Prepared Remarks for
President's Fourth Annual Convocation
President, California State University, Northridge
Thursday, August 21,
Oviatt Library Steps, CSUN
Mapping the Future for a University
on the Move
This week marks the beginning of another academic year at
Cal State Northridge. A more colloquial way of saying this is
that summer is over. For most of us, summer means the opportunity
to deviate from our regular routines and to travel to other places.
Those travels typically occur with the aid of maps. Maps suggest
places to go, help guide our journey to new places, identify
alternative routes for travel, and help us to recognize and appreciate
the opportunities along the way that we might experience.
Today I want to talk with you about mapping the future of
California State University, Northridge. I don't mean by this
a campus map of the physical geography and topography, but rather
a map that helps us to organize the available information on
the major forces influencing higher education and one that suggests
possible routes to follow. Today we begin a process of mapping
our future that will extend over the next half decade.
I begin this mapping of our future with a status report on
our strengths. I will then identify three national trends that
affect all institutions of higher education in the United States.
Next, I will describe the specific impact of these trends here
at Cal State Northridge. I will conclude with an overview of
the steps that we must take over the next several years in order
to come to agreement as a campus community about the elements
that will constitute the map of our future.
II. Let's begin by understanding where we start this journey
The most important thing to report about the status of this
University is that we can celebrate the pride in and recognition
of our mission, which is to serve the higher educational needs
of the people of this region. Within the University, as well
as in the external community, increasingly people recognize how
indispensable Cal State Northridge is to this region.
A review of @csun, our University newspaper, for the
last several years will find example after example of how you--our
faculty, staff, and students--through your teaching, scholarship,
and learning, give back to this region through our excellent
Our size alone establishes us as an economic force. All of
our academic programs help to provide the intellectual capital
for the region by providing an educated work force. The strong
emphasis of our academic programs that places our students in
the community to learn and then to serve, positions us as a major
force in meeting the human needs for those who live in this region.
In education, social services, health-related fields and in community-based
programs, California State University Northridge graduates, faculty,
and students alike make life better for the people of this region.
Our strong arts and cultural programs provide the anchor to the
Valley's creative and cultural spirit. As a university we have
also had a clear, unequivocal commitment to access, which allows
the people of this region the opportunity to get a college degree.
We must continue to build on that mission and to allow the knowledge
of this mission to be clear to those of us who work here, as
well as those in the external community.
In the last academic year alone, some examples of the achievements
of this institution provide evidence of the successes of our
mission. Our Library received the second year of a federal grant
for the continuing development of the very popular San Fernando
Valley Digital History Library, which makes thousands of images
of Valley history available to our academic community, schools
and the greater community.
Our Michael D. Eisner College of Education went through a
national and state accreditation process last fall with a near
perfect record. The Northridge Singers again brought fame and
acclaim to the campus by being named the best choir in a international
competition held in Wales, bringing back to Northridge the title
"Choir of the World." And in June, the Economic Alliance
of the San Fernando Valley selected Cal State Northridge as one
of three honorees for their "Star of the Valley" award
because of our academic excellence, describing CSUN as a nationally
recognized university celebrating 45 years of outstanding scholastic
achievement in the Valley.
Lest pride and satisfaction lead to complacency, we should
be reminded that the one constant in life is change.
What then are the national forces that bring change to this
University's ability to maintain our mission and our excellence?
III. There are three national trends and societal forces
that affect our future.
The first national force that shapes the choices we have here
can be described simply: increasing demand for baccalaureate
and graduate education and a sense of urgency linked to that
There are simply more people who want to go to college. By
whatever term is used to describe it--Tidal Wave II, the Echo
Boom--colleges and universities across the nation, and particularly
public universities and colleges, have seen enrollments increase
as the children of the baby boomers reach college age. Undergraduate
enrollments nationally have climbed 8 percent since 1999, to
more than 13 million undergraduate students (William C. Symonds,
"Colleges in Crisis," Business Week, April 28,
2003, p. 75). Similarly, graduate enrollments are also increasing
at a rapid rate. Enrollment in the California State University
system has grown 17 percent in the last five years.
This demographic pressure is increased by the democratic character
of the U.S. educational system. Stated simply, a cherished value
in the U.S. is that college should not be reserved just for wealthy
and well-connected individuals. Because of the critical role
that higher education now plays in economic advancement, that
democratic value has taken on a new intensity. It is now widely
understood that a college education is "portable wealth,"
as it provides the means for individuals to achieve economic
and professional success and for communities to be vibrant and
The second major national force that affects the higher education
landscape is a financial one. The increased demand for higher
education comes at a time when the money available for public
universities is seriously constrained.
