California State University, Northridge

From the President's Desk



March 12, 1999

Cheering on the Matadors!

My congratulations to the women's basketball team and their coach, Ms. Frozena Jerro, for clinching our university's first Big Sky Conference title and winning the Big Sky championship tournament. Because of their success this past weekend, they have earned a berth in the "Big Dance" at the NCAA women's basketball championship tournament! I look forward to cheering them on personally at their first game on Friday night at Colorado State University, where they were respectably placed in the 15th seed.

As members of the university community know, the team played well all season, despite off-court distractions before the beginning of the season. Coach Jerro and the players should take great pride in the character, dedication and talent they displayed throughout the regular season.

Congratulations, too, to women's basketball players Edniesha Curry and Lynda Amari, who were selected for the All-Big Sky Conference women's basketball team by the Big Sky coaches.

The men's basketball team, under Coach Bobby Braswell, also achieved an admirable record this season and merits our pride and congratulations. The team demonstrated the kind of character and dedication that will assure their greater success in future years.

These players are representative of the talented and outstanding male and female athletes who are students at Cal State Northridge. We applaud Coaches Braswell and Jerro and their teams and thank them for contributing greatly to the richness of the CSUN collegiate environment.

New Director of Public Safety Appointed

I'm pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Ronald Seacrist, presently the police chief at the University of Texas-San Antonio, as California State University, Northridge's new director of Public Safety. Chief Seacrist is due to arrive on campus April 15 and will bring 29 years of law enforcement experience, both in the university and municipal sectors. He has a master's degree in sociology and is a graduate of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

He has held three prior campus police chief posts, including the past four-and-a-half years at the University of Texas campus. Like Cal State Northridge, the University of Texas at San Antonio is an urban area with a very multicultural population and a student population of 18,500, with about 2,000 students living on campus. He should quickly find Cal State Northridge a familiar environment.

He was the first choice of the university search committee that screened more than 35 applications for the position and interviewed five finalists on campus. Committee members in particular noted the breadth and depth of Chief Seacrist's experience, including that he has previously supervised parking and environmental health and safety units in addition to Public Safety. Until he arrives, Lt. Marc Hissong will continue as the university's interim chief. We are grateful for Lt. Hissong's continuing leadership of the department and extraordinary service to the university.

Please join me and the Executive Officers in giving Chief Seacrist a warm welcome upon his arrival.

FISMA AUDIT

The CSU Chancellor's Office today released its periodic review of the university's financial controls and processes known as a FISMA audit. (That stands for the Financial Integrity and State Manager's Accountability Act of 1983, the state law that requires such biennial reviews at Cal State Northridge and other CSU campuses.) Prepared by the CSU Office of the University Auditor, the FISMA report makes recommendations for how the campus can better comply with various regulatory requirements, ranging from minor procedural issues to more substantive ones. The purpose of such reports is to help identify problems and pave the way for solutions, and that certainly will be the case here.

The bulk of the report, although being issued now, focuses on the 1996-97 fiscal year, a period two years ago when we still were trying to pull the campus together following the earthquake. And clearly, the disruption caused by that disaster shook more than just our buildings; it also disrupted the normal functioning of the university. So to some extent, the report is a look at our past.

Generally, the university has agreed with the auditors' findings and responded to each of the recommendations with what the campus has already done or is planning to do. The university has been aware of many of the issues raised for some time and already has taken significant steps to address them, including the hiring last year of a consulting firm to conduct a separate financial management review of the campus. As a result, the university was able to report completed action on nearly two thirds of the issues raised in the FISMA report, with work in progress on the remainder.

Still, we as a campus must be clearly committed to an aggressive effort to improve our fiscal controls and processes. Our Division of Administration and Finance is taking the lead in implementing the e-Campus Reengineering Project that will address the audit issues that have not already been resolved.

It was encouraging to find the auditors in several instances acknowledging that the campus had made progress since the prior FISMA report issued in April 1996. One such area was in collecting accounts receivables, or debts owed to the campus. The receivable amounts occur because the university is responsible for pursuing debts as long as there is a reasonable likelihood of collection. In addition the campus has engaged an external collection agency to pursue some of the outstanding debts. A new analysis by the University Controller's Office shows that the uncollected amounts owed by students each semester have fallen from 11 percent of our total state university fee revenues in fall 1996 to only 4 percent as of spring 1998.

And as discussed further below, the campus commitment to our e-Campus Re-Engineering Project also will move us further toward compliance with various issues identified in the audit report. The impending hiring of a campus internal auditor, a new initiative to codify our business policies and procedures, and the coming implementation of the PeopleSoft financial management program - all components of this initiative - are all steps in the right direction.

Finally, Chancellor Reed will ask the CSU Board of Trustees next week to confirm the status of the off-campus house in Northridge, where I live, as the official presidential residence of Cal State Northridge. The request stems from questions raised in this FISMA audit about the responsibility and funding for property improvements and utility expenses for the house and confusing billing issues. Because the CSUN house is owned by the University Corporation rather than by the university itself, as is common elsewhere in the CSU system, the trustees' action, if taken, will confirm that the residence is subject to the same principles that apply to other presidents' residences in the CSU. In addition to assuring our community that state resources have been spent appropriately, the trustees' action will help to ensure that the official residence is available to enable the next CSUN president to continue extensive promotional, advancement and community relations events on behalf of the campus, with the appropriate level of university and University Corporation support.

