The economy is in ruins, unemployment is at record levels, income of those lucky enough to have a job continues to decline and you are appointed the new president of a institution that is experiencing layoffs, cuts in employees pay and an ever shrinking budget.  Your first decision as president is to accept a ten percent pay increase.  No, this is not the new director of Goldman Sachs or Bank of America, but instead is the new President of Cal State Fullerton, Mildred Garcia.

Her salary may only be a drop in the bucket when compared to the state’s budget deficit but what is wrong is wrong.  And if she is sincere about providing a united front against those who seek to destroy California’s State University system then, in the name of solidarity, she should be willing to sacrifice her pay raise.

I am not saying that Garcia is a bad person.  Her story of overcoming poverty and racism is inspiring. However, it is surprising to see, a person who has written about the evils of contradictory leadership, act in a contradictory manner.  She writes that leaders, “…must never compromise our commitment of social justice and equality in order to protect our salaries and our positions.” Then she does exactly that.  In accepting a pay raise while campus workers continue to make sacrifices, clearly diminishes her credibility and power to fight for what she believes.  If she truly feels educators need “to teach about unity within diversity“ then she should decline her rise in an effort to bring our diverse student body together around the idea of shared sacrifice.

Fortunately, President Garcia still has the ability to turn the current situation into a positive development.   If she rejects the raise the media will more than likely cover  the story.  The extra media coverage will allow citizens to see that public educators are not living high off the hog, like some pundits proclaim, but are making sacrifices like other workers in this depressed economy.  In addition, it could be used as a recruiting tool for groups that are fighting to preserver the State’s University system.

Again, this is not a personally attack on the new President. She should be respected for her many accomplishments at pervious positions and for her advocacy on behalf of racial equality   However, if we fail to challenge her decision to accept a pay increase while those around her continue to experience pay and benefit cuts, then we would be doing her and the whole Cal State system a disservice.  In these times, when the education system has become the scapegoat for all that is wrong with our state, we need our leaders now, more than ever, to stand with workers who are withering the storm of verbal and economic attacks.  Now more than every we need some good old fashioned solidarity.

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About ocbarrios

Professor for Cal State Fullerton's Barrio Studies class for Fall 2011 semester

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