On Jan. 22, Chancellor Tim White addressed the state of the CSU system in a similar fashion to the annual State of the Union address done by the president of the United States. Despite the lack of a State of the Union address this year due to the national government shutdown, White addressed the state of the CSU beginning by welcoming some of the newest board members including Eleni Kounalakis, the newly elected lieutenant governor, and Tony Thurmond, the new State Superintendent of Schools.
“Our unified focus on the Graduation Initiative resulted in the highest number of graduates in the history of the California State University,” said White when talking about the achievements made by the CSUs in the past year. “Our four-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen increased six percentage points. Our two-year graduation rate for transfer students from the community colleges increased seven percentage points.” White credited these remarkable achievements to the faculty, staff and administration that are dedicated to helping students across California.
White went on to speak about the equity gap that he says the CSUs have made meaningful progress toward closing. He then continued to say the graduation gap between students who are underserved, meaning with less financial accessibility, and those who are well off closed by almost two points. “Please understand this is not some ‘check the box’ goal of ours. This focus on closing the achievement gap is recognition of our moral responsibility to do the right thing,” the chancellor explained.
After discussing the progress made towards equity and higher graduation rates for students, he said, “the solutions to the challenges facing our great state will come from this wellspring of diversity that we are so proud of welcoming and nurturing.” A part of that wellspring comes from his introduction of Dr. Ramona Tascoe. In 1968, Tascoe took part in the now historic campus protests at San Francisco State University and was among the first to be arrested during the demonstration. These protests eventually led to the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies among the CSUs.
“I am very pleased to let you know that Dr. Tascoe – that vigorous student protester of the 60’s – has graciously accepted our invitation to serve on the advisory committee for the search for the next president of San Francisco State. She demanded change over fifty years ago and she remains an agent of compassionate change today,” White said, welcoming Tascoe to the CSU committee.
Much of White’s address discussed the new California governor, Gavin Newsom, and how his vision for California aligns with the CSU’s mission. “‘Now more than ever, America needs California. It needs the guiding light of our values and the progress they make possible. This is where America’s future is made,’” stated governor Newsom in his inaugural address, which White referenced. With governor Newsom’s proposed funding increase, the chancellor stated, “ I will not bring forward any request for the Trustees to consider a tuition increase for our 2019-20 budget. You heard me correctly: tuition is off the table.”
“I couldn’t help but think [Newsom’s] words are equally true for the Cal State University ‘Now, more than ever, California needs the Cal State University. It needs the guiding light of our values and the progress they make possible. This is where California’s future is made,’” said White, demonstrating the alignment between the new state’s governor and the CSUs.
“Universities are designed to be a vigorous marketplace of ideas. A place where research and discovery, analysis, curiosity and critical thinking are among the tools we use in a relentless quest for truth and knowledge,” said White in his address, “It takes great courage to listen to opinions that do not match our own, and discuss those sentiments with openness and with respect.” The chancellor made it known that the CSUs are in a place of position moving into 2019 with an overall theme throughout his address of knowledge leading to power.
“Becoming well-informed citizens is never a bad thing, especially if we seek for understanding, for commonalities and for insight – especially when we welcome dissent and learn from it.” White made it clear to all, friends and critics that CSU graduates learn these important tools while in California State Universities to make way for a better future. These tools he said will empower graduates and “help our alumni become the key to California’s brightest and most hopeful future.”
“We are at a pivotal time in the history of the Cal State University. A point of confluence where visionary leaders in our state government, courageous presidents and faculty across our 23 campuses, committed administrators and staff, passionate alumni, consequential trustees, generous donors and friends of the university, and hundreds of thousands of students and their families are coming together and doubling down to envision and advance the future, to really get things done,” continued White, pushing those who were listening to make a stand to promote positive change in this upcoming year.
“More Californians will be admitted; more will graduate. More bright minds – diverse in thought and characteristics, but united in hope and purpose; studying a wide range of disciplines and professions in the arts, humanities, sciences, along with engineering, architecture, agriculture and many other professional fields – this will power our state’s economy and society for decades to come,” ended White.