Fall Welcome Address 2009

Academic Senate Chair Michael Kaufman

Welcome everyone.

Welcome to the 2009 opening address and to the beginning of what promises to be an extremely challenging academic year. Please forgive my confusion as I get started here, but I was told just before coming up to the podium that page four of my comments chose today as a furlough day.

The opening of the academic year is always a time for reflection on past years, re-acquaintance with colleagues and classmates, a time of setting goals for the new school year, of seeing where we have come from and where we are going. At the past few Presidential Addresses, senate chairs have had the luxury of speaking in expansive times. They celebrated the 150th anniversary of SJSU. They embraced globalization -- efforts to reach out to the world at large, to bring the world's people and ideas to our campus. In a very real way, this globalization, the interconnectedness of world communities, finances and jobs, has brought us to the place we find ourselves in today -- the economic meltdown and the related decline in the California economy. The legislature's inability and/or unwillingness to find new sources of revenue has led to unprecedented cuts in state support for the CSU and San José State. As a result, all of us: faculty, staff and students, have been asked (or forced, depending on your perspective) to cover the shortfall, through reduced pay, higher fees and fewer class sections.

If you've been here for any time at all, you know that operating on a tight budget is nothing new. For years we have served ever-greater numbers of students without promised growth in support from the state. Most of us are used to facilities with "deferred maintenance." Faculty members retire and are not replaced. As the president will discuss in a few moments, it is the rapidity and severity of the decline in state support that makes this year unique. At times like this, it is worthwhile to revisit the CSU's founding principles. The state's Master Plan for Higher Education set out the goals of access, affordability, equity and quality at all public institutions, with CSU responsible for the vast majority of "four-year" degrees in the state. Our core mission is the education of our students aligned with those goals. All of us, regardless of our position in the university, are in some way working towards meeting these goals. We are all helping students not just to get into SJSU, but to stay in school and progress towards completion of a major and graduation.

In the current crisis, people are likely to be grumpy and will feel like blaming visible or invisible forces. Many have strong opinions about what divisions the university could easily live without. And of course we're all sure that we're indispensable! In light of these goals which we all work for, I would like to make the following plea: avoid the circular firing squad. We can bounce off the walls complaining all we like, but it won't improve the situation. We can put our energies to better use.

As the president will point out, the hard work has only just begun. State support for SJSU will not rebound any time soon. By a year from now we will have had to adjust our student body and, yes, the number of employees, to match the decline in support. Furloughs won't fix the problem; they only give us time to figure out how to function on diminished support. 

The senate serves an invaluable role in such times, as the principal agency for the formulation of policy for the university. As such, we will be addressing all manner of issues in this time of crisis:

  • Ensuring the integrity of the curriculum.
  • Insisting on budget transparency.
  • Responding to mandates from the chancellor's office in ways that protect academic freedom and shared governance, and in ways that acknowledge that we're already stretched thin.
  • We will work closely with the president's office to incorporate the theme of sustainability into the life of the campus, and to ensure that academic needs are paramount as new information technology processes come into play.

And I pledge to you that the senate will closely examine those policies that are seen as burdensome, to eliminate committees and policy requirements that prevent us from focusing on our core mission.

Each of you have senators that represent you, in your college or other unit. It is the responsibility of each member of the Academic Senate "to assess the attitudes and viewpoints of the constituency that elected him or her."  I will be reminding all senators of this responsibility -- they represent you (faculty, staff and students) and are responsible for hearing your concerns and for communicating the senate's business back to you. Seek out your senators and have them carry your ideas on efficiencies and improvements to us. The provost has also agreed to hear your concerns face-to-face in a series of open sessions, and the senate will be working with him to arrange these. 

Despite all of the uncertainty, the beginning of the academic year gives us a chance to celebrate as new faculty, staff and students join us for the first time. Today we welcome 29 new tenure track faculty and nearly 6,000 students to SJSU. We welcome the energy and enthusiasm of our new colleagues and students. I'd like all of the new faculty, staff and students joining us today to stand and be acknowledged.

