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SDSU students give feedback on State mandated class cancellations

 (SAN DIEGO) - The Associated Students (AS) of San Diego State University (SDSU) recently compiled the results of an online survey that polled students about their experience with “Furlough Days” – state mandated, unpaid days off for faculty and staff, which have resulted in cancelled class instruction days, office closures, and other service cuts.

According to SDSU’s Center for Human Resources, the California State University (CSU) system introduced furloughs to help address the significant reduction in state General Fund support for the CSU.

A furlough is a mandated period of time off without pay and differs from salary reductions and pay cuts in that they are temporary and do not affect employment status, health benefit eligibility or pay rate for retirement benefits. Furloughs will be in effect across the CSU system (since August of 2009) through June 30, 2010.

Over the course of the current semester, students expressed frustration over the number of cancelled classes and office closures. This prompted AS Vice President of University Affairs Natalie Colli to spearhead the survey, with the help of members of the University Affairs Board. The survey, which was open between November 19 and 27, collected 6,671 responses.

Said Colli, “We were astounded by the high response rate. This is proof that if students are passionate about an issue, they will be compelled to voice their concerns.”

The respondent pool was a diverse mix of students representing all class levels (including post-baccalaureate) and majors/degree programs. While 60% of the respondents noted that their professors clearly indicated scheduled furlough days in their syllabi, students made it clear that their educational experience has been devalued.

Approximately 62% of respondents stated they felt course materials were “crammed” into insufficient instruction time. 63% said that no alternative instruction methods were offered on furlough days (such as a TA leading the lecture, independent study activities, etc). 

Many students also contributed inspiring remarks about professors who have made undaunting attempts to maintain the academic integrity of their courses, despite the furlough interruptions.

The survey also provided students the opportunity to offer feedback on the way furloughs are handled. A large number of respondents suggested that professors, when feasible, take their mandatory furlough days on non-instructional days. Students also offered alternative suggestions such as merging furlough days with normal university holiday breaks, guest lecturers and student directed group work.

After review of the results and volume of student participation, the AS of SDSU felt compelled to distribute this survey on a statewide CSU level via the California State Student Association’s December 2009 meeting. 

“With a united voice from the CSU we hope to bring this to the Chancellor’s office as a protest in opposition to the possible consideration of mandated furloughs for Fall 2010. It is clear that furloughs are not the correct way to address the budget problems the state is facing. Students should continue to voice their opinions to the state legislature to demand a restoration of funding to the CSU,” said Colli.