Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
CSU Systemwide Risk Management Conference
Sacramento, CA
November 7, 2006

Good morning, and thank you for attending this important conference.

When we talk about risk management, what we are essentially talking about is preparing for is the worst emergency we can imagine. Some of our colleagues in the desert area had that kind of emergency happen last week during the deadly fire in Cabazon.

The fire was started in the middle of the night. By morning almost everyone was taken by surprise by how quickly a small fire became a towering wall of flames.

One survivor described the fire as “rolling, as if it had wheels.”

When the fire was finally contained, the total cost was enormous. Five firefighters lost their lives. There were 14 people injured, 54 structures destroyed, and more than 40,000 acres burned. It took more than 2,400 fire personnel to get the fire under control. The total cost of containing the fire is estimated to be nearly $10 million.

If anything good could be said about that situation, it’s that it was such a sparsely populated area that fortunately, more people did not get hurt or killed.

We’ve had wildfires near our campuses before and I know all of you know how terrifying they can be. With the risk of fire, earthquake, or any other kind of natural or man-made disaster, you are the ones who know that we are only ever just a hair’s breath away from headline news.

Essentially, at the California State University system, we operate 23 big cities. And protecting a city is as big a job as anyone can imagine.

I know that those of you in risk management and emergency preparedness mostly work behind the scenes, but you play one of the most important functions for the CSU.

I know that you do everything you can to help us prepare for potential problems that would cause disruption on the campus – people getting hurt, losing work, or worse.

We have to anticipate any kind of major event that could occur. We could go days without anything happening, but tomorrow, who knows? Maybe a pandemic, or some other large-scale emergency.

Most recently, we had a microburst storm that dropped 2 inches of rain with hail on the San Bernardino campus on Friday, October 13. Twelve buildings had water damage and the loss is approaching $5 million. Again, we are fortunate that the damage was not worse.

Practice Makes A Top Team

My friend James Lee Witt, whom many of you know, likes to say that planning for a worst-case scenario is a matter of “when,” not “if.” Then it all becomes how well you practice.

If you want a number-one team, you have to be able to perform without even thinking about it. You have to refine the drill so that you’re able to carry out your plan purely from instinct. That kind of performance only comes from lots and lots of practice.

I want us to be the national champions – number one – among all colleges and universities in the United States in terms of risk management.

I know that you know what it takes to be safe and prepared. I want to encourage you to continue to keep doing what you are doing so that we are always “at the ready.” I also want you to know that even though I don’t see you as a group very often, I think about you every day because I know we are relying on you. Your work is very much appreciated.

CSU Updates


Let me shift gears for a moment and give you a few brief updates on some of our major systemwide projects.

We are moving forward on the 2007/08 budget. We are requesting a budget augmentation of approximately $264.7 million to the current 2006/07 final budget of $3.8 billion.

We are also planning to ask for another $122 million over the compact agreement to fund high-priority one-time and ongoing priority programs and an additional employee compensation increase.

This will be the first time since our agreement with Governor Schwarzenegger that we have asked for funding above the compact.

And yes – that means we are asking for more money for compensation.


Another important effort this year is a group that is looking at our Cornerstones strategic plan, which is now 10 years old. During my time at the CSU, Cornerstones has served as an important strategic framework for our priorities and projects.

I think it’s important at this point to take a step back and evaluate where we need to go in the next decade. I feel good about the work that this group is doing and I know that the new strategic plan will help us map out our future.

K-12, Business, and Community Outreach

Another major focus area is in reaching out to K-12 students, community members, and businesses to help more students prepare for college and earn a degree.

We have launched quite a few exciting projects in this area:

  • We have received $50,000 from the Boeing Company to help us continue to distribute our popular “How to Get to College” posters. The posters have been redesigned to be more reader-friendly, especially for younger students. We will be distributing half a million posters this year as a result of our partnership with Boeing.
  • Our Early Assessment Program test for 11th-graders to assess their college readiness has won national acclaim. We’ve been mentioned in USA Today, Time magazine, and in the National Commission on the Future of Higher Education report released in September.
  • Our “Super Sunday” events at African-American churches in Northern and Southern California have reached more than 30,000 people. We’re planning to host two more “Super Sunday” college information events this winter.
  • We are continuing to reach out to California’s key industry leaders. Last week we met at Cal State L.A. with leaders from the field of criminal justice. The CSU is a major player in this field: We prepare 89 percent of the state’s total graduates in criminal justice-related disciplines.
  • We’re taking a leadership role in the statewide Troops to College program, which has developed an academic outreach and enrollment plan to help the 60,000 veterans who come home to California each year.

We are taking on all of these projects and partnerships because we know the kind of impact that our university system has on the state of California. The more students we help toward a college degree, the better for our economy, our communities, and our key industries.

We granted approximately 88,000 degrees last year and we are proud to be leaders in projects that help more students toward that goal. I am looking forward to another good year ahead.

Once again, I know I only see you one time a year or so, but I want you to know that I think about you and what you do every day.

And in case I ever forget, Charlene calls me at 2 a.m. to tell me what you are doing to protect our students, staff, and property.

Thank you for all that you do for the California State University, and keep up the good work.

Let’s be number one in the nation.

Back to speeches