President's Office

From the President's Desk April 23 1999

Tragedy in Littleton, Colorado

The recent tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, has left us shocked and saddened for the victims and their families, for the teachers and staff at Columbine High School and, indeed, for everyone for whom senseless violence is both confounding and abhorrent. I lived in Littleton for four years and cannot reconcile my memory of a beautiful, caring and safe community with the images of murdered children. I join you in your prayers for the many families in Littleton and for safer schools and the reduction of violence in our society.

Because we are an educational institution, it is inevitable that many of us will draw an analogy to Littleton and question the safety of our university community. I asked The Institute for the Study of the Effects of Secondary Violence, a research committee of the University Counseling Services, to help us cope with our fears of a less safe world and the possibility of unanticipated violence. The Secondary Violence committee suggests a number of strategies. First, if you feel sad, angry or anxious due to this event, those feelings are normal and will generally subside in a few days or weeks. Allow yourself to grieve. Utilize your network of friends, family, therapists, coworkers and talk about your thoughts and feelings. Venting your feelings and sharing your thoughts will helps you gain perspective and alleviate the weight of your grief and fear. Normal curiosity about the events can help us understand. But excessive exposure to the details of the tragedy can close us off from the normal routines and security of life. Do something pleasurable - doing something that brings enjoyment helps lessen feelings of sadness and anxiety.

The tragedy reminds us that senseless events can occur anywhere, even in a seemingly stable and affluent community like Littleton. But the collective outpouring of grief and the support and sympathy that have emerged nationwide remind us too that we are part of a collective society that shares common values that bind us together as decent and caring human beings. As educators I hope we will be strengthened in our commitment to teaching, to caring about all children and to instilling humane values in our classrooms. As citizens I hope we will be compelled to speak out against the glorification of violence in our society and the ease with which young people can gain access to guns.

Cal State Northridge will remain vigilant in its commitment to a safe university environment. We have skilled public safety and counseling personnel who know what to look for and what to do to prevent violence, when to intervene with troubled individuals and how to respond when violence occurs. Please rely upon these resources to assist in ensuring the safety of the campus.

Town Hall Meetings on Teacher Preparation

As we know, teacher preparation is a central mission of Cal State Northridge. How well we prepare our teachers has a major impact on the academic achievement of their students. And how those students fare in school has everything to do with their own future success in life and the future of our society.

We are hosting a series of town hall meetings in the San Fernando Valley to discuss and explore changes in the teacher preparation programs of the university. All members of the community are welcome to attend, and I encourage you to participate as often as you can.

These public meetings are being sponsored by the Commission on Excellence in Teacher Preparation, which is part of the university's charter initiative process. The purpose of the meetings is to receive advice about improving our teacher preparation programs from public school teachers and administrators, parents and community leaders, university faculty, the teachers union and social service agency representatives, school reform leaders and others.

I have attached to the hard copy of this edition of From the President's Desk the flyer about the meetings, which are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. as follows:

  • Tuesday, April 27, at the CSUN University Club, on campus.
  • Thursday, May 13, at Francis Polytechnic High School, Sun Valley.
  • Thursday, May 27, at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, San Fernando.

The discussions will provide an exciting opportunity for individuals from different sectors of the education profession and local community to focus on the pursuit of a common goal: improving our children's academic performance. The Commission is eager to hear from the community. Please feel free to distribute copies of the flyer to others who may have a similar interest in improved student achievement.

Strategic Planning Mini-Retreats

As part of the Strategic Planning Governing Group's mission to provide guidance to the campus and President on the implementation of the university strategic plan, a series of five mini-retreats is scheduled for the end of this month to develop strategies and action plans for implementing each of our five "SMART" goals. (To remind you, SMART is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic, and Time- and cost-bound).

The five SMART goals and goal leaders are:

  • Upper Division Readiness (Goal Leaders: Margaret Fieweger and Diane Schwartz)

Goal: By 2002, increase to 90 percent the percentage of native students who demonstrate upper-division readiness after they have completed 60 units.

  • Reducing Remediation (Goal Leaders: Robert Danes and Ludim Seja de Manzano)

Goal: Reduce the percentage of entering students needing remedial courses to 10 percent or less by 2007.

  • Grants and Contracts (Goal Leaders: Deborah Chen and Mark Lipschutz)

Goal: Increase external funding from grants and contracts by 25 percent by 2002.

  • Internships and Service-Learning (Goal Leaders: Maureen Rubin and Adele Scheele)

Goal: Increase the percentage of graduating seniors who have participated in either an internship or service-learning experience to 30 percent by 2004.

  • Diversity (Goal Leaders: Gordon Nakagawa and Gregory Velazco y Trianosky)

Goal: Seventy-five percent of graduating students will have the skills and values required to sustain productive relationships with diverse communities and community members by 2003.

The mini-retreats build upon the rich and exciting work that has been spearheaded by the Strategic Planning Governance Group. I've found it tremendously gratifying to observe the creativity and energy that the goal teams are bringing to these tasks. I am grateful to the mini-retreat participants and the goal leaders who are advancing our shared desire to enhance the educational experience of our students.

While the mini-retreat devoted to Diversity has already occurred, the others are scheduled to take place from April 26 through April 28. If you are interested in participating in any of the four remaining mini-retreats, please contact the appropriate goal leaders for information. Copies of the materials from the mini-retreats are available for faculty members who have elected not to participate in committee meetings in support of the state of strike and for any other interested members of the university community.

Campus Achievements

  • Every year, the State of California awards the Governor's Employee Safety Award to state employees and groups for improving job health and safety, responding to life-threatening situations, and preventing and reducing the number or occupational injuries.

I'm pleased to announce that the campus recipient of the 1998 award is Mr. John Young, an electrician in Physical Plan Management. Mr. Young has voluntarily attended all of the group night safety walks that are conducted biannually on the campus. These walks include administrators, staff and student representatives who document safety hazards and report them to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety for corrective action.

Mr. Young not only participated in these walks and identified safety hazards, he also assumed personal responsibility for corrections involving electrical work. Through his personal initiative, burned-out lights and other safety and security hazards were identified prior to the scheduled walks. He reported regularly to the Department Safety Coordinator on the status of required action items.

His dedication and expertise have significantly decreased the number of potential hazards on campus and made it a safer and more welcome place. My congratulations to Mr. Young for receiving this well-deserved recognition.

  • Twenty-two students in the Department of Journalism recently received Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) awards for their work in writing, editing, photography, and broadcast excellence in newspaper, magazine, radio, and television. The awards were formally presented at SPJ's Regional Conference on April 10, in Ontario, California. The competitions, dubbed the Region XI Mark of Excellence Competition, included the work of university journalists from California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii.

Student reporters and editors of the Daily Sundial received recognition as best all-around non-daily and 10 other awards; "Valley View," Journalism's cable television news program, and Scene magazine, earned four awards; and KCSN News received nine awards, including best daily newscast for its "Evening Update." The 25 awards, including 11 first-place awards, earned SPJ's "Sweepstakes" award for the most overall points in the competition, unseating Arizona State University for the first time in five years.

The wide breadth of the awards underscores the high quality of the Journalism Department's programs. Please join me in congratulating the student winners, the faculty, and Dr. Cynthia Z. Rawitch, the chair of the department, for this extraordinary achievement.


Blenda J. Wilson