Distinctive Universities and Campuses:  The Autonomy of Individual Institutions
in a Multi-Institutional System

AS-2820-07/FGA/AA (Rev)


FGA/AA (Rev)

RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate, California State University, (ASCSU) reaffirm its recognition and acknowledgement of “Cornerstones,” Principle 10 that the California State University (CSU) comprises twenty three separate institutions each with a distinct mission, identity, and programs appropriate to its own unique environment; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU continue, ever mindful of this reality in its deliberations and actions, reserving to both the universities and campus senates their role in shared governance whenever possible; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU urge the CSU Board of Trustees (BOT) and the Chancellor to honor the distinctiveness of our universities and campuses and to support institutional autonomy; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU urge the BOT to lead The American Council on Education (ACE) and The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) in endorsing the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) 1978 note 3 to the 1966 joint (AAUP, ACE, and AGB) policy “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities;” which states:

“Traditionally, governing boards developed within the context of single–campus institutions. In more recent times, governing and coordinating boards have increasingly tended to develop at the multi–campus regional, systemwide, or statewide levels. As influential components of the academic community, these supra-campus bodies bear particular responsibility for protecting the autonomy of individual campuses or institutions under their jurisdiction and for implementing policies of shared responsibility. [Emphases added] The American Association of University Professors regards the objectives and practices recommended in the “Statement on Government” as constituting equally appropriate guidelines for such supra-campus bodies, and looks toward continued development of practices that will facilitate application of such guidelines in this new context. [Preceding note adopted by the AAUP’s Council in June 1978.]”

; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU urge the BOT to include explicit language in our new strategic plan “Access to Excellence” addressing institutional autonomy that is at least as comprehensive and forceful as that in Principle 10 in the implementation plan for our predecessor strategic plan “Cornerstones” (The implementation plan for Principle 10 is reproduced in its entirety as Attachment 1 to this resolution.) ; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU forward this resolution to the BOT, the Chancellor, the Steering Committee for Access to Excellence, and the academic senates of the CSU’s constituent universities and campuses.

RATIONALE:The CSU BOT is currently engaged, with appropriate consultation, in generating a strategic plan for the upcoming decade: “Access to Excellence”. However, The CSU consists of twenty-three distinct universities or campuses—some choosing one designation and some the other—but nonetheless each is clearly distinct. The system is an extraordinary array that comprises large universities and small, old and new, urban and rural, two polytechnic universities and the Maritime Academy. By not acknowledging this distinctiveness but acting as if the CSU were one university with 23 campuses, the system does a disservice to a major source of excellence and dilutes the potential effectiveness of the planning process.


Our predecessor strategic plan, “Cornerstones”, included “PRINCIPLE 10: The California State University campuses shall have significant autonomy in developing their own missions, identity, and programs, with institutional flexibility in meeting clearly defined system policy goals.” Commitment to this principle must be ongoing; it specifies goals and behaviors of an enduring nature. An unambiguous restatement in “Access to Excellence” is highly desirable.


With regard to public policy and legislative intent, there can be no doubt that the 1960 Donahoe Act (Master Plan for Higher Education) established the Board of Trustees as the Governing Board of what is now The California State University. However, legislative understanding and concerns are not static. Please see Attachment A for an interesting excerpt from the 1973 “Report of The Joint Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education” for strong legislative challenge to the excessive centralization of administration in both the University of California and California State University systems. [Pat Callan, John Vasconcellos and others who are well known figures in California higher education were responsible for this review.]


The 1966 “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities” was “jointly formulated by the American Association of University Professors, the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).


The California State University through its BOT is a full member of both ACE and AGB. Inasmuch as most of the members of ACE and AGB are boards of single–campus institutions, one may speculate that members of both the ACE and AGB await the initiation by one or more major “supra–campus” boards in enacting organizational endorsement of this proposition. This presents the opportunity for the CSU BOT not only to reinforce the institutional aspiration articulated in domain 6 of the CSU’s strategic planning guidelines and in Principle 10 of “Cornerstones” but to do so as a clear leader among American multi–institutional governing boards.


No moment could be more propitious than this for the ASCSU to adopt this resolution reinforcing and advancing shared governance and collegiality in the CSU. No time could be better than this, when our BOT is in the process of adopting our new strategic plan, for it to proclaim its endorsement of this important 20th and 21st century principle of shared governance—that of appropriate institutional autonomy for the universities that the CSU comprises. Furthermore, this is an appropriate time for our BOT to once again assume a principled leadership position among America’s supra–institutional governing bodies in leading administrators and governing boards in endorsing an important principle already endorsed nationally by faculty. Let us take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen the CSU and to exercise a national leadership role.


Approved – January 17-18, 2008


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