CSU pushes faculty to vote on furlough option

California State University faculty could face furloughs under one proposal to help ward off a projected $584 million systemwide drop in state funding.

The California Faculty Association hasn't agreed to consider the concept, which is being pressed as an option for all CSU employees except public safety. CSU officials have urged employee groups to look at the idea, saying if employees take off two days each month without pay it could save about $275 million and preserve about 22,000 course sections.

Faculty representatives say they need more information, such as specifics on how the system would handle other budget cuts, how furloughs would preserve jobs and how furlough scheduling would work.

Lisa Weston, president of the CSU, Fresno, association chapter, said: "We don't want to vote on a concept. We want to know what you have in mind. What exactly do you want us to vote for?"

On Tuesday, CSU trustees will convene a special meeting to discuss how to manage the looming budget shortfall. No action will be taken at the meeting in Long Beach, where trustees are expected to hear an update on budget developments and discuss how to operate with less money.

"Everything is on the table," said Clara Potes-Fellow, spokeswoman for the CSU system.

One topic that could surface is furloughs for nearly all of CSU's roughly 47,000 employees, a move officials don't believe has happened before. About 21,000 employees have agreed to look at furloughs, including the 16,000 nonacademic workers represented by the California State University Employee Union, authorities say.

This week, CSU administrators ratcheted up the pressure on the faculty with a public statement. Officials said they have met three times with the union and supplied answers to eight specific questions. They called for a vote of the membership.

In a statement, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed said: "Time is of the essence and we need to prepare for the upcoming fall academic year on all of our campuses."

Lillian Taiz, president of the statewide association that represents about 23,000 faculty, said members understand sacrifices must be made. She said they have lost colleagues and raises to troubled budgets.

"It's not that we are unwilling to do our share -- we are," she said. "We just want to know how it fits into the bigger picture."