Before we talk about how we are going to address the difficult issues we face, let’s not lose sight of some of the remarkable accomplishments of the last year. There is certainly much to celebrate, myriad accomplishments of which we can be proud, and there are certainly many things to anticipate for this academic year with a sense of anticipation and pride.
Let’s give those who have been part of this, those who have helped, and all of you a hand for all of those accomplishments. The scope and reach of what the people on this campus do is truly amazing.
This year is not going to be "Business As Usual." As it looks right now, we are facing several difficult years. And, as a result of an anticipated further reduction in state support, we are going to have to work together on planning a future as a somewhat smaller institution. CSULB will look a little different in the future.
As a result of this on-going financial dilemma, the faculty, staff and administration are frustrated. There is a significant level of hardship.
We are not the only ones suffering. We are not the only ones hurting ― in the midst of this world-wide economic crisis harm is being done to California in business, health care, social services and in many other sectors of society. Unfortunately, this crisis is not yet ended.
What do we do next? First, let’s talk about the CSU and this campus.
Life in the CSU is often not easy. With significant teaching loads, erratic state support, inadequate levels of support for faculty, we face issues related to budget each year. The system is chronically underfunded.
I have been on campus for 21 years. This is my 37th year in Higher Education. (I’m not feeling old, but I did calculate that the year I began my first tenure-track position, President Alexander was entering the 3rd grade.)
Like many of you, I came here intending to stay for only a few years and then move on, whatever that meant. I served as Chair of the Music Department, now the Cole Conservatory of Music, for 12 years. I then served a year as Associate Dean, and now I am on “temporary reassignment” from eight years as Dean of the College of the Arts.
If life is often so difficult at CSULB, why then did I stay, like so many of us? Well, here are a few reasons:
First, as is so often the case when you really like where you work, it’s the people that you work with. In my years at CSULB, I have been exhilarated and impressed by the quality and dedication of the faculty ― by their commitment and dedication to our students and to their research, scholarship and creative activity. Having been on campus for so long, I was going to say I know most of you, but since so many of you ― over half of you in the faculty ― have come in the last eight years, I think I know at least many of you. I have served on committees, councils or other group activities with many of you. The accomplishments and dedication of our faculty, the regional, national, and international reach of what they do, is truly amazing.
The students. I have been captivated by our students ― their intelligence, their enthusiasm, their diversity, their determination to succeed (often as the first in their families to attend college) and the many and varied life paths each student has taken in their journey to this campus.
Also, in my time here, I have been deeply appreciative of the dedication and commitment of the staff. We all know that without the staff, this enterprise we call CSULB would collapse.
The quality and sense of mission of the Administration here is remarkable. The people we have had in administrative leadership positions on this campus have never been as strong and collegial as this group. It is an honor to work with them.
This campus has a real respect for collegiality and faculty governance, working with the Academic Senate and the California Faculty Association.
Another reason many of us have stayed so long at CSULB is the mission of the CSU. CSULB has become part of my being. I believe very deeply in the mission of this campus and the enormous impact what we do here has on this community, the state, and beyond. This state, this nation, needs affordable, high quality public higher education. And there is no greater advocate for public higher education than our President.
Another continuing attraction to working and studying on this campus is its uniqueness. In addition to the wide array of majors, programs and other life opportunities available here, how many other universities in the country can claim that the Department of Art is the largest department on campus?
For many reasons, CSULB is a unique institution. For me, and I think for many of us who have been here a long time, those are the reasons that we stay.
A statistic that I heard recently from President Alexander: In 2009-10, this year, there will be approximately 18 million people enrolled in higher education in this country. Three million are going to be studying in California. We don’t need Robert Mena to do the math for us ― that’s one of out of six people who are in higher education studying in California. Clearly, the health of higher education in California, just like the economy of this state, has a significant impact on the entire nation.
How do we move forward in these times? What do we do next? How do we plan for what appears to be a significant reduction of state support? Is there any hope? Is there any reason for optimism?
We are in the midst of a world-wide financial crisis. If I understand it properly, the Chinese characters that represent crisis are danger + opportunity. Indeed, we are at a time of real danger ― but we also have the opportunity to evaluate and examine what we do and how we do it.
Let me answer the last question first ― is there any reason to be optimistic. The answer is “yes.”
I like Winston Churchill’s quote when he said: “I am an optimist because the alternative is so bleak.
As we begin this planning process, what are out assets? Our assets are the same reasons that so many of us have chosen to make our life’s work at CSULB:
What is the Process we will use to make decisions about the future? What’s the Planning Process going to be? How do we proceed?
Peter Drucker said “No one of us is as smart as all of us.”
I’ve also heard it said, and I think it’s very true, that on any university campus, no one person can accomplish anything of significance alone.
What is the process of planning going to look like? I can tell you that in my three weeks in this position, we have been talking about the “F” word…and planning for the plan.
I said before that I was an optimist ― a realistic optimist, I hope. I would be remiss if, on behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, I did not recognize several campus leaders who are now, and will continue to be central to the planning process. From Administration and Finance, Vice President Mary Stephens and Ted Kadowaki, and from Academic Affairs, Dave Dowell. We are so very fortunate to have people of this quality and commitment providing intelligent and thoughtful leadership in this planning process as it affects the academic area.
The history of CSULB is that we find a way to do what needs to be done; in a climate of civility and professionalism CSULB is, indeed, a great public university.
We are all frustrated with the current situation we find ourselves in. We are angry. We are also resilient and dedicated to doing good work. Please remember our history of civility and professionalism on this campus. Make the decisions you feel you must make in response to the circumstances presented to you. But please allow others to react to these circumstances in their own way.
We must have confidence. We are not going to panic. We want to get this right. We are all on the same page ― have the same goal, the same priorities.
And let’s not forget the role of University Relations and Development. We must be very aware that people, even our friends who know us well, give to winners. They give to excitement. They give to something special and important. They give to support students. They give to support their alma mater. (It’s been said a university can only be as great as its alumni allow it to be.) If we allow ourselves to be negative and downcast with our friends, it will lead to diminished outside support. That does not mean we cannot speak of the difficulties that result from the dramatically reduced state support, but we must leave interactions with our friends and donors with a sense of optimism ― that all is not lost.
As I close, I would like to thank you for your kind attention to my comments at this Convocation today. Praveen Soni and President Alexander are to follow.
I am humbled and honored to have this opportunity to serve in this role at this critical time in the history of the university.
I would pause here to offer thanks and gratitude to the faculty, staff and administration for dealing with our current dilemma with a sense of purpose and determination.
We have a great deal to be proud of ― a great history of accomplishment for the public good. We will meet these challenges as we have many times before.
Rumors: I know, as you do, that rumors can be destructive. If you hear a rumor, please, seek a source that might be able to give you an accurate answer or call my office in Academic Affairs. Tell us what the rumor is and we will get an answer to you. We don’t want people becoming unnecessarily agitated over false or misleading statements.
Mission: When we say that we change lives ― it’s true. When we say that we graduate students with “highly valued degrees” we mean it. We proudly state that our campus has tangible links with our local community, embedded in the educational process. We also can claim that our institution, CSULB, has a reach and impact that is regional, state-wide, national, and international. This is central to our multi-faceted mission. The impact of CSULB is both the educational quality that we provide and the educational quantity that we provide.
Is there a more noble or important life’s work than education? To say that what we do here is essential to the future of world and humanity is an understatement. Our work, in the last analysis is this:
“We elevate the human spirit.”