University faculty and staff protest on Plaza for better pay


Collegian | Dylan Tusinski

A member of the Graduate Workers Organizing Cooperative gives a speech during the group’s May 4, 2023 protest on The Plaza. Speakers railed against Colorado State’s administration, saying they were cutting student, staff and faculty wages to fund projects like Canvas Stadium and CSU Spur.

Grant Coursey, Staff Reporter

Three organizations banded together to protest for better pay Thursday afternoon in front of the Lory Student Center.

The American Association of University Professors, the Graduate Workers Organizing Collective, and the Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions organized the protest to advocate for the Colorado State System Board of Governors to pass a budget that raises pay for graduate workers, university professors and campus staff at Colorado State University without raising student tuition.


The event lasted roughly an hour from noon to 1 p.m. and was composed of over 100 protestors.

Several speakers from each of the three organizations in attendance addressed the crowd and led them in chants such as, “Measly wages, we say no. Tony Frank, find the dough!”

Many in the crowd held signs that expressed the anger of the protestors, one read “CSU works because we do” and another “Corporate State University.”

Out of an almost $1.5 Billion budget Mary Van Buren, President of the CSU chapter of the AAUP, said she believed the University should be able to find the money to treat their workers in a just, and respectful fashion.

Van Buren also expressed her frustration that the budget that was disseminated by the board of governors was “opaque.”

Graduate teaching instructor, fifth year PhD student in CSU’s economics department and Secretary of GWOC, Deb Nunes, seconded Van Buren’s concern about the University’s lack of transparency and the fact that there are graduate student workers, including herself, who live below the poverty line under CSU’s current wages.

“The administration’s solution is increased tuition for students which– I don’t think it’s fair,” Nunes said. “This University, pitting students against instructors, instructors against professors– We don’t think that’s the way (the) administration should be handling this.”

The protest was organized to coincide with the May meeting of the Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System.

During the public comment section of the meeting on Thursday advocates from the AAUP, GWOC, and Colorado WINS all addressed the Board of Governors on the plight that they say they are facing due to their current pay.


The focus of the comments was mostly on the fact that the currently planned wage increase for CSU faculty and staff does not cover the national rate of inflation and that current wages do not cover the high price of housing in the Fort Collins area.

One professor, John Kitchens, spoke on behalf of the non-tenure track faculty which he says teaches 70% of the courses at CSU. During his comments he gave an account of his struggle with food insecurity, and described how he is forced to intermittently fast, cutting down to one meal a day for one week out of the month because he is unable to make ends meet with his current salary.

“I’m not going to starve to death, but every fourth week of the month I am starving.” Kitchens said. “There are days when I am hungry. There are days when I walk across campus and the smell of the food offends me because I cannot afford to eat it. I am taking part in intermittent fasting not because it is a fad but because every fourth week of the month I am broke.”

CSU President Amy Parsons said she recognized that campus constituents want more transparency into the CSU budget and brought up the CSU’s accountability website which she said breaks down, in “excruciating detail,” CSU’s budget.

She discussed the multiple new avenues for public engagement in the budget process CSU’s administration is implementing in the coming year, including budget kickoff meetings that would allow for greater public participation in the budget process and give the administration an avenue to directly inform the public on the state of CSU’s budget.

Parsons also said that CSU was feeling out the possibility of changing its budget structure in response to criticism from University constituencies. She said the University had called in an expert to study if the current model was serving the University as well as it could.

Chancellor of the CSU system, Tony Frank, followed up on Parsons’s comments.

“If it were available to us as a balanced budget, no one would want to increase tuition and we’d like to give cost of living plus merit-based (salary) increases,” Frank said. “We don’t say that very often, probably not as often as we ought to, but that’s common ground. There is no argument about that.”

The Board of Governors will vote on whether or not to finalize CSU’s proposed budget in their June meeting.

Reach Grant Coursey at or on Twitter @GrantCoursey.