President's Office

From the President's Desk September 10 1996


The decision of the Associated Students to invite David Duke to debate Joe Hicks about affirmative action has created a considerable amount of comment from within the University, the surrounding community and the press. At the end of last week, Ward Connerly, General Chairman of the California Civil Rights Initiative, released to the press the text of a letter he had mailed to me and the controversy about Mr. Duke's appearance reached the national news. I have appended a copy of Mr. Connerly's letter and my responseso that you will be able to understand the media reports about them.

There have been several times in the past four years when the University's fidelity to the principle of free speech has been tested during controversy. In each case I have upheld the principle of free speech, the constitutional guarantee of free speech, and the right of our students to invite whom they wish to the campus.

I want you to know that our students have comported themselves properly, demonstrating respect for differing views and the democratic process. You should also know that while I support affirmative action and deplore Mr. Duke's philosophy and what he stands for, my personal views about the speaker are not relevant. I have not attempted to influence the students' decision nor will I. The values of free speech and academic freedom are the foundations of our democracy and our continuing search for truth; it is the obligation of this University to uphold those principles.



This year our Strategic Planning activities will move from the conceptual phase to the implementation phase starting with a University-wide Retreat on October 4, 1996 to review "strategic themes" and to begin a discussion of goals for each theme. Our hope is to achieve reasonable consensus on these two essential elements of multi-year planning so that discretionary resource allocations in our 1997-98 budget will support well-developed unit-level plans for achieving strategic goals.

To review our progress to date:

  • We conducted an environmental scan which included the Rand analyses of demographic and economic trends in California. A series of guest speakers and articles raised important questions about the performance of higher education institutions in educating today's students as well as organizational efficiency, focus and nimbleness in responding to rapid change. Focus groups made up of internal and external constituency groups described our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

    These sources of information confirmed that Cal State Northridge's strategic priorities had to include improving student achievement and time to degree; achieving cost reductions through increased efficiency and productivity; increasing external funding; creating a campus climate which exemplifies shared values, respect and civility, a student-centered philosophy, a greater sense of community, positive image and pride; and achieving excellence and distinction in teaching, learning, scholarship and service.


  • We have achieved agreement on the University's mission and values statements which have been discussed and distributed widely. They are reproduced below for your information.

    Mission California State University, Northridge exists to help students realize their educational goals. The University's first priority is to promote the welfare and intellectual progress of students.

    To fulfill this mission, we design programs and activities to help students develop the academic competencies, professional skills, critical and creative abilities, and personal values of learned persons who live in a democratic society, an interdependent world, and a technological age; we seek to foster a rigorous and contemporary understanding of the liberal arts, sciences, and professional disciplines, and we believe in the following values:

    Values Commitment to Teaching, Scholarship, and Active Learning
    We demonstrate excellence in teaching. We honor and reward high performance in learning, teaching, scholarship, research, service, and creative activity. Because the quality of our academic programs is central to our mission, we encourage intellectual curiosity and protect the multiple expressions of academic freedom.

    Commitment to Excellence
    We set the highest standards for ourselves in all of our actions and activities and support the professional development of faculty, staff, and administrators. We assess our performance so that every area of University life will be continually improved and renewed. We recognize and reward our efforts of greatest distinction and through them provide state and national leadership.

    Alliances with the Community
    We seek partnerships with local schools, community colleges, businesses, government and social agencies to advance the educational, intellectual, artistic, civic, cultural, and economic aspirations of our surrounding communities.

    Respect for All People
    We aspire to behave as an inclusive, cooperative community. Our behaviors, policies, and programs affirm the worth and personal dignity of every member of the University community and contribute to a campus climate of civility, collegiality, tolerance, and reasoned debate.

    Encouragement of Innovation, Experimentation, and Creativity
    We seek to provide an environment conducive to innovation, experimentation, and creativity. We encourage all members of our community to take intellectual and creative risks and to embrace changes that will enhance the fulfillment of the University's mission.


  • Last Spring I shared a draft of my vision statement with the University community, soliciting your comments and suggestions. Based on your advice I have finalized my Vision Statement which is reproduced below.


    President's Vision Statement for the University

    California State University, Northridge is inspired by the belief that our commitment to educational opportunity, inclusion and excellence will extend the promise of America to succeeding generations.

    Our graduates will be the vanguard of leaders for the next century - committed to sustaining a democracy in which diverse people share in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, proficient in applying technology to wise purposes, and dedicated to securing a humane world community and sustaining the bounty of the Earth.

    As an institution of higher learning

    • We will be a high performing, model university in which student achievement levels are among the highest of peer universities;
    • We will create a community of shared values in which faculty, students, staff, administrators and alumni will experience personal satisfaction and pride in our collective achievements;
    • We will be the first choice for university applicants who seek a rigorous, collaborative teaching/learning experience in a technologically rich environment;
    • We will be the leader in enhancing the educational, cultural and economic resources of our region; and
    • We will receive local and national recognition for our distinctive achievements in teaching, learning, scholarship, and service.
    The Office of Public Relations will be preparing a brochure on our Mission, Values and the President's Vision Statement which can be used as a quick reference for faculty, staff and students or as an informational piece for external audiences.


