2011 Convocation Address

Academic Senate Chair Lisa Vollendorf


 

Hello Long Beach! I am afraid I must begin with some bad news: the end of summer has come.

 

  • For some this means less surfing (any surfers out there?);  

 

  • For others, less time on the beach (any sun lovers out there?);

 

  • For others, less time in the garden (I am sure we have gardeners out there); 

 

  • And of course there is less time for Disneyland (does anyone lament that?).

In my house, I have packed my camping gear and put aside a few dozen projects that somehow did not get accomplished.

I also have thought longingly about the hiking trip I took to a remote national park—even though it rained EIGHT out of NINE days on the trail.

 This week, I suspect that many of you have similarly longed for the days of summer—although perhaps not for the rainy ones.

From this perspective, the end of August marks a time to lament the passing of vacation and the diminishment of sunny days. But here is the good news: the end of August also marks the start of a new journey.

All of us—students, staff, faculty, and parents--have the distinct privilege to be embarking together on a journey through another academic year.

Now is the time for professors and staff to return to campus with renewed energy and excitement. Now is the time for students to eat one final home-cooked meal.

Perhaps some even will get lucky enough to have their laundry done for them before they return to the busy schedule of college life.

Whether we have spent the summer working to save for tuition (as many students have); finalize a research paper (as many professors have); or streamline office procedures (as many, many staff have), we all arrive to the semester with hearts full of anticipation about what the year will bring.

In recent times, many of us who work and study in the Cal State system have approached the new year with a heavy heart. I count myself among those.

The state has not lived up to its end of the promise to educate California’s deserving students. *We* are the ones who pay the price of higher tuition and fees; lower salaries; and higher workloads. 

Indeed, these conditions have come to define what many are calling ‘the new normal.’  The new normal hinges on the simple but deeply disappointing fact that California is unlikely to fund its public education system in a sustained and adequate way. 

The burden for public education increasingly is being shifted to individuals across many states in the country.

In California we can measure that shift in terms of tuition increases and budget cuts. This is the reality that faces us. And it is a reality that will not change any time soon.

Yet, during these difficult times, I have been struck by the generosity of self and spirit that people on this campus have shown toward each other.

Faculty have taken more students into their classes so students can graduate on time.

Staff have responded to students’ pleas for help by providing extra advising and assistance.  

Deans have looked in every nook and cranny to find creative ways to fund initiatives.

Students have shown remarkable patience and have clearly communicated an understanding that we are all in this together. And many students, faculty, and staff have stepped up to become advocates for changing California’s choice to fund prisons, not schools.

All of this serves as an important reminder that, even in bad times, we continually see glimmers of hope and sources of deep inspiration.

 

  • I personally have been inspired by those who have become advocates for public higher education and who have traveled to Sacramento to tell their stories to the state legislature.

 

  • I am inspired by my colleagues—faculty, staff, and administrators alike—every time they share ideas about how to best map our future. 

 

  • I am inspired by everyone who has persevered through difficult times and maintained a commitment to education.

I also am inspired by my colleagues in the Academic Senate, whose engagement with university policy and practice helps shape our institution in a positive and collaborative way.

This year the Academic Senate will consider General Education revisions. This is something that affects every single student who graduates from Cal State Long Beach.

As we saw last year during the long discussions about the new Department Chair Policy, such debates are not easy, but they do lead to innovative thinking and consensus building.

The ongoing efforts of the Senate’s Sustainability Taskforce provide one example of what we can accomplish when we all work together in the best interest of the university.

As our campus continues to green its practices, we can thank the Sustainability Taskforce for its work and President Alexander for his support.

Indeed, President Alexander signed the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Commitment to Climate Neutrality this summer. Please join me in applauding him for taking this important step.

 Part of the journey toward climate involved hosting the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference this past July. More than 1,000 people came to our campus to share ideas about lowering carbon impact.

 

  • I heard students speak about how their lives had been changed by their environmental work.

 

  • I heard faculty speak about teaching and research related to sustainability.

 

  • And I heard many examples of campus practices such as recycling and landscaping that add up to significant gains for the planet.

 

All of these stories came from people committed to bettering the world. That commitment to improving the future through education, innovation, and dedication is on full display every single day here at CSULB.

The start of the academic year is an important time for us to take stock in our core values and in the privileged position in which we find ourselves as educators, students, and staff at this fine institution.

So as you undertake the journey of this academic year, I encourage you to look around you as often as possible to find what inspires you on this campus. We are a community of more than 40,000 people working and studying hard to ensure that we deliver on the promise of providing a high quality education to as many deserving students as possible.

If my hiking trip is any measure, then even on a rainy day you will find something or someone to inspire you.

Acknowledge that moment and cling to the memory; for together, this is how we will continue to sustain ourselves and build a strong community and a shared purpose during the years to come.

I know now I should say “Go Beach.” But, in the spirit of clinging to one last weekend of summer, instead, I implore you to ‘go to the beach’. And I wish all of you a productive and engaging academic year.