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Report of the Chair

Remarks by Rebecca D. Eisen
Chair, California State University Board of Trustees
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting
Long Beach, CA November 16, 2016

At this – our November Board meeting – we of course are all looking forward to Thanksgiving and all that means in terms of a break from school and work, a time for holding close our families and friends, and a time for reflection on what we have to be thankful for.

As I am wont to do, this prospect started me thinking about the word thank, thankful, thanks. With my "lifelong learning" instincts honed at the CSU, I did some research about “thanks” and discovered a few interesting things.

First, it seems, although I’m no linguist, that the word thanks goes way back, far into the beginnings of our use of language. Some scholars say the inclusion of a word for thank you in a language is essentially a proxy, a marker of having attained a degree of civilization. Thanks is a word of courtesy but much more than that – a way of making a sometimes brief, but always positive connection with another.

When you think about it – whenever you travel to a foreign language speaking country, the first word you try to learn is “thank you” – Gracias, danke, graze, merci, obrigado, arigato, shukran.

It is fun to learn the word for thank you and it’s almost all you need. In fact, “thank you" is so singular a word in our language that it has virtually no synonyms. It stands alone. Only “grateful” which is not quite the same, pops up regularly as a synonym.

So I’d like to begin report by quoting from the Grateful Dead who famously wrote during another troubled and divisive time – and I’m sure some of you are old enough to remember this line from their song – “What a long strange trip it’s been!”

And it’s a very apt phrase and an apt song – because if you read all the lyrics, it’s all about the ups and downs in a life journey. It just to add to the metaphoric content here – the song was one of the hits on an album entitled – American Beauty.

So after the news of last Tuesday, I began to think a lot about what is beautiful about America, about strange trips and life journeys – and ultimately about all that I had to be thankful for. And I can tell you that at the VERY top of my list was the CSU.

Take for just one small example the report we had this meeting on our progress toward our sustainability goals and our innovative green practices. I read recently that to meet our obligations under the Paris Accords… which I pray will remain intact… that California must and will lead the way.

We at the CSU are part of that. With our policy and practices, we have set an expectation – a standard – and a tradition in this university that sustainable practices and mindfulness of our footprint are central to our public mission and impact literally all that we do – academics, facilities, research, athletics – even on the TS Golden Bear they are looking to make the ship as efficient as possible! Good work Admiral Cropper!

So in a week when we have elected climate deniers to the highest levels or responsibility in our country, I am beyond grateful to the thousands of students, faculty and staff who are looking every day for an opportunity to make a difference in this critical sphere of our lives.

And if anyone wants to hear my rant about bottled water, I commend you to this article – “A steep Price for Bottled Water” – which says among other things that bottled water uses 2000 times as much energy to produce as an equivalent amount of tap water. Thanks to all who are helping to solve this one significant problem.

I have been thankful and lucky to have visited two more campuses since we last met. Thank you President Hirschman for the terrific visit to San Diego State where, among other things, I visited two labs and classrooms where faculty were engaged with students on cutting edge research and then learned about their very impressive sustainable landscaping projects on that beautiful campus.

And to demonstrate how well cross fertilization works at the CSU, the folks at SDSU will be contacting folks at Chico to learn more about the solar umbrellas they developed there which students sit under to avoid the sun AND use the sun’s power shining on flexible panels to charge their phones and computers! Just brilliant.

And speaking of Chico State, they as well as Fresno State and Sacramento State all participated in and won awards in various “Tiny House” competitions. Like the Wildlife Quiz Bowl we talked about last time, the Tiny House competitions are just one more example of the amazing ways in which our students apply their knowledge and creativity to do good in this world. Tiny houses are clearly all about sustainability.

The Sacramento State submission – pictured here – had a passive cooling system, full-electro solar panels, a solar thermal hot water collector, LED lighting, an up cycled sink and accents from reclaimed wood. And they were justly rewarded with the Best Bathroom Award for their very clever submission.

And both Chico and Fresno also took home awards for Best Flooring, Best Home Technology and Best Appetizer.

Congratulations to all three campuses!

My second campus visit was to Cal Poly Pomona. And lucky for me, to travel from SDSU to Cal Poly Pomona enabled me to make key stops first at the 5 aviaries of the San Diego Zoo, as well as the nature preserves of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

Saw a “life bird” and two cool mammals in my brief visits… the Black Throated Sparrow, Big Horn Sheep, and Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit – all rare, all endangered.

And yes, for those of you who heard my Board report last time, that jackrabbit IS a lagomorph!

And finally, how can I thank Cal Poly Pomona and President Coley enough for my visit there? We dined at the fantastic Hospitality Center – all part of a living lab for their tremendous Hospitality Program, we got up close with one of the most revered domesticated animals in the world – the Arabian horse.

And I also admit to trying the beer sampler at the Innovation Brew Works. But most exciting, I had incredibly engaging conversations with students at their Innovation Lab and in the Cybersecurity program. Extraordinarily impressive.

In fact, above all I am thankful for our students and our mission. Not everyone has the good fortune to work daily with folks like our incredible students and to work with a purpose and mission that is sustaining.

The embodiment of all this was one of our young students – Nohemi Gonzalez – A Long Beach design student, first in her family to go to college, excited to participate in one of our excellent Study Abroad programs, a program that brought her sadly to Paris where – exactly one year ago this week – Nov. 13 – she became the victim of a great tragedy.

This past Sunday, the New York Times honored Nohemi in a special section on Education. The author wrote that ”Cal State Long Beach, whose enrollment is 95 percent Californian and more than one-third Hispanic, seems to have fostered a keen awareness and responsibility of place and given (Nohemi) not only a context in which to flourish, but also the confidence to venture beyond its borders.”

The author went on to write “Colleges are brave institutions. They must be part of the forces that shape the lives of young adults during their most alert and seeking years. As parents and educators, it’s our job to ensure that we protect these freedoms for our young people – here, at home – and instill in them the values and responsibilities that such liberties require. Then we can set them free, and hope it is enough.”

I am thankful for Nohemi, for so many like her here at the CSU, and thankful as well for this great institution which makes students’ lives “larger” and enables them to choose knowledge over ignorance.

Chancellor White?