Visit from Chancellor White reveals failed leadership

Photo credit: Helen Suh

Photo credit: Helen Suh

On May 4th, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White visited Chico State as a part of his “Innovations in the Learning Environment” tour of all 23 CSU campuses. The tour was meant to discuss the new six-point mission, Touchstones, which addresses student success, public good, diversity, innovation, quality, and sustainability. Chico State has made great progress in some of these areas already, such as diversity and sustainability. However, the most important issue that seems to be lacking is student success, and Chancellor White’s visit certainly made that apparent.

During the open forum at White’s visit, he was questioned by students and Chico alumni regarding two things: student tuition and faculty funding. Two things key to a student’s success. Over the past decade, Chico State student fees have more than doubled. Since 2004, we have seen a loss of 14 percent of our tenure track faculty.

A college institution is a place for students to get educated. While things like diversity, sustainability and public good are all great for a school, the reason the institution exists in the first place is for the student. And the success of each student should be the first priority.

White dodged all these questions at the forum, responding by saying, “The decision of how you spend Chico State budget is one that is involved in this zip code, not my zip code, thank you,” basically stating that he isn’t involved with Chico’s budget.

This statement from Chancellor White is simply a lie. The chancellor has many responsibilities, and overseeing the funding of university programs is one of those.

Not only has tuition gone up, but state funding for universities is on the rise as well. After the recession in 2008, CSU state funding dropped dramatically. Now over the past few years the budget has slowly been rising and with a new budget proposal from Governor Jerry Brown, the General Funds for CSU can increase around 150 million dollars over the next year.

However none of these funds seem to end up where they are needed most. Instead of supporting faculty, most of this money has managed end up in the hands of the university administrators. Some admins have seen enormous pay increases in an extremely short period of time. This administrator managed to get a pay increase of $53.1K to $152K in just a year. This one went from $96.4K to $166K in just a year. This administrator managed to receive a pay increase of $18K to $145K in a year. There is essentially a common trend when looking at all the administrator’s salaries. You can look at the Sacramento Bee salary database and browse for yourself.

Meanwhile faculty funding has either been stagnant or not kept up with inflation. CSU faculty members almost went on strike earlier this year because of how poorly they have been treated. When accounting for inflation, the average faculty member has had a 7 percent pay cut since 2008.

If student success truly is a high priority for campus leaders, it isn’t represented in how money is distributed. Neither rising the cost of education nor treating faculty poorly are ways of helping students succeed.

If Chancellor White really does want to help students, he should reevaluate his Touchstones mission and put more focus around student success. Of all the students who started as freshmen in fall 2011, only 19 percent of them were able to graduate in four years.

Doesn’t this seem a bit more important than other areas? If the school can’t help the student succeed in their goals, how can the student help the university succeed in it’s goals? Step one is getting the students on track.

Chancellor White certainly didn’t offer any consolation when he arrived here, just a comment to tell us that our problem is not his. When community members truly expressed their concerns, White brushed over them will little consideration. This is representative of how our Chancellor’s and administrators have failed the system. Rising tuition and a terrible understanding of the importance of faculty are the issues that the base are concerned about, but our top leaders can’t seem to grasp this.

Jeff Guzman can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.