Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro - February 17, 2021

Board of Trustees Leadership Retreat Remarks - February 17, 2021
CSU Board of Trustees Leadership Retreat 2021
Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro
Chancellor, The California State University
Remarks (as prepared)
​February 17, 2021

Good morning. It's a pleasure to be with you today. I want to begin by thanking all of you – whether you are a long-time trustee or new to the Board – for your insights, your dedicated service and your remarkable leadership of the nation's largest, most diverse and most consequential university. And please also accept my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for your support during the first months of my tenure as Chancellor.

Today, I want to say a few words about communication among the leaders of the CSU. I am proud to say at the onset – and I am confident you will agree – that robust, respectful and transparent communication is already a hallmark of the CSU and one of our greatest strengths, whether it is demonstrated in spirited yet collegial debate at our board meetings, the sharing of best practices and innovative student-success strategies among campus leaders or – as a recent and powerful example – evident through our frequent, thoughtful and comprehensive deliberation that has informed our decisive and effective responses to the urgent and fast-changing demands of the Covid-19 pandemic – as well as our regular, clear and transparent communication of those responses to all CSU constituencies.

Indeed, effective communication is already a strong suit among CSU leaders and university stakeholders. That said, because communication is so critically essential – the lifeblood to an effective organization – I believe it will prove helpful to take just a few moments to review some principles and guidelines that I am confident will serve us well as we continue to advance the CSU's mission.

First, I'd like to share my own guiding principles for effective communication which, over the course of my career, I've distilled into a list of six.

In order to be worth our time and effort, and in order to minimize confusion, instill a sense of teamwork, and help us effectively advance our goals, I believe any communication must be:





And present no surprises. I think we can all agree that circumstances beyond our control introduce enough complexity and unexpected challenge to our work. We certainly don't need to add self-inflicted surprises to the mix.

Additionally, accessibility is critically important – the availability and willingness to carefully consider and thoughtfully reflect upon another's viewpoint. Without it, the other principles are of little value.

As Chancellor, I assure you that I will adhere to these ideals to the very best of my ability. And if it ever appears that I or any member of the CSU team are not upholding these ideals, I ask you to call me on it and hold me accountable so that we can correct the issue or address any confusion or misunderstanding.

Of course, these communication guidelines also serve a higher purpose: The Chancellor's Office leadership team and our campus presidents are committed to supporting each of you so that you can serve effectively in your vital governing role as a CSU Trustee.

To this end, I urge you to feel free to request, at any time, data, reports or other information that you may need to fulfill your responsibilities. I, and our senior staff, will continue to answer your questions and respond to your requests in a timely manner.

Along with fundamental communication guidelines and principles, I also want to share what I believe to be an optimal communication model that, in my experience, produces the best results in our higher education ecosystem.

This slide shows a communication model for systemwide matters. You'll notice that it is simple and uncluttered, and it provides a direct, straightforward line of communication among leadership.

With this model, I encourage all Trustees to contact me, the appropriate Vice Chancellor or other members of the Chancellor's Council to request any information you might need. If you are unsure about how to initiate a request, please feel free to start with me, and I will assign the appropriate Vice Chancellor to follow up on your request.

Chairs or Vice Chairs of Trustee committees should continue to direct specific questions about Board items or other requests to the Vice Chancellor who staffs their committee.

And as you see from this model, the Vice Chancellors will keep me continuously aware of any substantive discussions they have had with Trustees, so that we all remain fully informed, coordinated and focused on our goals.

This next slide is similar, showing the optimal communication model for campus matters. Again, it is designed to be simple, clear and direct for maximum efficiency.

I encourage you as Trustees to reach out directly to a campus President if you need specific information about a campus matter, or if you wish to offer guidance to a President.

Likewise, Presidents are encouraged to reach out to Trustees to invite them to campus events and to ask for guidance on specific campus matters. Presidents may also wish to give a Trustee advance notice of a major campus development – especially if that Trustee lives in the community served by the campus.

Campus visits by Trustees – either virtually or, when safe travel resumes, in person – are welcomed and encouraged by me and by the Presidents. These visits should be coordinated by Trustee Secretariat Michelle Kiss.

And again, to keep everyone aware and coordinated on pressing matters, ideas or concerns, Presidents will keep me informed of discussions with Trustees on substantive campus matters.

In closing, it is one of my highest priorities as Chancellor to uphold the CSU's culture of accountability and trust among all stakeholders, but most certainly among the esteemed leaders who are charged with guiding our university.

To help ensure that I fulfill this important responsibility, I ask that you please alert me as soon as possible should you ever feel dissatisfied with a response you have received from the Chancellor's Office or a campus so that we can effectively address your concern.

Likewise, in order to ensure the most accurate, consistent and straightforward communication possible for the benefit of all CSU stakeholders, I ask that you please refrain from directly contacting individual students, staff or faculty at a campus or in the Chancellor's Office. Please be assured that I, as well as our Vice Chancellors and Presidents, are always available to you to facilitate this communication and to ensure that you receive any and all information you need in an efficient and timely manner.

With that, I welcome any comments and am happy to answer any questions you might have on this critically important topic.