Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro - January 25, 2022

J​anuary 20​22 Board of Trustees Meeting
Chancellor’s Report (as delivered)
Chancellor Joseph I. Castro
J​anuary 25, 2022


Transcript as prepared:

Thank you, Chair Kimbell.

While the start of a new year is most typically a time to look forward – to make resolutions and set priorities – this year I spent some time reflecting upon the year that was, as I marked one year in service to you as the CSU’s Chancellor.

It has been perhaps the most professionally rewarding year of my life. As anyone who has heard me speak about leadership will tell you, I wholeheartedly believe that the fundamental key is a desire and willingness to learn…. to be proactive and intentional in seeking out and engaging with others and authentically listening to their viewpoints. That has certainly been a central theme for me this year. As a result, it has been a remarkable growth year for me, and I have so many of you to thank: this Board, our exceptional campus presidents, our outstanding student and faculty leadership, and my talented and dedicated staff, to name just a few. Please accept my gratitude and appreciation for your wise counsel, your expertise and – above all – your steadfast commitment to the CSU’s mission.

Together – and through the most challenging period in the university’s history – we have much to be proud of. At the very top of the list, we continue to meet our educational mission at the highest levels, with record-high graduation rates for students from all backgrounds, while carefully navigating the pandemic and safeguarding the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff. We celebrated the CSU’s largest-ever graduating class, almost 133,000 strong – adding to our global alumni network that has now surpassed 4 million. We continue to act with compassion, working hard to support our students’ basic needs – including tech equity. We have taken significant steps in this regard. In fact, we will distribute almost 30,000 new, high-quality mobile technology bundles during this academic year through our CSUCCESS initiative, which launched last fall, and now has expanded to 14 campuses for the spring term. We have inspired historic levels of state and philanthropic support and reached a mutually beneficial tentative agreement with the California Faculty Association… more on this in a moment.

Of course, there is much work before us. And while, given our size and scope, we will always be advancing hundreds of initiatives and working toward an equal number of worthy goals across our 23 campuses, my overarching priorities remain unchanged: Supporting the physical, mental and emotional health and well-being of our faculty, staff and our talented and diverse students; continuing to address the digital divide – until the day comes when technology is an accessible, essential and invaluable tool – and not a barrier – for all of our students; accelerating the diversification of our faculty and staff; inspiring additional public and private support and partnership; and – of course – redoubling our work to eliminate equity gaps so that every Cal State student has the equal opportunity to earn the lifelong and life-transforming benefits of a CSU degree.

Today – one year into my tenure – I am even more confident that we will achieve these priorities. And I say that because of something else I have learned in this first year: I have never had the privilege of being associated with a more talented or committed team than the leadership, faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, community partners and supporters of the California State University.   

I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a few more thoughts on the successor collective bargaining agreement we’ve reached with CFA. I wholeheartedly believe that it not only provides fair compensation for our world-class faculty who are so critical to our students’ success, it also acknowledges and rewards their remarkable efforts to ensure our students’ academic progress during the extraordinarily challenging circumstances of the past two years.

I want to thank both the CSU’s collective bargaining team and CFA leadership for their tireless work. Both sides stretched and found common ground – and we were able to go from the 50-yard line to the end zone during one critical week in December. And I am extremely pleased with the result, which reflects the guiding principle I communicated to my team throughout this long and – at times – challenging process: to lift up the CSU’s faculty through respect, equity and fairness, while balancing the need to meet the CSU’s student mission.

I also want to quickly address another matter that will be discussed in greater detail a bit later in this meeting: the Governor’s budget proposal for academic year 2022-23.

As Executive Vice Chancellor Steve Relyea and Assistant Vice Chancellor Ryan Storm will explain tomorrow, the proposal contains a “compact” that provides an increase in recurring funding of at least five percent each year from 2022-23 through 2026-27, in recognition of our commitment toward achieving a number of student-focused goals.

In addition to the 5-percent increase to our base funding (which equals 211.1 million dollars for 2022-23), the proposal includes 81 million dollars in recurring funds to support increased enrollment of 9,434 students and another 12 million to support foster youth students – as well as one-time allocations for deferred maintenance and energy efficiency projects, construction of a CSU Bakersfield Energy Innovation Center, and for equipment and facilities at university farms located on the Chico, Fresno, Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses.

I am grateful for Governor Newsom’s proposed investment, which reflects his strong belief in the CSU’s mission and our work – and his understanding of our need for a sustainable, predictable fiscal framework. And thanks to this investment – and to our own operational efficiencies and prudent management of the resources entrusted to us – I am able to make the same commitment today that I made at this meeting one year ago: We will not raise tuition for the upcoming academic year!

However, while I am pleased with the proposal, it leaves unaddressed a number of significant needs set forth in the Trustees’ operating budget request. I assure you that we will continue to advocate strongly for additional funding to meet those needs and to advance the priorities I outlined earlier. And we look forward to doing so shoulder-to-shoulder with CFA and our other labor partners to secure the investment needed to provide the full compensation outlined in the successor agreement.

Before I conclude my remarks this morning, I want to thank Presidents Beck and de la Torre – and their teams – for hosting me – and Chancellor’s Office colleagues – on productive, informative and thoroughly enjoyable visits to their respective campuses.

At CSUN, President Beck and her team are clearly leading with an equity lens – this was evident throughout my visit. Student wellness and basic needs are demonstrated campus priorities. The Oasis facility and student kitchen program were especially impressive – innovative and student-centered. As always, my time with students was a highlight, and I was particularly struck by a presentation made by Dr. Nhut Ho and the talented students participating in the campus’s ARCS program. Established with a grant from NASA, ARCS is a multidisciplinary university center of excellence that aims to be an international leader in autonomous systems. I am excited by ARCS’ promise – and campus efforts to enhance its research capabilities by further strengthening its partnership with NASA and JPL. Finally, it was extremely helpful to hear directly from faculty and labor representatives throughout the day – input that helped inform our successful negotiations with CFA leadership later in the month.

The same can be said for my visit to San Diego State, where I also had the opportunity to engage with faculty and labor leaders. I was especially pleased with the turnout and engagement of these and other campus constituencies at the day’s open forum. Lunch with a group of student leaders provided insight into the uniqueness of the SDSU campus, as did a great meeting with faculty leaders, whose excitement about the growing array of academic and research programs was palpable. I was also struck by my conversation with SDSU’s foundation board; their energy is infectious – across matters of advocacy, philanthropy and student success. And I will long remember my campus tour, which highlighted San Diego State’s rich history as well as its bright future. I have to admit to getting chills when seeing the location of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 commencement address, when he was presented with the first honorary degree ever bestowed by the CSU.

Thank you again to both campuses for making these visits a great success.

Chair Kimbell, that concludes my report.