Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed – November 14, 2007

​Chancellor, California State University
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting – Chancellor’s Report
November 14, 2007

Thank you, Madam Chair.

First, I want to talk about the recent wildfires. Our main concern was the health and safety of CSU students, faculty and staff.

  • A year ago I updated the board on our systemwide emergency-planning program.
  • Our emergency planning and crisis communications operated very well during the fires.
  • I attribute that to two things: preparation and execution of our plans.

Three of our campuses closed for several days because the fires were right near them, or the smoke, ash and air were unhealthy for students and employees.

  1. San Bernardino
  2. San Diego
  3. San Marcos

Two campuses were on “watch status” but they did not close.

  1. Channel Islands
  2. Northridge

At last week’s “Fitting the Pieces Together” conference with our HR, risk management, and environmental health and safety people, I talked about how well everything went. Since coming to the CSU in 1998, we have improved our planning every year.

We were much better prepared this year than we were during the 2003 fires.

I want to commend the campuses for:

  • Having strong emergency plans
  • And for following and executing those plans

Our campuses went into action quickly and did a terrific job:

  1. Opened Emergency Operations Centers (EOC)
  2. Used their satellite phones
  3. Implemented crisis communications plans internally and externally
  4. Had mutual aid operations in place
  5. Had buses to evacuate students and employees

We did not suffer any loss of life. For that we are incredibly thankful.

I remember telling you last year that we had hired as a consultant James Lee Witt Associates, the former FEMA director who I knew from Hurricane Andrew in Florida.

I hired him eight months before 9/11 because safety is one of those issues that is always on my mind. James Lee is still on retainer to the CSU.

He designed five vulnerability assessments that could impact our campuses. Those were:

  • Earthquake in Southern California
  • Earthquake in Northern California
  • Flooding in Sacramento
  • Fire in Humboldt
  • And terrorism at San Francisco State – we carried this out before 9/11.

We created and practiced exercises for all of those scenarios, and it paid off.

Plus, just this past June the presidents participated in a half-day emergency planning workshop, and that paid off too. We practice so that we are prepared.

Safety has to be on all of our radars - especially when we operate the largest system of higher education in the country and have 430,000 students and 46,000 employees to think about.

Congratulations to all the campus EOC teams for your execution of our disaster plans. James Lee called during the fires and said he was proud of our response and that he had confidence that we would do well.

As a side note, he told me that the CSU was so prepared that during Hurricane Katrina we had more satellite phones than all of Louisiana.

And thank you to Charlene Minnick, our systemwide chief risk management officer, for keeping me informed of everything that was going on, even if it was in 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. phone calls. We will continue to practice.

Next, the recent Higher Education Survey:

You may have read news reports about the survey done by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). This was their first survey on higher education.

For the most part, the findings were good:

  • Two-thirds of those surveyed gave the CSU, UC and the community colleges very high marks for quality. This is much higher than what they said about the K-12 system
  • Nearly three-quarters said the state’s higher education system is “very important” to the state’s economic vitality. (That is what we showed two years ago with our own impact study)
  • 56 percent of likely voters said they would support a bond measure next year for higher education
  • Two-thirds said a person must have a college education to succeed in today’s workforce.

There were also some concerns:

  • 56 percent think getting a college education is harder than it was 10 years ago
  • 84 percent say that students today have a hard time affording a college education
  • 35 percent say fees, tuition and costs are the number one problem facing the state’s public colleges
  • 61 percent of adults say college costs are rising faster than other things
  • Access is a problem for more blacks and Latinos than it is for whites and Asians
  • 71 percent say families are not saving for their children’s education today.

All in all, it is good to have this information as we look at the ways people perceive how we do business.

Next, a few announcements:

First, I want to congratulate Vi San Juan and Len Pettis for the national award from the Higher Education Energy Efficiency Partnership. The partnership has just received a national award for its efforts in reducing energy use through improved efficiency programs. Saving money is always important, but even more so now, with the condition of the state budget.

Second, I want to thank Cal State Long Beach President King Alexander for his recent testimony before the House Committee on Education and Labor’s “Barriers to Equal Educational Opportunities: Addressing the Rising Costs of a College Education” hearing in Washington DC.

He spoke about how the federal government should require states to maintain a certain level of higher education funding as a condition of remaining eligible for federal student aid programs. He talked about bringing down the barriers for underserved students.

If that change were made, that could discourage state legislators from cutting higher education funding and making up the difference by increasing tuition and fees and driving students further into debt, which is what happens here in California.

Third, Al Jones also just testified in Washington, D.C. about the CSU’s participation in the “Troops to College” program to help veterans and current military personnel get their college degrees. San Diego and the Miramar air base are also collaborating on a program to offer classes to “wounded warriors.”

Fourth, I want to congratulate Cal State Northridge and President Jolene Koester for their success at educating Latino students. The campus was one of 11 universities in the “Hispanic Student Success Study” released by the American Association of State Universities and Colleges (AASCU).

Latino students at Northridge outperformed the national benchmarks in retention and in closing the gap between white and Latino graduation rates. More than 34 percent of Latino students graduate in six years from Northridge, compared to the national average of 20 percent.

Fifth, I want to congratulate Cal State L.A.’s College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology and President Jim Rosser for receiving the President’s Award for Diversity from ABET (A-BET), the national accreditation organization for engineering education. The honor is in recognition of their decades of success in increasing diversity among engineering students and technology professionals. Cal State L.A. has the highest percentage of underrepresented students enrolled in engineering of the more than 20 programs in California.

Sixth, I want to report that the CSU is one of 19 university systems across the country to join in a national effort to expand college access and increase graduation rates for low-income and underserved students. We just participated in a press conference in Washington, D.C. about this important matter.

This “Access to Success” program is a joint effort of the National Association of System Heads and the Education Trust. All of the systems have agreed to cut in half their gaps in college-going rates for these students.

We have set a date of eight years to do this, and we will be reporting our data publicly. This is critical for these populations and for our state. We have done much already but there is always more to do.

I will be in Washington next week at the National Governors’ Association to talk about our Early Assessment Program (EAP), which is tied to cutting this college-going rate for underserved students.

Finally, I wanted to let the board know that I have agreed to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. The CSU has worked closely with that institute on Latino issues, and we will continue to do so.

Chair Achtenberg, that concludes my report.