Chancellor of the 23 California State Universities, Dr. Timothy P. White spent the day on Fresno State’s campus Wednesday and ended his visit with a public open forum.
White said Fresno State had one of the most successful student cupboards in the CSU, he commended the facilities department for keeping the buildings clean and running well and he compared the CSU system to a three-legged stool.
“You have to have a strong faculty, you have to have a strong student body and that third leg is a strong staff,” White said. “If any one of those three legs of that stool get out of whack, then the tilt starts happening and at some point you’re going to collapse.”
By the year 2030, White said California will be one million college degrees short of graduation rates keep going the way they are.
“Somehow we together — working with others — have to figure out how to solve that drought,” White said.
White also said as a challenge for the future, he wants to eliminate racial divides and disparities between graduation rates.
“Our goal isn’t to cut it in half, our goal is to make it zero,” White said. “We’re going to get rid of the gap. I know it can be done, some of our campuses are really close.”
White said working with the K-12 system, convincing the governor to invest more in the CSU and enhancing technology were pertinent to ensuring student success and graduation rates.
“This is ours to harvest and ours to nurture and ours to be responsible for student success,” White said.
A member of the faculty asked the chancellor if the state of California would be able to provide the university with updated and modern classrooms for students in the future.
White said student learning environments were important and there were many critical areas that need attention on campuses.
“We’re going to have to finance that ourselves,” White said. “We’re going to have to go out on the market and take a CSU credit reading and go out and get a loan to maintain the next buildings.”
Outside of North Gym room 118 where the forum was held, members of the Afrikan/Black Coalition (ABC), Students for Quality Education (SQE) and California Faculty Association (CFA) demonstrated and chanted “black lives matter” as the chancellor spoke.
Laid out on the concrete outside the forum were 68 red shirts, each one representing 68 African-American Fresno State students who had dropped out since the beginning of the semester, ABC member Joseph Anderson said.
“We’re trying to bring to the attention of the Chancellor that these are real-life everyday concerns — these are things that are really hurting the community and things that are really not being addressed,” Anderson said.
Fresno State’s President Dr. Joseph Castro said in a tweet on Thursday, 41 African-American students graduated from the campus at the end of fall 2015.
Andrea Wilson, office manager for the CFA and member of SQE, said that she was happy with the salary deal the CFA and CSU reached, but that now it was time to focus on student tuition increases.
“Our fees are only going up higher and higher,” Wilson said. “[The CFA] won their battle, and now [students] have to win ours.”
Inside the forum, Wilson asked White how he plans to make sure fees don’t push students out and how to keep Fresno State an institution that serves diverse families in the valley.
White talked about how his parents came from Argentina and struggled and worked hard to make sure he and his brother had good educations.
“I want to ensure you and other students that I for many years — and much of my life — came from exactly what many of our students are coming from,” White said.
White said it is his job to make sure students across campus and the entire CSU system have an opportunity to succeed.
Anderson went up and asked the chancellor if he was aware of a list of 17 demands that ABC had taken to Dr. Castro.
The list of demands included an office for black student support; a recruitment officer; an academic advisor; a counselor; increased African-American student enrollment and secured grants for African-American students.
Anderson then asked White how he plans to recruit, retain and ensure African-American students graduate from Fresno State.
White said every campus is different, but it was his job to make sure that each campus had their own set of goals to ensure the success of students.
White told Anderson to work with Castro to design a more nuanced plan of action to make sure African-American students were successful.
“You want every player of the team working where they can be most effective,” White said. “If you don’t have the chancellor out doing the high level stuff, then campuses don’t have the resources to do the nuanced stuff. We work all together.”
When the forum was over, Anderson and Wilson both expressed that they were not satisfied with the Chancellor’s answers.
“He went around my questions,” Anderson said. “He refused to be challenged, he refused to concretely say anything. He threw [Castro] and [Castro’s] cabinet under the bus.”
“He simply said that basically he felt for us in his heart, and that as a first-generation student these issues were in his DNA,” Wilson said. “My question was ‘What is he going to do to make sure that increasing fees don’t push students out’, and he did not answer that question.”
Anderson said that ABC would continue to move forward with their cause and would not stand down.
“[White] is going to continue to get more aggressive approaches on an intellectual level,” Anderson said. “We’re going to stand together until we have more than 686 African-American students out of 24,000.”
Wilson said SQE would continue their campaign to eradicate fees in the CSU system, and she urged students to be aware and learn about what is happening on campus that would affect students in the future.
White said there are no immediate plans to visit to Fresno State again, but that he would definitely be back when he could.