Faculty, staff and students share priorities for new CSU chancellor at open forum

The CSU Board of Trustees Special Committee to Consider the Selection of the Chancellor continued their search for the next chancellor of the CSU system during an open forum at CSUSM on Dec. 3. With the current chancellor of the CSU system, Timothy P. White, recently announcing his intent to retire, the committee’s goal is to appoint his successor by summer 2020.

As part of a listening tour at six campuses across the CSU system, the forum provided an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to voice their concerns and priorities for the type of candidate that should be considered for the role of CSU chancellor.

“Our job is to find the best woman or man to fill this role of leadership in taking the CSU where you want it to be … The bottom line is, we want to hear from you,” said Jean Picker Firstenberg, who is serving as the chair of the special committee.

Dr. Darel Engen, an associate professor of history, president of the San Marcos Chapter of the California Faculty Association (CFA) and a statewide CFA officer, said he hopes that the new chancellor will “really understand that our faculty is unionized and be able to work with us rather than in some kind of adversarial role.”

Dr. Pam Redela, a lecturer in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department, said, “I have been a temporary faculty for almost 15 years now and I know plenty of lecturers [who have been temporary] for 20, 30 years.” Redela added that the new chancellor should consider a program that focuses on converting long-term lecturers to tenure-track professors.

Several staff members expressed concern that their role is devalued and diminished. “We really would like a chancellor who is willing to advocate for staff,” said Vanessa Vincent, who works in Extended Learning and is president of CSUSM’s chapter of the CSU Employee Union.

Mike Geck, who works with Facilities Development and Management, echoed Vincent’s concern, saying “… we have many staff who are living close to or even under the poverty line. That seems to be a shame in such a great system.”

Geck also said that the new chancellor should “work hard to get a representative for staff on the Board [of Trustees]. We’re the only constituency in the CSU that doesn’t have a representative.”

Others spoke to emphasize the importance of social justice and diversity in the CSU campuses.

Dr. Michelle Ramos Pellicia, an associate professor of Modern Language Studies and co-founder and chair of University Without Borders, said, “we keep hearing diversity, diversity, diversity … some of us are very done with doing diversity; we want to see tangible ways in which we are all implementing social justice.” She pointed out what she saw as inequity in tenure track positions, saying that many temporary lecturers are women and people of color.

Dr. Joely Proudfit, a member of the Luiseño tribe and the chair of the American Indian Studies department, said that she wanted to see a greater “investment in our American Indian students, staff and faculty … we are often marginalized, ignored and completely overlooked.”

A 4th year history student, Joseph Esparza, brought up the problem of student debt, saying that he hoped that the new chancellor “would recognize that student debt is a crisis, especially for middle-class students.” was important that the new chancellor support academic freedom.

“We are in an increasingly polarized and political environment and I would like to see a chancellor who would support students in pursuing academic freedom on both sides of the political aisle,” he said.

At the end of the forum, Picker Firstenberg thanked the audience for coming out and voicing their concerns and priorities.

A video of the forum is available at calstate.edu/csu-system/chancellor/chancellor-search. On that website, individuals can also send an email with their feedback on the chancellor search process or nominate an individual for chancellor.