Faculty Numbers at its Lowest for SF State
February 17, 2005 1:19 PM
Kinesiology major Tricia Mutolo, 22, has been attending SF State for the last year and a half. Throughout her entire SF State career she has been trying to get into an anatomy class, and each semester she is unsuccessful.
“There's only so many slots for people,” said Mutolo. “What they need to do is get more people teaching anatomy so we can get on with our major.”
Many students at SF State share Mutolo's frustrations. Cutbacks at the university have been felt on almost every level the past few years, including the faculty.
During the fall 2004 semester, the university employed 1,592 faculty members, nearly half of which were lecturers, or part-time employees, according to statistics compiled by the university's Office of Public Affairs and Publications. The number of employed faculty members has not been that low since 1998, when the university had about 1,400 less students attending.
Although the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty members (faculty hired on a permanent basis) has increased slightly, there has been a drastic decrease in the number of lecturers at SF State. Last semester, the university employed the lowest number of lecturers in the last eight years.
“It's very difficult to fire tenured faculty,” said Mitch Turitz, president of the California Faculty Association. “So what they do is not renew the contracts of the lecturers.”
Lecturers are hired on a temporary basis, meaning they may only be hired to teach a full academic year or more, or just one semester, according to the university's policy on temporary faculty.
“Technically (the lecturers) weren't fired, they just weren't rehired,” said Turitz.
“One tenure-track faculty member cannot teach as many classes as two part-time lecturers,” said Turitz. “The loss of lecturers is a very big loss to the primary mission of our university, which is to teach.”
Also adding to the reduction of faculty members over the last few years is the “Golden Handshake” retirement plan set forth by former Gov. Gray Davis for California public employees.
According to the Web site for the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the Golden Handshake plan is “an early retirement incentive program that provides additional age or years of service credit enabling (public employees) to receive a higher benefit than otherwise possible.
This means that faculty members considering retirement within the next few years of their career would receive the same amount of money and benefits if they retired early.
“They were trying to save money, where they can hire new faculty and pay them less money,” said Turitz. “They can hire younger staff at a cheaper rate.”
The early retirement program, coupled with the loss of close to 200 lecturers over the past four years, has increased the number of vacant faculty positions at the university.
“We haven't been replacing them as fast as they're leaving,” said Turitz.
There are 34 full-time faculty positions open at SF State, according to the California State University Web site. Six of the openings are in the business administration department, the number one undergraduate major for SF State students, according to the university's fact page.
The faculty vacancies may lead to students having trouble finding classes, and increased class sizes.
“My class sizes are pretty big,” said Vanessa Aragon, 18, who is studying to become a pharmacist. “My psychology class has 400 students. You don't get to talk to the teacher one on one. It's just not a good learning environment."
She said she would like to see the university hire more teachers to decrease some of the class sizes.
“(In smaller classes) there is a student-teacher relationship going on,” said Aragon. “The teacher actually knows your name.”
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