Thank you for joining us at SJSU.

We have a challenging year ahead -- budget cuts and furloughs will put a strain on all of us. The senate will enthusiastically embrace its role in the shared governance that is the pride of SJSU. You are all invited to participate, to bring your particular perspectives and expertise to bear on the challenges that face us and contribute to the choices regarding our own future. In a normal summer, a new senate chair might not interact much with the president. This is not a normal year, and President Whitmore and I have had numerous occasions to serve on committees together and meet one-on-one. We have worked collegially, collaboratively and productively through a very difficult time. Please give a warm welcome to President Jon Whitmore.

President Jon Whitmore: "Moving Forward"

Thank you for that very kind introduction.

Before beginning my remarks, in keeping with tradition, I would first like to introduce several new senior administrators in the university. 

  • Charles Bullock, dean, College of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • Elaine Chin, dean, College of Education
  • Bill Coker, interim police chief
  • Megan Baker, president, Associated Students
  • Dennis Jaehne, associate vice president for Undergraduate Studies
  • Anton Kashiri, associate vice president for Facilities, Development and Operations

We are pleased that you have joined the San José State family, and that you will be providing new leadership during the coming year. Welcome, also, to your returning faculty and staff.  It's great to have you assembled here today. I will introduce a few other individuals during my remarks.

Year in Review

One year ago, I stood here before you to introduce myself to San José State University as your new president. I said, "I applaud you, for where you've come from, and more importantly, for where you want to go." Today, my applause for you is stronger than ever. And my enthusiasm to be part of where you want to go has grown. One year ago, I talked about the noble mission of a public university like ours. Today, despite all the budget challenges we face, I'm here to tell you this mission is more important to California than ever.

But make no mistake, San José State University is operating today with a budget shortfall of $42 million in state support. $42 million. That's a lot of money. What this means is that San José State cannot operate in the same way that it has in the past. We cannot serve as many students, we cannot offer as many courses, and we cannot employ as many people as we did when I stood before you at this time last year. 

San José State University has severely restricted enrollments for this fall compared to last year. We will serve roughly 3,000 fewer students this year. Next year, because of further budget reductions, we will be required to reduce our enrollment even more, by another 2,500 students -- or 10.8% --  beginning Summer 2010. That's a nearly 20 percent reduction in students in two years. These reductions are required because the funding to the CSU and to San José State is simply insufficient to teach the number of students who are qualified and wish to attend our institution. In order to maintain the quality of instruction our students deserve, we must ensure that our enrollment levels align with available funding.

Let's look at a graph that highlights the current CSU situation.

SLIDE 1: CALIFORNIA/CSU PERCENTAGE SHARES

As this chart shows, San José State University is living in a different time and circumstance than just one short year ago. A lot of decisions were made over the summer in a short time frame about how to operate San José State under these circumstances. Every major decision that was made was made with consultation of key constituents. Deans and unit heads were asked for advice by the provost. Input was received from our academic senate chair and the senate's executive committee. Discussions were held with the Resource Review Board, which is made up of faculty, staff, administrators, and student leaders. And discussions were held with key union representatives about how furloughs might work on our campus. Almost all the decisions that were made were made with no good choices sitting on the table. In many cases, the options that were chosen were the lesser of two or maybe three evils. Nonetheless, we are entering this new year with a well-thought-out plan in place for meeting the demands of this campus under dire financial circumstances.

A few months ago, I sent you messages -- also posted online -- detailing our five Budget Reduction Guiding Principles. Let me outline these budget reduction principles that guide our decision making:

  • Focus on our core, which means offering a high-quality education that moves students toward graduation. We will maintain the quality of education over quantity.
  • Put people first, which means treating faculty, staff and students with dignity. And protecting as many permanent jobs from elimination as possible.
  • Use the strategic plan to set priorities and move selected projects forward. The selected projects are:
    • Retention and graduation of students.
    • Advancing our new strategic plan on diversity and inclusion.
    • Launching our new emphasis in sustainability.
    • Making San José State an advanced user of information technology.
  • Develop efficiencies:
    • Reduce expenditures for travel, campus events, outreach activities, and some community partnerships.
    • Plan for a 40-hour, four-day work week during the summer of 2010.
  • Be transparent and fair. Consult widely. Communicate frequently and openly. For example, we plan to host a town hall meeting on the budget and furloughs soon after the new semester is underway. We haven't done furloughs before, so we need to learn as we go through the process.

