SF State News {University Communications}

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President's remarks, 2011 Opening Faculty Meeting

Note: Following are President Robert A. Corrigan's remarks at the Aug. 22, 2011 Opening Faculty Meeting, as written.


Thank you Senate Chair Vaughn. Nice to have you back Pam. CFA President Dariotis, Vice President Hayes, University Provost Rosser, friends and colleagues -- Good morning, and welcome to the start of a new academic year. Greetings to the 20 new members of our faculty who join us today -- we are delighted to be able to welcome you to the campus!


Part I: a look back at SF State over two decades

Typically in this annual address, I try to review the past as well as look to the future. In light of the challenges that we know await us, I think it is especially important -- and encouraging -- to review our recent history. As I begin my 24th year as SF State's president, I can look back on a record of institutional achievement over several decades that should give us confidence that even in these extraordinarily difficult times we can continue to build a better university than the one we inherited.


Over the past twenty years, this University has gone through a remarkable transformation despite the continuing challenge of unprecedented reductions in state funding. Consider the situation in the early 1980's. The scars of the 1968-69 strike were still visible. Key administrators had difficulty working with each other and with the faculty governance structure. Good work was being done by individual faculty, but there was little sense of shared goals and meager support for scholarship and research. Quietly, with little attention being paid, or public outcry, campuses were being deliberately underfunded in the infamous Orange Book with SF State always at the bottom of the pile for reasons you might suspect.


While in earlier years we had been a presence in San Francisco, the University was no longer a "player". Our stationery claimed we were "The City's University," but none of the community movers and shakers with whom I met in my first year as President shared that view.

Even though generations of our alumni occupied important positions in business and industry, in entertainment, in government and in the schools, we did not cultivate them as friends and potential donors, nor did they feel an obligation to support their alma mater.


I believe we can all take pride in the progress made since those difficult years.


Over time, we have built a strong administrative team of Chairs, Deans and Vice Presidents that works together in a collaborative and collegial fashion. No more petty turf battles and personal empire building.


In marked contrast to the 70's and 80's, shared governance has become one of our trade mark strengths. This was an effort that took years -- decades, even. Today, the relationship between the administration and the faculty -- both the Academic Senate -- and, if I may be so bold to state it, the CFA -- is, I would say, probably the best in our history and certainly in the CSU.


As campus relationships improved, we were able to embark on ambitious strategic planning efforts. With CUSP I, between 1995 and 1998 literally hundreds of faculty, staff, administrators and students joined in development of a shared vision for the next five years. Far from gathering dust on a shelf, the CUSP report won broad support and led to real action.


Just four years later, massive changes inside and outside the university prompted us to create CUSP II. This was a briefer process, but again, it was grass-roots centered, and it culminated in fall 2005 in a document that identified seven goals and laid out an action plan which we continue to follow with great care.


CUSP II made clear that we know who we are and what SF State stands for: Our keystone value, our commitment to social justice and equity, was articulated by CUSP II as an overarching goal.


Without the positive experience of CUSP I and CUSP II, I doubt we could have created – or succeeded with -- as challenging a shared planning effort as UPAC.


These planning enterprises had a profound effect on campus culture and governance. The grass-roots process encouraged new voices to be heard and provided opportunities for a new generation of faculty to emerge as campus leaders.


Perhaps the greatest change SF State has seen since the 1980's has been in the faculty. As an entire generation that joined this campus in the 1960's gradually retired -- some 600 or more -- requiring us to recruit hundreds of new faculty -- men and women who would share our deep commitment to teaching as well as to high level scholarship.


Diversifying the faculty has been a deliberate effort from my first year here -- a goal which has been supported and advanced by department hiring committees, chairs, deans, and provosts. Working together, we have achieved remarkable results: Since 1989, we have hired 1002 new tenured/tenure-track faculty, of whom 529 have been female and 423 minority. The great majority of those hires remain with us, and they have literally changed the face of the faculty. Today, 48 % of tenured/tenure-track faculty are women and 37 % minority -- an exceptional group whose qualifications and accomplishments rival those at the nation's leading universities.