Across the nation, states are in serious budget trouble. A
recent Business Week article describes the budget problems
facing state governments as the "worst budget crisis in
60 years" (Symonds, p. 74).
The demands for state revenues have also increased, reducing
the proportion of state support that goes to higher education.
As Patrick Callan, a policy analyst on higher education, suggests:
|Higher education's declining share of state
expenditures does not represent any deliberate policy decision
to substantially curtail state funding. Indeed, state support
for higher education has often increased in absolute dollars,
even as its share declined. The reasons for the decline in shares
can be found in the nature of the competition for state funds,
the growth of other state services, political priorities, and
the perceptions of key state officials (Patrick M. Callan, Coping
with Recession: Public Policy, Economic Downturns and Higher
Education, report from the National Center for Public Policy
and Higher Education, February 2002, p. 3).
While it is realistic to note that there will always be an
ebb and flow to state budget circumstances, observers of states'
financial situations generally concur that, in addition to the
(hopefully) short-term problems related to the current recession,
the medium-term economic prospect for public higher education
is very negative. Indeed, the states' budget difficulties across
the nation--not just in California--are often characterized as
"long term and structural" (Marcy and Guskin, p. 23.).
Mary Marcy and Alan Guskin, two higher education leaders in
the forefront of understanding how universities do and could
respond to previous and current budget reductions, describe the
typical responses as "muddling through" (Marcy and
Guskin, p. 25). I prefer to use the term "short term"
since the approach assumes a short-term problem of modest proportions,
which can therefore be resolved with short-term solutions that
include, almost invariably, increased class sizes and selective
cuts while maintaining the prevailing approaches to instruction,
student services, and administrative processes. We must also
be mindful of the long term need to emphasize private support
for our publicly assisted University.
These two national forces--an increasing demand for higher
education, along with a decreasing resource base--then join with
a third powerful force, which centers on how the University performs
its core mission of student learning.
This third national force is less easily explained and understood
because it is presented using a variety of labels, such as "educational
effectiveness," "assessment of student learning,"
"accountability," "learning-centered institution,"
and "shared responsibility for learning." The labels
used to describe this force often reflect the perspective of
those describing their expectations for change. Elected officials,
accreditation agencies, and the general public often rely on
the terms "accountability" and "responsibility."
Teaching faculty, scholars who study learning, and practitioners
within higher education are generally more comfortable with labels
such as "assessment," "assessment of student learning,"
or "creating a learning-centered environment."
Regardless of the label used, at the heart of this issue is
a concern for what our students learn. From every sector of society
there are demands for colleges and universities to focus on learning.
In the latest publication of the BusinessHigher Education
Forum (2003), business leaders say to higher education:
|To respond to the demographic, economic, and
social forces affecting education and the workplace, America's
higher education institutions need to adopt new approaches to
learningthat are more responsive to the individual learner and
more effective in achieving the desired educational outcomes.
To increase the effectiveness of learning, educators must provide
more engaging, relevant content targeted to individual styles
of learning and needs" (Molly Corbett Broad, Sean C. Rush,
et. al., Building a Nation of Learners: The Need for Changes
in Teaching and Learning to Meet Global Challenges, report
from the BusinessHigher Education Forum, 2003, p. 9).
Interest and pressure come as well from the general public
and others. A recent example of this kind of interest comes from
the Career College Association, which is asking Congress to oblige
colleges to publish annual "institutional report cards"
that would measure their success in retaining and graduating
students and in preparing students for life beyond campus gates.
(Stephen Burd, "Will Congress Require Colleges to Grade
Themselves?" Chronicle of Higher Education, April
4, 2003, p. A27).
As the Association's general counsel says:
| You can bury your head in the sand all
you want, but that's not going to make this go away. If schools
don't make a good-faith effort to really do something meaningful,
we could be looking at the government imposing solutions down
the road that none of us like.
The regional accreditation bodies, including our own accreditation
agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, have
adopted new standards that require campuses to demonstrate evidence
of clear and appropriate educational objectives.
From within the University itself, there is a steady drumbeat
to "assess student learning from multiple sources,"
to "utilize campus-wide common criteria," and to "assess
student learning independently of a classroom setting and an
individual faculty member."
Each of the national issues plays out in specific ways for
us at Cal State Northridge, setting up choices in the journey
toward our future. We are already facing and will continue to
grapple with these issues.
IV. How do these national forces and issues affect our
future here at Cal State Northridge?
