by Kristina Vakhman
Facing massive budget cuts and a state economy in chaos, Central Connecticut State University faculty will be required to forgo a portion of their salary through furlough days — a move that Lindsay Keazer, an associate professor of mathematical sciences at the school, sees as detrimental to students.
“I think there should be better ways for the state to balance the budget,” Keazer said. “I prepare future teachers. They won’t get as much information that’s important for their future career. It hurts me — it’s a financial cut — but I can survive. It’s unfair to the students who are paying money. It’s not just slicing my pay; it’s slicing the amount of knowledge [the students] can have. I wish I had more time and more class days with my students.”
Dr. Jared Ragusett of the university’s economics department agreed with Keazer’s sentiment, saying that the furlough days “bring home the state budget crisis to students.”
“It’ll take away services. Your tuition isn’t adjusted for that. That’s something students should consider,” Ragusett said.
Furlough days are unpaid mandatory leaves of absence, or “vacation days,” provisioned by employers as a means to cut costs without having to resort to lay-offs.
According to an email sent out to faculty by Louise Blakeney Williams, the president of CCSU’s American Association of University Professors, CCSU full-time faculty members “will not be paid for three days,” meaning teachers, coaches, counselors and librarians will not be coming in for work. One of these days has been designated for March 9 of next year, entailing that no classes or office hours will be in session, while the dates of the other two days are a matter of choice on a personal basis.
“I’m taking them the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving break, and I’m going to put an automatic reply saying I’m on furlough and I’m not answering any emails or doing any work because I’m not getting paid,” said associate professor of history, Dr. Heather Munro Prescott, while laughing. “It sucks that in a state this affluent, the legislature can’t find other ways to generate revenue.”
Additionally, the email encourages faculty to apologize to students that their “education may have been disrupted by the unwillingness of our legislature to adequately fund higher education.”
Dr. Virginia Mitchell, an adjunct professor of history, views the proposed $90 million cut to Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, including CCSU, as the problem and not so much the furlough days themselves.
“I’m much more worried about the other budget cuts they’re talking about in the legislature. This is a minor thing. We need more funding overall for education,” Mitchell stated.
Some faculty, who asked not to be included in this article, said they have not participated in furlough days in the past and will continue to do so. Others, like Dr. Samuel Zadi, who teaches French in the modern languages department, are virtually unaffected either because of scheduling or their readiness to assist CT’s crumbling budget negotiations.
“It doesn’t bother me much. There’s just one day that isn’t really fair because I’ll still be working anyway and they’ll be taking money from my salary. Other than that, I don’t see a problem with the principle. The state has some problems and they are trying to find ways to resolve it,” Zadi said.
Dr. Susan Gillmore, an associate professor of English, concurred that, though “money’s tight,” the university’s choice to participate in the furlough days “was done in the spirit of shared sacrifice.” As the mother of a son who just started at Southern Connecticut State University, she is willing to surrender a paycheck and is more concerned about how the budget will affect education as a whole.
“I’m more worried about the budget on the governor’s desk and what’s going to happen to the state and tuition and scholarships. I’d rather give up a few days than see students get more hits, but I’m afraid we’re going to see both,” Gillmore said.
“I just hope that the assembly restores funding for higher-ed. It’s one of the best investments they can make. It’s hard to have income loss, but we’re trying to work with the state and preserve what we have. I will say that it’s discouraging to have furloughs and then to see the budget they have,” Gillmore added.
Secretary for the Career Success Center, Linda Kaupus, believes neither students nor state employees should be hit by cuts whatsoever, especially by furlough days. Though her position is part of the clerical worker staff, Kaupus is affected.
“We need to do something in order to keep the state afloat, but I don’t think it should all be on the backs of the employees of the state of Connecticut. We all need to do our share. The government needs to do more with taxing the multi-million dollar corporations than the individuals with incomes. The majority of us state employees are in the middle class. How much more can we give?” Kaupus expressed with frustration.
“My husband works a regular job. He doesn’t need to take furlough days because his business is flowing; I’m getting taxed just like he is, but I also have to give back three days of my paycheck. Then they talk about how state employees are the cause of a lot of the problems here in the state. No, we’re actually not. We pay the same taxes as every other citizen in the state of Connecticut does. But if it’s going to help balance the budget and people get to keep their jobs, it’s fine. They’re a necessary evil,” Kaupus said.