Chancellor Timothy P. White's remarks at Auxiliary Organizations Association January 16, 2013 | Chancellor's Speech | CSU

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Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
Auxiliary Organizations Association
Pasadena, CA
January 16, 2013

Thank you, John (Welty) and all of you for that warm welcome.
It’s true that I am a product of all three university systems. So being a part of the CSU system kind of makes me feel like I’ve come home.

I’ve spent my entire life since 1966 on a college campus. I’m now in a 6-story high rise. But what hasn’t changed is the real core of what we do, which is focusing on the students. I’m not going to lose sight of that.
It’s both an honor and a learning experience to be here with all of you. I know I have a great deal to learn from all of the collective wisdom in this room.

You are important partners in what we do together.  You are an integral part of the university.
I know this because I went to the web dictionary:

  • Auxiliary (adj) derives from Latin auxilium = help. It was first used in the 15th century.
  • Thus, ‘Auxiliary’ = offering or providing help

As an aside, at the bottom of the screen it asked, “Why did you want to look this word, auxiliary, up?  The first answer was from a high school student who was curious about her ‘auxiliary input port’ on her stereo. So my advice is, be careful with freshman when you tell them about your job.

Higher Education
I’d like to start with some general thoughts about these times – our times - in higher education, and then more specifically about the CSU.

  • Rich with opportunity.
  • Steeped in peril.

 If you read some of the polls that come out, you’ll see that the public is not particularly happy with us. A surprising number of Americans think that the college and university experience isn’t all that useful and/or too expensive.

  • the ecology of learning is changing;
  • the heterogeneity of our students and their life commitments is increasing;
  • The financial models are unsustainable, and states, including CA, have been disinvesting for years;
  • Expectations for accountability and improved completion rates and shortened time to degree are rising;
  • Demand is up at the CSU;
  • Infrastructures of campuses are fraying and vulnerable with deferred maintenance backlogs increasing.

In fact, when TIME surveyed American adults late last year, they asked if college educations are worth the cost. Only 20 percent of the respondents said yes. Nationally…Twenty percent? Really?

How is it we are failing so miserably to communicate the significance of higher education?  Or the reality of CSU’s costs and value to the individual and the public at large? Or are we that bad and expensive?  Or some combination?
It is remarkable how cost is misunderstood…the nuances are rarely discussed. The truth is that cost per student has actually gone down over the years.  Yet who has borne that cost has indeed changed, with state funding down and individual students and their families paying more… A real and direct hydraulic.

This is a dilemma for CSU, because we are low cost to students and low subsidy by the state.  And yet we have many “expensive students” who need academic support and remediation etc., not because they aren’t academically capable, but because they have not had access to adequate learning environments along the way. These students are diamonds in the rough who are ready to learn.

And this dilemma is amplified because we hear complaints that costs are up (yes, they are to the student) and yet students are getting less.  There is no comfort that students would get even less without tuition increases.

  • The increased tuition hasn’t matched the decrease in state dollars – let alone the unfunded mandates and increased obligations of healthcare and energy costs, etc.
  • And so yes there are larger classes, fewer of them relative to demand,, and decreased faculty and staff to student ratios.

And finally, the public dialogue and political dialogue is to even further decrease costs and improve access and preserve quality.
When I was young, we were not a family of means. When something was broken, we got it repaired. So we used to go to a shoe repairman to repair our shoes. I was always fascinated with a sign above his cash register, thumb tacked to the wall, which stated rather incredulously “you want me to do what, by when for how much?”

That’s a question we might be asking now, in terms of quality, access, and affordability. “You want us to serve how many students, at top quality, with how much money?”

So despite the times we are in, why am I so bullish on higher education in general, and CSU in particular??
There is no other endeavor that encompasses as many noble causes:

  • Building human capital;
  • Discovering and creating new knowledge;
  • Engaging with our communities, businesses, political entities, and professional societies;
  • Preserving knowledge for future generations;
  • Applying knowledge to improve the quality of life for all.

And when I say “quality of life for all” I’m not just talking about our students, alumni, and employees. I’m talking about the greater good of our educated society, which is the foundation to lessen the gap between the haves and have-nots. It is, in fact, an issue of social justice, and we have a moral imperative in this regard.

In fact, I think it’s short-sighted to talk about the benefits of higher education only in terms of increased income for its alumni. Higher education is vital for all of us in our communities.

All members of society benefit from a higher standard of living and from educated and thoughtful leaders for schools, parks, sustainable energy and environmental practices, law enforcement, community groups, and so on.

  • Municipal, state, and federal treasuries benefit by higher tax revenues when salaries are up because of a college degree…providing more government services to improve quality of life.
  • Fewer demands on criminal justice, unemployment costs, social support programs

I’m here to tell you that what we’re doing is important. This stuff matters.

And it’s why I am going to work relentlessly to change the relationships and the dialogue in California. And we are also going to evolve the way in which we enrich the learning environment with integration of faculty and technology to meet the needs and opportunities of our times.  And we need to find additional ways to conduct our business, run our plants, and purchase our supplies with greater efficiency and economies of scale to drive down prices.

For example, I’m very pleased to see how much the CSU is at the vanguard of university-based technology initiatives. We’ve been blazing new trails in technology-enhanced strategies to improve student learning and increase completion rates, decrease time to graduation, and eliminate gaps among various demographic groups of students.

Just this month we launched the first bachelor’s degree completion program as part of Cal State Online, a platform of services that offers completely online programs. The first Cal State Online program is focusing on former students who have had to stop out of the CSU for family, work, or economic reasons and are looking to complete their degrees. 

