California State University, Long Beach
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Alexander Welcomes Back Faculty, Staff At Convocation

Published: September 1, 2011

CSULB continues to gain recognition as a public institution of higher education with its long list of recognitions and accomplishments over the past year despite serious cuts to the university’s budget. Unfortunately, the campus’ situation isn’t likely to improve anytime soon, and there are challenges that lie ahead as the campus enters the 2011-12 academic year.

Such was the message at Convocation 2011 on Aug 26, in the Carpenter Performing Arts Center.

Welcoming the campus community to the beginning of a new academic year, CSULB President F. King Alexander applauded faculty and staff for their outstanding efforts on behalf of the university’s students—in spite of reduced resources that are the result of the continuous budget cuts by the state legislature to the California State University (CSU) system.

The problem is there doesn’t appear to be any relief in sight, according to Alexander and CSULB Provost Don Para, who also spoke at the event. In fact, it is probably the campus will have to reduce its budget by another $8 million in the middle of the academic year because of the state’s overestimates of revenue projections. This mid-year cut would be the campus’ share of a $100 million reduction to the CSU.

“The statewide and national successes of Cal State Long Beach keep mounting, and our reputation keeps expanding well beyond the borders of California,” Alexander said. “Our people are the reason why we continually rank among the best public universities in the nation. And, it is the strength of our people that has built this university into a national leader, producing university graduates from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Both Alexander and CSULB Provost Don Para pointed out many of the rankings, accomplishments and successes of the campus, its faculty, staff and students over the previous year, including:

• “Best value” rankings by Kiplinger’s Magazine, USNews & World Report and The Princeton Review;

• The opening of numerous new facilities such as the Student Recreation and Wellness Center;

• The university’s fundraising success despite the difficulties of a very slow recovering economy;

• Another large graduating class of students in 2011 and recognition of the university’s success in graduating it students by The Education Trust, Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse Issues in Higher Education;

• Successful student-athlete performances both in the classroom and on the field;

• And, generating some $40 million in external grants and contracts in 2010-11.

“The good news, however, is much tempered by what we all must consider as very bad news. What we thought might be a light at the end of the tunnel last year at this time turned out to be, as Vice President (Doug) Robinson stated, ‘a freight train headed right at us,’” Alexander noted.

What started out as a $500 million cut to the CSU system became a $650 million cut by the time the state legislature gave its final approval. Additionally, the CSU would be forced to cut another $100 million mid-year in the event that state revenues fall short of the legislature’s projections. That shortfall in state revenues appears imminent.

“Despite the fact that every state felt the pain of the most recent recession,” Alexander said, “no state has resorted to the kinds of cuts in state funding for higher education that we have been made to endure in California.”

But what did it all mean for CSULB specifically?

“This year, our university’s state appropriation has been reduced by 24 percent from last year’s state appropriation,” Alexander explained. “For our campus, this means that we have lost $37 million in state support that could have been used to hire new faculty, reduce class sizes, improve classrooms and lab space and provide access for 2,000 more students. In addition to this new devastating budget, we are expected to be cut another $8 million at Cal State Long Beach and $100 million throughout the CSU as a result of state miscalculations and overestimates of revenue projections.”

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Photo By David J Nelson
CSULB President F. King Alexander

The president went on to point out that just four years ago, CSULB received nearly 42 percent of its funding from the state. By December 2012, if early projections prove true, the campus will be operating with less than 25 percent of its total revenues coming from the state.

“When measured on a per student basis, this means that four years ago Cal State Long Beach received $6,700 in state funding per student yet will only receive $4,500 per student this year,” he added.

Provost Para referred to the campus’ and system’s current budget situation as “a new reality,” and Academic Senate Chair Lisa Vollendorf, who also spoke at Convocation, noted many are calling these current conditions “the new normal.”

Para said, “This new reality is that our current, much-reduced funding levels are likely to be the best that we can expect moving forward. The impact of these realities hits everybody on campus—staff, students, faculty and administration. We are all frustrated and deeply disappointed.”

Vollendorf concurred and added, “The state simply has not and is not living up to its end of the bargain to educate California’s deserving students, and we, those in the educational system, are the ones who pay the price. Indeed, these conditions have come to define what many are calling the new normal, and the new normal hinges on the simple but deeply disappointing fact that California is unlikely to fund its education system in a sustained and adequate way,” she said. “This is the reality that faces us, and it is a reality that will not change anytime in the near future.”

Despite these conditions, however, all three speakers expect the university to do more than survive.

“These next years are really going to be a challenge,” Para admitted. Still, “this campus has a history of finding a way to do what needs to be done and coming out stronger at the other end and going through that process with a high level of civility.”

President Alexander agreed, exhorting the campus community to continue doing what it does best—educating students and being a national model for public awareness, service to all socioeconomic groups, diversity and accountability.

“It is because of your dedication and commitment to our students past and present that we are positioned to go forth as a state and national model for public higher education despite the distorted priorities of our state government,” he said. “I believe that no university in this nation leads better by its example than Cal State Long Beach.

“Thank you for your dedication to our students and our truly public mission, and I hope you will welcome the challenges ahead with open arms because if we don’t make this happen, if we don’t address these challenges, if we don’t turn these trends around, who will?”

–Rick Gloady