A new report released from the California Faculty Association indicates Humboldt State is among the worst schools in the California State University system when it comes to a growing salary disparity between professors and administrators.
The CSU faculty's labor union report notes several alarming trends between 2004 and 2014:
Humboldt State lost 25 percent of its full-time, tenure-track employees, more than any other CSU school. Meanwhile, the university's full-time student enrollment went up 13 percent.
Humboldt State's average salary for managers and supervisors rose by 42 percent, while the average salary for full-time faculty rose only 1 percent. The president's salary rose by 29 percent.
The average inflation-adjusted salary for HSU's full-time faculty dropped by more than $14,000, the largest decline in any of the 23 CSU schools.
Tenure-track faculty positions have dropped by 31 percent.
The report is one in a series being released by the California Faculty Association, and while the report admits the reasons for the shift are complicated, it notes a general management position that led to the "shocking" results at HSU.
"The pattern in the CSU over the last decade could hardly be clearer. In salaries, positions, and expenditures for faculty and administrators, the CSU as a system and at each campus has focused on those at the top."
Dwindling tenure-track positions was one of the concerns that a group of protestors known as Unified Students raised during a 35-day occupation of the Native American Forum at HSU earlier this year.
University spokesman Frank Whitlatch said one reason HSU ranks high on the CFA lists is that the school used to be far above average in "tenure density" — the number of faculty that are tenured or tenure-track.
From 2007 to 2014, CSU system-wide tenure density fell slightly from 61 percent to 56 percent, Whitlatch wrote in an email. During the same period, tenure density at HSU fell from 73 percent — well over the statewide average — to 54 percent, just under the current average.
Whitlatch also points out that student enrollment CSU-wide has increased by about 50,000 over the last 10 years and the CSU's general fund appropriation — money provided by the state — dropped by almost $1 billion from 2007-2008 to the 2011-2012 school year. It rose back to about $2.5 billion this school year.
The CFA doesn't contest this point, but shows in its report that while the general fund allotment has fluctuated, the CSU system netted more than $1 billion more in 2014 than it did in 2004, thanks to rising tuition and student fees.
This, according to the CFA report, while faulty salaries stagnated. Despite similar budget fluctuations, the state's UC and community college systems managed to at least keep salaries at inflation rates, the report reads.
The CSU chancellor's office did not return calls but issued the following statement:
The CSU deeply values its faculty and is committed to investing in faculty compensation. Our dedicated faculty deserve it and our mission of serving students requires it. As soon as the state began to reinvest in the CSU, the university prioritized improving employee compensation. For the last two years, more than $129.6 million has been invested in employee compensation increases — more than half going to faculty — with another $65.5 million slated for 2015-16. The CSU stands with the California Faculty Association in advocating for additional resources from the Governor and Legislature.
While there's some perception that the number of administrative positions has grown at HSU, along with the salaries, numbers provided by Whitlatch show that from Fall 2009 to Fall 2013, the ratio of administrator, faculty and staff positions barely changed. Administrators made up about 6 percent of the school's employees during that time period.
In an outgoing interview last year, former HSU President Rollin Richmond told the Journal, "... Frankly, we don't have all that many administrators here. It's not all that bad. It really isn't."
Michael Camann, a biology professor and the vice president of the Humboldt CFA chapter, says he doesn't know why the effects are so pronounced at HSU.
"I obviously wasn't privy to the administrative decisions that led to those numbers," he said. "I can't account for why decisions were made. What we've seen over the last 10 years is the CSU management re-envisioning itself as a profit-making, corporate entity."
That focus, crystallized under former Chancellor Charles Reed, created a "rapacious" managerial class, Camann said.
HSU's biological sciences department has seen about a 33-percent reduction in tenured professors, Camann said. The adjuncts that fill those positions are qualified — "they have advanced degrees, went to school for 10 years plus, speak multiple languages" — but they work semester to semester with no contracts and low-level pay. "They don't participate — because they're not paid to participate — in the broader academic system," Camann said, meaning they're not developing curriculum or mentoring students outside of class.
Seemingly in keeping with CSU promises to hire 700 new faculty members during this school year, Whitlatch says HSU is seeking to fill 25 tenure-track positions in Fall 2015 and about 20 more the following year. Whitlatch said it’s difficult to estimate how many faculty members will be retiring by Fall 2015 or 2016, but he provided retirement numbers for the last several years, adding that there’s not a “one-to-one” correlation between faculty retiring and new faculty being hired.
“One reason is that most faculty who retire enter the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP), in which they continue to teach half time,” Whitlatch wrote. “So there is time to consider how to replace them. Also, the needs change over time as some departments grow in enrollment and others shrink. So with each departure, there is discussion by the departments, the Deans, the Provost and others about how to best allocate the positions.”
Still, the number of faculty leaving or entering early retirement far outweighs the searches conducted for the last several years:
In 2011, 43 faculty members left or entered early retirement; 12 faculty searches were conducted and 11 positions were filled.
In 2012, 38 faculty members left or entered early retirement; 29 faculty searches were conducted and 23 positions were filled.
In 2011, 39 faculty members left or entered early retirement; 9 faculty searches were conducted and 8 positions were filled.
Camann said local administrators have expressed embarrassment to him over the trend in CSU management, but that "this change has been largely driven with top-down management decisions. At this point either the faculty — which means the faculty union — has to push back or the administration itself has to change course. Historically we don't see that happen very often, particularly when they commit to enriching the managerial class."
Read the CFA's full reports here.
NOTE: This story was updated to include information about HSU's retiring faculty and recruitment efforts over the last several years.