Awkward timing: Almost one week into a student hunger strike across the California State University system, in which 12 students are drinking only vegetable juice until CSU presidents lose their “housing and car allowances” and see their salaries “reversed to 1999 levels,” the university's Board of Trustees is instead voting on a presidential pay raise. (A committee will discuss the proposal this morning, and the full board will vote on it tomorrow.)
Even more awkward timing:
CBS LA just finished reviewing the 2011 credit-card bill for the CSU Chancellor's Office. And it turns out Chancellor Charles Reed and all the CSU big wigs who meet at his office have dropped “tens of thousands of dollars [on] catered meals, plus expensive dinners and car service rides — mostly paid for by taxpayer money.”
Yes, the 12 students on the hunger strike (including four from Cal State Northridge) are choosing not to eat until student bank accounts are given the same respect as administrators'. But the juxtaposition of $840 meals from Erheart's Catering to a meager diet of veggie-juice-for-justice is ironic and oh-so “let them eat cake.”
As is this quote from Chancellor Reed, printed in the CSU Fullerton student newspaper: “Student debt is not a big issue for California State University students, on the average.”
Not sure how that's possible, seeing as CSU tuition has risen over 318 percent in the last decade. The chancellor argues that the average CSU graduate only owes $13,000 in student loans, compared to a national average of $24,000. But California's unemployment rate is one of the worst, and the cost of living here as a jobless young twentysomething hardly allows for monthly loan payouts.
Plus, if CSU administrators continue using empty cost comparisons to (equally intolerable) national averages, the in-state system won't retain its affordable reputation for long.
Tomorrow's vote, re: presidential salaries, is being pitched as a “pay freeze.” The LA Daily News reports that…
Under the proposal, state-funded salaries for the 23 campus president would be frozen, but new presidents could still receive higher salaries than their predecessors with supplements from nonprofit campus foundations. The policy would be in effect until 2014.
Of course, you don't see any “nonprofit campus foundations” being formed to lower student fees. And two years isn't very long for a pay freeze, keeping in mind that most of the campus presidents already take home over $400,000 a year — none of which they spend on housing or transportation, as those are provided by the CSU.
We've contacted CSUN hunger-strikers for updates on their rebellion and their general well-being.