We have worked hard to ensure that SF State's faculty salaries are at -- or near -- the top in the CSU. We have broadened the faculty role, integrating scholarly and creative work and community service into our longstanding commitment to teaching excellence. By identifying faculty workload as a budget priority, we have succeeded in making a three-course load the SF State norm. And we recognize and reward community service to an extent that has made us a recognized national leader in this arena.


In a more supportive environment, faculty grants and contracts have multiplied. In 1988-89, income totaled less than $9 million. Last year -- despite the heavier demands and limitations of a bad budget and fewer new hires --faculty brought in $56 million -- an increase of $2.3 million over 2009-10. Within the CSU, we rank second, exceeded only by San Diego State.


A very exciting change in the composition of our student population has also occurred. Historically we drew students primarily from our immediate service area -- with three-quarters of them being community college transfers. We were a commuter campus -- the "Street Car College.". The CUSP process helped us to become a "destination campus" -- the university of choice for students from across the state, from outside California and from other nations. Since the early 90's, our first-time freshman cohort has more than tripled. We expect to welcome 3,500 new freshmen this fall, at least half of whom will come from outside the Bay Area. This growing "traditional" college age student population is transforming both campus culture and the student experience. The student life effort under the strong leadership of Vice President Saffold has expanded markedly and now links student extracurricular life with the academic program and academic support.


While it is one thing to bring in new students, it is quite another to ensure that they succeed academically. We have launched a major effort to improve graduation rates and academic success for all students. We are working especially hard to close the graduation achievement gap for students from underrepresented groups. You will be hearing more about the Student Success initiative led by Provost Rosser in coming months and I encourage you to take advantage of new opportunities to get involved in this important work.


As the university community has changed so has the physical campus itself. Property acquisitions have almost doubled our acreage and have enabled us to expand student housing . Our enlarged footprint has also provided the space we need for a facility that will become a campus landmark and community cultural resource -- the Mashouf Performing Arts Center.

I need to underscore a point that bears repeating in this period of harsh budget cuts. These property acquisitions -- as well as the student housing we have constructed in recent years -- have not been made with general fund dollars. They do not take away from instructional or maintenance budgets.


In 2007, we returned to our historic roots in the heart of San Francisco, opening the Downtown Campus in the new Westfield Center at Fifth and Market. Thanks to the federal government, we have increased by 25% the land we own in Tiburon and greatly improved the research facilities.


Our first new physical master plan in decades was developed in 2007 through another campus wide planning process. The result was a blueprint for a "green," more connected and more welcoming campus which can take us to 25,000 FTES and the year 2020.


We have seen an impressive amount of new construction and major renovation since 1988. New buildings include Humanities, Fine Arts, Student Services, the Village at Centennial Square, the A.S. Early Childhood Education Center, Children's Campus, the Greenhouse and the Corp Yard, as well as major additions to Burk Hall, Ethnic Studies & Psychology, the Student Center and the Library. Complete remodeling and seismic upgrades of Hensill Hall and the Administration Building as well as a complete rebuilding of the Towers residence hall have taken place along with new baseball and softball fields, new tennis courts and a rehab of Cox Stadium.


Significant physical projects that will enrich our academic, cultural and student life resources have continued to make progress in the last year. The J. Paul Leonard Library renovation and extension, the largest construction project in CSU history, is 85% finished. The doors will open on schedule in March.


A longer-term project that will greatly enhance student life -- the Recreation and Wellness Center -- is moving ahead. The Center will be funded entirely from student-approved fees, which are already being collected


We are currently exploring a public-private partnership that would provide exciting opportunities for Holloway Avenue. Between 19th and Font, Holloway would become a kind of campus and community "Main Street," anchored by a relocated bookstore with a social hub we have long missed -- The University Club. The new Holloway would also offer retail shops serving the campus and our neighbors, as well as faculty and staff housing. We bring to the table the advantages of our status as a non-profit public institution; our partner or partners would provide key financing.