  • The Strategic Planning Committee has met during the summer and synthesized, from the mission, values and vision statements, six overarching, broad themes that will provide a framework for developing goals and objectives throughout the remainder of the year. They will be discussed at the October 4 retreat to make certain that they meet that test. The themes are listed below.


The Themes are grounded in our Mission, Values, and Vision. Beginning in Fall 1996 these Themes will guide our choices and activities. In the endeavor to meet the many challenges of our Mission, Values, and Vision, we adopt Themes to set our priorities and give direction to our plans. As we start to implement the Strategic Plan for the university by choosing specific Goals for our activities, the following six Themes set our course.


Student Achievement

"California State University, Northridge exists to enable students to realize their educational goals."

"We demonstrate excellence in teaching."

"Our students will be the vanguard of leaders for the next century."

Human and Financial Resources

"We support the professional development of faculty, staff, and administrators."

"Our behaviors, policies, and programs affirm the worth and personal dignity of every member of the university community."

"We seek partnerships with local schools, community colleges, businesses, government and social agencies."

"We will be a high performing, model university."


"We will achieve local and national recognition for our superior achievements in teaching, learning, scholarship and service."

"We will be the first choice for university applicants who seek a rigorous, collaborative learning experience in a technologically rich environment."


"We will be a leader in enhancing the educational, cultural and economic resources of our region."

"Our commitment to educational opportunity will extend the promise of America to succeeding generations."


"We aspire to behave as an inclusive, cooperative community."

"A community of shared values in which faculty, students, staff, administrators and alumni will experience personal satisfaction and pride in our collective achievements."

Imagining the Future

"We seek to provide an environment conducive to innovation, experimentation, and creativity."

"Committed to sustaining a democracy in which diverse people share the full benefits of citizenship, proficient in applying technology to wise purposes, dedicated to securing a humane world community and protecting the earth for future generations."

Pat Nichelson, the Strategic Planning Committee and I hope to see many of you at the Retreat.


At its May 1996 meeting, the CSU Board of Trustees passed a new student fee policy. The policy recognizes that fees and financial aid are linked and limits mandatory campus fees to no more than one-third of the cost of higher education. The new policy calls for a Fee Advisory Committee, with a student majority, to be established on each campus to advise the President on fee issues. The most important benefit of the new fee policy for Cal State Northridge is that we will be able to determine fees based on our own needs and priorities rather than having them determined at the system level.

I have asked Vice President Kopita to chair a small task force consisting of the A.S. President, the Faculty President and the University Budget Director to develop a draft proposal for how we might best constitute a Fee Advisory Committee for the campus. Their draft proposal will be discussed widely on campus this fall to seek comments and suggestions; the final committee structure will be decided in January following final advice from the Associated Students Senate, the University Budget Advisory Board and the Educational Resources Committee of the Faculty Senate.

The draft proposal will be distributed widely on the campus once it is developed.


On Sunday, September 29, 1996, students, faculty and staff of Cal State Northridge will once again join with over 23,000 people in the 1996 AIDS Walk Los Angeles to demonstrate our commitment to community service and the fight against AIDS.

AIDS Walk Los Angeles was the world's first AIDS pledge event and has become both an annual tradition in Los Angeles and a model for similar walks in cities throughout the United States and Europe. The walk, 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles long, is part of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), an organization that provides free support services to men, women and children with HIV and AIDS. Their services include the largest food distribution center in the county for people with AIDS, a dental clinic, the "buddy" program, medical referrals and professional counseling.

Last year, Cal State Northridge's contingent had 226 dedicated walkers who raised more than $10,000 by collecting sponsorships from family, friends and co-workers. WE ALSO HAD A LOT OF FUN! This year we hope to increase our participation numbers to 800. So please register for this year's walk; to obtain more information about participating in this event you can contact Amy Reichbach, our campus coordinator for the walk, at (818) 677-3683.

Please join me and other members of the Cal State Northridge team aboard the buses in Parking Lot T on Sunday, September 29th between 7:00 and 7:15 a.m or join us at the Paramount Pictures lot, 5555 Melrose Avenue, in Hollywood between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m.

To make your participation more convenient, a Shirt Day will be held on campus on Wednesday, September 25th. This will give campus participants an opportunity to check in their sign-up sheets and to pick up a Cal State Northridge team T-shirt prior to the actual event. While you will still be able to check in at the Paramount lot, checking in early on Shirt Day will save you time on the day of the walk and make your experience more pleasant and enjoyable. The location and time of Shirt Day will be announced in the Daily Sundial.

By participating in this year's AIDS Walk you will be making an important contribution to conquering AIDS.


I hope you have had the opportunity to see the campus' newest publication: It replaces the UIB and uses a newspaper format to inform our community of current events and issues, profiles, announcements, and activities affecting our campus. It is meant to be a refreshing and up-to-date news publication that meets the standards our university publications have achieved during the last several years. Take a look and see what you think. We encourage your comments and contributions to future editions of the paper.

