May 2020

Remarks by Adam Day
Chair, California State University Board of Trustees
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting
Long Beach, CA 
May 12, 2020


Before I begin, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to Student Trustee Juan Garcia, who is closing out two years of dedicated service with us today. Throughout his tenure, Juan has remained a steadfast advocate for the diverse concerns of our entire student body, always ensuring that their voices are well-represented during key deliberations.

Juan is graduating from Cal Poly Pomona this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.

I'm sure that he, like the rest of our 2020 graduates, had anticipated celebrating this milestone in his life's journey by walking the stage in cap and gown before family and friends; accepting the degree that he has worked so hard to earn; probably pumping his fist in a moment of triumph.

To Juan and his fellow members of the Class of 2020, I know that the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted much of your lives over the past months but the uncertainty surrounding your commencement plans must be especially difficult.

As our campuses explore appropriate ways to honor your remarkable achievements, while prioritizing health and safety, I ask for your patience and understanding.

We must do this right for everyone.

To all of our graduates, congratulations on the degree you have worked so diligently to attain. This crisis does not detract from the magnitude of your accomplishment.

And Juan, in this, your final meeting as student trustee, I know I speak for the entire Board when I say we are grateful for your commitment to the CSU and your fellow students. We all wish you the very best going forward.

Of course, today marks a milestone for me, as well – my final meeting as Chair. On this occasion, I'd like to quickly reflect on three overriding goals I set forth at the beginning of my tenure.

The first was to reiterate in my remarks during each meeting the core mission, vision and values of the greatest agent of socioeconomic ascent in the world, the California State University.

If I could capture all that the CSU stands for in just two words, it would be “inclusive excellence."

“Inclusive," in that the CSU continually strives to reflect California's rich cultural diversity in the ranks of our leadership, faculty, staff, and most important, our students.

And “excellence" in the services we provide, the education we deliver and the graduates we produce to power the future of our great state.

Actions do speak louder than words. And although there is always more to do, I am immensely proud of our collective accomplishments.

My second goal was to highlight the importance of providing the CSU community with access to robust mental and behavioral health services. I believe we have made remarkable progress in this area as well.

Last April, we hosted the first-ever CSU Campus and County Mental Health Statewide Convening, connecting students, faculty and staff with comprehensive mental health services and resources both on and off campus.

And this February, our Intersegmental Basic Needs Summit addressed mental health as well as housing and food insecurity across the CSU, the University of California and California's community colleges.

While we've seen the stigma of mental illness diminish over time, we've also seen demand for services rise. COVID-19 has only increased this demand: creating or exacerbating feelings of loneliness, disconnection and anxiety.

True to form, our campuses have shown bold leadership in meeting these challenges by providing students, faculty and staff with virtual outreach and access to critical wellness resources.

On a systemwide level, the CSU has launched a two-year pilot program with Grit Digital Health. The project provides an app to students at 12 campuses to supplement in-person services. “You at College" connects users with mental health and wellness resources – created and vetted by behavioral health experts – as well as academic support tools.

It is just one of many examples of the CSU meshing technology with ingenuity to meet a pressing need at a critical juncture.

My third goal was to share campus stories of achievement, discovery, victory and success... Indeed, there is no shortage of such stories during the current public health crisis.

At Sacramento State, gerontology students are reaching out to isolated seniors to provide hope, help and someone to talk to as part of Governor Newsom's “Stay Home, Save Lives, Check In" initiative.

Nursing and physician-assistant students from Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Fullerton, San Bernardino and Sonoma State are volunteering to support frontline healthcare providers.

And more than half of the CSU's 23 campuses are using and refining 3D printing processes to produce face shields, while creating and donating other personal protective equipment for medical teams and first responders.

Our faculty, staff and students have stepped forward in remarkable ways during this time of challenge.

I know that the next board chair will continue to amplify the vision of the CSU as well as the inspiring stories that bring this vision to life.

And with that, I suppose it is time to wrap it up. But I can't close without expressing my sincere gratitude to my fellow trustees for their enduring commitment to this university.

Together, over the last two short years, we have tackled some of California's most pressing issues with diligence and resolve. We have worked collaboratively, with mutual respect, and collegiality.

A high bar was set three years ago when the Board of Trustees received the prestigious John W. Nason Award for Board Leadership from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. I like to think that together we have continued to live up to that honor.

On a personal note, I came out of my comfort zone and began a CSU chair's Twitter account to personalize and highlight all the good that occurs throughout our 23 campuses and with our millions of alumni each and every day. I had no idea how rewarding it would be – and never thought 4,000 strangers would want to follow me!

From my seat as chair, I set out to be an active listener, to champion problem-solving through teamwork, and to delegate important responsibilities to committee chairs and vice chairs. I hope I have been responsive to each of you individually and to the needs of the Board.

I promised to respect and honor the work of our staff, to not micromanage, to stay focused on policy and the big picture – and to add strategic value.

I hope I have served you, my colleagues, and the entire CSU system, both professionally and honorably.

Together, we have tackled significant challenges. We have demonstrated sound financial management – using one-time resources for one-time needs, maintaining prudent reserves and leveraging new strategies to grow discretionary revenue. We have achieved modest growth in enrollment with no increases in tuition. We have made huge headway on our deferred maintenance list to maintain safe, modern and functional facilities; and we have remained true to our vision of Graduation Initiative 2025, working to close equity gaps while transparently and collaboratively debating complex issues such as quantitative reasoning, general education requirements, student preparedness and pathways for success.

None of this would have been possible if not for the tireless work of each and every one of you, my colleagues. Your insight, compassion and dedication have meant so much to me personally, and have made the university better for those we place at the center of all of our decisions – students.

I know this board will continue to bring discipline and best practices to bear as our university confronts COVID-19 and the myriad, intertwined challenges and impacts the pandemic has visited upon us.

I also want to emphasize my utmost respect for and thanks to all of our campus presidents: each one a champion of inclusivity, equity and student success for their respective campus community. It has been a true professional blessing to have had the opportunity to work side-by-side.

In addition, I would like to highlight the presidents who retired during my tenure, ending distinguished careers dedicated to building California's brightest future:

  • Willie Hagan at CSU Dominguez Hills;
  • Horace Mitchell at CSU Bakersfield;
  • Karen Haynes at CSU San Marcos;
  • Lisa Rossbacher at Humboldt State; and
  • Les Wong at San Francisco State.

Two more presidents would have been included here had it not been for the COVID-19 crisis – Leroy Morishita at Cal State East Bay and Dianne Harrison at CSUN. You both have my eternal gratitude for staying on to provide the leadership and institutional knowledge needed to see your students and campus communities through the pandemic.

Finally, I want to thank Chancellor White for all he has done for this university and for his decision to delay his retirement to lead the CSU through these trying times.

Tim, you are the rock upon which we can always rely and the voice of reason that guides us when we need it most – asking the key question at just the right moment – and eliciting the answer we most need to hear. You have become a very dear friend, and it has been the honor of my professional career to be associated with you, your kindness and wisdom. My experience is not dissimilar to a master's class in management, ethics, business and leadership all rolled into one, delivered by the true higher education master. Tim, you have my eternal gratitude and respect.

To everyone here, thank you for all that you do for the California State University. It has been my distinct honor to serve as your Chair.

Chancellor White?