SDSU hosts forum series to mark farm workers week

February 27, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Students and community members filled the library at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus to hear United Farm Workers of America vice president and co-founder Dolores Huerta speak about collective bargaining issues during a campus forum.

The woman who worked with Cesar Chavez to fight for "la causa" for farm workers was unable to attend. The organizer of the forum, SDSU professor Rogelio Reyes, said, "We don't know where Huerta is at this time."

In her absence the crowd listened to Linda Smith, California Faculty Association vice president at SDSU. She started her speech by acknowledging that most people, including herself, attended the forum to hear Huerta.

"She is a heroine of mine," Smith said.

That said, Smith talked about her association's ongoing battle with the California State University system.

The forum was the first of three in the campus library to mark United Farm Workers week. Tonight there will be a Calexico candidates' forum starting at 6. At 6 p.m. Thursday there will be a forum on immigrant issues in the context of Sept. 11.


Smith told the assembled students Tuesday, "You need to know what's going on in this institution."

"What's going on," according to the psychotherapy professor, is a protracted contract battle between the faculty association and California State University Chancellor Charles Reed. Negotiations on a new contract have been drawn out for more than a year.

If a new contract is not agreed upon by March, the various faculty associations throughout the CSU's 22 campuses will vote to "strike or not," Smith said.

CSU spokeswoman Clara Potes-Fellow said, "I hope that they don't strike. But you have to expect anything. I hope we reach an agreement with the union," she said.

Smith said there would be more demonstrations focused on Reed in the coming weeks. She said he is being singled out by faculty because there has been a "major problem with negotiations."

"They've never changed those proposals. The one word they know is, ‘No,' " she said.

Originally the faculty association asked for a 6 percent raise. After being told there was only money in the state budget for a 2 percent raise, the association grumbled but has said it would accept the lower number.

Smith said, "It's not about money."

Potes-Fellow said, "If that's true we are getting closer to an agreement."

Smith said the conflict is centered on the way the CSU system utilizes faculty, she said.

According to her, half of the professors teaching at CSU schools are "part-time lecturers."

This arrangement affects the "learning capacity of the students" because often those professors don't have offices, school e-mail accounts or campus phone numbers that allow a student and professor to interact, she said. She said the CSU system is investing in part-time faculty instead of full-time faculty.

Potes-Fellow said it is true half of the faculty are part-time lecturers, "But that number is identical to the number of part-time lecturers across the nation. Both are important to the education of a well-rounded student. Some of the lecturers provide real-world experience that is very valuable."

Smith said the issue is important for parents considering schools for their college-going children.

"How much more dire will our situation be in a few years?" she asked.

Today, Smith said, she would be in Sacramento to lobby support for a bill that would force the CSU system to allocate 50 percent of its budget for "instruction."

Smith was asked by the mother of a high school student what entailed "instruction" expenses, according to the bill.

"That's a good question. I don't have all the data though," she said.

One thing Smith mentioned as a waste of instruction money is the millions being spent on an internal computer network.

Yulil Alonso-Garza, president of SDSU-IV Associated Students, took the microphone. She said issues regarding faculty are especially important here.

"Will faculty at the Brawley extension be tenured faculty or part-time lecturers?" she asked.

Alonso-Garza said students "paying the price for a good, high-quality education" will have to decide in the coming weeks whether to side with the chancellor's office or the faculty association.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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