Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White – May 12, 2020

​​​Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chanc​ellor, California State University
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting
Chancellor’s Report (as delivered)
Long Beach, CA
May 12, 2020​​


Thank you, Chair Day.

I begin my report with a bit of more-than-welcome good news. Today, Cal State Monterey Bay announced that it has received a commitment for the largest philanthropic gift in the campus’s 25-year history. Donor Robert Darwin’s remarkable generosity will fund annual scholarships to Monterey Bay students from low-income and impoverished families. He has asked that the dollar amount of this transformative gift not be shared publicly at this time.

A businessman, former actor and screenwriter, and a 50-year resident of the Monterey Peninsula, Robert was inspired by his longtime employee Polly De Leon, an undocumented worker from Mexico who dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen, raising a family and sending her children to college. She ultimately achieved those goals. In fact, her oldest daughter, Blanca, is now an attorney specializing in immigration law. Says Robert, “If my money can help one more kid earn the same kind of success in life that Polly achieved for her children… that will be my reward. In essence, Polly’s determination was my inspiration.”

On behalf of the entire CSU, thank you, Robert. And thank you, Polly.

Earlier today, I discussed the unique planning moment we find ourselves in as we analyze possible scenarios for the upcoming academic year in the midst of multiple uncertainties – initially targeting 100-percent virtual learning, with limited exceptions for in-person classes and experiences... those that cannot be held virtually… that are indispensable to our academic mission… and that can be conducted pursuant to the strictest standards of health and safety.

In the course of these planning discussions, I have been asked by more than one colleague, “What does all this mean for our Graduation Initiative 2025 goals?”

I want to take this opportunity to answer that question. Graduation Initiative 2025 remains our foremost academic priority and our guiding beacon.

There’s no denying we face significant headwinds. This is a public health crisis of historic proportions – we are and will continue to be tested as we’ve never been tested before. But any additional challenge we may face is eclipsed by the ever-increasing imperative that we succeed. Graduating more students, more quickly with a high-quality degree is essential – it’s essential to our students for whom a college degree has never been more important. It’s essential to our role as a vital building block for California’s post-COVID-19 economy, society and environment. And we know that public health emergencies – especially those of this magnitude – can have disparate negative impacts on under-resourced populations, exacerbating institutional and societal inequities. We are therefore compelled to redouble our efforts to find curricular and co-curricular solutions to reduce equity gaps in all their dimensions.

Through the next several months, we will continue to carefully analyze the data to determine what, if any, impact our transition to virtual learning and student-support services has had on learning and persistence outcomes and we will make any necessary adjustments.

And while we have postponed this fall’s GI 2025 symposium until April 22nd and 23rd of next year, we will be convening virtually this fall, once the 2019-2020 graduation rate and persistence data have been finalized. I encourage all of you to join us at that time and will share details about the event as they become available.

In closing, I want to acknowledge that this is the last board meeting for a number of valued Cal State leaders who have served this university well, including Student Trustee Juan Garcia and Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer Larry Mandel, who has the audacity to leave us after just 52 years on the job. Juan and Larry, while I thank you for your service – and I echo Chair Day in congratulating Juan on his graduation from Pomona – we would like to bring you back for one more meeting in July. Hopefully, at that time we will be able to properly – and safely – thank you for your service to the university back in the Dumke.

I also want to acknowledge Michael Wiafe, who will be delivering his last report as president of the Cal State Student Association momentarily. I’ve shared with Michael that I have come to consider him as something of a kindred spirit. Although separated in time by more than a few decades, our stories parallel one another’s closely. The facts may be different, but the stories are the same. Michael has served the CSSA with distinction, utterly committed to the CSU student learning experience. He’s also a man to speak his mind, but always with the mission, values and goals of the university at heart. I wish you all the best in your graduate studies at Berkeley, Michael. And in a few years, as Governor Wiafe, I hope that you will look back fondly upon your time at the CSU when you propose your first budget.

It is also Dr. Catherine Nelson’s final meeting as chair of the CSU’s academic senate, after serving two terms in that role. I have valued Dr. Nelson’s input – both on matters of agreement and on issues on which we’ve held differing opinions. Dr. Nelson, I appreciate your leadership and your candor, and I thank you – as well as the senate and the CSU faculty writ large – for your creativity, ingenuity, adaptability and willingness to swiftly pivot to virtual learning, so that we could maintain our students’ academic continuity and progress to degree despite the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed before us.

And finally, Chair Day, it’s difficult to know where to begin. From the first days of his tenure, Adam has made himself available to connect with me frequently and often on short notice despite having an extremely demanding full-time job. His adroit and graceful management of these two challenging roles has been simply remarkable. Our communication has always been marked by 100-percent candor – through the good, the bad and the ugly, and I think it has served us well.

Adam has been a consistent and principled leader of this board. As chair, he’s helped us navigate controversy and many difficult decisions. Not all decisions were universally popular, but they were always carefully managed and thoughtfully considered.

While Adam may be proud of his stunning and lightning-fast transformation from social media neophyte to Twitter wizard, we will remember him most for his steadfast dedication to student well-being, particularly mental health. Last year’s mental health convening – a product of Adam’s vision – brought together campus-based mental health providers with behavioral health professionals from across the state. Partnerships were formed that will benefit Cal State students for many years to come.

His has been a total commitment to the CSU mission – coupled with a keen awareness of the lived realities of our students. And it has produced a legacy to which any chair would aspire. Thank you, Adam.

And to Lillian Kimbell, I will give you a more proper welcome in your first meeting as chair, but I want you to know I look forward to working with such a capable leader as we continue to navigate this momentous period in time. Tie your shoes tightly – it promises to be quite a ride.

Chair Day, that concludes my report.