Teachers feel furlough frustrations
September 1, 2009 9:37 PM
SF State teachers are being backed into a corner by mandatory furlough days, forcing them to work for free, or sacrifice portions of students' education.
Full and part-time faculty members are required to split 18 furlough days between the fall and spring semesters.
Eight of the nine required furlough days this semester are already set -- Sept. 4 and 8, Oct. 23 and 26 and Nov. 23, 24, 25 and 27.
Faculty and staff are required to take at least two flexible furlough days and no more than nine per semester.
"I cannot work for free," said English composition teacher Georgia Gero-Chen, who said she will take all of the remaining furloughs on classroom instruction days.
Gero teaches five days a week, making missed instructional days unavoidable. She said she feels it's important for teachers to send a message when scheduling the furloughs. "If the ill effects of furloughs are not visibly felt, it will be assumed that it is OK and it is not OK," Gero-Chen said.
She also said she dislikes the idea of taking time away from the students. She said she won't be able to prepare this year's students as well as she has past classes and feels "they're getting cheated."
Aida Seballos, a second-year Spanish teacher, is leaving her five furlough days unassigned for now. She said she fears there won't be enough time to cover all the material required for her advanced class.
"Taking the time off from the students, that is what I worry about," Seballos said. "If I feel like I can fit it in I will let them know ahead of time."
Another point of agreement between the two instructors is how students should respond to furloughs.
"They need to get active and angry," Gero said.
"The students have more power than we do," Seballos said.
But the students have other problems on their minds, like not having classes to go to in the first place.
"If they want to take days off that is fine, I just want to take the class," said Marat Bogomolny, 20.
Olga Rios is worried about the loss of financial aid funds and being kicked off her parents' insurance if she can't keep her full-time status by taking enough units.
The furloughs are intended to ensure less work for less pay -- a 10 percent monthly pay cut for full-time faculty and 9.23 percent for part-time -- but may create the opposite effect.
The diminished course offerings force sympathetic teachers to take on bloated classes, adding to their workload and boiling down their teaching schedule on new syllabi.
"Preparing the syllabus was very, very time consuming," Seballos said. "I think it took five times as long."
Other SF State employees are also subject to furlough days. Full-time faculty, like the department chairs, will take 24 days for the academic year and librarians, counselors, and coaches must take 20. So far, teacher's assistants, campus police and instructional student assistants are not subject to the unpaid days.
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