For decades, budget decisions had been made behind closed doors and whoever controlled information controlled allocations. That ended in the mid-90s.. In collaboration with faculty leadership, we developed a clear set of budget priorities to inform the budget process. Budget information and UBC meetings were opened up to the campus. We communicated with faculty and staff as budgets were developed and decisions made. The process was made clear and open.


Private support is clearly vital to our ability to fulfill our mission. In 1988, both fund-raising and our alumni program were virtually non-existent. We created University Advancement as a vice presidential level position with responsibility for Alumni Relations, fund-raising, Communications and Governmental Relations.


Under the leadership of VP for University Advancement Robert Nava, who joined us last year, we raised over $16 million in 2010-11 -- 125% of the target set by the CSU, for the fifth year in a row. In recent years, we have seen the two largest private gifts in SF State's history -- $10 million and $5 million. Our endowment was $3 million in 1989; it is $50 million today.


We are building a model alumni program that connects both graduates and parents with the university. Last year, we held more than 100 development-oriented alumni events. Fifteen of them were held outside the U.S., which is testament to our growing global network of engaged alumni.


In Governmental Relations, the University has gone from the sidelines to the playing field, as our team has given us a presence and a voice in San Francisco, Sacramento and Washington D.C. Our communications group produces award-winning publications and gains attention for faculty work in major national outlets.


Part II: recap of 2010-11

Except for the period of the strike, I seriously doubt that in its entire 112-year history San Francisco State has experienced anything as challenging as the current budget crisis. The extraordinary manner in which this campus has responded has given me many reasons to take great pride in you, our faculty and staff. In a year where budget fears and constraints could have dominated our conversation and constricted our imaginations, this University engaged in some of the most creative and productive planning -- and took the boldest action -- in our recent history. We saw that change was coming with hurricane force and we decided that we would rather be in control than be controlled.


In this regard, the biggest achievement of the year was surely the successful completion of the work of UPAC -- the University Planning Advisory Council -- and the implementation of most of its recommendations.

The 12-member group, led by then-Senate Chair Shawn Whalen, worked hard for more than a year, soliciting proposals from the campus community to streamline university operations, save costs or generate revenues. In January of this year, UPAC submitted a report to the campus with 22 recommendations.

But they are not the only ones deserving of praise. Every one of you -- and there are literally hundreds -- who responded to UPAC's call for proposals or throughout last spring participated in the discussion and refinement of its most far-reaching recommendation, have enabled us to take a giant step toward a stronger future.

We moved ahead within weeks to enact the great majority of the recommendations, established task forces to evaluate others and are bringing in an outside consultant to conduct a comprehensive review of our IT operation.

We devoted the spring to working on UPAC's most ambitious recommendation: an academic reorganization plan that would reduce our eight colleges to six. Broad discussion and two faculty referenda resulted in overwhelming faculty approval of a plan that brought Creative Arts as a School into a new College of Arts and Humanities; joined four departments in a School of Public Policy/Public Affairs within Health & Human Services, and moved departments and programs from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences into appropriate placements within several other colleges.


As the experience of universities across the nation has demonstrated repeatedly, reorganization can -- and often does -- fracture an academic community. That did not happen here. At a time of genuine crisis, the greatest in California's history, SF State rose to the challenge and set an example for the rest of the CSU. I truly believe that our ability to enact major change -- and to do it in such a collegial spirit -- is a testament to the people of this university.


Although the reorganization took effect formally on July 1, further work is ongoing, taking place at the college level, as it should. Deans are working with their faculty to refine the structure of each college and to explore the educational and fiscal benefits of possible department and program partnerships or mergers. College and department names may change but their overall mission will not. I have asked the individual whose skillful leadership was central to UPAC's success, Shawn Whalen, to work with me and Provost Rosser for the coming year on this and other projects.


