May 2014 Advocate – Faculty Unions Support Student Organizers


Faculty Unions Support Student Organizers

by Cynthia Kaufman, Director, Institute of Community and Civic Engagement, De Anza College

 There is something very exciting happening in some faculty unions in California: Engaging students as organizers.

CynthiaKaufmanStarting in 2007, the California Faculty Association, faculty union for the California State University System has had a project called SQE- Students for Quality Education. Presently there are SQE chapters at 16 of the 23 CSU campuses. Students are trained as organizers. They work on projects such as challenging fee hikes and asking for more resources for the CSU. They help faculty get the word out on their needs. Presently they are working on fighting a unit cap limit in the CSU system

In 2012, Inspired by the CSU model, the Faculty Association at Foothill-De Anza Community College District began a program called FA-PAC Interns. Our union’s political action committee pays a faculty member to mentor students as organizers. Our faculty union pays for interns to do outreach for the union, and to work on particular initiatives, such as advocating for 2012’s Proposition 30 to raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest families, fighting to pass San José’s minimum wage law, and advocating for a “split roll” reform of Prop 13. 

This year’s FA-PAC interns organized a group of 40 students to go to a statewide Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges (FACCC) conference where they were trained in lobbying skills along with faculty members. Then, the students actually set up lobbying visits with 20 legislators or their staffs to talk about the urgent need for Proposition 13 reform to raise revenue for education and other pressing needs. 

Imagine what your union could do with some paid trained student organizers? The possibilities are endless. We have found at De Anza that having a strong organizing culture among our students is powerful for developing a campus culture conducive to all sorts of great initiatives. If you are interested in learning more about the FHDA FA-PAC intern model, please contact the intern supervisors, Nicky Gonzalez Yuen ( and Bob Stockwell (

Cynthia Kaufman, pictured above, is the Director of the Institute of Community and Civic Engagement at De Anza College and teaches in its certificate in Leadership and Social Change program. She is the author of Getting Past Capitalism: History Vision, Hope (Lexington Press, 2012) and Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change (South End Press, 2003).