Let me just climb right on up this soap box here for a minute…
California has a new governor. I will go on record and say that I voted for Jerry Brown in the most recent election. I won’t go into my reasonings. I just felt overall he was the best candidate in a dire time for the state. Well with a new governor, there is also changes to the state budget and wow is higher education getting hammered. I agree with Jerry Brown’s logic, in theory. “Let’s correct the problem now, before we let it get worse.” This inevitably means tough decisions. When you are talking a $27 BILLION deficit, programs are going to take a hit. Higher education is taking a hefty chunk of that hit along with other areas within the state including closing of state parks and a reduction of salaries for many state employees. But back to higher education and more specifically my institution and position.
I currently work in an office of two professional staff members. My boss and I work with all student organizations, including F/S life, and provide leadership programs to the general campus community. We are serving 1200+ Greeks, 150+ student organizations, and providing leadership programs and general educational events to the general student population of 7500. The problem is that these areas are expanding. This most recent year, students have been more engaged than ever before and unfortunately, students are being turned away from programs and events at alarming rates. Not because we want to, but because we don’t have a choice. I am sure that there are others out there with less resources and more work, and those same people are probably laughing at my diatribe right now wishing for the type of support I get. To those individuals, I salute you. This is not a post about haves and havenots. It is about reducing resources even more in an already bare cupboard.
I am stretched thin. Really thin actually. More is expected but there is no more support. Our F/S community is growing rapidly, but I am expected to split the responsibilities of that role with supporting over 150 student groups. Meanwhile, I am doing assessment in regards to a mandated retention/graduation initiative. Not to mention keep our office in compliance with various Executive Orders that are passed down from the Chancellor’s Office. The responsibilities are added one on top the other with no relief in sight. What makes is worse is that if you do well in one area, then you are given more work because it is assumed that you can take on more. Most of my work nowadays is administrative in nature. On the exact opposite of the spectrum from where I would like to be. Because of this, I have shallow relationships with students and staff. Our conversations mainly focus on work and often stop there. It is not that I want them to, but almost out of necessity to accomplish what needs to be done. Oh and did I mention that my boss is going on maternity leave all next semester, so I will be flying solo? Because that is happening too.
Earlier this year, there was a rumor, whether real or fabricated, that I would be asked to take on orientation to go along with my current responsibilities. Though I would have been open to the idea, I am now more than happy that did not occur. I would have loved the experience to run an orientation program, but on the flip side know it probably would have killed me in the long run. Orientation is a time consuming and integral part of a university’s success. It is essentially a first impression for the next 4-6 years of a student’s life. At the schools I have worked for, many students are still deciding whether to attend that school when they come to orientation. That is a pretty big deal. There is no way I would have been able to do all of this without any additional support in one area or the other. I take that back. I could have done it, but it would not have been up to my standards and therefore I would have burnt the candle at both ends to make it so.
This is the reality of the current situation in the CSU. Our office was looking to hire another staff member to work more closely with student organizations and help provide them with greater support and resources. That is now a pipe dream. We also do not have an orientation coordinator. That job is currently being ran by the associate registrar without any reduction in his own responsibilities. Hiring a full-time staff member for that position is another pipe dream. We are being asked to do more, for more people, but are being given nothing in return. Well unless you consider taking stuff away being given something, but I am sure that most people do not.
Overall, the CSU is being hit with $500 MILLION in cuts. That is best case scenario. It could be worse depending on the results of a potential mid-year emergency ballot to extend current taxes set to expire this summer. If these are voted down, then higher education and K-12 (which is currently being protected) will see even more money funneled out of these areas. There is talk that enrollments will be capped. This almost guarantees hiring freezes. It leads towards the possibility of lay-offs to make up the differences. Student fees and tuition are more than likely going to be increased. EVERYONE is going to feel this hit one way or another.
There is just a ton of ambiguity as this goes forward. I wish there were more answers, but it seems like they will only come with time. Though there are $500 MILLION in budget cuts to be made, it will be interesting to see how each member of the CSU approaches the problem. I am attending a meeting on Friday with fellow CSU employees that will hopefully shed some light on the issue. I can only hope that my division comes out of this smelling like roses, but I think I am hallucinating another pipe dream. Then again, how can you take more away from something that already is working with breadcrumbs. Well I guess you could take away the breadcrumbs, so there.
Not to mention, I was looking at a step progression in pay next year. More than likely that will be swept away as well. I could live with it if our office was receiving more resources, now it is just another slap. Sometimes I feel like I am sitting in a chair in front of a spoked wheel with gloves on the end of each spoke. Someone is spinning the wheel and I just keep getting slapped over and over again, similar to the cartoons. No new staff. SLAP. Do more work. SLAP. Reducing your budget. SLAP. The only problem is that I am not a cartoon cat named Tom. I am happy with what I am doing. I really love my job. I just wish there was more support from the institution, CSU, and CA.
I will go on to do the best that I can with what I got. I am just worried that if we start exceeding expectations and can demonstrate that we are helping to retain and graduate students with less resources, that the little we are provided will be reduced further making me work harder. Hence, a never ending cycle will occur until I finally leave because I cannot deal with it anymore. Then, no one will need to get laid off. They just won’t fill my position. I will move on to somewhere new, and others will have their conscience in tact because they did not need to fire someone else who did not care about their job enough to try to make their area better during tough times with limited resources.
Off the soapbox…
Until next time…