Skip to main content
Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White – November 16, 2016

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting – Chancellor’s Report
Long Beach, CA
November 16, 2016

Thank you, Chair Eisen… I echo your words of remembrance for Nohemi Gonzalez… who we lost all too soon. As they were a year ago, our thoughts are with Nohemi’s family, friends, colleagues, and the entire Cal State Long Beach family. I encourage everyone to find and read the poem, Nohemi – A Song for Paris, that U.S. poet laureate and friend of the CSU and friend of mine, Juan Felipe Herrera, wrote last year in her honor.

Next month will also mark the one year anniversary of the attack in San Bernardino, where countless CSU alumni lost their lives. Our thoughts are with the community and the campus, which continues to embody the SB Strong spirit, support victims and their families… and stand as a beacon of hope for the entire community.

Sadly, we must also note the passing of another member of the Cal State Long Beach family, David Dowell… who passed away last month. David served the CSU and Long Beach campus community for nearly four decades… as a professor of psychology, department chair, dean, vice provost, interim provost, and senior vice president of academic affairs… before his retirement from Cal State Long Beach earlier this year. David was deeply and wholly committed to increasing college retention and completion rates, particularly for underrepresented communities. Colleagues said he was the father of student success at Cal State Long Beach and was relentless in his total commitment to students.

David’s commitment to students was so thorough that he came back to the CSU to serve as special advisor for the Graduation Initiative Taskforce, supporting Chancellor’s Office efforts to build a plan that will increase graduation rates and eliminate achievement gaps for all students. This past May, David said that he hoped his legacy at Long Beach would be to leave the campus in better shape to support the success of all of our students. And certainly, David’s legacy is echoed in the millions of CSU students and alumni who have benefitted – and will benefit – from his life’s work. I know I speak for my colleagues across the CSU when I say that we will miss David… and our thoughts are with his wife, Nancy, and daughters, Maria, Laura and Julia.

November is indeed a month for remembrance, to be thankful and honor those who have given – and continue to give – so much for our country.

In this building and throughout our system, my colleagues and I are honored to work with so many faculty and staff veterans. While the method of service might differ, as a mission-driven endeavor, committed to the values of our communities, state and nation, the purpose of service to the CSU is the same.

And I am proud that the CSU remains committed to serving student veterans and their families… and that all of our campuses are working to increase access to student veterans.

Year after year, our campuses are finding new ways to provide additional support, resources and services to meet the specific needs of over 19,500 student veterans and dependents earning degrees in the CSU.

Sometimes, that support is unconventional… like the Disability Sports Festival at Cal State San Bernardino… an annual event that attracts over 500 participants, including disabled military veterans, from throughout the Inland Empire and High Desert.

The festival is an opportunity for participants to try out new adaptive sports and recreation innovations… and even compete in more than 20 sports and activities.

And sometimes, the support our campuses provide is non-academic… like the many campuses in our system that designate a social space where student veterans can gather in a private setting,…which is critical in building camaraderie, sharing and overcome challenges, and relieving stresses unique to the veteran student experience.

In fact, three CSU campuses – San Bernardino, San Diego and San Marcos – were recently recognized as top veteran-friendly schools by U.S. Veterans Magazine. These campuses were recognized for their work in creating opportunities for student and alumni veterans in education and employment.

And certainly, it is clear that all of our campuses continue to make student veterans an institutional priority… and ensure that they are successful along their unique academic, career and personal paths.

On the topic of institutional priorities… I’m pleased that our budget ask, as presented to you yesterday, is a clear reflection of our institutional priorities…. to support world-class faculty and staff… increase enrollment to serve more qualified Californians… repair and modernize our aging infrastructure… and fully implement Graduation Initiative 2025.

I spoke earlier this week to a collection of university presidents and chancellors at an Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in Austin.

I was joined on stage by State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher… where we talked about the importance of teacher preparation and support, particularly in regards to our statewide and national teacher shortage. In preparing for that event, I was reminded about how deeply linked the goals of Graduation Initiative 2025 are to the institutional priorities – and founding mission – of the CSU.

The goal of Graduation Initiative 2025 is not to focus on helping just 30 percent of our students… or even just 60 percent of our students. The goal is to help all of our students along their own pathways to academic and life success.

Trustee Maggie White said it best yesterday. This initiative is not designed to change students, but rather to change the way we serve our students.

I will consider Graduation Initiative 2025 a success if our concerted efforts mean a student who… because of their background, their story of perseverance, and their individual, dream-driven path that brought them here… is able to get a CSU degree in six years rather than eight years… or four years rather than six years. I will consider that a resounding success.

Every percent point improvement is important.

Even a handful of percentage points in the right direction – or in the case of our grad rates distribution graphs, in the left direction – will positively and forever impact thousands of students.

