Charlize Althea Garcia | The Poly Post

Students express disappointment, confusion following CFA strike

By Victoria Mejicanos, Feb. 6, 2024

After a fall semester full of union coverage, protests and political action, students are no longer strangers to political disruptions with varying degrees of impact, but when the California Faculty Association announced a possible week-long strike to start the spring semester many were unsure of what to do besides embrace the chance to stay home longer.

On the thunderous and rain-filled Jan. 22 that marked the start of an anticipated historic week. Students and faculty blocked entrances to campus with umbrellas, wilting signs and CFA branded merchandise blowing in the wind. Although the atmosphere was gray, the energy of those on the picket line was far from it.

With plans already laid out for the week, regardless of strike participation, many were anticipating the strike to continue the next day, rain or shine.
When student inboxes began to flood with notifications that the strike concluded late into the evening, any and all plans began to shift as students suddenly were expected to attend the first day of classes.

For students like Savannah Lawson, a civil engineering student, not only was the sudden change disappointing, but it was also inconvenient. Lawson, like many students, commutes. Depending on the day, she can take one to two hours to arrive on campus.

“I was especially put off by the fact that it just ended so suddenly on Tuesday, and then everyone was expected to just scramble to their classes and stuff,” said Lawson. “I got punished by some of my classes for not going, even though, the campus was like, ‘oh, all of the teachers should be accommodating.’ I still technically missed the first day of all my classes so yeah that sucked.”

Lawson also expressed concerns about tuition increases. Although it is unrelated to the strikes, the CFA did protest against the tuition increases in Sacramento, California this Fall.

“It seemed like a lot of the teachers also wanted that tuition thing to not even happen at all,” said Lawson. “And they were talking about how hard it is to apply for, like some of the healthcare benefits and all of that. So I feel like that didn’t get resolved.”

Some students expressed they expected more from the strike.

Mechanical engineering student Joshua Cervania shared although he is aware the agreement is only tentative, and supported the efforts of faculty, he felt the strike ended too soon.

“It kind of sucks,” Cervania said. “I do think they would’ve been better off if they continued the strike and not agreed with the 5%. And having an extra week off school would’ve been nice too.”

He also shared his opinion about the potential for a 10% salary increase, if the state does not reduce its CSU budget, which he feels is close enough to the 12% that faculty were asking for.

“That’s not too bad considering they wanted 12% at the end, but I think they could’ve tried harder to try to get that 12%,” Cervania said.

Others like Bondy Nguyen, a kinesiology student, shared he didn’t know or understand much about the situation except the fact that he was inconvenienced with late night emails.

“I find it really dumb,” said Nguyen. “It was like 11 p.m. or midnight when they posted the announcement. Fortunately, I’m awake but I know my friends are obviously asleep.”

He expressed he was just working toward his end goal of graduating.

“I don’t know, I’m just thuggin it out trying to graduate,” Nguyen said.

Charlize Althea Garcia | The Poly Post

Many aspects of the CFA’s messaging in bargaining involved bettering conditions for students as well.
One of the major aspects of bargaining was improving the student to counselor ratio across the California State University system. This was not addressed in the tentative agreement, leading students to feel left out.

“I definitely think we have a counselor issue,” said Lawson. “I remember for one of my classes last semester, a person came in and asked us questions about the school, and almost every single person had complaints about the counselor’s situation. I think there was a counselor who dropped out mid semester and then everyone didn’t have a counselor for that time.”

Besides the general impact the strikes had on the student experience, it led students like Destiny Lorenz, philosophy student, and Nicole Martin, a business student, to feel more connected to campus and faculty as a whole.

Lorenz expressed she believed the professors were right in striking for better benefits. She focused particularly on maternity leave, as she feels a semester of maternity leave is what’s right.
“That’s only what makes sense,” said Lorenz. “How are professors expected to be gone for five weeks at a time and come back and still be expected to teach the last two thirds of their class? That doesn’t really make any sense to me.”

She expressed disappointment not in the professors, but the union representing them.

“I feel like especially with the union leaders that are supposed to be representing them, I feel like they kind of turned their backs on them in a way, where they would preach ‘we’re united we won’t be divided, we are going to get what we want’ but they folded the first day of the strike,” Lorenz said.

Lorenz planned to participate in the strike the rest of the week and participated in previous practice strikes. She noted one of her philosophy professors was vocal about their faith in the CFA, so when the tentative agreement did not match what was asked, she was especially sympathetic.

“It was just really heartbreaking I guess to come back from break like ‘oh we’re doing a strike’ and then they got let down the next day,” said Lorenz.

She described how she felt returning to class the next day knowing her professor would not be happy.
“To hear how disappointed he was and how much it affected him, that kind of hit me a little bit because he’s one of my favorite professors I’ve had and so that was kind of disappointing too,” said Lorenz.

Martin, who was in the University Quad advocating for the student workers union vote, shared she felt the situation demonstrated miscommunication.

“I feel like there’s some kind of weird disconnect between the negotiation team or like the people in the top levels of the CFA versus, you know, the actual people on the ground,” expressed Martin.
Although she felt connected to the cause, she, like other students, expressed confusion about why the strike ended early.

“I personally think that it was kind of strange to call off a strike when literally everyone on campus seems like they would support it,” said Martin.

She shared despite her confusion, the strike was a way for members of the campus to connect to one another like never before.

“We’re all kind of coming together, even though we might all be from different places, different backgrounds, different social statuses or whatever, we just still have the same idea,” said Martin. “It’s like, ‘hey, we should have a say in our work.’”

Feature Image Courtesy of Charlize Althea Garcia

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