April 6, 1999
Perspective on CSU/CFA Negotiations
As you are aware, following the rejection of the tentative agreement between the California State University and the California Faculty Association (CFA) by the general CFA membership, the CSU Board of Trustees implemented a wage and working conditions package. The Assembly of the California Faculty Association subsequently adopted a resolution declaring a state of strike.
It is commendable that the strike authorization initially excludes activities that would directly affect teaching and other direct services to students. This commitment has been affirmed for our campus by Professor Edda Spielmann, President of the local CFA chapter. In addition, CSUN Faculty President Al Kinderman has announced that the regular Faculty Senate meeting, scheduled for April 15, will not be held; a general faculty meeting to discuss "The Relationship of the Faculty with the CSU Administration" will take its place.
This is a new circumstance for everyone on the campus. The CSUN administration, CFA and Faculty Senate leaders are maintaining open communications, and the administration will confer with the faculty leadership as the situation evolves. Our faculty are central to our mission - "to help students achieve their educational goals" - and we will do everything we can to support them in their continuing commitment to excellence and opportunity for our students.
Review of FEMA Projects
In January 1999, as part of our ongoing reviews of financial controls and processes, K. Scott Hughes Associates conducted a review of our management of FEMA projects. The purpose of the review was to assess the university's risk position as we enter the final phases of earthquake recovery. The report has been submitted to Executive Vice Chancellor Richard West and the CSU Board of Trustees, and I have distributed a copy of the major findings to the members of the University Budget Advisory Board.
I am pleased to report that following extensive interviews on campus and analysis of our policies, procedures, processes, contracts, invoices and accounting statements, the report's conclusion is as follows:
The major finding resulting from our review is that CSUN has effectively managed the reconstruction program, and consequently, the university faces reasonable risk for potential disallowances as it enters the final stages of FEMA-related construction. About 95 percent of what we found appeared to be in good order.
K. Scott Hughes Associates noted the strength of our team of professionals handling the recovery efforts and the effectiveness of record keeping, control and reporting mechanisms they developed. I am very grateful to Dr. Art Elbert, Mr. Tom Tindall, Mr. Randy Duncan, Ms. Grace Yuvienco, and Mr. Steve Hoover for their superb work. Quoting from the report, "In fact, we were told that CSUN currently is viewed as the best among Northridge earthquake FEMA recipients in terms of accurate estimates and rate of project completion."
Since the beginning of the earthquake recovery program, the campus has been committed to minimizing potential audit disallowances. A total of $322,310,555 in FEMA support has been authorized to repair 107 structures. A certain level of risk, i.e., reasonable risk, is unavoidable with public projects of this magnitude. You may recall that, early in the recovery process, we projected a maximum disallowance of 10 percent, based on the experience of other disasters of similar magnitude and complexity. The K. Scott Hughes risk matrix estimates between 3 percent and 4.5 percent in disallowances, less than half of what other institutions have experienced in the past. Nevertheless, on the strength of our accounting systems, processes, procedures and the quality of our FEMA team, the university does not anticipate any disallowances.
We take great pride in this report and in the resilience, creativity and patience of the entire university community that made it possible. Cal State Northridge, thanks to all of you, is a national model for disaster management and recovery.
United California State Employees Campaign
Recently, Cal State Northridge was recognized for its achievements in supporting the United California State Employees Campaign. Of 11 Los Angeles institutions with more than 1,000 employees, we reported the largest increase in total contributions.
Congratulations and warm thanks to all CSUN employees who contributed to the campaign. Special thanks go to Provost Louanne Kennedy, Dr. Spero Bowman, Ms. Sabrina Rife, the department coordinators, and Ms. Patricia Crespo, our United Way loaned executive, who made this achievement possible.
We are proud to be part of a caring and generous university community.
ITR Customer Satisfaction Surveys
In fall 1998, Information Technology Resources (ITR) commissioned two customer satisfaction surveys. The intent of both surveys was to provide ITR with a better understanding of the campus perceptions and expectations of technology services, and to engage the campus community in a constructive process for input into the improvement of those services. One survey was conducted via telephone by the Northridge Pulse, a unit in the Division of Student Affairs, and was a sampling of undergraduate students. The other survey was administered on-line via the World Wide Web and represented a sampling of students, faculty and staff.
The surveys indicated that ITR has made significant strides in many areas. The campus community is pleased with e-mail, telephones and labs. At the same time, the survey identified a number of opportunities that need improvement. For instance, it was noted that the help desk does not have the level of expertise needed to be truly effective for all calls. And from a total campus perspective, access to the modem pool was found to be limited. ITR has made it clear that it is committed to working regularly with the campus community to set a course of action designed to refine the services it provides. This survey will enable the unit to meet this goal. ITR plans to publish the results of the surveys and a preliminary action plan (for which ITR plans to seek campus input) later this month.
- Based on 1997 data provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Center for Education Statistics, Cal State Northridge was again ranked as one of the top 100 universities nationwide in graduating Hispanics at the bachelor's and master's levels by the Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. The results will be published in the April 23 issue of the magazine.
Given our position in one of the most diverse areas of the country, the university community should be proud of this continuing distinction.
- With another April 15 tax-filing deadline approaching, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is in full gear once again to assist people in the community with preparing and submitting their income tax forms.
Under the guidance of Professor Cathy Jeppson of the Department of Accounting and MIS, and offered through the College of Business Administration and Economics, the program consists of more than 300 student volunteers who undergo intensive training to understand federal and state income tax preparation and the filing process. The students work at 15 sites around the community; community members who make less than $40,000 a year are qualified to receive assistance from VITA. This is the 28th year of the program. The student volunteers have annually prepared more than 10,000 state and federal tax returns.
My thanks to Professor Jeppson for her continued leadership of the program and the student volunteers. It is an ideal program that brings together the university's goals of educating students and giving them field experience, while giving them an opportunity to serve the community.
- Dr. Stella Theodoulou, professor and chair in the Department of Political Science, recently released a report about the misconception among the media, policy-makers and the general public that the incidence of AIDS is declining.
While there has been a general decline in the number of reported new AIDS cases in the country, Dr. Theodoulou found that certain groups are actually experiencing dramatic increases in cases - particularly among African-Americans, Hispanics and women. Dr. Theodoulou's findings are important because if such misconceptions are allowed to continue, they may lessen funding for research and education efforts, and cause some people to stop using the appropriate behaviors necessary to protect themselves from becoming infected with the disease.
Congratulations to Dr. Theodoulou for her continuing efforts to educate the community about the continuing epidemic, particularly within minority and disadvantaged communities.
- The Stuart Foundation has just awarded a three year grant to develop and test an innovative college mathematics course called "High School Mathematics from an Advanced Standpoint"; the original proposal was co-written by our own Dr. Elena Marchisotto, Department of Mathematics. The program is being administered by the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley.
The goal of the program is to provide a model for more effective mathematics instruction for prospective and practicing high school teachers of mathematics. Given the university's commitment to teacher education and our partnerships with helping K-12 schools to enhance the education of its students, we should be proud of Dr. Marchisotto's participation and contributions to this project.
- KCSN News has received two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television News Directors Association: they include Best Newscast for the 30-minute in-depth program, "The Evening Update," which is broadcast from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m., and Best News Series for a seven-part series on the foster care system in Los Angeles County by KCSN reporter Francesca Biller-Safran.
As these and KCSN's past awards demonstrate, the station produces high-quality journalism and reporting; I encourage you to tune in. Please join me in congratulating KCSN news director Keith S. Goldstein and Ms. Biller-Safran for these awards.
Blenda J. Wilson