I remember the first time I step foot on this glorious campus, Cal State Fullerton. It was a sunny day in July back in 2004. I was young and naïve as most freshmen are. I felt so lucky that I had gotten admitted here since so many of my fellow classmates had been turned down. As I registered for classes I had one fear: How the hell am I going to pay for this? I was pleased to see that when it came to pay it said I did not have a balance due, until later I found out I had qualified for a Federal Loan to which I had to sign off on another date. Despite not having started classes officially and being only 17 I was officially in debt for $2,625. Luckily tuition was not that expensive back in 2004 and I had gotten a few scholarships my senior year of high school so I had enough to cover my first two years of schooling here. But unfortunately as time has gone on tuition has risen, and continues to rise which might make it impossible for students like me to finish our schooling.
I left school in the spring of 2009 for many reasons, one being that I could no longer afford to pay for tuition. My mother had given me all she could but she could no longer help me pay so I had to make the gut wrenching decision to leave school. When I took my last final that semester I had no idea when I would return, not if I would return because it has been my goal to receive a degree from CSUF and nowhere else. When I left back in 2009 I could see how the budget was affecting the campus. Some floors in the UH building had limited lighting, the LH building tried to conserve energy by not having the AC on full blast, and the start of cutting classes had begun. My department was hard hit as classes became scarce.
I finally decided that I was ready to come back to school just this past summer. I was probably the first person to turn in their application online since I had long awaited the announcement that they would be accepting “transfer students” (because after you’ve taken a break you have to reapply) and was promptly accepted. However, I had the same fear, how the hell am I supposed to pay for this? Thankfully my family was able to pitch in and helped me pay a percentage of my total fees and good ole Uncle Sam helped me pay the rest via tax return, ironically due to the fact that I qualified for an education credit.
All of this has made me value and appreciate my education so much more than you can imagine. That is why when I picked up The Daily Titan two weeks ago and I read the headlines my stomach turned. I was outraged that they the Board of Trustees would approve a pay raise for the incoming President, Mildred Garcia. With all respects to her I admire everything that she has accomplished but I cannot respect the fact that she is going to be paid $324,500 per year for her work here on this campus. How is that fair to us the students, the professors, the janitors, the guy who works at LH Express and always greets me with a smile, and many others.
To break it down further, she will be paid $6,240.38 per week. That is roughly one third of what I made this past year and as it looks that will roughly be my tuition next year. On top of that she will be residing at El Dorado Ranch estate here in Fullerton and will receive $12,000 per year car allowance. Our outgoing president Milton Gordon received a base salary of $295,000 in 2011, which still seems quite high. Again, I value and respect the educators of this campus and any campus but I cannot just stand here and be ok with their ridiculous salaries. I long for the day that I get to teach at an institution such as CSUF because I want to make the same impact some of my professors have had on me. I probably would have never returned to school if it had not been for some of their kind words of encouragement and genuine interest that I finish my education. I do not think any of these educators have ever encouraged me because of a monetary incentive. I do not find any justifiable reason that anyone should be making that much money to be the President of a University. The Daily Titan stated Garcia will be making nearly $100,000 more than the salary of the Vice President of the USA. If that doesn’t touch a nerve with students then I do not know what would.
I also find it offensive as a Mexican-American, a Chicana, and a woman that I am expected to welcome Garcia with open arms because she is a Latina. I have been accused of “hating” on her and that I am perpetuating stereotypes that Latinos hate on each other. To that I say that race and gender have nothing to do with it. Her story is not anything new to me because I am living my own story and I have my own struggles. I commend her for overcoming whatever obstacles she had and it admirable but that does not mean I will accept her pay raise with a smile. An article in the OC Register stated that CSUF has lost a combined $71 million in state funding in the last three years and will probably face more this year. The same article quotes her as saying “I truly believe Cal State Fullerton is the jewel of the CSU system. Now I’m the president here. That’s a long way for that little girl from the projects of Brooklyn.” She also states that CSUF is her dream job, which is probably genuine but at the same time I would say that too if I had just gotten a new job.
“I truly believe Cal State Fullerton is the jewel of the CSU System..”
I seriously hope Garcia does do a good job here at CSUF because it is in my best interest as a student. I truly wish her well despite my criticism of her salary. I understand she would not have been chosen if she was not thought capable of running this institution as it should be run. I just hope that she values us as students and remembers that she is also dependant on us for her salary. If she succeeds, we succeed. If she fails, we fail. And I for one do not like to fail.