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Cal Poly holds listening session to address anger over faculty wages

Jay Thompson, Cal Poly

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong held a listening session with faculty members Thursday afternoon in an effort to stem growing anger over wages, and what's referred to as "administrative bloat."

Armstrong said the session went well, and that he heard a lot of "pent-up emotions" coming from faculty members who have not received salary adjustments for years. He did note that situation has now changed.

The university's president said he's happy to open up the books as a way to show the "bloat" is not as bad as people think. He said the term "administration" is a catch-all for many, so he'd like to share the numbers as a way to clear up the misconception.

The State of California has "disinvested in higher education" and students already carry an elevated burden, according to Armstrong. As a result, he says Cal Poly is looking for additional ways to help fund the education process.

"I want to extinguish all options before we go back to our students again and ask them for money, we did that about three years ago," said Armstrong. "Because the students stepped up, because we do have some out-of-state students, we were able to talk about this staggered raise over next few years, $2.5 million."

Dr. Rich Thompson is the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department Head at Cal Poly and was one of the faculty members in attendance at Thursday's meeting. He concurs with Armstrong regarding the amount of frustration exuded during the listening session.

Thompson says he put together a "simplistic look" at the university's per-student costs regarding administration. The numbers he came up with were used by many of those making points at the meeting. He said those numbers, based on statistics found via the Sacramento Bee, show Cal Poly has one of the largest administrations in the CSU system on a per-student comparison.

"As the president said today—and I believe him—that much of the recent administrative increase has been for advancement, but there are some counter arguments to that," said Thompson.

Thompson said perhaps those advancement positions should not be on the state payroll, but instead funded with donations, or "soft money."

Armstrong said the university is going through a master planning process, so this is the time to work out many of these issues of funding.