Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro – May 18, 2021

May 2021 Board of Trustees Meeting
Opening Remarks (as prepared)
Chancellor Joseph I. Castro
May 18, 2021

Before we begin the business of our May meeting, I want to quickly address three important topics.

First, as most of you know, on April 22, University of California President Michael Drake and I jointly announced that the CSU and UC systems would be requiring students, faculty and staff to be immunized against COVID-19. The requirement will become effective at the beginning of the fall 2021 term, or upon full FDA approval of the vaccine, whichever occurs later.

We made the announcement with the full understanding that this requirement would generate some controversy and criticism. And, while I am respectful of those with different viewpoints, I want to reiterate now that I stand behind this decision, strongly believing it to be aligned with our North Star of ensuring the health and well-being of the entire CSU family. Vaccination represents the safest and fastest return to the in-person activities and vibrant campus life that are hallmarks of the Cal State learning and discovery experience. And, importantly, it is a critical step the CSU and UC – collectively, a higher education community more than one million people strong – can take to bring the pandemic to an end.

We will provide additional details as soon as the policy and implementation process are finalized in consultation with stakeholders. But I want to again emphasize that the requirement is conditioned upon one or more vaccines receiving full approval by the FDA. And it will allow for students, faculty and staff to seek exemptions based on medical or religious grounds. In addition, we will continue to work to make vaccination as simple, convenient and streamlined as possible for our students. Chair Kimbell will discuss some of these initiatives later in the meeting.

Second, I want to take a moment to address a matter that is of critical significance and concern to many of you: CSU investment in companies associated with fossil fuels.

I want you to know that it is of significance and concern to the CSU as well. Sustainability, more broadly, is a part of everything we do: a part of our DNA. It’s reflected in our building practices and across our operations from facilities management to housing and dining and waste management. It’s embedded in our academic programs. In addition to offering specialized degrees and minors in topics related to sustainability and climate solutions, CSU campuses are integrating climate and sustainability courses across all academic disciplines. Currently, more than 4,500 sustainability-related courses are offered systemwide. Campus as a Living Lab or “CALL” programs provide grants for initiatives that give students a hands-on learning experience while simultaneously addressing a campus facility or operational sustainability goal. Opportunities for multidisciplinary research exist at more than 65 sustainability-related academic institutes or research centers at CSU campuses, as well as marine labs and field stations.

And, importantly, it is reflected in how we manage the CSU’s investments – sustainability considerations have been codified in our master investment policy since 2017.

I am extraordinarily proud of the CSU’s commitment to sustainability in all these areas. Consistent with this commitment, the CSU’s Investment Advisory Committee has always weighed environmental considerations as a matter of course, and this continues to be a priority.

To that end, Chair Kimbell and I have been in communication with the committee, its chair Trustee McGrory and Chancellor’s Office staff. We have agreed that it is an appropriate time to again carefully analyze these investments, assessing their risk factors and making a prudent, fiscally sound, investment-based decision on the appropriate direction to take – one that is aligned with both our fiduciary obligations as stewards of these resources and our longstanding commitment to sustainability. I ask that the Investment Advisory Committee report its decision to this Board at the November 2021 meeting.

Finally, last Friday, Governor Newsom announced his May Revision of his 2021-22 state budget proposal, and it represents extremely positive news for the CSU.

The Revision includes:

  • A $74.4-million-dollar increase in recurring funds for general operating costs. This is over and above the $111.5 million dollars proposed in January. The $185.9-million-dollar total increase in recurring funds represents a five-percent increase to our operating budget.
  • An affirmation of the administration’s continued commitment to the February agreement reached with Pro Tem Atkins and Speaker Rendon to fully restore $299 million dollars in recurring cuts to our base budget. Of course, this agreement must still be codified into the final budget agreement in June.
  • $150 million dollars in one-time federal funds for deferred maintenance, infrastructure and energy efficiency projects. This in addition to the $175 million dollars in one-time state funds proposed in January, for a total of $325 million dollars for these projects.
  • A $433-million-dollar one-time increase to convert Humboldt State to California’s third polytechnic higher education institution. (Board action on this proposal will occur at a future meeting.) Also, the Revision includes $25 million dollars in recurring funds for additional operating costs associated with Humboldt operating as a polytechnic.
  • A $25-million-dollar one-time increase for a national Hispanic-Serving Institution “Equity Innovation Hub” at CSUN to help prepare students (especially underrepresented students) for careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

I am extremely grateful for the Governor’s significant and forward-thinking reinvestment in the CSU. With the full restoration of cuts and the increases to recurring funds I just mentioned, the vast majority of our budget request will be funded, allowing the CSU to fully fund most of the Board’s budget priorities, including GI 2025 and our efforts to completely and permanently eliminate equity gaps. The significant support of Humboldt State and the CSUN Equity Innovation Hub bear special mention and gratitude and are reflective of the state’s broader needs for equitable workforce development, specialized academic programming and research in the STEM fields – statewide priorities that are aligned with our own.

Of course, while the $325 million dollars in one-time funds represent a very positive and much-appreciated start to addressing the CSU’s facilities and infrastructure needs, it is nevertheless far short of our $1.2-billion-dollar request. Given the state’s current financial position, we will continue to advocate aggressively for additional funds so that we can do more to make our campus buildings safer, more seismically sound and more energy efficient, while providing our students with the learning and discovery experience they need and deserve – all while stimulating the economy and providing much-needed jobs.

The May Revision also contains proposals likely to have a positive, but indirect, impact to the CSU, including (but not limited to) items related to affordable student housing, teacher preparation, and the education and training of underrepresented students and displaced workers. Steve Relyea, Ryan Storm and their team have been carefully reviewing these and all other details associated with the revision and will be providing a detailed report later today.

I want to thank our entire Advocacy and State Relations staff for leading our systemwide advocacy efforts. I am grateful to the Academic Senate, the California State Student Association and our labor unions for their invaluable participation – this is another inspiring example of the power of the CSU when we speak in a strong and unified voice. Again, thank you.

With that, let’s return to the business of our May meeting. Chair Kimbell?