Phi Beta Cons

Cal State Strike?

The biggest strike ever in American higher ed? 

LOS ANGELES, March 21 — Faculty members at California State University, the nation’s largest four-year university system, overwhelmingly authorized a strike Wednesday after nearly two years in which they and the administration failed to negotiate a contract succeeding one that expired in July 2005.
An arbitrator will continue working with administration officials and the California Faculty Association, the union representing some 24,000 Cal State instructors and professors, to end the deadlock, which centers on salaries. But if meetings over a 10-day “quiet period” now break down, a strike could begin as early as next month, said the union’s president, John Travis.
The faculty walkout would be the largest in the history of American higher education, although the union says it would be a rolling strike — that is, it would begin on one of the system’s 23 campuses and last there for two days, then move on to another campus for two days, and so on. In this way, union officials say, disruption to the schedules of students, particularly graduating seniors, would be kept to a minimum.

This graf is especially interesting:

Many low- and middle-income students from around the state, about a third of them the first in their families to attend college, rely on the Cal State system for an education. But faculty salaries there lag far behind those at other universities, ranging from an average of $71,000 for full-time tenured professors to $43,000 for the very few instructors who work full time.

Look who gets hurt: Low and middle income students. Something tells me that the professors threatening to strike can get very preachy on certain subjects, such as economic inequality. But that’s the fault of the capitalists, of course.
One of the root causes of this controversy probably is the overproduction of Ph.D.s. Colleges and universities pay their professors what the market will bear. When you get hundreds of applications for every faculty opening–a common complaint, if you’ve ever talked to a grad student–the advantage goes to the employer. 

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.