MWF, you may randomly not have class on one Wednesday and on one Friday in September.  And if you’re a graduate student doing research, your adviser is obliged to not be on campus or respond to emails on his or her furlough days.  The Astronomy Department has been affected in other nontrivial ways by the budget shortfalls, too, but this is the most drastic.

People, education is one of the most important things for our public dollars to go to.  I might even argue that it is the MOST important.  I don’t have a problem with cutting back somewhat in a financially bad year, but this is ridiculous.  Here is a tidbit copy-pasted directly from the syllabus of an Astronomy 101 professor:

The CSU [California State University] system has suffered chronic underfunding for years, and this year the cuts are the worst they have ever been: 20% of our budget. The administration is dealing with this by large increases (32%) in student fees, elimination of classes, cutbacks on services, and layoffs of employees.

Faculty are also required to take two unpaid furlough days per month during the 2009/10 academic year. The furlough program prohibits faculty members from teaching, being on campus, doing research, and consulting with students on furlough days. Faculty furlough days vary from faculty to faculty. […] On those days, classes and office hours are cancelled, and telephone and e-mail messages will not be answered. Unfortunately this means that we will not be able to have as good an educational experience as was possible in previous semesters.

Unless you and I and other people of California let the Governor, Legislature, CSU Chancellor and others know that we find these cuts unacceptable, things are likely to get worse and almost certain to get no better. This directly affects your education and your future.

This is pretty FUBAR, if you ask me.  The US Education system is already in need of overhaul.  Slashing the CSU budget in an attempt to make ends meet is ridiculous.  But, I am sorry to say, I don’t see a ready solution.  Do you?


4 thoughts on “Furloughs for California

  1. So are faculty actually going to listen to the “don’t do any work on those days?” From what I heard from Gerard, it was more like “faculty will not get paid for X days/month.” A temporary pay cut, basically. I don’t expect it’ll *actually* be “prof chooses two days to vanish off the face of the earth…” Illinois might be having furlough days this coming year too, not sure, that’s the impression I got.

    No ready solutions that I know of. I think the options are
    1) Raise taxes (right, good luck to anyone pushing *that* through a legislature, and through the possibility of propositions, especially in a recession)
    2) Cut funding somewhere else (at which point, it’s comes down to everyone bickering about what to cut by how much – I’m sure there’s lots of that bickering already been done, and the result is the compromise that you’re seeing)
    3) Be more efficient with money – somehow manage to spend the same amount but do more with it. (Probably possible, governments are wasteful, but finding that waste and eliminating it isn’t easy, or else it would’ve been done already.)

    ? Anything else?

    • Well, they’re definitely *supposed* to not do any work on those days, or even be on campus. And given my experience with SDSU, it’s likely that will happen, but I’m sure it will vary from person to person. Regardless, nobody will be holding class on their furlough days, which rather defeats the point of, you know, school.

      I suppose I would argue for a thoughtful combination of all your options. It’s who gets to determine what is “thoughtful” that gets problematic… everyone has special interests, myself included.

  2. I’m guessing that they won’t hold class. Chances are that the faculty will still respond to emails and converse with students, and likely be on campus. I mean, they do that anyways on vacation, right?

  3. Same thing happened to me in high school. I lost 10 days of school in the 2nd semester of my junior year because Oregon didn’t have money. I’m sorry you’re getting effected by something like this too.

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