2010 Convocation Address

Academic Senate Chair Lisa Vollendorf


 

Necessity

We are in times of deep necessity—and not just because at the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center we have a 25-person hot tub that threatens to divert attention from academics.

Truly, as we all know, we are in times of great necessity because the system of public education in California hangs in the balance. Last year, as students on this campus paid steep fee increases, faculty, staff, and administrators throughout the California State University system accepted 10% pay reductions to offset the $584 million dollar shortfall. The furloughs disrupted campus life, but they also allowed us to offer classes to students and job opportunities to staff and lecturers. Our sacrifices mirror many of those occurring across the nation.

Re-Shaping American Education

Universities across the country are facing deep crises and university workforces are being dramatically re-shaped.

The hiring of tenure-track faculty members has diminished. Institutions increasingly rely on part-time faculty whose access to professional development, benefits, and wage increases pales in comparison to the job security of those on the tenure-track.

In American universities, non-tenure track faculty now teach more than 50% of undergraduate courses and constitute approximately 75% of all instructional faculty 1. As a result of the unrelenting pressure to do more with less, there has been significant erosion in support for faculty research. Teaching and service workloads continue to rise. Time and support for research diminish.

All of these pressures inform our reality here at CSULB, where faculty and staff have struggled to come to terms with deep cuts in state support. Students, too, are struggling as they try to balance the intellectual and economic challenges of attending university.

Our society is being re-shaped by the elimination of educational opportunities at all levels.

This change threatens to increase the gap between rich and poor. Indeed, we might end up in the same world described by Sancho Panza, who sagely remarked to Don Quixote that, “There are only two families in the world, […] the Haves and the Have-nots.” (You can always rely on Sancho Panza to put his finger on the problem.)

Work For a Better Tomorrow

We are privileged enough to have access to education and to be part of an educational community. This means that we all can be part of a solution for a better tomorrow.

Necessity is the mother of invention. And in Germany they say that necessity unites. At CSULB we are uniquely positioned to unite and to make a difference. We have an institution that is being forced to shrink admissions and yet remains wholly committed to student success and to providing access to as many qualified students as possible.

We have shared governance processes that involve all of our university constituencies—students, staff, faculty, and administrators. We also have a healthy commitment to debate about how we define access, where our priorities lie, and what the future holds for us and for the next generations.

Our principal strength at The Beach is in our diversity: we deliver quality education that enables students from many ethnic, economic, and social backgrounds to live out their dreams and their families’ dreams. And the President’s Scholars, who are here today, are a fine testament to those opportunities.

Unity Of Purpose

To transfer our strength into a unity of purpose, we must revitalize our commitment to advocacy at CSULB. We must think of ourselves individually and collectively: through individual action we have the chance to shape the future.

Now is the time to put that idea to the test.

The first test will come early in the year. President Alexander will sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. As part of that commitment, we will launch a Sustainability Taskforce charged with making our campus an environmental leader and reducing our carbon footprint 2.

This project cannot succeed unless we all re-examine our habits.

  • How many of us remember to take our own cup to Starbucks every time we indulge our caffeine addictions?
 
  • How many refill water bottles instead of buying new ones? Every single time?
 
  • How many of us print on both sides of a piece of paper… every time we print?
 
  • How many take advantage of the U-Pass to ride the bus? How many more of us should do so?
 
  • Finally, how many of us make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle in all aspects of our lives?

These are among the many questions we must ask ourselves as we take responsibility for making Cal State Long Beach a pro-environment campus.

This year, we also must ask serious questions about how we support faculty research, tenure-track hires, staff hires, and diversity across the campus.

These debates also will test our strength of purpose. They will require that we enter into serious discussion about Cal State Long Beach and its future.

Working Together For a Stronger Future

To ensure success for the university’s future, we need to resolve to work together. This is the moment to articulate our priorities and to convince the public to restore California’s place as a national leader in education. In fact, given our dismal showings in recent data and with due respect to President Alexander’s bluegrass roots, I’d be happy if California climbed above Kentucky in some of those ratings.

We need allies in our fight for appropriate education funding. In this sense it is crucial that we position ourselves as advocates for public education. We need to forge more opportunities to unite with K-12 and community college allies.

As we help each other bounce back after a difficult year, we must strive for a singularity of purpose. We must understand that our necessity hinges on a restoration of funding to public education. Our necessity therefore hinges on our ability to restore support to areas in critical need on our campus and throughout the state educational system.

Necessity does indeed unite. And it should unite us this year in our efforts to educate ourselves, our students, our legislators, and everyday citizens about the importance of California State University.

We can find strength in this unity. Indeed, we must. Our future depends on it.

Notes

1 American Federation of Teachers report “Stronger Together” (2010)


2 The text of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment