Faculty votes on newest proposal for college merger

Faculty responded in record numbers two months ago to vote on three controversial options for the University’s college merger. Now, the administration is asking for an encore.

President Robert A. Corrigan and Provost Sue Rosser have asked the faculty to participate in another referendum following Corrigan’s March 21 announcement of a new proposal to restructure colleges at SF State.

The new plan builds on the University Planning Advisory Council’s original recommendation for a six-college structure.

According to the proposal, the comments from faculty and members of the SF State community will be considered and may be included in the final draft of the referendum.

“We question why the sole focus has been on college restructuring rather than a comprehensive review of the entire University structure, including Administration,” said a letter from the California Faculty Association highlighting its concerns regarding the process. “The mission of the university is to promote social justice, yet those who make the most are cut the least.”

Other concerns stated in the letter are the preservation of faculty and the need to view the restructuring in a larger context. While the administration has denied it, many believe that the merger is a way to streamline the University and dissolve less-populated courses, as well as potentially stripping departments.

However, CFA Campus Chapter President Ramon Castellblanch believes that decisions should not be based on which courses can fit the most students in a classroom.

“You can’t teach that way, you need space to interact,” Castellblanch said. “You lose a lot of quality.”

The administration continues to assure that the merger is in the best interest of the University.

“While we are struggling with very difficult issues, we have remained steadfastly focused on our mission, our values and our desire to maintain three vital components: access, quality and jobs,” said University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin.

However, a final decision on the merger is ultimately dependent on Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011-12 budget proposal and, regardless of how the faculty votes, the University may plan on moving forward with the merger, according to Creative Writing Department Chair Maxine Chernoff.

“Votes [from the faculty] are advisory votes,” Chernoff said. “There’s nothing that binds President Corrigan to do anything. We all feel better to have done it, but it won’t necessarily change the outcome of the process.”

Academic Senate Chair Shawn Whalen said that he supports the message in the letter and believes these values have and will continue to be a consistent component of the planning process.

“Decisions about how to absorb these unprecedented budget cuts must be characterized by a renewed commitment to our institutional mission, our dedication to preserving faculty and staff jobs, and a process that strives for openness and transparency,” Whalen said.

Also, despite the faculty’s frustration, the financial pressure on the administration is massive, and the economic crisis is outside of the control of the University, Chernoff said.

“There’s a low subsidy for education,” she said. “It’s a relentless march to defend education.”