Update on e-Campus Re-Engineering

You will recall that the December 1 and December 18, 1998, issues of From the President's Desk reported on the comprehensive review of campus financial management and fiscal controls conducted by K. Scott Hughes Associates on behalf of the campus. The implementation of the recommendations contained in that report has been dubbed the e-Campus Re-Engineering Project. Many of the issues addressed in the FISMA audit were identified previously in the financial management and fiscal controls review. The important difference between an audit and the kind of reviews we have initiated for the e-Campus Re-Engineering Project is that audits view past practices to identify compliance with current policies and requirements, while the voluntary reviews of our current practices provide specific suggestions for achieving the campus' broader goals for continual improvement in our financial management practices in the future. Both processes are intended to be constructive and instructive to our goals of achieving a model organization for campus financial management.

In a follow-up to the substantive report and recommendations that were shared with the University Budget Advisory Board in early December, K. Scott Hughes provided suggestions on an implementation process to achieve the following goals: strengthen the controls over the processing of financial transactions; bring all university-related expenditures into the university's general ledger as a means of increasing control and improving the quality of financial management information; and improve the quality of financial management information throughout the organization.

The campus has taken a number of steps to implement the recommendations in the review:

I want to express my appreciation to Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance James Sullivan and University Controller Bob Kiddoo for their sustained leadership and guidance in advancing our goals.

New President's Secretary Appointed

I'm pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Janet Swarts as the president's secretary replacing Ms. Veronica Santa Maria, who resigned earlier this year. Ms. Swarts begins her appointment on March 15.

Ms. Swarts comes to us with extensive experience at the executive assistant and administrative assistant level. Ms. Swarts' last position was as assistant to Mr. J.D. Power III, chairman and founder of J.D. Power and Associates. Before that, she was a senior administrative assistant at Honda North America. She has also worked at Hughes Aircraft Company and TWA.

All of her references expressed very high regard for her professional skills and personal attributes. My staff and I are delighted to have her join the office team, and we hope you will welcome her to the university community.

I'd also like to extend my appreciation to Mr. Rick Evans, Mr. Randy Reynaldo, and Ms. Robin Ferguson for their expeditious and thorough search to fill this position.

Draft of Reaccreditation Self-Study Report Available

As I have mentioned in previous issues of From the President's Desk, during the past year-and-a-half, the university has prepared for reaccreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). WASC reaccreditation occurs every 10 years and involves the entire campus community.

The steering committee charged with managing the reaccreditation process, under the leadership of Dr. Cynthia Rawitch, has completed a first draft of the self-study report. It is available for review and comment at http://www.csun.edu/~wascreac/. Hard copies of the report are also available in the Oviatt Library and the President's Office, and at each of the college deans' and department chairs' offices.

Two forums are scheduled to give the campus community an opportunity to comment on the self-study. Both will be held on Monday, March 22, in the Grand Salon of the Student Union; the first session will be held from 9:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. and the second from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and everyone is encouraged to attend and share their comments.

If you are unable to attend either of the forums, you may send your comments in writing to Nancy-Jean Pement, WASC assistant, Undergraduate Studies (mail drop 8203) or by e-mail at nancy.pement@csun.edu.

The self-study is a very important part of the reaccreditation process, and I hope each of you will contribute actively in these discussions.

Temporary Reassignment for Assistant CIO

Cal State Northridge has made another significant contribution of talent to the interests of the CSU by temporarily assigning Dr. Mark Crase, assistant chief information officer, to the position of acting senior director for Technology and Infrastructure in the CSU Office of the Chancellor. In this new role, Dr. Crase will report directly to Mr. David Ernst, executive director of System-wide Technology Services in the Division of Business and Finance.

This temporary reassignment is a well-deserved acknowledgment of the leadership role that Dr. Crase has played on our campus for information technology resources-related activities. While the campus community will miss his contributions during this reassignment, we are pleased that the entire CSU system will benefit from his experience and knowledge. We consider this temporary assignment, moreover, a significant professional development opportunity for him. When a permanent senior director is appointed, he will return to the assistant CIO position at CSUN.

Campus Achievements

For many faculty, the position of department chair represents the first opportunity in administrative leadership. As the main intermediary between their faculty and the deans and other administrators, they must navigate complex working relationships while overseeing an academic unit whose primary mission is serving students. For this reason, I am grateful for the work of Extended Learning, under the leadership of Dean Joyce Feucht-Haviar, to provide this wonderful learning opportunity for our chairs.

If you are a chair and wish more information about the retreat, please contact Ms. Julie Cha at the college at extension 3126 or at e-mail julie.cha@csun.edu. I am confident that the retreat will be beneficial and successful for all the participants.

Blenda J. Wilson
President



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President Blenda J. Wilson