Academic Senate

Report on the ASCSU 50th Anniversary Celebration

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John Tarjan (Bakersfield)

The 50th anniversary of the founding of the Academic Senate of the California State University was celebrated on March 14th. Current and former ASCSU members, provosts, Academic Affairs staff, Dr. and Mrs. Gerth, Dr. Karen White, Presidents Alexander and Garcia, CSSA representatives, Faculty Trustee Cheyne, and others were in attendance. After a welcome from Chair Guerin and a congratulatory video from Chancellor White (who was attending the presidential inauguration at SFSU), the assemblage adjourned to a luncheon. This was followed by a plenary session. Dr. Harold Goldwhite, former ASCSU Chair and Faculty Trustee, shared  agendas and other information from the first 10 years of ASCSU. It was remarkable how little the issues before the Senate have changed over the decades. Dr. Donald Gerth, author of The People’s University, provided an historical perspective. He stressed the value of shared governance and the importance of the faculty voice. This was followed by a panel of former ASCSU chairs who reviewed the accomplishments of the Senate over the years and shared their common struggles to maintain Senate effectiveness in the face of inadequate budgets.

Attendees then split into heterogeneous groups to discuss the challenges making effective shared governance difficult and best practices for overcoming those challenges. The attendees then reconvened in a closing plenary. Faculty Trustee Cheyne stressed the importance of faculty leadership and compared the role of ASCSU to that of an architect of the academy. Breakout session moderators then shared some of the ideas brought up in the various groups. The following is a selection of ideas discussed in the breakout sessions.

  • We should better utilize the incredible amount of expertise across the system faculty.
  • Proactive communication is very important in shared governance. We should be proactive in our messaging and be sensitive to our various audiences. There are many outside groups demanding things from the CSU.
  • The annual Academic Conference and its facilitation of informal communication is something that is sorely missed and should be reinstituted. We are handicapped by the infrequency of our interactions.
  • We should focus on the positive moving forward. We all share similar values and the desire to serve the students even if we differ on strategies to do so.
  • We should celebrate our successes more often.
  • We should use the appointment of a new Chancellor as an impetus to work together to make shared governance more effective. Effective participation in shared governance should be an evaluation criterion for leaders.
  • There is an ongoing tension between being a system and a federation of 23 universities.
  • The faculty must be the guardians of academic quality and standards. They must define the baccalaureate experience.
  • We should pilot and evaluate initiatives before scaling them system-wide.
  • The faculty should guide the use of technology in operations, teaching and learning.

After the closing plenary, we moved to a reception hosted by Chancellor Tim and Dr. Karen White. Dr. White led the group in a champagne toast honoring the Senate. The first ASCSU Chair, Dr. Len Mathy, cut two commemorative cakes. Attendees were entertained by a slide show featuring a number of photographs from the CSU Archive showing the early years of ASCSU and a random selection of photographs of senators over the past 15 years.  Many attendees lingered to share reminiscences and renew friendships forged over the 50 years of ASCSU. The Executive Committee will develop an archive of materials commemorating the event on the ASCSU website.