A team from WASC, our accrediting agency, was on campus this spring as part of our 10-year reaccreditation. Their very positive report showed how well they understood the campus and how strongly they admired it. I could point to literally pages of positive comments, but one stands out for me. The WASC group concluded that "SFSU's sense of mission and purpose clearly motivate and inspire those involved with the University. . . This kind of shared commitment is a real asset to any institution and unusually strong at SFSU. "


Now of course you'll notice that something has been missing from this picture of SF State. We cannot discuss the last year -- or the year to come -- without some frank talk about the budget. You have already heard from Vice President Hayes and know that we can handle our share of the $650 million cut to the CSU this year and maintain a balanced budget. However, we are now almost certain that another $100 million dollar hit is coming -- the trigger will be pulled. The latest fall in state tax revenues only strengthens that prospect.

If the $100 million cut is passed on to the campuses, as we expect it will be, our prorated share would be $6.7 million. Even if the reduction comes late in December, we have funds in reserve to carry us through the spring. But once those dollars are spent, our flexibility -- and our reserves -- are gone. This would cause us to take a completely fresh look at the 2012-13 budget. In order to maximize permanent funding for Academic Affairs, we are reducing the permanent O&E support for Student Affairs and Advancement by $1,5 million and replacing it with an annual commitment of rollover funds for three fiscal years. Should we be required to cut our budget by another $6.7 million, the college deans and Provost Rosser will have to work together with Vice President Hayes to agree on academic priorities and reallocate funds to address them. I expect that among strategies to be considered will be mergers of small departments, cutbacks in assigned time, and even -- a step we would take most reluctantly -- restrictions on new full time hires. We have worked hard and skillfully to protect the campus so far from major impacts. The next stage is bound to be more painful.


In reviewing remarks I made some years ago to you, I came across a passage which bears, repeating today. I had been discussing a car trip I made in 1965 on a lonely secondary highway in rural Mississippi, and the completely irrational rush of fear I experienced. I linked this to some remarks about the current political and economic situation and that my fear was back -- but no longer irrational and tinged with anger. I said that "I am afraid and angry -- afraid for myself, my children and grandchildren, for neighbors and friends -¬ for the University and country I love. A life-long promoter of change, I am now angry about change that reverses a half century of progress in so many crucial areas. I sometimes despair for the future as one by one these great achievements and reforms -- are roughly set aside in a cynical and callous attack by a parcel of greedy zealots who would sacrifice so much that is decent, thoughtful, and progressive in our society to their own selfish ends; scary men and women who make Gordon Gecko look saintly by comparison."

I said that "I have no better insights into the current national and global mess in which we find ourselves than you do, and if I did, I would suspect something had gone terribly wrong in our faculty hiring. But in my lifetime I have never seen this nation in quite the disrepair -- ethically, morally, socially, politically, economically, globally -- than it is now. Nor in my experience, have we ever seen such callous cynicism on the part of morally destitute business and political leaders who often cloak themselves in the flag so many decent people have died to protect, as they move to take away yet another of our hard-won freedoms or financial safeguards.


It is true that in my lifetime till then, I had not seen worse, but now we must add to the social and political disarray that I was lamenting, the virtual destruction of the high quality public higher education system that had made California such a great state. My friends, we cannot let that happen. We must do everything within our collective power to keep it from happening. We owe it to our children and their children, to our neighbors and to the larger community -- our very future depends upon it.


Part III: a look to the future

It was fifty-four years ago this month, that I began my academic career by supervising the senior honors thesis of a brilliant University of Pennsylvania undergraduate (and future SFSU faculty member) who enrolled in a Yale Ph.D. program the next year while I flew off to Europe, under U.S. State Department auspices, as a Smith-Mundt Visiting Professor, thus beginning an uninterrupted 14 year stint as a full-time faculty member before moving into what I had expected to be a brief career in higher education administration. Fourteen years to a young faculty member can seem like a long time but 39 years as an academic administrator -- that's a lifetime. A rewarding lifetime that I will never regret or forget—with thirty-three of those years spent leading public urban universities—first in Boston and then in San Francisco.