These principles, which were developed through broad consultations, have been instrumental in guiding the decisions made over the past summer, and they will continue to serve as guidelines as we move forward. So, let me now thank all of you for pitching in to help us start this difficult new year in the best possible circumstances. Thanks especially to all our unions, their members and their leaders who voted for furloughs. I don't like furloughs. No one likes furloughs, but without them we would have been forced to have large-scale layoffs.

 Let me show you a slide that demonstrates the magnitude of the effect that the furloughs played in enabling us to develop our budget and save jobs this year.

SLIDE 2: FURLOUGH AND STUDENT FEE INCREASE PIE CHART

In this chart, you can see that nearly half of the $42 million budget reduction is being met through savings that are generated by the furloughs. This tremendous sacrifice has saved dozens, perhaps hundreds, of jobs.

So, let me elaborate on something I consider a near-miracle. As we enter the academic year down $42 million, we have not laid off a single permanent employee. If you stop to think about it, this is incredible. We have held to the principle of putting people first, and collectively we have found a way to keep people employed. Yes, almost all of us will make less money for one year. Yes, lots of empty positions will not be filled. Yes, many temporary employees are not being hired back, and we regret these losses deeply. These temporary employees have provided noble service to the university for many years. But by making budget reductions across all areas of the university, including eliminating many vacant positions and reducing operating budgets, so far, no permanent full-time employee has lost his or her job due to the budget crisis. 

But a shadow lurks on the horizon. If our furloughs are for only one year -- and I want them to be -- San José State must continue to shrink its permanent personnel budget in order to reduce expenditures to match reduced state support. The furloughs buy us time to do that more thoughtfully.

I also offer my thanks to all our students, who are unfortunately shouldering an annual fee increase of over $900 in order to help San José State weather this budget storm. This rapid increase in student fees has resulted in a fundamental change in the balance of how education is funded across the CSU. For the first time in history, funding received from student fees -- and other such  revenue sources -- exceeds funding received from the State of California. This is unprecedented.

Here is a slide that shows the dramatic shift that has occurred over the past few years.

SLIDE 3: FEE REVENUE AND GENERAL FUND SUPPORT

This increase in fees is a shameful shifting of responsibility for paying for public higher education from the state's historic responsibility to San José State's parents and students. This is not right. This is not what any of us wants. This act clearly breaks the promise of California's higher education master plan. This promise created a system of higher education for the public good that now more and more is shifting to a personal/private responsibility. The master plan is so far out of whack that it is broken. This saddens me beyond belief, and I suspect it saddens all of you as well.

Our historic pride in access to all qualified citizens is now threatened. Our historic pride in serving a diverse population is now threatened. And our historic pride in continuous growth to serve the needs of a growing California is now threatened. So how will San José State deal with these threats going forward? That's the question. How do we make the best of these challenging circumstances?

I'm going to be very straightforward with you. We can sit here and bemoan the fact that we're in this situation. Or we can figure out how to make the best of it, and how to use our collective ingenuity -- and we have a lot of that -- to not only survive the next few years, but seize this opportunity to reshape and resize our operations to fit our new budget reality.

True, we need to fight for more money from Sacramento, and we will. A low-cost public university took me in and opened up the world. I don't want this current generation of young people to be denied that same opportunity. I will fight hard for every qualified student's right to have the same options I had, because it is in the public's interest to have a well-educated citizenry.

