Report of the Chair

Remarks by Jeffrey L. Bleich
Chair of the Board
CSU Board of Trustees – Chair’s Report
November 19, 2008

Before I begin, I have two short administrative matters.

Yesterday, in closed session of the Board of Trustees, I recommended and the Board approved the appointments of Gail E. Brooks as vice chancellor, human resources, and Garrett Ashley as vice chancellor, university relations and advancement. Because we forgot to propose a similar resolution by the trustees during the September closed session, the Board approved a clean-up resolution yesterday, on the appointment of Benjamin Quillian as vice chancellor, administration and finance.

Second, I’m very pleased to welcome Russel Statham as a newly appointed student trustee. Russel is a business administration major and member of the Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State. He has been active in student government at Fresno and also in CSSA.

I also need to give two other important congratulations. First, last week, the NCCA 2008 baseball champion team from Fresno State visited the White House. This was a thrilling event for the Fresno State student-athletes and their coaches. And I promise that if you repeat, it will be an even bigger thrill to visit the White House in 2009. Yes we can, Bulldogs!

Second, in September, our own Chancellor, Charlie Reed, received the 2008 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education for his work in paving the way for increased higher education access and success for students. This is a highly prized award. The award was presented by the McGraw-Hill Company at the New York Public Library. That award represented a lifetime of commitment to higher education, a decade of which he has devoted to this system. Chancellor Reed, you know how proud we are of you and all that you have meant to this system.

This is also the first meeting after a historic election two weeks ago. I’ll resist the temptation to talk about the contest for President of the United States. But two weeks afterward we’re still trying to count the votes in three Senate elections and figure out what some of those ballot propositions meant. These ballot measures are always interesting because voters have to figure out if yes means yes and no means no. Or, in the case of Prop. 8, we’ll find out from the Court whether “yes” still means “no.”

The elections are relevant in a few ways. Prop 11, which authorizes redistricting, could have a significant effect on our efforts as an alliance to bring about real change on education policy. It offers a promise of making districts more competitive and forcing legislators to start addressing some of the major challenges we face rather than politicking about them. I hope we will seize upon that opportunity.

The election also propelled some of our proud CSU grads to prominence. I’d like to especially congratulate Fresno State, Alumna, Ashley Swearengin, on her election as Mayor of Fresno. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business with honors. And I know we are looking forward to Mayor Swearingen’s swearing-in. (I couldn’t resist).

But the election is important because it reminds us of why we get up out of bed and come here because of the commitment to higher education. It isn’t because it is our job. The trustees have other jobs and are not paid for this. We do it because we believe in the future of this state and we know that future starts with education. If we do not prepare our citizens for the future, then there is not future. It is as simple as that.

For the last couple of years, the CSU has been using a new tag line: Working for California. These are not just words, they are the living, breathing reality of this system. We put Californians to work every day. Every dollar we invest in education comes back four-fold to the economy.

When the unemployment rate has gone from 5.6% to 7.7% we’ve put Californians to work building our campuses.

As we speak we are completing construction of the new nursing lab at Channel Islands, breaking ground for a new Hall of Science at Long Beach, opening the doors to a new health sciences building at the San Bernardino Palm Desert campus, dedicating the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at Fullerton, and preparing to open the new library at Monterey Bay. These are providing real jobs.

We are moving California toward the next great wave of innovation: Green Energy. A new green power partnership was announced in late October: the State Office of General services, the CSU and SunEdison entered into a partnership to install solar power equipment at 15 campuses and the chancellor’s office. This will raise our total green source energy to 25%. CSU is Working for California by reducing costs and offset carbon dioxide by 9,485 metric tons: saving us money and sparing our environment, reducing our debts, and creating a sustainable future.

We are minting the teachers and nurses and service providers, and engineers who will power our state. The education doctorate is now offered at 10 campuses and several more on the way. We have nursing programs at 19 campuses. We have hospitality management programs at 19 campuses, probably the largest and best known at Cal Poly Pomona. And, we have engineering programs at 18 campuses.

Finally, we are working for the brave Californian men and women who worked for us. Chancellor Reed has been very aggressive in welcoming veterans to the Cal State system. Several campuses have created one-stop service centers for veterans. On Veteran’s Day, Chancellor Reed announced that CSU would guarantee admission for fall 2009 to 115 active duty and veterans from the six military branches. These applicants would be admitted based on a recommendation by their commanding officers. This is yet another way that the CSU is Working for California.

Our test now as we face the worst economic outlook in this State this Country since the great depression is both to keep Working for California and to convince the people of California to work for the CSU.

As everyone in this room knows we face an $11.2 billion shortfall, and that is an overly optimistic projection. We are looking at years of decline because of a failure to acknowledge that as with everything else, you get what you pay for with government. If you want police and fire forces to protect you, and highways to transports, you and safe food, and clean air, and affordable energy, and all of the things that we take for granted, then you have to be willing to invest in these things. The state budget has been held together for several years by borrowing, relying on fund transfers, and in some years, spending one-time windfall revenues.

Our government borrowed and postponed and bought things it could not afford, and we’re all to blame. And, our state is failing to make education a priority. Our legislators did this because they the public unreasonably demanded something for nothing, and the legislators unreasonably pretended they could deliver. It is tempting to some to blame the Governor, but he’s just the messenger. We have a staggering shortfall. We can’t afford to keep borrowing, and so the Governor at least presented the Legislature with a proposal that offers the only two things we can do: reduce spending and increase revenue. In the governor’s plan he recommends the CSU be cut by $66.3Million dollars or a total of $97.6 Million dollars for the year because there is no money.

Let me be very clear. This is terribly wrong direction for California. When we take $100M away from education, we are stealing $400M from our future. When we turn 10,000 students away from our campuses, we are cheating 10,000 futures. Chancellor Reed and his staff, the university presidents, and this board will do everything we can to defend the mission of the CSU, show our economic value to California, and demand that we be spared further reductions.

Chancellor Reed is making the case that CSU has been cut in the recent past and the current budget is not fully funded for its operational needs in the amount of $215 Million dollars. It is up to all of us – particularly our alliance -- to ensure that Californians get this message and demand legislators who aren’t afraid to raise revenues, who understand the difference between spending and investing, and elect legislators who will impose the discipline and values on this system that we sorely need.

I don’t want to see us fighting with each other. It won’t help our common cause -- it will only distract us from that cause. I was proud of how we respected each other at yesterday’s rally. I ask members of the CSU family to focus the energy and passion of this campaign season on members of the Legislature to make the case. We will not suffer another $100M loss in vain. We need leadership in Sacramento that will put our financial house back in order and invest in California’s future.

Thank you.