A single percentage point means that thousands of new alumni are able to enter California’s workforce.

It means more nurses, engineers, social workers, teachers are able to work and serve their families, the people of this state and nation. And it means we can get one step closer to ending our degree drought, teacher shortage and achievement gap.

In fact, when we personalize the percentage point improvements shown yesterday… that means an additional 6,000 CSU students – now alumni – have earned their degrees and are now working, sustaining and powering the promise of California.

Stealing a line from Dia Poole… maybe we should start calling this the Alumni Creation Initiative

That is the goal of Graduation Initiative 2025. And we can only fully-achieve this goal with adequate budget support from the state.

So, I am hopeful that with your support, insights and guidance… coupled with the voices of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends… that our mission-driven message of success will again resonate in the halls of the state capitol… and throughout California.

Lastly, I wish to comment on the news of the past few weeks, and offer some thoughts and perspective.

First, the campaign rhetoric that we have endured over the past year has had something offensive for everyone, regardless of a person’s political ideology. And so today, we are now in a place where the rhetoric of the past starts to evolve into the governing policies going forward. And we have seen some early signs of change… both positive and negative.

And because of the lack of substantive policy discussions on things that matter for our future, there is a lot of uncertainty at best, and a sense of fear and vulnerability at worst.

There are many issues going forward that matter to the CSU, including education policy writ large; the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, along with federal support for research and low-income students with Pell and TRIO programs. There are concerns about future policies on climate and healthcare, to name a few.

As a university community, we are capable of thriving in a world of ambiguity. But there is more… I believe strongly that the CSU, because of our size and importance to America, can also be a voice that influences the future in positive ways. The CSU voice matters…if our employees and students were a city, we would be the sixth largest city in California, ahead of Sacramento. And if we include our living alumni, we are larger than 21 states.

Given our size, we have a responsibility to lead with our voices.

As such, there are areas of immediate concern… And there can be no ambiguity, that we – as the CSU – are a community that embodies inclusivity and excellence. I was so proud to release a statement on November 9th with David Lopez, CSSA president, addressed primarily to our students, along with faculty and staff. Our statement:

The California State University embraces its diversity and the way in which our students, faculty and staff achieve excellence through inclusion. We are unequivocally committed to supporting all members of our community. That is who we are. It is a core strength and part of our DNA.

Elections are essential to democracy. Yet, they are not easy. They test our resolve, but also our understanding and compassion. They can be difficult and sometimes even painful, especially for those who hoped for a different outcome.

Today, many in our community may feel anxious and perhaps vulnerable about their personal future, the future of those they care for and the future of our nation.

It is our duty – as a community – to listen to each other and support each other through this time. It is also our responsibility to hold our political leaders to account, regardless of party. To meet that obligation, the California State University and California State Student Association will together be leading advocates in advancing the rights of our students, faculty and staff.

In this effort, we stand with California's political and civic leaders, our colleagues in the University of California and California Community Colleges, and our many peers nationwide who care about and are dedicated to a nation that lives up to its highest principles.

As you would expect of us, we have been thinking about the policy discussions of our times. This past July, we provided guidance to campuses that clarified the relationship between our campus law enforcement activities and US Homeland Security.

There is no ambiguity here… We are deeply committed to fostering a campus community that is safe and welcoming for everyone.

Primary jurisdiction for federal immigration laws rests with the federal government, not University Police.

Unless directed by California Government Code or required by law, the CSU will not enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies, Homeland Security or any other federal department for the enforcement of federal immigration law. Our police departments will not honor immigration hold requests. And our University Police do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being – or suspected of being – a person that lacks documentation.

Further… we are joining hands with other universities, colleges and educational associations across America, to protect access, affordability, intellectual freedom, inclusivity and diversity for all students… including supporting DACA students… and the communities that support them.

And finally… to our campus presidents, faculty, staff and students, I couldn’t be more proud of you.

Each campus has created just the right set of circumstances to allow a cacophony of views to be expressed – and provide support to those who seek to do so – interspersed with academic and community discussions and forums of the issues at hand.

The voices of non-violent protest have a sacred place on our campuses, and it will be one of many important forces going forward, just as it has been in past decades.

It is regrettable that – in a few cases – there are participants involved in criminal activity including vandalism and violence… and the campuses are responding properly with law enforcement and Clery notifications as situations warrant.

Let me close with a comment directed to those individuals who feel most vulnerable… your university supports you!

And as I look around the room I see others… the trustees and presidents, CSSA, the Academic Senate, the Alumni Council and our labor partners… who will stand together to support you. And when I look across the state – as mentioned – I know we stand with the UC, the community colleges and many other political and business leaders.

Chair Eisen, that concludes my report.