First, enrollment pressures and patterns. We are now approaching
the formal 25,000 FTES enrollment ceiling set for the campus
several decades ago. In practical terms this enrollment limit
means that we can serve approximately 34,000 students.
An understanding of the demographic indicators for our region
suggests continued pressure for admission to our University.
Given that we are almost at the approved enrollment ceiling,
our choice is to grow to fulfill our mission of access or to
start managing our enrollment by denying admissions to some.
The budget bill passed by the State Legislature and signed
by the Governor for 2003-2004 reduced growth in the CSU for this
year from the original planning number and mandates no growth
for the 2004-2005 fiscal year. This no growth mandate will in
all likelihood be short term, but provides us at Northridge a
much needed breather to understand more fully our choices and
their consequences in terms of the campus' enrollment.
Anticipating a collision between enrollment pressures, a fiscal
downturn, and limitations to our physical resources, 18 months
ago I asked Assistant Vice President William Watkins to chair
an Enrollment Policy Group of faculty, administrators, and a
student to "create policy recommendations and action plans
to manage future undergraduate enrollments." They spent
last year developing possible scenarios, and in the spring they
presented their ideas to various campus groups. While the policy
group is considering a variety of possible changes to campus
policies, key to their discussions is the question: Does Cal
State Northridge follow in the steps of some sister CSU campuses
and begin to restrict access to the University? For example,
do we control the size of the freshman class by setting additional
admission criteria? If so, how do we determine who gets priority
in admission to the University?
There are some on this campus who believe that we should restrict
enrollment to only the better prepared high school students.
There are others who believe that controlling growth in this
way is incongruent with our deepest institutional values. Even
raising these options as explicit choices worthy of deliberation
and consideration causes strong emotional responses among some
in our campus community. It has been genuinely difficult to even
begin this conversation, but it is a conversation that must take
It is also important to understand that our enrollment pressures
are more complicated than simple aggregate numbers might reveal.
For each of the past four years our freshmen enrollments have
grown, reducing our ability to serve transfer students. In addition,
in the last several years, our enrollments in teacher credential
programs have increased by a factor of 30 percent. Some majors
within the University have experienced dramatic enrollment increases,
while others have struggled to have sufficient enrollment.
In order to map Cal State Northridge's longer term future,
we need to come to agreement on a number of key elements: While
it appears that we will not grow in 2004-05, do we want to grow
in the following years? If so, which parts of the University
should grow? How do we manage the growth? Do all programs grow?
What is the appropriate balance between undergraduate and graduate
enrollment, and between lower division and upper division enrollment?
If we choose not to grow, how do we set the limits and boundaries
for admission to the University?
I would not easily have Cal State Northridge simply turn its
back on our historic commitment to making higher education possible
for the people of this region. As one indicator of this commitment,
we must be sure that we have done everything within our control
to improve our students' rates of graduation from CSUN. As we
approach the numerous crossroads and decisions about our size
and composition as we trace the map of our future, it is critical
to remember that the stakes are high in our decisions for the
people of this region.
The second major outside force buffeting the University is
our budget from the state of California. The state budget situation,
simply put, is bad now and looks to remain bad in the coming
years, likely even through 2006.
This very serious predicament poses fundamental challenges
to the kind of university Cal State Northridge will be in the
I could use a lot of statistics and figures to talk about
how our latest budget reductions, and those of the 1990s, have
fundamentally eroded the fiscal base of this University. But
perhaps a better way to drive home the point is to use an analogy
in keeping with today's theme of "Mapping the Future."
Over the summer, some of you probably found time to get away
for vacation, maybe loading your family into a car and taking
a road trip. Well, think of this University community as the
family, and think of the state of California as our rental car
In better years past, when we had a smaller family, the rental
car we received for that year's trip might have been a fairly
spacious sports utility vehicle. We had room for everyone and
all the luggage too. Then in later years, when our family had
grown, suddenly we found ourselves handed a four-door sedan--not
bad, but not quite the same. Yes, we could get everyone inside,
but it was beginning to feel a bit tight and we really had to
pack carefully if we wanted everything to fit. But now this year
and for the future, it's looking like we will be getting a subcompact
car, and somehow we're supposed to fit the entire University
To put it bluntly, we're getting squeezed. The dollars we
are receiving, while they may grow year to year in raw terms,
have been increasingly falling short of what we need to maintain
the quality of our educational programs for a growing population
of students. Until now, this University, unlike some other campuses,
has managed to stave off the most serious budget impacts by incremental
changes, by being prudent in our decisions, and by accepting
increasing numbers of students and using that state growth funding
to cushion our share of budget cuts. But now, looking ahead,
the Cal State system not only faces future budget cuts, but also
is getting no enrollment growth funding at all next year. We
have, without question, done a very good job in managing prior
budget cuts, juggling priorities, and stretching ourselves to
meet the demands of our students and community. But this year's
particularly drastic cuts--and those looming on the horizon--will
begin to erode the quality of university that our students experience.
