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2006-2007 Convocation Address:
The 2006-2007 Academic Year

The 2006-2007 Academic Year

As we enter the horizon of a new academic year, it is essential that we build upon the momentum and leverage the successes that have been engendered here. Increasingly, leading universities rely heavily on a culture that is responsive to new ideas and new possibilities through excellent teaching and quality research. This year we will embark on a number of critical campus discussions in preparation for our upcoming WASC accreditation review and to reexamine our outdated mission statement written over two decades ago. Using the Vision for Excellence as a strong foundation the WASC leadership team will work with the campus to assess how we are organized for effectiveness, staffed for effectiveness, and how the university can take the necessary steps to graduate more students with highly valued degrees.

Like society, our University has evolved considerably in the last two decades when our current mission statement was adopted. The Academic Senate, under the leadership of the Executive Committee will work this year to develop a more contemporary mission statement that is more reflective of our current institution and the increased expectations placed on us by society.

Fortunately for us, we are beginning the year with a much more favorable budget than in years past. In fact, this is the first budget in 6 years to be passed before school began. Our budget this year helps us in numerous ways. First, it provides $16.9 million increase in net state support which represents a 6% increase over 2005-06. Of this total $3.4 million is dedicated to fixed cost growth such as health benefits, maintenance, insurance; $6 million dedicated for a 3.65% compensation pool increase for all employees which as you know is subject to a collective bargaining agreement; $2.8 million for new teaching faculty to accommodate enrollment growth pressures; and $4.7 million in base discretionary funds to continue the campus recovery plan.

Second, Chancellor Reed and the Trustees also were successful in negotiating an improved “marginal cost” formula increase for enrollment growth resulting in an increase from $6,270 per FTE last year to $7,225 per FTE this year. Third, as we speak this morning, changes in the Cal Grant B are awaiting the Governor’s signature. These changes will help our students by lifting the maximum age to receive these awards from 23 to 27. Finally, in capital construction, a statewide referendum has been scheduled for November and Cal State, Long Beach has the largest CSU capital project at stake, the Peterson 3 Building, an $83 million state project.

With the passage of this budget, the state’s commitment as a percentage of revenues to our campus changed for the better for the first time in 6 years. By holding the level of student tuition and fees constant and increasing our support by 6%, the state increased its share of CSULB funding from 44.3% to 45%.

This budget is a very positive first step in addressing many of the deficiencies created within our University caused by the previous state budgetary woes. It also allows us to aggressively seek to build our academic infrastructure to enhance the success of our students and faculty while more actively engaging to address emerging societal demands. Thanks to the help of the campus RPP committee and our strong campus commitment to share governance, this budget has given us the ability to expedite the campus recovery plan and provide the following campus benefits:

  • Largest cohort of new faculty in 25 years.
  • Increased support of faculty research activities and our SCAC research grants while also improving our opportunities for student/faculty undergraduate research activities.

Despite these initiatives, I believe that it is my job to provide you with the best possible environment where you can constantly “expand to spectrum of knowledge” to our students and society at large. To achieve this objective this requires us to embark on a series of initiatives:

First, we must improve to philanthropic culture that has permeated our campus for fifty-seven years. The current culture and expectation among most of the beneficiaries of a California State University, Long Beach degree is that the state will handle our financial needs. As evidenced in the last two recessions, this is not the case. We have a potential private support base that most colleges and universities can only dream of consisting of over 215,000 alumni, hundreds and thousands of parents and former parents, a local community of nearly 700,000 people, and connections to some of the wealthiest companies in the world. We must better connect and take advantage of these relationships with these potential supporters while also putting in place an aggressive philanthropic infrastructure that will lead to our first ever University capital campaign.

Our campus academic and infrastructural needs continue to increase as does our need for graduate and undergraduate student and faculty support in a multitude of areas. However, currently our endowment ranks 597th in the nation according to the recent figures which means that we have a long way to go to build a respectable endowment. To increase student success and improve the quality of life for our faculty and staff we must build a strong endowment as well as establishing a philanthropic expectation that will permeate the next 50 to 100 years for our campus.

During the last few months we have already begun this process. Since April our endowment has grown from $27 million to $30.3 million an increase of over 12% while also adopting a higher endowment return rate or spending policy to the campus that has proven benefited to students in the form of scholarships and faculty through various forms of academic support. These changes also have encouraged greater interest from donors in supporting many of our endowed programs. I also would like to report that during the last few months we have raised nearly $10 million in new endowment commitments through planned gifts including a $3 million planned gift from Ann Christine Robinson to endow a Tina Robinson Chair in Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and an endowed chair in Social Sciences and History. This gift also establishes a million dollar in endowed scholarships to support our Presidential Scholar’s program supporting high achieving students from California.

In addition to the generous Robinson gift, we also have recently received two planned gifts from former faculty members to support our endowments in various academic areas. Professor Lus and Audrey Hauth recently granted the University a planned gift of $1 million in support of the very successful Hauth Center.

A second critical initiative that needs attention from my perspective is that we must significantly enhance our living, learning and teaching environments throughout the campus. This is an important student success issue. For Cal State Long Beach to improve our student success on campus and continue to shed the commuter stigma that we have carried for so many decades we must significantly enhance our student living, learning, and common spaces throughout campus. This means building more student housing, improving our dining facilities, and creating further opportunities for our students to make our campus more than just a place to go to class. This strategy also includes enhancing our classrooms and laboratories, many of which are in very bad shape while also working to develop more adequate faculty office space.

We also have begun this process with the $31 million Library renovation that is on schedule. This renovation will not only significantly improve of University library but also will add a number of new classrooms and over 100 faculty offices. In addition to this project, we have initiated a major classroom maintenance and upgrade program that will aggressively work to eradicate many of our deferred maintenance issues which I believe are substantial. This plan, which was recently adopted, more than triples our commitment to classroom and learning environment maintenance and upgrades, smart classroom upgrades, and basic improvements.

From technology to paint and white boards to windows, these improvements are designed to enhance our student success and the quality of life for our faculty and staff throughout campus. In is amazing how much more beautiful our campus really is once you clean our own windows.

We also must aggressively work to develop viable options for affordable faculty housing. This is an issue that not only directly impacts us but is an issue negatively impacting all of Long Beach. Public school teachers, nurses and medical staff personnel, civil service and city government employees, police officers, and other individuals who enhance the social infrastructure of Long Beach are also struggling to find affordable housing. Many of these citizens are our graduates and will leave Long Beach with some of our high quality faculty in pursuit of affordable living arrangements and conditions. We must diligently work to provide options for our faculty and academic staff if we are going to remain competitive in the academic marketplace.

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