New Report Exposes Critical Threats to Higher Education in San Francisco

Educated by Union LaborA new report from Jobs With Justice San Francisco finds that professors who dedicate their careers to helping students achieve their dreams, can barely fulfill their own. The report, Future of Higher Education in San Francisco exposes faculty working conditions at San Francisco State University, the San Francisco Art Institute, and City College of San Francisco. Collectively, these three institutions of higher education employ over 3,000 faculty members.

Jobs with Justice San Francisco published the report that serves as the written record of a hearing held earlier in the fall where faculty and students testified to the poor and declining pay and working conditions within their institutions and the higher education system as a whole. The recent event brought educators and students from the three San Francisco Institutions together with a diverse group of San Francisco leaders: Supervisor Eric Mar, Vice-President of the SF Unified School District Board of Education Matt Haney, Rev. Richard L. Smith of St. John’s, renowned playwright and educator Cherríe Moraga, artist and educator Celia Herrera Rodriguez, and Executive Director of the Jamestown Community Center Myrna Melgar.

WRB Panel

Pressure on colleges and universities to conform to “business efficiencies” and corporate standards has failed to improve quality of education and proven detrimental over the past decade, the report finds. Contingent faculty now make up the majority of teachers in the colleges. Over-reliance on low-wage, part-time, temporary faculty hurts consistency of curriculum as well as students’ ability to form lasting academic relationships with their professors.

“The current corporate model of higher education does not adequately serve students, provide for faculty or advance the civic values of colleges and universities,” the report concludes, noting that stability for faculty must be “at the center” of any solutions. It ends with statements of shared values and a series of Workers’ Rights Board Panel recommendations to improve things, such as:

“Faculty and other campus workers are better able to value and serve their students’ needs when faculty and staff are valued and supported, in turn. Quality teaching must be delivered by committed and respected educators who are highly valued and fairly compensated.”

“Educators should expect a career that supports them and their families, allows faculty to live in the communities where they teach and serve students, and allows faculty to pay off their own student loans. They should not have to sacrifice personal and family security as well as their  children’s futures to remain in the teaching profession. “

“We as government officials have to do everything we can to hold accountable institutions that are really squeezing the lowest-paid workers and taking away this ideal of education that can make you a better servant to your community,” Supervisor Mar says in the report.

The three unions representing faculty at these colleges are now in contract negotiations with their respective institutions— and expressed serious concerns about the progress of the negotiations and the willingness of their administrations to acknowledge and address their concerns about fair compensation, job security and other issues. Members of the California Faculty Association have recently voted overwhelmingly to go on strike at all of the CSU campuses if negotiations did not progress, and members of AFT 2121, which represents instructors, counselors and librarians at City College of San Francisco, are conducting a strike vote through November 30th to demand the community college district negotiate in good faith. Adjunct faculty at San Francisco Art Institute represented by SEIU Local 1021 are currently bargaining their first contract with administration.

Download the report here.

The Workers’ Rights Board is a community project of Jobs with Justice San Francisco, a public forum where workers can bring complaints against employers and institutions. The Board convenes hearings and takes other actions to investigate complaints and help resolve situations that threaten workers’ rights.