Spring Convocation 2019

University Convocation Spring 2019

February 5, 2019

Good afternoon and welcome to Spring Convocation. Today is the start of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year. This is a good day to hold Spring Convocation because of all that the first of the year evokes; it’s especially appropriate because we’re witnessing the start of a new era in the history of California—and of the CSU. Governor Newsom’s first proposed budget includes the largest allotment to the CSU in the history of California: $300 million dollars in ongoing funding and $247 million dollars in one-time funding for deferred maintenance. The budget signals that the governor understands the value of the CSU to our state. We’re off to a strong start. 

You, our faculty and staff, have helped usher in this new era—by doing the work of educating, supporting, and transforming the lives of our students; by serving as our best advocates in Sacramento and in Washington. For years now, we’ve been telling the story of what happens on our campus every day: the innovations that are born; the futures that are created; the solutions that are discovered. We have told the story of our relationship with our communities; the programs and the initiatives we’ve created that allow greater numbers of people outside of the university to benefit from the resources of Cal State LA. From STEM programs for high school students, to our bioscience initiatives for entrepreneurs, to an innovative film course in which our students are paired with non-profits and create documentaries about their work, we are fulfilling our central tenet of engagement and service for the public good. Ours is a story of success for our students and our communities. We’ve been good stewards of the resources we’ve received and we’ve earned the confidence the governor has shown us through this historic allocation.

There’s much to celebrate in the governor’s proposed budget, but there is a critical area that requires our attention and our advocacy. The governor’s budget includes a 2 percent increase in enrollment growth funding. The CSU is requesting a 5 percent increase or $206.1 million dollars. Chancellor White and the board of trustees recognize that the demand for a CSU education is increasing dramatically. As more students graduate from high school having completed CSU minimum requirements, more are seeking admission. And more funding is needed to accommodate them. We must continue to make the case to our state legislators and the governor that we need funding for the additional students that we are now educating.

 In this area, Cal State LA stands out among other campuses of the CSU. Even if the state legislature approves and the governor signs a budget that includes a 5 percent increase in enrollment growth funding, it will not be enough to meet the need at our university. In recent years Cal State LA has seen an unprecedented surge in enrollment, because of increased demand, but also because of our success. Our national recognition and prestige have increased; we are, still, number one in the nation for the upward mobility of our students—and the word is out. We serve nearly 23,000 full-time equivalent students, but our enrollment funding supports only 18,000 full-time equivalent students (Our total headcount is nearly 28,000 students). Here’s another way to look at it: enrollment has increased by about 25 percent since 2012, but our enrollment funding has only increased by about 2.4 percent. Our student population includes almost 5,000 unfunded students. We are underfunded by $30 million dollars. This is partly because the magnitude of applications was unexpected, partly because annual state funding increases were limited, and because we focused our advocacy on the improvement of faculty and staff salaries, on hiring needs that support our ambitious Graduation Initiative 2025, and on important and daunting facilities and infrastructure needs.

Throughout these years of growth, our faculty and staff have done whatever it takes to provide the superior educational experience that has made Cal State LA a first choice for thousands of first-time freshmen and transfer students. Thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, and commitment to our students. We’ve expanded class offerings, used classroom space more efficiently, and added advisers and counselors. We’ve increased parking capacity by adding shuttle service, an off-site parking lot and valet service; and we’re building a new parking structure. We’re also constructing a new dormitory, and we’ve expanded our food options with food trucks, food carts, and Everytable…and the list goes on and on. Still, the imbalance between our enrollment funding, and our actual student population, is now unsustainable. We’ve reached a critical point. We must acknowledge and confront an untenable model and create a new one. We must do things differently for the sake of our current students, our future students and our faculty and staff. My highest priority is tenure-track faculty. Over the last five years, we’ve hired 179 tenure-track faculty. Tenure density is the ratio of full-time faculty to part-time faculty. Based on a report issued by the CSU last year, our tenure density is among the lowest in the system. We must improve that number.

The changes that we’ve proposed for our admission procedures are designed to decrease our enrollment and reduce the number of our unfunded students. We will accomplish this by controlling our freshman class size by applying major-specific criteria, determined in close consultation with the faculty, to all majors at the freshman and transfer level. And we will continue to advocate for more funding to educate more students. These changes are not a retraction from our historical mission and role in our community. And we are absolutely not ending our EOP program. We remain committed to our community, to the ideals that have guided this university and made it an invaluable asset to our city and our region. 

Together, we will move forward toward the goal of creating a strong, sustainable model for our university, one that serves our students, our community, and our university well. Together, we will continue to push our students to success in the best tradition of this university. Cal State LA is strong because we stand together, working in the best interest of our students. This is what defines us. This is who we are.