Cal State jobs are a tough sell

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! High housing costs have made it difficult to recruit and retain veteran professors for the nation’s largest university system, forcing the California State University to fill out its faculty with less-experienced educators, officials say. Administrators said they hope more applicants will be attracted by a four-year contract tentatively approved last week that would raise salaries by 20percent. But they concede it’s still a tough sell because of the high price of living in the Golden State. “The CSU had been running on goodwill in terms of California being a desirable place to live. But what’s happened in the last few years is that the economy has become so bad that whatever benefit that we had – like the weather, the orange trees we have on campus – has been washed out,” said James David Ballard, president of the California Faculty Association chapter at California State University, Northridge. Ballard said CSUN has seen a declining number of applicants for tenure-track positions since 2002, and contract negotiations that dragged on for two years contributed to the problem. The campus has filled about one-third of the 65 vacancies for the fall semester. While retirements created some of the vacancies, the Cal State system also is a frequent target of “poaching,” with faculty being lured to other colleges that promise more pay, a lighter workload and more time for research. The CSU system – the nation’s largest with 417,000 students on 23 campuses – filled 720 of the 971 searches for open positions in 2005, the last year for which complete data are available. Among those who refused the offer of a CSU job, 42percent said they received better offers elsewhere, and 15percent said the salary available just wasn’t good enough. As a result, Ballard said, the administration will hire a less-experienced instructor – and that candidate may not always be the first choice to fill the job. “You hire a new professor at the cheapest rate possible, as opposed to hiring someone with experience you would have to pay more,” he said. “Before, our first choices were saying, `I can go to Nebraska and buy a home for those wages,”‘ Ballard said. “Then it was our second or third choices saying that. Now those are gone, too. Now, we’re finding ourselves hiring our fifth and sixth choices. You’re still getting good people but not the best people.” According to the recruiting report, 38percent of the instructors hired at CSUN in 2005 had less than four years’ experience, and 25percent had not yet completed their doctorate. At Cal State Los Angeles, 33percent of new hires had less than four years’ experience, while that number soared to 58percent at Long Beach. Recruiting and retention problems are not unique to CSUN, said Harry Hellenbrand, campus provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I don’t want to downplay what we’re going through here, but if you’re teaching in similar institutions such as in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., or Seattle, all the coastal cities are seeing this high cost of living,” Hellenbrand said. “The main thing is the cost of living is such that the people cannot afford to live here, particularly if they don’t have housing. “We’re hoping the new contract will give us equity with other institutions over the next few years.” Heavy workload Ballard, who teaches in CSUN’s sociology department and is widely regarded as an expert in terrorism trends and counterterrorism tactics, has received offers from three competing universities that would allow him to teach three classes a semester instead of four. “For a young faculty member, that’s a very attractive lure,” Ballard said. “You can get a home. You can get a middle-class lifestyle. It’s not just working less, but you can do more of what you like.” He said he stayed in California because he has family in the Los Angeles area. But instructor Amir Hussain left CSUN two years ago to teach religious studies at Loyola Marymount University. He teaches three classes instead of four, and he recently published a book, “Oil and Water: Two Faiths, One God.” “It really was a frustration over salary and workload issues that caused me to leave,” Hussain said, adding that he stayed at CSUN for eight years because he grew up in a working-class family and wanted to teach students with whom he could relate. But when he didn’t get a pay raise to accompany his promotion from assistant to associate professor, he decided it was time to move on. “I was teaching four classes per semester, publishing and doing scholarly work and community service,” he said. “And here I was, a specialist in the Muslim community in America, and after 9-11 I was speaking at various lectures. But I was not getting any economic compensation.” He said he may have been persuaded to stay at CSUN if he had received a raise and if there were a housing subsidy. “Housing would have been a good deal,” he said. Living to teach Recognizing that housing is a problem for tenure-track instructors, CSUN administrators have included faculty residences in a plan for developing the north end of campus. It shows that about 850 homes could be built there by 2035, for those earning $40,000 to $100,000 a year. “Housing is the biggest factor in why people don’t come here, and there’s not much being done about that, except subsidized housing,” said Bob Stern, president for the Center for Government Studies in L.A. Neighboring Cal State Channel Islands, which opened in 2002 in Camarillo, has built 658 faculty housing units, most of them apartments. But there have been mixed reviews statewide about faculty housing, said Craig Flanery, associate secretary for the American Association of University Professors. “Some universities provide either good housing on or near campus, such as UCIrvine, which really attracts good faculty,” Flanery said. “UCLA attempted the same thing a few years ago, but a bit less successfully. They bought housing too far from campus, and faculty didn’t buy them.” Flanery, an adjunct professor at Cal State Los Angeles for 13 years, said he left that position because he, too, found it difficult to make ends meet, and he found himself driving long distances to teach. “What can happen is faculty end up living 20 to 40miles away from campus, spending more of their time on the road and away from the classroom, so there’s some serious work-performance concerns,” he said. But others such as Ballard of CSUN do not like the idea of faculty housing. “To me, it comes across as dorms for faculty,” Ballard said. “You’re going to work on campus, you’re going to live on campus. It’s going back to that company town mentality, where a company owned the house, the store and everything else. “That economic model was abandoned 70 years ago by most of corporate America.” Housing aside, many are hopeful that the latest contract agreement, which is expected to be ratified in the next few weeks, will help CSUN lure more qualified candidates. “Now that people can see some stability in their future earnings, something that is tangible as opposed to the last few years, those people will look at this as more of a potential than in the past,” Ballard said. “There’s some stability in the salary progression.” [email protected] (818) 713-3664last_img
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