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SF State Faculty and Students Rally Against Layoffs, Class Cuts Planned for Spring

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Student Dan Buschmeyer (left) leads a group of SF State students and faculty in chants of “When lecturer lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back” on the school's campus on Wednesday.  (Juan Carlos Lara/KQED)

Dozens of San Francisco State University faculty members and students rallied on campus on Wednesday in opposition to widespread layoffs and class cuts anticipated this spring.

In an August presentation to the university’s budget committee, administrators estimated they would need to cut the equivalent of 125 full-time positions and hundreds of classes by early 2024 to make up for a projected budget shortfall. The staff cuts would mostly impact lecturers and result in the layoff of about 325 of the university’s 1,084 largely part-time lecturers, according to the California Faculty Association, the union representing staff across the state’s CSU campuses.

“That’s devastating,” said Brad Erickson, a lecturer in the School of Liberal Studies and the SF State union chapter president. “It represents about 655 courses that won’t be taught. It represents slowing students’ path to graduation by not being able to get the courses they need. It also means increased workloads for the remaining faculty, who will be teaching more students in larger classes.”

Juliana van Olphen, chair of the Department of Public Health, said students and faculty will bear the brunt of the cuts.

“They may say, ‘If I can’t take it this semester, then I’ll have to be here an extra semester… I need this to graduate,’” van Olphen said. “The university claims to be focused on student success, yet widespread cuts to classes and layoffs of our valued colleagues break our spirit and will have a devastating impact on student success.”


University officials said the cuts are in response to declining enrollment, which is a main contributor to the expected budget shortfall. Fall enrollment figures have fallen every year since 2018, and this year were roughly 20% lower than those in 2018. Across the California State University system, fall enrollment rates fell roughly 5% between 2018 and 2022.

SF State President Lynn Mahoney noted similar declining enrollment rates across the nation and specifically among educational institutions in California amid changing demographic patterns.

“When you look at the college-going-age population across California, it has shrunk. And when you look at where it has shrunk, it has largely shrunk in Northern California,” Mahoney said.

But union members at SF State contend that the planned cuts are not proportional to enrollment declines and said the university should instead look toward its administrative budget, which grew by roughly a third across the CSU between 2006 and 2018, according to the union.

“There’s one manager for every 100 students, but only one counselor for every 1,800 students. This represents really skewed priorities,” Erickson said.

Brad Erickson, a lecturer in the School of Liberal Arts and SF State union chapter president, condemns what he calls a two-tier system that separates tenure-line faculty from lecturers. (Juan Carlos Lara/KQED)

Mahoney said the university and the union continued to disagree on the financial figures and pushed back on what she called the demonization of administrators. She added that the cuts are a means of adapting to a new baseline for the university.

“Because of the enrollment decline statewide and nationwide, we’ll never get to our old numbers, but we will eventually level off and then start to increase a little,” Mahoney said. “We’ve lost $36 million in tuition revenue, so we can’t keep spending money we don’t have. And the CSU has said that starting next year, they’re going to reduce our state allocation.”

SF State History

Erickson, the union chapter president, said any cuts could happen more gradually rather than the very dramatic cuts for next semester, which he said is causing chaos.

“We’re not going to put up with this. This is not going to stand. There will be consequences,” he said.

The ongoing budget crisis is also occurring as the union and CSU officials renegotiate their contract. Union members are pushing for 12% raises, while CSU officials have thus far only agreed to 5%.

Union officials declared an impasse in negotiations in August, triggering the assignment of a mediator. After that failed to produce results, a fact-finding panel was assembled, including members of both sides and an impartial third party, to assess the latest proposals and issue recommended terms.

The fact-finding panel’s recommendations are expected to be released before the end of the month, according to union officials. They have also announced planned single-day strikes at four campuses across the state in early December if a deal is not reached before then. San Francisco State is one of the campuses planning to strike.

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