Just to start, I am talking about significantly higher student
fees, increasing class sizes, potential limits on admissions,
and pressures on faculty and staff services due to hiring restrictions.
The list goes on.
The numbers tell the same story. During the past seven years,
from 1997-98 to present, after factoring out increases for inflation
and employee compensation, this University's General Fund budget
per full-time equivalent student has actually declined by 12
percent. That means this year, on a per student basis, we will
have only 88 percent of the resources we had seven years ago
to pay for faculty, staff, equipment, services and other operating
So, faced with this predicament, what are we to do? No doubt,
we can continue to stretch and whittle and juggle priorities
within the same familiar ways of operating a university that
we all are accustomed to. Indeed, for the short term, that response
may be a necessary choice. But if that is our only response,
I am certain that we will continue to participate in a gradual
degradation in the educational quality and campus experiences
that our students encounter. We will be merely reactive to the
forces around us, powerless to influence our own mission and
destiny. Ultimately, that is a draining process that exhausts
both our human resources and the institution's sense of vibrancy.
That is not the course I would choose for California State
University, Northridge. Rather, we need to clearly recognize
the seriousness of the budget environment that faces us, and
take control by beginning to re-examine how we function as a
Now is the time for us to take a broader view of ourselves
and our institution, considering the possibility of fundamental
or transformational changes--in every aspect of what we do including
teaching, student services, and business processes. The kind
of transformations that I am talking about are already underway
in some parts of the University--for example, Student Affairs
and Information Technology Resources have begun working on developing
electronic student services, which will allow us to serve more
students more effectively with the same resources. As well within
Academic Affairs, we have seen innovative approaches to learning
developed, such as the cohort based PACE Program. Now is also
the time to place additional emphasis and value on the necessity
to raise private dollars in support of our mission.
We never will determine how much money we get from the state,
but we owe it to ourselves and our community to very thoughtfully,
carefully consider just what we do with it, and how we can provide
the highest levels of both educational quality and access.
The third force is the imperative to become a learning-centered
The potential of federal and state legislative mandates aside,
we are a university with a clear commitment to the achievement
of our students. That commitment makes it possible for us to
embrace the direction of the Western Association of Schools and
Colleges to become a learning-centered university. In 2007 we
will submit to WASC the first part of our next re-accreditation
-a self-study that will need to demonstrate that we are learning-centered.
What does it mean to become a learning-centered university and
how is it different from how this University currently functions?
Key to this conception is the recognition that learning takes
places from the curriculum and classroom but also through personal
development, co-curricular activities and community activities.
Key as well is the delineation of clear and specified outcomes
of learning that occur through all aspects of the collegiate
experience. For example, two fundamental questions as we move
on this journey are: 1) what are the hallmarks of a CSUN graduate?
and 2) what learning is necessary in and outside the classroom
to achieve those hallmarks or outcomes? Becoming a learning-centered
university means that we shift the focus from teaching to learning.
Such a shift recognizes that the learning encompassed by a baccalaureate
degree is not a collection of discrete parts linked to specific
classes but rather the cumulative consequence and judgments for
all aspects of the learning environment. A final key element
of a learning-centered university is that we document what students
At Northridge, we have begun the process of setting goals
and objectives within the academic departments. Changes have
been made to the program review process to make student learning
outcomes more central to departmental missions. It is now time
to expand those efforts, to make learning-centeredness so pervasive
throughout the University that all decision making is done within
If the entire institution is truly learning-centered, all
areas of the University, not just academic ones, can identify
how their areas contribute to learning. A tip of the hat is appropriate
here for the Student Affairs Division, which has spent the past
two years understanding and mapping its focus to support student
learning. For example, the Department of Residential Life and
University Conference Services has developed three living-learning
centers in collaboration with faculty focusing on Engineering
and Computer Science, First Year Experience, and Global Scholars.
As well, within Academic Affairs we have seen innovative approaches
to learning developed such as the cohort based PACE program.
