CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez
There’s no ice breaker like a budget crunch. That’s what the state’s huge deficit is doing to the contentious relationship between Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez and campus faculty.
Less than a minute into his annual spring address to faculty and staff yesterday (Thursday), Sacramento State President Gonzalez brought up Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed spending cuts.
"Let me get right to it and speak very, very quickly about what’s on everyone’s mind and that’s the budget."
Under the governor’s plan, the CSU system would face a $312 million shortfall even after a significant hike in student fees. And provost Joe Sheley says the budget crunch could also lead to fewer classes.
"There’s no way I can promise that we won’t cut classes. Given the magnitude of the cuts we’re going to have to talk about that."
After his speech, Gonzalez said he’s optimistic that his administration and the faculty can work together to deal with a tight budget year.
Only a year ago, 75% of the faculty approved a no confidence vote in Gonzalez’s leadership. Gonzalez says he’s made improvements over the past 12-months, including making the budget process more transparent for faculty.
"I think that was one of the problems last year – nobody knew what was going on and there was a lot of propaganda and hyperbole. But now people see the real figures and they say ‘okay, these are the things that we’re stressing.’ So again, forget about the past, let’s move forward and let’s do the best we can for the campus."
Lila Jacobs agrees. She’s the president of the California Faculty Association at Sacramento State. Last year, the faculty and the administration were divided over a contract.
Jacobs says the tone is different now that both sides face a common budget challenge.
"We’re not naïve. We’re not saying ‘okay, this is going to make all differences go away’. I’m really happy that we, before this, had won our contract battle and I think now it is dire and now we have more of an openness on both sides to talk about ‘okay, where is the common ground here?’"
The next step in the state budget process is a series of legislative hearings. In May, the governor will submit his “May Revise”…a revised budget plan based on the forecast of state revenues.