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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

CFA hosts rally to save SFSU faculty jobs

Around 300 lecturers are at risk of being laid off amidst declining enrollment and a lower number of courses offered on campus
Feven Mamo
Educators and faculty members of San Francisco State University at the CFA rally for fair wages on Nov. 15, 2023. (Feven Mamo / Golden Gate Xpress)

The California Faculty Association hosted a rally in support of lecturer faculty as they face mass layoffs on campus on Nov. 15. Students and faculty gathered near 19th and Holloway Ave to speak to the crowd, voice frustrations with the San Francisco State University administration and chant in solidarity with those who are at risk of losing their jobs.

SFSU enrollment is at an all-time low, leading to a lower amount of courses that are being offered across most departments on campus. Students are facing an increasingly likely possibility that they won’t be able to enroll in classes that they need, while lecturers are expected to teach larger class sizes to accommodate for the loss of faculty.

Ann Robinson, a member of the CFA executive board and former lecturer-faculty in the philosophy department for 40 years, spoke about the impact of the university’s plans to lay off lecturers.

“Not long ago, the administration announced they want to cut over 300 lecture faculty. This would be a disaster for everyone,” Robinson said. “Because it’ll mean fewer courses for our students, it will mean a heavier workload for the tenure faculty. And it will be a disaster for the lecture faculty who lose their jobs.”

Some students are already experiencing a taste of what could come next semester.

Brenton Jones, a political science major and member of SFSU YDSA, spoke about how he learned that one of his current professors won’t be returning to teach next semester.

“One of my classes this semester a couple weeks ago, my professor in the middle of [a] zoom class, he was talking about the CFA stuff. And he kind of just casually threw in that he was one of the professors not coming back next semester, and [it] just kind of hit everybody with a ton of bricks,” Jones said. “And it’s definitely been kind of awkward and weird in that class because we’re being taught by someone who’s not coming back next semester, even though he has a reputation and a history of being on campus. So it just makes it feel really just kind of like abstracted, up in the air.”

Educators and faculty members of San Francisco State University at the CFA rally for fair wages on Nov. 15, 2023. (Feven Mamo / Golden Gate Xpress) (Feven Mamo)

Mark Sigmon has been teaching at SFSU’s history department since 1995. He believes that students on campus will suffer amidst declining enrollment and lecturer faculty.

“I actually think that it’s a death spiral. The reason that I say that is because various students sign up and then they pick out a major. They maybe have been going to school for two years and now they’re down to just fulfilling the requirements of their major, and then all of a sudden they can’t get the classes that they need,” Sigmon said. “When they can’t get the classes that they need because enrollments are down and they go find some other school where they can get the classes that they need. And then enrollments go down even more, so it’s like a death spiral.”

Kent Bravo, SFSU’s media relations specialist, described how lecturer faculty hiring is directly linked to student enrollment which affects the courses that can be offered.

“Lecturer faculty hiring has always been tied to student enrollment. The number of sections being offered reflects the current lower enrollment. Students will continue to have access to the courses they need for their academic progress,” Bravo wrote in an email. “While our department chairs and deans’ offices are doing their best, aligning the schedule of classes with actual enrollments can be challenging. Students experiencing difficulty should contact the Undergraduate Advising Center for assistance in building their schedules.”

Educators and faculty members of San Francisco State University at the CFA rally for fair wages on Nov. 15, 2023. (Feven Mamo / Golden Gate Xpress) (Fev)

Sigmon believes that the university has an opportunity to address enrollment issues by downsizing class sizes, which would make classes more interactive and personable.

“If enrollments are declining, they should just cut down on class sizes. And that way, they could just have smaller classes where I think students would learn even more. I think it would enhance the educational experience and they wouldn’t have to lay people off,” Sigmon said. “If you want your faculty teaching bigger and bigger classes, I don’t know if it is sustainable.”

Child adolescent development associate professor Sherria Taylor spoke about how even though students in her department aren’t facing problems enrolling for courses that they need, the same can’t be said for other programs on campus.

“We are pretty lucky in my department that [students being unable to enroll] hasn’t occurred much. But again, we are not the norm. My department is not the norm,” Taylor said. “And I’ve heard from other students who are in other departments that they have high levels of anxiety, some of them already having dealt with this previously as not having enough classes is not new to the University. So this just adds to and compounds the problem.”

Students at the rally were present in solidarity with faculty, supporting their demands for better pay.

Jonathan Scott, a third-year student at SFSU, spoke about how the campus community could be affected if faculty and administration continue to be deadlocked in negotiations.

“If we get to that point [continued decline for offered courses], I think the campus community will be fractured. I know that many students here would stand in solidarity with their teachers and faculty, given they choose to protest anything that comes as a result of this,” Scott said. “With less classes and less resources for students, students will of course engage themselves more in this as well. I think there would be an uproar of sorts really.”

A failure to settle with the CSU could result in more strikes during the upcoming spring semester. Robinson described how students could be negatively impacted if the administration and faculty don’t come to an agreement on their negotiations.

Educators and faculty members of San Francisco State University at the CFA rally for fair wages on Nov. 15, 2023. (Feven Mamo / Golden Gate Xpress) (fev)

“Right now, we’re planning to strike on December 5 for one day. If that isn’t sufficient, we’re prepared to ramp it up just like the UAW did. They started off with a strike at this plant and a strike at that plant. When they weren’t getting any progress, they began to expand it,” Robinson said. “We will increase the number of days in the spring and do it gradually. So initially, I don’t think students will be hurt — but if the administration is absolutely intransigent, then students could lose a significant amount of the semester, but it depends on the administration.”

The CFA plans on another strike on Dec. 5 if their contractual demands aren’t met. They are also hosting a webinar via Zoom on Friday, Nov. 17 for CFA and faculty members.

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About the Contributors
Ishaan Pratap
Ishaan Pratap, Copy Editor
Ishaan Pratap (he/him) was born in New York and is a 4th year print and online journalism major at San Francisco State. In his free time he enjoys video games, hanging out with friends, and watching soccer. He joined the journalism program because he's passionate about social issues like housing and city politics.
Feven Mamo
Feven Mamo, Staff Photographer
Feven Mamo started her educational journey at Berkeley City College, initially majoring in computer science, before transferring to San Francisco State University as an economics major. Professionally, she held the role of an Economic Equity Research Analyst at U3 Systems Work. Her photography passion started with a thrifted film camera from Oakland, her work is influenced by social justice issues and the streets of Oakland. Previously, her photography has been selected as a weekly favorite by VSCO, a photography app for mobile devices. Feven also exhibits a deep enthusiasm for curly hair, having previously worked as a hair model for hairstylists. 

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