In the coming year communications will continue to be a priority for engaging our community in the business of the University. I hope to attend as many campus events as possible this fall and I encourage you to do the same. I will continue to use From the President's Desk as a means of sharing my thoughts about significant university issues. I will also continue to schedule campus forums each semester so that everyone has the opportunity to share his or her views and concerns with me directly. I encourage your suggestions for other ways we might come together as a university community.

My best wishes for a productive and rewarding school year.
Blenda J. Wilson

copy of letter from Ward Connerly on California Civil Rights Initiative stationary

August 30, 1996

Ms. Belinda Wilson
California State University, Northridge
Northridge, CA 91330

Dear Ms. Wilson:


It has come to my attention that the Associated Students have invited David Duke to appear on the CSUN campus to share his views regarding affirmative action. It has also been said by representatives of the Associated Students that the invitation was extended to Duke because I has declined the invitation. As you will see from the attached invitation sent to me on July 23, 1996, Duke was invited to supplement my appearance, not to be an alternative.


I declined to participate in your event for two reasons: First, because I understood that Duke's appearance was a done deal: and second, the last sentence of the first paragraph of the letter from Philip Leonard indicated that the host of this event has already determined the effect of Proposition 209, thereby making it clear that the forum will not be an unbiased one.


I was born in Leesville, Louisiana. Therefore, I have a certain knowledge of the history of that state. The name David Duke summons very distasteful images from black Americans born in the south. I would never participate in an event at which Duke is in attendance or support an institution which gives him voice on a subject about which he has no expertise of background. He knows nothing about affirmative action programs or practices in California, and could only be included in your event because of his reputation, sordid that it is.


David Duke as a right to free speech and your campus has a right to invite him to share his views. I also, however, have a right to withhold my support of individuals or institutions with which I have philosophical differences, and I have a profound view about Duke.


David Duke is a contradiction of all that is good in America. The organization with which he has proudly identified himself - the Ku Klux Klan - lynched black Americans and their supporters and engaged in other atrocities solely because of racial hatred. The KKK continues to be a hate-mongering group. Blacks, Chicanos, Jews, Asians - all are the subject of KKK hatred.


Duke and the Klan are despicable, and I will not be part of giving them a forum to articulated their hatred, and to get paid while doing so by students of California. His history is that of a man who supports racial discrimination, while I am dedicated to its eradication. He supports while supremacy, while spend virtually every moment promoting the proposition that all people should be treated the same. How, therefore, could your Associated Students expect me to participate in a program with David Duke? This is truly mind-boggling.


If you will rescind your invitation to Duke, and not have anyone else with his background involved in your event or during the course of this crucial debate which our state is having about affirmative action, I will adjust my schedule to accommodate the invitation extended by the Associated Students. Unlike Duke, I will not demand an honorarium.


I am a graduate of the CSU system, I am deeply involved in the debate which our nation is having about race-attentive policies, and I am willing to engage the student community about this issue. But, for my part, I insist that the debate be engaged with good taste, in good faith, and with respect for the best ideals of our democracy. I will notappear at a campus which intends to invite David Duke. Unless it is your choice to dishonor your university and the integrity of this issue that is before us, I would assume your concurrence with my position.

Ward Connerly
General Chairman

Dr. Wilson's response on her stationary


September 5, 1996

Mr. Ward Connerly
General Chairman, CCRI Campaign
P.O. Box 67276
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Dear Mr. Connerly:

I have received your letter expressing concern about the invitation the Associated Students of California State University, Northridge extended to David Duke to debate on affirmative action later this month.

Let me first clarify that the invitation was not issued by the University or me, but by the student government organization. Therefore, the decision to rescind the invitation is not mine to make. While Philip Leonard's letter to you makes reference to my introducing the event, I had, in fact no plans to do so since I'm scheduled to be in Seattle on September 25th.

Having said that, I nevertheless want to make clear that I support the right of students to utilize the democratic process in allocating their budget to invite speakers, however controversial, to public forums on campus. Cal State Northridge is a public, taxpayer supported institution. It must always be an open place where all ideas are explored. If only one view is heard, there is no learning. If only one opinion is expressed, there is no understanding.

Many of us have passionate personal opinions about this issue. The legacy of my family is very similar to yours, and while it vividly reinforces my personal disregard for Mr. Duke's history and public positions, my personal view is irrelevant in this matter. My responsibility as a President of a university is to uphold those values of academic freedom and free speech upon which rest both our democracy and our continuing search for truth.

I have been informed that Associated Students President Vladimir Cerna will be meeting late this afternoon with members of his Cabinet. I have shared your letter with him and asked that he respond to your offer to participate in a debate about affirmative action on the campus.

Blenda J. Wilson, Ph.D.


cc: Dr. Barry Munitz, Chancellor, The California State University

Mr. Vladimir Cerna, President, Associated Students

From the President's Desk listings

CSUN home page.