But at the same time, in the short term, we need to deal with the situation at hand. It's not pleasant, and it's not what we would have chosen for ourselves. In the end, our work is about our students, about all the young people we see every day, all the young people who are about to fill our classrooms and our campus with their energy, their endless enthusiasm, and their dreams for a better future. I don't want us to forget about our students for a single minute as we think about our work for the coming year.

So here's what we need from each of us: to do our very best. Whether you're an instructor, an office worker, a groundskeeper, a police officer, a resident assistant, a coach, a cook or a librarian, we need you to do your very best at whatever you've been hired to do. Maybe even the best you've ever done. But let me be clear today. Despite our hardships, we must continue to build a strong university. We must not be sidetracked or slide backward. We must lean into the wind and move forward as a collective and unified whole.

New Initiatives

So, guided by the principles I spoke about earlier, we will work to advance the following initiatives this year and beyond.

Student Retention and Graduation

The budget cuts resulted in a reduction in the number of sections available to our students. That being said, we will need to focus more efforts on helping students in their progress toward graduation. This past week a message was sent to all students to instruct them on ways to get the classes they need to graduate. Students were informed that our first priority is to do whatever we can to make sure that those students who plan to graduate in December get the classes they need to be able to graduate. Our second priority will be to assist students who have applied to graduate in May of 2010. 

Sustainability

Last year, a senate committee on sustainability, under the leadership of Dean Michael Parrish, authored a first-rate report on how San José State University should move ahead to become one of the greenest and most sustainability-conscious universities in California and the United States. This past Monday, I signed the Taillores Declaration. The Talloires Declaration is a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities. By signing the declaration, San José State joins an international network of leading colleges and universities committed to a sustainable future.

This year, we will be asking everyone at San José State -- every student, faculty member, administrator and staff member, to join us in reducing our impact on the environment. To do this, we are launching an innovative competition, the Ecological Footprint Challenge, to measure the amount of productive land required to support our individual and collective lifestyles. Together, we will aim to reduce our impacts by 10% come May. To our knowledge, this is the first time a major university has asked each of its citizens to participate in taking a survey to test each individual's carbon footprint, and then more importantly, to commit to treading lighter in the future. We also know that if this initiative is successful, the university will save money, maybe lots of it, at a time when saving money means saving jobs. You will learn more about this in the coming weeks, so look for information coming out soon about SJSU's Ecological Footprint Challenge.  And today I am asking each of you, every one of you, to participate in the Ecological Footprint Challenge. Together, we can make a big difference and build a stronger sense of community, and build a better future.

I have appointed Associate Professor Katherine Cushing to a faculty-in-residence position to head this initiative.

Information Technology

A comprehensive report on the state of information technology at San José State stated that 80 percent of you who were surveyed indicated that information technology should be a key defining attribute of San José State University. The report analyzed the challenges and obstacles this campus faces in fully realizing that vision. First, this report called for hiring a chief information officer to provide leadership and strategic direction. So we've hired a wonderful new vice president for information technology and CIO Bill Maguire. Bill will be working with an advisory group to develop a campus-wide vision for information technology. Already Bill and his colleagues have found ways to save hundreds of thousands of dollars while improving services. I want the statement that "SJSU powers Silicon Valley" to also mean that we are at the leading edge of technology innovation in America.

Diversity

U.S. News & World Report -- just released this morning -- now ranks San José State University sixth in the West in terms of ethnic diversity among colleges and universities conferring bachelor's and master's degrees. We will continue to make diversity and inclusiveness central to our institutional and educational mission and practices. 

This past year, under the leadership of Rona Halualani and the Inclusive Excellence/Diversity Plan Steering Committee, we developed a Diversity Master Plan that will direct our ongoing strategy and actions. A web-based version of the plan is now available. The Steering Committee will continue its work, and with the combined guidance of Wiggsy Sivertsen and Art Dunklin, will carry out the actions called for in our plan. These actions will require involvement from departments and administrative units across this campus. In order for us to be an inclusive campus, everyone campus-wide must re-commit to the principles of diversity, fairness and social justice.