A more formal coordination is needed to ensure that all areas
of the University are involved, and that training and other helpful
interventions are available as needed. During the coming year,
we will begin a conversation among faculty and staff that is
intended to build on what we are already doing and also build
on the work of the Graduation Rates Task Force. Ultimately, we
must shift the primary focus of the conversation to what our
Complicating our mapping of the University's future with respect
to becoming a learning-centered institution is one strong, additional
local factor--the limitations imposed by our physical plant.
We have completed the reconstruction from the Northridge Earthquake,
a massive $400 million-plus renovation that has produced a campus
with a mixture of the old and new. The campus looks better than
it ever has. We have new buildings, but we also have 45 percent
of our space that is in buildings constructed 35 years ago, when
computers and other information technologies were not even imagined
at the scale of their current use. In addition, at our current
enrollment, we already have 190 fewer faculty offices than state
standards say we need.
There are other aspects of our physical space that are clearly
deficient and challenging. Student housing is insufficient. Similarly,
we need more and more varied options for faculty and staff housing,
to assure that we can remain competitive in hiring. Additionally,
many of our athletic and artistic facilities are old and outmoded.
As we map the University's future, we must plan for and build
the needed facilities that support our academic and student service
programs, but the design and use of those facilities must be
congruent with the learning-centered expectations we are developing
for those programs.
Every five years the system requires campuses to do an update
of their campus physical master plan. Obviously a new master
plan will be inextricably linked to the answers to questions
concerning growth and the nature of that growth. This year we
will begin that process.
V. Mapping our Future
Finally, let me now turn to the work of mapping our future.
Three years ago I asked all of you to focus on four priorities.
That work has positioned us well to take on this new set of challenges.
Each of those four priorities is key to a part of the map of
- Connections to our community We have obviously strengthened
our connections to the community. Those connections need constant
tending and care because it is this community that we serve.
- User friendly campus The campus is a more user friendly
environment than it was three years ago, although work must continue
to make our business processes and student services more efficient,
transparent, and effective. To make our student and administrative
services more user-friendly will also lead to the kind of transformative
change that must occur across the campus.
- Improving graduation rates The Graduation Rates Task
Force laid out specific recommendations that we must and will
implement in order to improve the time to degree of our students.
I have asked Interim Provost Bain to make the implementation
of the Graduation Rates Task Force recommendations a major priority
for her work with us.
- Raising private funds During the last three years we
have placed a high priority on increasing our private support
and improving our capacity for additional support. Our future
successes in generating private support will be critical to assuring
enhanced opportunities and expanded options to support our mission.
Each of these priorities remain and become key elements in
the map of our future because each is key to shaping the University's
choices in response to the strong forces now working on higher
So how do we move forward? There are knowns and unknowns as
we ponder mapping our future. It is obvious that the appropriate
consultation processes for some of the decisions that we face
are already underway or soon will be. It is equally obvious that
other critical conversations have not yet begun.
I raise these challenges and issues for our future with you
today not because I have all the answers, nor because I have
predetermined the process by which we will come to these answers.
I do know that Cal State Northridge's response to these three
major forces- enrollment, budget, and becoming a learning-centered
University--will set the agenda for our work in support of the
University, its students and the region it serves for the next
half decade. The answers to these questions are complicated and
interrelated. They will challenge us to come together as a community
to consider our choices.
My purpose in the convocation address today was to raise the
issues, to hope that as you leave this gathering this morning,
you will talk with others who were here, and talk with your colleagues
in your departmental offices. I hope that you begin to ponder
along with me these critical questions for our future. By the
end of this academic year, through these informal and more structured
conversations we will have, it is my expectation that we will
have agreed upon the formality of the process by which we will
map our future. By the end of this academic year, we as a campus
community will have agreed upon the approach that we will take
to consider these key elements of our future. I will be asking
for your participation and your help.
For Cal State Northridge to continue its commitment to our
mission, we must take into account the strong elements of the
higher education terrain affecting all institutions. We must
make fundamental changes in the way we do our work--in instruction,
student support services and administrative processes. Our core
strengths in meeting the challenges of the future are the quality
of our programs and the vibrancy of our campus community.
Cal State Northridge is a university on the move. We are a
university that is clear in our mission--the destination, if
you will, of and for our work. How best to get there in a time
of such intense social, political and economic change will require
us as a community to map our future. There are crossroads on
this journey, choices for us to make, and choices that once made
will shape this University's future for a generation or more.
In this and the next several academic years, the members of this
campus community and those we serve will need to come together
to map the future of our beloved University as we have in the
face of challenges in the past.
If you have comments about
this page, please contact the President's
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