The planned faculty strike has been postponed after CSU president Timothy White stepped into the CFA-CSU negotiations. | Katy Barnard/ Mustang News

California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy White held an open forum in Chumash Auditorium on Tuesday to address the Cal Poly community’s concerns. Here are the nine questions the audience asked him, as well as concise versions of his responses.

  1. What can you do as a chancellor to increase curricular and co-curricular opportunities in queer studies?

“To embed the issues that face a large percentage of our population in all of our academic areas is very important to me. And so as we think about the curriculum, I ask the faculty — and (as) we think about student support programs, I ask the student affairs professionals — to think about the importance of the academic study as well as the community support and encouragement and learning from and benefiting by really embracing diversity here broadly considered.”

  1. What is your plan and process for ensuring that the tradition of meaningful shared governance is restored and subsequently maintained at Cal Poly?

“I view shared governance to be at our core. Some of you may know I prefer to refer to it as ‘shared leadership,’ because ‘governance’ to me has too much of a regulatory implication to it … (but) at some point, there has to be a decision maker. Shared leadership and shared governance is not shared decision making … on academic issues, on curricular issues, faculty are the decision makers.

Who you want to hire to be your colleagues in the department, that’s a faculty decision. But how the budget process is going to work on this campus, and ultimately how the decision of where do we spend our finite resources in any given year … is a responsibility that ultimately bears by the president … While it doesn’t seem like it’s perfect yet, it does seem like there’s been very good progress moving forward.”

  1. What can you do to make sure our Ethnic Studies Department is able to reach its true potential and stay true to its initial goals set during the turmoil of the ’60s and ’70s where the themes of those struggles are still relevant today?

“I think the first thing that I can do was to have established this task force whose work has taken longer to accomplish than anyone had imagined. They’re just finished getting input … the next thing will be this report — it hasn’t been given to me officially yet … Then we will make sure that all of the presidents and provosts, and through them to the deans and the chairs, see this body of work that speaks to the importance, as you did, about how this area of study needs attention in the CSU in order for all of our students, regardless of major, to understand these issues of a multicultural, pluralistic society.”

  1. What can you do as a chancellor to enact policies, Two and Four your umbrella, especially when it comes to diversity?

“I think my task as chancellor is to try and get as much money as possible in the CSU system. That money then gets distributed to the 23 campuses, and from that then it becomes a campus decision of all the competing needs of where to invest.

So I acknowledge and respect the point you raised, but the conversation isn’t with me. The conversation isn’t with me. The conversation is with the deans, with the academic senate, with the provost and with the president. And as you prioritize all the multiple needs that are here, to make progress in programs that this campus finds important.”

  1. Do you support (high out-of-state numbers) as the CSU’s future? How does this support the CSU’s mission to educate California’s taxpayers?

“I know across the system that we have roughly … about four percent or so of our students are what I call ‘national and international students’ — students that are not California residential students … When we’ve analyzed this at a campus level and at a system level, first of all, I can tell you a student from out-of-state does not displace a fully qualified California student.

Secondly, because they pay about three (times more) on their tuition, plus the fees that residential students pay, is that they are putting more money into the campus — not into the system, but into the campus — that it costs to educate that student … It is a revenue stream that actually educates Californians, as well as these students from other states and other countries.”

  1. When we don’t agree, where do the professoriate have the right to determine what’s happening on the department or the college level?

“I come out of the R1’s (Research Institutions), and if it was an R1 environment I actually have very strong feelings about that. One of the things I learned with the Senate Executive Committee is there’s a big difference between heads and chairs. There’s some cultural issues that vary across the campus, so for San Luis Obispo, I don’t know the answer. So for me to hazard a guess would probably be unwise for you and unwise for me. I just don’t understand the question well enough to proffer a reasonable response, and I’m sorry for that.”

  1. We need your help (with raising low salaries).

“We have been able, with new leadership on campuses — new faculty, new staff — a better economy, much better relationships with our elected officials who are our primary funder to reverse those declines in a short number of years. But we’re still $200 million below where we were at the beginning of the recession … (My job) is to get better relationships, to tell our story of why we are good for California’s economy and social fabric, and we make progress every year in steps.

I commit to you to continue that progress, I will go to the mat for my faculty and my staff for their compensation, I’ll go to the mat for these facilities, I’ll go to the mat for our students. But I can’t reverse a decay that occurred in the (seventh-worst) economy by myself … There isn’t enough total funding to deal with the salaries that confront us in an inflationary society, but we’re taking a multi-year, every year approach to trying to solve that. And some years we’ll do better than other years.”

  1. How can the CSU better serve undocumented students?

“It’s going to require a private giving sometimes for scholarships. If they can’t get federal or state aid … We’ve had huge fundraising on the outside given to a third party, who could then give those scholarships to students who go around some of the legal constraints we face back in those days.”

  1. What is it you do that benefits Cal Poly students and Cal Poly faculty?

“First of all, we established the first Title IX program for the system and insisted that each campus create a much higher level awareness and programs to prevent sexual violence against our students and against our women faculty and staff members … We have a legal department that has saved us in legal litigation in this last year alone over $160 million by winning cases that, when we started, nobody said we could win. That’s $100 million that now is in play in the campuses.

I understand the spirit of your question, but I also want you to understand, and you all to understand, that there are amazing compliance requirements with the federal government and with the state that requires somebody to do this. And it is more efficient and more effective to do some of this at system level than it is to have the 23 campuses do it less efficiently.”

For a video of the full open forum, click here.

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