But that’s just scratching the surface of what the CSU already has online. We currently have 74 undergraduate and master’s degrees on line.  East Bay delivers some 17.1% of its curriculum on-line.

And yesterday, I was at San Jose State as we announced a partnership with Udacity, an independent online education company and one of the innovators of massive online open courses (MOOCs). It was covered in the NY Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education; as well as the San Francisco Chronicle, the L.A. Times, the Fresno Bee, the Sacramento Bee, and all of the regional California media.

This joint pilot program will offer three low-cost classes online this semester -- a remedial algebra course, a college-level algebra course and introductory statistics. If it is successful and the bugs are worked out, it could be just the beginning.
These programs won’t save much money, but they will increase access and hold promise to decrease time to degree and improve completion rates.

Will online courses ever replace our campuses entirely? Absolutely not.

It’s always dangerous to use a sports analogy in higher education – and it’s always dangerous to quote a former president of Harvard - but I’ll share with you one thought from Larry Summers: There’s a reason why people pay large amounts of money to go to the Super Bowl when they can watch it at home for free. The experience of being at the Super Bowl is something you can’t recreate at home.

The same is true for college, which has so much more to offer than the content of its courses alone.  On a campus, one has the opportunity to interact with faculty and students and enjoy extra-curricular activities.

One gets to study in the library, socialize in the student center, and cheer for your college team. One can meet people different than themselves, only to find out that they have more in common than in differences.

What we have at our universities is a vibrant and dynamic hub of intellectual growth, personal growth, and social growth.
This enterprise continues to be a noble and vital endeavor for our country’s prosperity and safety – as well as social mobility and quality of life. Higher education is indeed both a public and a private good.

And so a big part of our job, in the coming months and even years, is to become better at what we do, and better at telling our story to all who don’t know it or need to be reminded of it.

We are very, very good at what we do. And what we do matters.

CSU System
That brings me to the CSU system. I know that our 23 campuses are unique and different in their own ways. So I have been asked the question – Why do we need a system? What value does a university system add?

I believe that a university system should be more than simply a loose federation of campuses that share an HR system.
I believe as a university system we have a unique strength that we do not have individually. Collectively, we are more than the sum of our parts.

I thought about using a Costco analogy, but I don’t think that would fly too well. Instead I thought I’d use the example of paint colors. If you have three colors of paint, you can make a picture that might be good for my 3rd grader. But if you have 23 colors of paint, you can recreate a Monet – a masterpiece. That’s the power of 23.  Costco or no Costco, ‘bulk’ matters. With 23 campuses, we have the power of:

  • Advocacy – drawing on 430,000 students rather than 20,000;
  • Purchasing/ sharing best practices/ combining for efficiencies/ access to colleagues with experience and knowledge that can help your circumstance;
  • Swagger – who else can say they are the largest 4-yr university in the world = “We’re number 1!”;
  • Brand recognition;
  • An intellectual repository unparalleled for both academic and business activities. 

And in particular, our auxiliary organizations are a vital part of this enterprise.

I like to use the metaphor of a three-legged stool to describe our university – with those three legs being students, faculty, and staff.

To be a strong university system, each of these three legs has to be robust.

We often focus on the achievements of students or the accomplishments of faculty. But none of the teaching, learning, or research and creative activity can occur without the support of our staff members.

And that is why the auxiliary organizations add such a vital piece to the student experience.

  • Whether it’s a foundation that is managing a million-dollar gift…
  • Or an athletic organization that is boosting campus pride…
  • Or a sandwich shop that a student may simply pass through on her way to class…

Each of your organizations plays a critical role in our enterprise.

And each of our staff employees, with their tasks at hand as well as a smile, a word of encouragement, a quick “how’s it going’ mean so much to our students and co-workers.

For our university to flourish, we all need to flourish.

Auxilium.  Thank you for providing that help.

Looking Ahead
As we look ahead, we have some new opportunities.

The governor’s budget proposal includes an additional $125.1 million in state funding for the CSU. It also reinstates $125 million that was cut from last year’s budget and was due to reimbursed in this year’s budget following the successful passage of Prop. 30.
We appreciate the governor’s recognition that California will benefit from the investment of state funds into higher education. This is an important step in the right direction.  But I remind you that we are digging out of a deep hole that in fact decreased access, affordability and challenged quality.

Public higher education is now no longer hemorrhaging. It may be oozing, but at least it is not hemorrhaging. Sorry for that not-so-appetizing analogy right after dinner. With good fortune we’ll be able to start reinvesting in our campuses.

We will also need to reframe the dialogue about higher education to get back to relentlessly making the case for the vital mission of the CSU.

The Master Plan was created for a reason, and I believe we need to reaffirm this purpose. For better or worse, I am a product of it.

I will visit all 23 of our campuses this calendar year. I will have conversations with our faculty, staff, students, and others – hearing their stories and learning more about the issues they face every day.

I want to figure out how to bring all of these different threads together to create a cohesive fabric for the university – of focus, aspiration, momentum, and pride.

And when I go to Sacramento and Washington to talk with our legislators about the budget and other challenges facing the CSU, I’m going to work relentlessly to create productive relationships and messages that create opportunity for students, faculty, and staff.

Our 427,000 students are an incredibly diverse group. But the one thing they all have in common is a desire to learn, to better themselves & their families and communities, & to move ahead.

As a higher education leader, my primary focus is to help them get where they need to go.

Let’s work together to make sure they all get the very best experience from us at the California State University.

It matters. Your work matters. Every single day.

Thank you all for all that you do and for your hospitality tonight.

I look forward to working with you in the years to come.