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Colleges Use Volunteer Teachers to Save Classes : Education: Strapped CSU campuses also shift courses to extension programs. Faculty union files grievances.


Three California State University campuses are taking what officials call unprecedented measures to avoid canceling classes by using volunteer teachers or setting up some required courses in off-campus extension programs.

About 50 volunteers--including graduate students and business people with no prior experience--are teaching Cal State Long Beach courses previously taught by faculty members whose contracts have been terminated.

San Diego State University is offering 22 courses in its extension program, where they cost students more and in some cases are taught by non-faculty personnel who receive less pay. The subjects include English, sociology, teacher education, nursing and biology--all of which are still offered on campus as well, although the number of classes cannot meet the demand. San Francisco State has done the same with 31 courses, including English composition, history of Western civilization and philosophy.

Such practices have outraged the statewide faculty union, which sees them as a slap in the face to teachers who have been laid off, cheapening the educational experience for students, and sending a dangerous message to Sacramento that the system can continue functioning with inadequate funding.

"It's disastrous," said Pat Nichelson, president of the California Faculty Assn., which represents the system's 22,000 instructors. To protest the practices, he said, the union has filed grievances at San Diego State and San Francisco State and is in the process of doing the same at Cal State Long Beach. "It takes jobs away from faculty members," he said, "and sends the worst possible message. We think it opens the floodgates."

The moves were made after budget cuts this year that put the CSU system $170 million in the red, resulting in the termination of 3,000 faculty members and cancellation of 4,000 classes.

University officials defend the practices as the only way to offer all the classes sought by students. Transferring classes to university extension programs, officials at the San Francisco and San Diego campuses say, is better than dropping them. At Cal State Long Beach, where a $15-million cut resulted in the termination of more than 500 full- and part-time lecturers and the cancellation of hundreds of classes, educators say that relying on volunteers is preferable to turning students away.

Rick Moore, a spokesman for SDSU, said the decision to offer 22 classes for credit through the university's extension program was made at the urging of faculty members advising President Thomas Day on ways to minimize the 660 class cuts made in the regular program as a result of money shortages. They were interested in serving students and providing a way for fellow teachers to keep working for pay even after being laid off, Moore said.

Because teachers in the extension program are paid directly out of fees collected from students in their classes rather than from state funds, he said, the impact on the university's budget is minimal.

Most of the classes "are being taught by people we would have paid directly had the state provided the funding," Moore said. "There was an attempt to take teachers that we couldn't pay through the regular way so that they could continue to teach."

However, San Diego State initially offered 40 core curriculum classes through the extension program, but canceled 18 because few students expressed interest in the pay-as-you-go idea, where one course can carry fees up to $375, much higher than the per-course cost paid through regular student fees, Moore said.

Even some of the remaining 22 classes have fewer students than the minimum 11 or 12 usually required to maintain an extension course, which runs 3 1/2 months and pays an instructor $180 per student. "Some have as few as one or two students," Moore said, but the instructor decided to keep the class going.

Union officials, however, object to the extension offerings because it puts former faculty members outside bargaining units and, in many cases, pays them less for doing the same job. "It's a bad mistake," Nichelson said. "It's objectionable on many grounds."

According to Cal State Long Beach President Curtis L. McCray, the new strategies may mark the beginning of a permanent change in the way universities do business. "We're in a true crisis in that what comes after will never look like what came before," McCray said. "I suspect we're watching the transformation of public education in California."

Although union and university officials say they believe volunteer teachers are being used on other campuses besides Long Beach, neither could say exactly where or how many. "We have more of them in urban areas because there's a bigger pool of qualified people to teach," said Colleen Bentley-Adler, a spokeswoman for the Cal State chancellor's office. The system has used volunteers before, she said, but never in such numbers or for the reasons they are being used now.

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