We used to have a name for it; we called arguing with the administration “mental masturbation.” It led nowhere, only complete mental frustration.
Although many campus administrators want to do the right thing, they are either masochists or are just into it for the foreplay. It must also be frustrating to deal with a central administration that bends to the political wind. A basic problem is the Board of Trustees — most of whom don’t have the foggiest notion of what higher education is about and less about how it functions.
Legislators just want to stay in office and impress corporate sponsors by keeping costs down. Latino elected officials at one time audited the campuses inquiring about access, the number of Chicana/o and Latino students. However, I have not seen a Latino politico advocate for students or diversity since the days of the late Marco Firebaugh.
Students do not fall within their priorities. I was disappointed in Alex Padilla, who I have known since he was a kid. When he came out a couple of years ago, he did not consult with the Latino faculty or students on campus. Alex was now running with the chancellor and campus administrators, no more homeboys. Absent pressure from elected officials, faculty, students and reformers are pretty much abandoned.
In the current controversy over impaction I would have thought that at least one elected official from the San Fernando Valley or Ventura County would have picked up the baton since it affects many of their constituents. Apparently serving them does not matter.
However, I did get a straight answer from an administrator who said “the reason why we are going to impaction, though, has nothing to do with physical capacity. Rather, we are being held to our share of CSU FTES that the state funds. The CSU does not want us to exceed our share, because the legislature might conclude that we can support more students with the same or less money.”
Roughly, an FTES means fulltime student equivalent. One FTES equals a student taking 15 units. The state uses a complicated formula to determine how much money is given to a university for each FTES. In recent years the legislature has been leaning on the campuses, threatening to fine them if they exceed their assigned FTES.
Complicating this is that the legislature has not compensated the campuses for new buildings. This has led to a lack of research space and space for faculty offices that, at a university like CSUN where faculties have pretensions, are vital. Solutions such as mine that faculty double up seems like heresy to many faculty.
However, when you have a fulltime faculty member who teaches 12 hours a week and is on campus for only two days a week it does not seem unreasonable to expect them to share. In Chicana/o Studies, faculty double up because we made the decision to create additional space to students for a lounging area, a writing lab, etc.
The truth be told, most new buildings on campus have been built by student funds during the last ten years. Their commodification brings in funds and relieves corporations of the duty to pay for the costs of social production. Another sad fact is that most faculties do little research, and the CSUN library is a Grade “A” facility.
Because the administration has further privatized the university by running it with adjunct faculty, even less space is needed for research. I have always accepted this lack of support and have funded my own research from my salary. It is my duty as a professor and professional to publish. It certainly led to a better life than my father’s.
Okay, impaction itself has nothing to do with physical capacity. As my friend has said, CSUN and other campuses are being held to their share of CSU FTES that the state funds. More telling is the statement that the “CSU does not want us to exceed our share, because the legislature might conclude that we can support more students with the same or less money.”
This assumes that the legislators do not know about the shell game or that they are too stupid to care. Moreover, if they do know and are so petty to penalize campuses for doing the right thing, the taxpayers are in trouble.
But there is another facet; administrators do not want to deal with the fact that we have at least 4200 International and Out-of-State students. I have a problem dealing with this since no one has explained to me whether these 4,200 students are counted as part of CSUN’s FTES budget. I could see a hundred or so falling through the cracks but 4,200 — seems much.
Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D, is an American historian, professor emeritus at Cal State University Northridge and one of various scholars of Chicano studies. He is the author 20 titles, 32 academic articles and chapters in books, 155 book reviews and nearly 200 opinion pieces.