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Provost Message - November 16, 2016

My First 20 Weeks at The Beach

Instead of my usual weekly message format, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on my first twenty weeks here at The Beach. In light of the recent elections and the justifiable anxieties it has raised across the spectrum, it may seem indulgent to focus on my role here. However, I think it is helpful to me, and I hope to all of us, to consider something as full of achievement and promise as our campus in these difficult times.

As many of you know, I am diligently working my way through meeting with all the faculty and academic departments here on campus. Given the size of the university, and the small amount of unscheduled time I have, I am only just completing the “A”s in terms of departments, and have lunched with faculty members hired through 1988. I therefore have 25 letters of the alphabet, and 28 years of hiring to go! Although this sounds, and is, a daunting task, it has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my time here so far. Getting to know the details of each department directly from the chairs, and meeting with the talented, diverse and impressive people who make up the faculty and staff, is truly a pleasure. In addition to this, I have naturally also attended plays, dance and music performances, art exhibits, lectures, seminars, planning meetings, and many student and departmental and college functions. Overall, I have been welcomed into the community with open arms, and I am very grateful and humbled by this warm reception.

My overwhelming impression is of a lively, intellectually engaged, thriving campus. It goes without saying that not everyone is happy, and not everyone is satisfied with the campus, its climate and its many elements. Nevertheless, I have felt the passion and engagement of faculty, staff and students for this special place, and I salute and applaud you all for caring enough to speak up, reach out and take your place in the shared governance, in the broadest sense, of this institution.

As you all know, the life of a provost involves numerous meetings, many of which are with the president or other senior leaders of the university. This too has been a great pleasure for me. The president leads an effective team of hard-working, high-performing, collegial administrators. They have also welcomed me into their ranks, and I have begun to understand from them and their activities why CSULB is recognized throughout the system for being well run and efficiently administered, and how it serves as an example to the other 22 campuses within our system and beyond.

My own teams – the deans and the AVPs and their staff – are a true ornament to the campus. Their leadership, personalities, and managerial and organizational skills are prized not only by me, but across the campus, and I consider myself very lucky to have such an accomplished group of talented people guiding the colleges and the division.

I will repeat again that I am privileged and honored to serve as your provost, and I pledge my full heart and mind to this difficult and rewarding job. Provosts are paid to lead, think and organize, and only secondarily to do things. It is only by working together with all of you collectively that I can achieve these three primary goals.

As I have said several times, it will take all of us, working and acting together, to make The Beach even more of a beacon to the Long Beach community and beyond. Indeed, as you know if you have attended one of the budget “road shows” that VP Stephens and I have been co-presenting, I think we are at a unique moment in our history. We have reached the point where we as a campus (and the CSU as a system) are stretched to the maximum simply to achieve our current level. Let there be no doubt that this current level, especially in the case of CSULB, is meritorious and praiseworthy. Yet, we all know that we are underfunded in all areas of our operations. We do not see this as much as we might because of the combined efforts of the incredibly hard-working staff, faculty, (and may I add administrators) of the campus, who together provide one of the finest, and least expensive, educations to our almost 40,000 students.

As I write, students are protesting at Golden Shore against the possibility of increased tuition. I sincerely hope that their message is heard in Sacramento, since there are, in fact, only three possibilities ahead for us – the state can fund us at a higher level; students can fund us at a higher level; or we can cut the size of the University to match our current funding level.

From my point of view, there is no doubt that the first option is by far the most desirable—indeed, I think it is in all Californians’ best interests. In particular, since the Governor and Legislature have required us to “step up” our efforts to provide a quality education, it seems that the state should provide us at the very least the resources to enable us to perform this task. We are currently demonstrating our bona fides in this task, with one-time funds provided by the state. Knowing what I know of the University, I am convinced we will justify this initial funding, as well as additional base funding in the future. I encourage us all—students, staff, faculty, administrators—to work together to demonstrate our urgent need for these funds to our legislators and governor.

With additional funding, we can increase our tenure-track ranks, deepen our staff levels, admit more students, revise and renew our curriculum, expand our research, scholarship and creative activities, and offer a better and brighter future to all Californians, to name just a few key areas of importance. In addition, we can update and renew our aging capital stock and provide modern facilities across the board. We should not be satisfied with the gentle, soothing mantra of stasis. All living things, and a university is one, must flourish and develop, or else wither and decay.

The Beach will not wither or decay. We will all struggle together in order that we can continue to shine our light into the world. The light of education is more important now, in these troubled times, than ever, and we have been tasked with guarding the flame. We must not fail!

Comments? Your feedback is more than welcome.