After all these years, I am still amazed that someone with my background could end up as a college president -- the grandson of uneducated immigrants, two of whom spoke hardly any English, and could read or write none; the son of a father who dropped out of school after the 6th grade and a mother who left in the 10th grade. As I told you on another occasion, among the things I remember most clearly is the aid and encouragement I received from family, friends, relatives, neighbors, teachers, and even college alumni, who seemed to grasp instinctively that this descendant of peasants -- who as an eight-year-old picked strawberries for five cents a basket, tilled a truck garden for 35 cents an hour at age 12, and toiled as a molder's helper in an old-fashioned brass and aluminum foundry for 90 cents an hour at age 14 -- a youngster who had never visited a museum, attended a concert, eaten in restaurants, or owned a suit before going to college -- that this young man might have the talent to succeed if given the proper support. That has left me with warm memories and with a great debt, a debt that I have labored to repay over a life time of service to young people who face the same obstacles that I did.


Born in the middle of the great depression, my first year of graduate study was 1957, two years after my first foray into the civil rights movement, a year after working on Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaign, a mere six years before I joined the fledgling anti-war effort to get the military advisors out of Southeast Asia, just a few years before starting one of the nation's first Black Studies programs and co-founding an early Women's Studies program while chairing a faculty Senate at a major research university and presiding over a statewide AAUP chapter. As I think back on it, it seems obvious why many of us, who as faculty or students were active in civil rights and the anti-war movement, made the natural progression from political action to university curricular reform. Rejecting the view that higher education should serve a predominantly elite population, we proceeded to overhaul what we perceived as an outmoded university curriculum as we struggled to open up the university to new ideas, new teaching strategies, and most of all to new populations. I am proud of the very very small role I was able to play -- and grateful to have had the opportunity.

The median birth year of the new faculty who join us today is 1975 and I am acutely aware that my memories and my experiences are not theirs. No matter how good the work of the historian or the documentary filmmaker, no one who was not there can fully understand what it was like to live in an America led by such charismatic leaders as John and Robert Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King nor begin to appreciate what a shattering personal loss their deaths were to my generation. But it was Martin's death that changed my life forever, when a few months after the assassination I was invited to share a lunch of canned pea soup and peanut butter sandwiches with the president of my University while he talked me into starting a Black Studies program in a state where fewer than 2% of the population were minority and hardly any of them Black. "Why me?" I asked. "Because we lack Black faculty members in the social sciences and humanities and you have three degrees in American Civilization." "And what makes you think that means I know anything other than the history of white, male, Anglo-Saxon Protestants from 19th century northern New England?" But I agreed to do it and what an experience -- starting a program, running summer institutes, boning up on unfamiliar materials to add to courses I already taught, doing research in a new area, and reaching out to a national community in need of major retooling -- and reeducating myself en route. As I said it changed my life and in many ways both personal and professional.

Frankly, it still surprises me that I spent so much of my academic life as an urban University president, when to tell the truth, my dream from my first day of graduate school was to be a faculty member in a small liberal arts college, in a small New England town, teaching bright students, immersed in my own research, living the life of the mind, as we used to say, without the least twinge of embarrassment. Several years ago, in remarking on my own research in manuscript archives, I confessed to you that I still miss the scholarly life, along with the thrill that comes when you discover that you have gone where no man or woman has gone before -- the discovery, the realization that even for a brief period of time you know something important that no one else knows, whether this happens in the laboratory, the rare books collection, on the Internet, in the solitude of one's study -- that great rush of having put it all together. To be immersed in the scholarship of your discipline eager to share new ideas, to push the boundaries of knowledge, challenge the conventional wisdom, operate on the cutting edge. Do not get me wrong -- I do not regret a single day I have spent in this job but more and more I miss the life I gave up to take on the challenge posed by the example set by Jack, and Bobby and Martin, and yes Teddy too. But frankly my friends, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to return to live what I have called the life of the mind while the mind is still agile and the body still sound to complete some projects I started years ago and want to finish while I am still physically able.

Therefore I have told Chancellor Reed, and through him, the CSU Board of Trustees that, which I now tell you -- this will be my last year as President of San Francisco State -- but not my last as your colleague. This was not an easy decision to make. I love this University and take great pride in all we have been able to accomplish together. In an academic career that spans 54 years, I can say that you have been the greatest group of colleagues with whom I have had the great good fortune to work. Thank you and good morning!



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