How We'll Get It All Done

While state funding for our university has diminished over the years, our commitment to providing an outstanding education to qualified students has not. We want San José State University to remain a first-rate option for those who have the desire to learn and the ambition to succeed. And we're not stopping there. Our vision is to become one of the nation's finest public student-centered universities, while remaining an vibrant partner in the economic, cultural and social development within our city and our region.

To achieve this we will become more entrepreneurial. We will seek more federal funding for research. We will explore more special sessions -- courses taught without the support of the state's general fund. We will forge more private and corporate partnerships. We will cut costs by reducing energy consumption and using technology to make us more efficient.

And we are embarking on San José State's first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. Philanthropy will help us achieve our goals and bring our vision to vibrant life. The Campaign for San José State University challenges our greater community to help us ensure the exceptional preparation of our graduates -- allowing them to become outstanding twenty-first-century leaders and global citizens.

In partnership with the Tower Foundation, our campaign will involve every aspect of San José State University. The campaign has three overarching objectives:

  1. Invest in and support top-tier faculty.
  2. Invest in and support the success of our students.
  3. Build on our role as a crucial resource in San José, Silicon Valley and the world.

San José State's story is one of extraordinary momentum, a momentum that brought us from our beginning as a teachers college to a modern global university. That's the foundation on which we will launch this campaign in 2010. Our alumni and friends have seen the value of our goals and have already invested more than $100 million in our progress.

And, we will have new academic leadership this year. We are searching for a provost, with Professor Judith Lessow-Hurley chairing this critical effort. Meanwhile, Gerry Selter is serving as interim provost. My thanks go out to Gerry Selter. Not only did Gerry see to it that I got well-established here when he served as the chief administrator in the president's office last year, but he's agreed to guide the academic division while the search is underway.

I'd like to also introduce Bill Nance, my new chief of staff. He is now providing leadership in managing the intricacies of our office's operations. Thank you for your willingness to take on this role; your years of experience in the provost's office will be of great benefit to all of us.

One year ago, I told you my top priority would be to get to know this university, to get a first-hand look at you and your work. And last year was a powerful, compelling education for me. I had done my homework before I came here. I knew San José State University was a vital hub powering Silicon Valley, the Bay Area and the world. I knew that this university was a small city, with 30,000 students in 134 academic programs. I knew San José State was sending nearly 8,000 graduates (and now is) into the workforce, annually.

But this past year, I experienced all that first hand, and it has been impressive! Everyone I met -- corporate titans, public officials, school superintendents -- said how grateful they were for the enormous number of talented San José State grads running their organizations.

I discovered a lot right here on campus. I learned about world-renowned research. And I met amazingly committed and innovative faculty and staff members. I met coaches and student-athletes who have put the focus back on studies and graduation rates, while developing a winning, competitive spirit. And, I participated in community service work alongside students, staff and faculty members who are making a difference in San José and beyond.

Unfortunately, my honeymoon period was short. Too short. The international economic meltdown and its stark impact on California has changed higher education in this state forever. But let me be clear about this: I have total confidence that San José State University will emerge from these troubled times stronger than ever. We and our sister CSU campuses, in fact, will help restore the state's economy.

We must not allow this economic downturn to splinter us, to discourage us, or to drive us to do anything less than our very best. I am not asking you to do more with less. But, I am asking you to do your very best with less. We are Spartans. We will be Spartan. We will overcome our hardships and persevere. We are a student-centered university and we will continue to put our students first. We will continue to offer a high-quality education and we will remain proud to be a part of San José State University and the California State University.

When you leave today, I would like each of you to think about some things -- every day.

Think: people first.
Think: excellence and demanding the best of yourself.
Think: improving your use of digital technology.
Think: diversity and equity and a commitment to social justice.
Think: sustainability -- making a personal commitment.
Think: engaging the resources of Silicon Valley and San José.
Think: discovery and exploration -- the bedrock of an intellectual life.
And most important, think: helping our students to graduate.

We have an excited freshman and transfer class about to begin their college education. Let's go out there and help them realize their dreams for a better future.

Thank you.