(Editor’s note: The writer of this article, a student at CSUF, was so concerned that he would be expelled or disciplined for writing this information that he would not use his name. It is alarming that the state of academic freedom at our university has led students to believe they would be retaliated against for their ideas. Although it is the Community Alliance’s policy for writers to identify themselves, we are making an exception in this case.)
On April 4, reporting in the Los Angeles Times, Jack Dolan attempted to explain the situation in California regarding public higher education. While protests and resistance at colleges and universities across the state have been recurring, “administrators have tapped funds meant for classrooms and students to cover some extraordinary costs: losses on ill-timed real estate deals, loans to high-ranking officials and an ambitious construction project” (Los AngelesTimes, April 4). Dolan continues by saying that these decisions are made “without wide student knowledge or public oversight.” Examples:
-“At UCLA, student fees are being used to save a plan to renovate Pauley Pavilion, home of the school’s legendary basketball team.” From the $185 million upgrade to the gym, which includes cushier seats, a high-definition scoreboard and expanded locker rooms, $25 million came from student fees. The student Regent, Jesse Bernal, was dismissed from his post after expressing discontent with the use of student fees for this project, without student knowledge.
-“At Cal State Sacramento, administrators used general fund money to cover an investment that went bad.” The university invested $35 million in a commercial office building off campus. The university planned to hold classes in one section and lease the rest of the building to generate revenue (sound like the student rec center at CSUF?). Then the real estate bubble burst and the building was left sitting empty. University President Alexander Gonzalez paid $5.6 million to keep the building out of foreclosure. This money came from the General Fund, which is a combination of student fees and tax dollars, “which is more commonly used to pay professors’ salaries and other day-to-day costs of educating
students,” explains Dolan.
-Cal State Sacramento has also given President Gonzalez $233,000 in personal loans, which were used for, among other things, a $27,000 stove in his new house.
-Bob Samuels, in an interview with Amy Goodman, explains how the UC lost more than $23 billion in the last two years by investing in toxic assets and real estate. To cover these costs, the UC lays off teachers, cuts class sections and raises its student fees.
These examples of gambling with public money and using it for non-academic purposes are only a small part of a much larger vicious trend in the privatization of public services. Accompanying this is a steady rise in salaries of administrators. According to Samuels, at the same meeting that approved the 32% increase in student fees, the UC Regents voted on millions of dollars in increased salaries and bonuses to administrators (DemocracyNow).
Here at Fresno State University, the situation is no different. The administration is engaged in all of the above gambling practices while using the public’s money. Misappropriations by administrators have taken hundreds of thousands from academics. The 2007-2008 CSU Institute Tax Form 990 revealed that the CSU has prioritized seeking funds for construction of buildings rather than seeking funds to prevent faculty layoffs, elimination of class sections, fee increases or closing enrollment. There are even reports that the CSU is using future student fee increase revenue as collateral for new construction bonds. Others have shown the use of assets such as buildings for collateral for more construction bonds.
This should not be surprising for those on campus, for the administration shamelessly shoves it in our faces. Currently, there is construction underway at three campus locations: the aquatics center (costing more than $6 million) on the northeast corner of campus, University High on the southwest corner and a smaller project on the west side of the Henry Madden Library. Countless individuals stroll by these money pits and do not make the connection of where the money comes from. In fact, these projects are celebrated by the administration as well as their obedient puppets on campus (I won’t name names).
Aside from the projects under way, the administration has completed investment projects with funds meant for academics such as the Save Mart Center and Campus Pointe, neither of which serve an academic purpose. Furthermore, Campus Pointe does not even serve housing purposes for the working class, as explained in the City Council meeting on April 1, 2008, by the assistant city manager, Bruce Rudd, when discussing the housing units at Campus Pointe, “Of these 144 units, 20 percent will be affordable.” We also have a case alarmingly similar to the Cal State Sacramento situation: our “Student Recreation Center.” This building also holds classes in some sections while others are rented out to vendors to “generate revenue,” exactly like the building at Cal State Sacramento mentioned in Dolan’s piece and exactly like a business.
The most alarming aspect that all these situations share is the lack of public input and knowledge about these projects and the funds being used. The university public in Fresno, and around the state, is not informed or included in the decision-making process. Worse is that our tax money and student fees are being used for these non-academic investments. Individuals making these repulsive decisions are not elected by the public or accountable to the public. These individuals are also making six-figure salaries for a job that doesn’t consist of research, teaching, learning or maintaining (which is every legitimate aspect of a university).
This corporate model has pervaded our university, as well as other universities across the state, nation and globe. Jack Dolan’s piece in the Los Angeles Times was but a small glimpse into the whole picture. This “whole picture” isn’t just of California. In Europe and South America, the masses are resisting the privatization of universities and public services in general. Greece was in revolt in December, today, it’s Thailand. It is now your duty to discover the whole picture, right here at Fresno State, because this is indeed your university, and they are using your money. When the picture becomes clear, as well as the injustices accompanying it, it is your duty to resist it.