Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro - February 1, 2021

Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro
Chancellor, The California State University
Advocacy Week 2021
Welcome Remarks (as prepared)
Via Zoom
February 1, 2021

Thank you, Zahraa, for that kind introduction and for your excellent leadership of CSSA.

Good morning, all. And welcome, Team CSU!

What an extraordinary delegation we have virtually gathered here today: representatives from every campus – epitomizing our shared commitment to student success and inclusive excellence – students, faculty, staff, campus presidents, trustees, alumni, friends and other champions of the largest, most diverse and most consequential university in our nation.

The faces of the CSU!

And today and throughout the week, you will be the voices of the CSU, telling your stories to our state legislators on behalf of each of our 23 campuses, each of our almost 486,000 students, and each of our more than 53,000 faculty and staff.

Thank you for joining us on this marquee day for CSU advocacy.

And thank you to our entire Advocacy and State Relations team for organizing this week’s efforts, and for the work you do every day to advance our worthy mission, while representing our students, colleagues and alumni – as well as our core values and vision – in Sacramento.

Advocacy Day is one of the CSU’s greatest and most important traditions – and always a favorite of mine. And while it may, by necessity, look very different this year with virtual meetings spread over the course of a week, its purpose has never been more consequential, more critical, more urgent.

Our nation is deeply and bitterly divided. Our most sacred democratic institutions have been threatened – first through reckless and irresponsible rhetoric and then – unimaginably – through the violent acts of an enraged mob. And still, a pandemic rages, wreaking incalculable suffering and causing great economic uncertainty while disproportionately impacting people of modest means and people of color – people who continue to endure heartbreaking acts of racial injustice.

But still, I speak to you today filled with optimism and excitement. Because, as I mentioned to the Board of Trustees last week, I wholeheartedly believe that our nation is at an inflection point. And the California State University is uniquely positioned to be a powerful force for healing, recovery, prosperity and understanding – for our students, our communities, our state and our nation.

We can and – make no mistake – we will be this powerful force for healing and recovery.

Our partners in Sacramento understand that power, and they believe in us.

In announcing the budget proposal earlier this month, the governor’s administration emphasized the critical role higher education will play in California’s recovery and sustained economic vitality. And Governor Newsom’s proposal represents a welcome and necessary reinvestment in the CSU. For that, I express my sincere appreciation and gratitude.

However, we stand ready to do more. And this historic moment in time demands that we do more.

But we need our state’s support.

With our request for additional investment that our state relations team will detail for you shortly, we will be able to:

Fully fund Graduation Initiative 2025. This is an investment with a proven return – graduation rates are at all-time highs for students from all backgrounds. But we must do more to eliminate equity gaps. With our most vulnerable communities bearing the brunt of the pandemic and associated economic upheaval, our moral imperative to correct this inequity has never been more apparent or more urgent.

With additional funds, we can begin to address some of the CSU’s critical facilities and infrastructure needs, making our campus buildings safer and more seismically sound… and providing our students with the learning and discovery experience they need and deserve… all while stimulating the economy and providing desperately needed jobs.

And speaking of jobs, thanks to our prudent management of the resources entrusted to us and the strategic use of reserve funds through these challenging times, I will not implement a furlough program and am optimistic that we will not have to lay off any additional permanent CSU faculty and staff due to a lack of operational funds this year, provided our assumptions for state and federal funding hold. But to ensure that we retain these jobs for the long term, we need the restoration of cuts to our state funding. The skilled and dedicated CSU faculty and staff – the lifeblood of the CSU – who devote their lives’ work to our students’ success and well-being​ deserve nothing less.

At this critical moment in our nation’s history – at this consequential inflection point when we are in such desperate need of compassion, understanding, healing and recovery – we can do more. We must do more. That is our message and you are our voices. Voices to tell your powerful, personal stories that demonstrate how the CSU prepares the bold, ethical and compassionate leaders who will drive California’s recovery and make our communities, state and nation stronger for decades to come.

Team CSU, it’s going to be a great week. Let’s get to work!

And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell. A classroom teacher for two decades, Assembly Member O’Donnell has been a champion of public education throughout his career in public service. He has been a consistent and valued friend of the CSU, as well, even spearheading the allocation of funds for shark research and beach safety programs, and for our new Center to Close the Opportunity Gap at Cal State Long Beach.

In addition to serving as chair of the Assembly Education Committee, he also serves on the Assembly Committees on Transportation, Public Employment and Retirement, and Budget, including the Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance.

Of course, I’ve saved the best for last. Assembly Member O’Donnell is himself an esteemed member of Team CSU, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State Long Beach.

Assembly Member O’Donnell, we’re honored to have you join us today.