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California State University Students On Hunger Strike, Faculty Vote To Walk Out

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CHARLES REED CAL STATE BUDGET
California State University Chancellor Charles Reed speaks at a meeting in Long Beach, Calif. (Photo: AP) | AP

California State University students have had enough with tuition hikes, executive pay increases, and -- for now -- enough food.

At least 17 students at six CSU campuses have gone on a hunger strike. They're promising to fast until administrators agree to freeze tuition for five years and instead roll back the pay raises for CSU chancellors and presidents.

"We've gone through many options to make our voices heard by the board of trustees," Antoine Wilson, a CSU Dominguez Hills business administration student, told the Vallejo Times-Herald. "We've held protests, rallies and we've gone to board of trustee meetings and they still have ignored us."

In addition, the California Faculty Association, which represents 24,000 CSU employees, announced this week that they voted to authorize a strike. Ninety-five percent of its members who participated in a two-week long vote, endorsed the idea of holding two-day long strikes in the fall, one at each of the 23 CSU campuses, which would potentially delay the start of classes.

The students and faculty have plenty to be outraged about.

CSU students are facing a 9 percent tuition hike next year. They were dealt a 12 percent hike this year, and a tuition increase of more than 300 percent over the past decade.

The CSU system has lost $950 million in funding from the state, and the San Francisco Chronicle reports another $200 million could be cut next year.

Yet, executive compensation is on the rise and Cal State faculty haven't gotten raises in the past two years.

Adding to the outrage, the CSU Board of Trustees is considering a policy allowing presidential pay to be supplemented by funds from campus foundations. These foundations, present at most major public universities, usually target alumni and community members for donations. The money collected is presently used to fund scholarships, student events and university infrastructure enhancements.

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman already receive funding towards their retirements from campus foundations, in addition to their salaries that are already above $400,000.

"Foundations are meant to assist students and not to ensure campus presidents are living the life of the rich and famous," state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, told the Chronicle.

But instead of considering rolling back executive pay, as Cal State faces hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts, CSU trustees will decide on Tuesday whether or not to increase pay by 10 percent to new college presidents.

Cal State spokeswoman Claudia Keith tells the Los Angeles Times the large executive pay is necessary because they "still have to be competitive and hire the best people we can."

Reed has sought to deflect blame away from CSU administrators, and put it on the California legislature and their budget cuts.

"We have to compete in a national marketplace," Reed said this week. "Our presidents' compensation is less than 1 percent of our operating budget if you put all of our presidents together."

So with the protests by students and faculty, what do they hope to achieve?

Christopher Monty, assistant history professor at Cal State Northridge, said in a letter to the Times, "It is my fervent hope that the students' action, in conjunction with initiatives taken by faculty and staff, will not only stop further increases in executive compensation but also bring an end to the disastrous tenure of Chancellor Charles Reed."


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Correction: This article has been altered to clarify that in the poll among CSU faculty, 95 percent of the members who participated in the vote on whether the CFA should strike were in favor of the strikes, but it was 70 percent of the members turned out for that vote.

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