Cal State U. Faculty Speak Out About The Kind of Leader California’s University System Needs
By Kim Geron
California Faculty Association
California State University faculty have weighed in on the qualities and skills they would like to see in the university system’s next top executive.
In a survey conducted this month, 1200 faculty members who work with students in the classrooms, counseling centers, libraries and athletic fields, described what they believe the CSU needs in a top leader.
The survey results can be found here.
The survey was developed by the California Faculty Association in May after the current CSU chancellor Charles Reed announced his retirement. All CSU faculty were invited to participate by expressing their preferences on a number of topics and by adding comments in their own words.
NEED MORE FOCUS ON THE MISSION—STUDENTS’ QUALITY EDUCATION
Faculty comments indicate concern about priorities of the Trustees and CSU executives under the current leadership that too often made themselves the highest priority rather than students and teaching.
Many faculty members who participated in the survey expressed hope that a new chancellor offers a chance for new and better priorities in how the CSU is managed, particularly by prioritizing student instruction over executive compensation and perks.
Scores of comments indicated that the chancellor’s most important responsibility is to carry out to the greatest degree possible the CSU mission to provide an affordable, accessible, quality education to every Californian able to achieve a four-year degree.
A majority of faculty who responded to the survey want a change in priorities.
Our CSU has wavered from the mission to provide high quality, affordable and accessible education not only because of funding decisions by the state but also because of the CSU leadership’s choices, especially their decisions to prioritize executive perks and pay.
EXPERIENCE & QUALITIES NEEDED
Experiences the faculty believes are high priorities in a strong
- A proven record of public higher education leadership
- A commitment to public service and to careful stewardship of taxpayer and donor funds.
- Academic credentials for a full professor to have the experience and to command the respect necessary in the academic leader of the university.
- Success in advocacy to elected leaders on behalf of public higher education.
- A strong commitment to shared governance, working with and not against the faculty.
- A demonstrated commitment to the collective bargaining process to achieve fair contracts for all employees.
Faculty indicated a range of character traits and personal qualities including:
- The ability to set an outstanding example of strong commitment to public service in a vital public institution for the people of California.
- A clear commitment to quality public higher education that is accessible to the students of California regardless of ability to pay.
- Ability to unify stakeholders in the public university to advance every aspect of the institution toward achieving the mission in the best possible manner for everyone, particularly students.
- A clear commitment to the value of academic freedom to ensure the creative and free flow of ideas through the campus communities.
- Ability to accept advice and engage participation of others in making decisions in a spirit of transparency as appropriate to a public institution; and the ability to do so with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and segments of society, including various ethnicities, cultures and economic backgrounds.
TRANSPARENCY LACKING IN THE SEARCH PROCESS
Comments on the survey and in other faculty discussions also point to concerns about the candidate search process itself, one they hope will be fair, open, and transparent.
The faculty are hopeful, yet wary and concerned also about the search for the next chancellor. So far, the CSU Trustees are conducting a semi-closed process. We believe this terribly important position in a public university should be done with transparency and clear accountability.
PUBLIC INPUT TAKEN AFTER JOB DESCRIPTION ALREADY FINALIZED
CFA is troubled by the fact that the Trustees search committee issued a completed job description and advertisement for the chancellor position before taking input from stakeholders, including the faculty and the public, into what kind of candidate is needed.
While the Trustees’ job description indicates that the chancellor is “the academic leader of the CSU system,” faculty members believe the next Chancellor must have academic training and experience in a university. The survey results reject the Trustees’ suggestion that a corporate CEO without academic experience would be qualified to lead the CSU.
The faculty were generally of the view that this would be a tremendous error and that an public university leader—particularly the leader of the largest four-year public college system in the U.S.—needs academic experience and that at least some of that experience must be in a public setting.
The Trustees search committee will hold a public session beginning 10 am at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach (401 Golden Shore) next Thursday, June 28, for two hours to receive input into the hiring process. People and organizational representatives able to travel to the Chancellor’s Office will get approximately two minutes to express their views.
After taking this public input, the search committee will go into closed session at noon to begin making decisions.
CFA leaders will attend the hearing to deliver the survey results in person in addition to making them available on the CFA web site and attempting to deliver them to all members of the CSU Board of Trustees.
Kim Geron is California Faculty Association’s Vice President and a political science professor at CSU East Bay.