President talks about efficiency

During the 2011 Fall address CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez
talked about the university’s need to publicize it’s success
stories, and prepare for the future of education.

During the 2011 Fall address CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez talked about the university’s need to publicize it’s success stories, and prepare for the future of education.

Brett Johnson

Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez emphasized the importance of staying positive during his Fall 2011 Address, urging students and faculty to focus on Sac State’s future – rather than its budget woes.

Gonzalez delivered his address on Thursday to a fully-packed Union Ballroom. The speech consisted of information about the cuts from the state budget, how that budget has forced Sac State to examine efficiencies and what the university can remain optimistic about despite the cuts.

Always central to his speech was the state budget that was passed in June, which cut $650 million from the CSU system, and forced a tuition increase to more than $5,400 yearly for full-time undergraduate students.

Gonzalez encouraged faculty to look past the state budget and concentrate on creating a campus representing higher education in a respectable manner and foster interaction within the community.

“What hangs in the balance right now is not just what happens with the state budget – even though it is hard to think about anything else,” Gonzalez said. “At stake is the kind of campus we will have in the years to come.”

Gonzalez began by highlighting some of the campus’ key changes going into the fall semester, with the most notable being Facilities Services upgrading 12 classrooms over the summer with smart technology.

Gonzalez also mentioned two security initiatives in development that are meant to reduce the amount of bike thefts on campus.

After revealing of some of the newest additions to campus came the announcement of initiatives meant to increase efficiency within the university.

“As we move forward, bad budgets are forcing us to be more focused and strategic,” Gonzalez said. “We have to examine efficiencies and improvements through the same lens, because we have no other choice.”

Gonzalez referenced ways the campus can maintain a smaller budget by improving the graduation rate. Namely, by looking at the College of Education. An organization that is tasked with reorganizing the college in a way that keeps students on track for a four-year graduation.

The Graduation Initiative Steering Committee, with the help of Information Resources and Technology, has implemented a program that will track all tutoring, advising and retention contacts on campus.

“We want to be able to assure students and the public that Sacramento State is a place where students will succeed,” Gonzalez said.

Jason Conwell, a member of the California Faculty Association, said he is wary that some of the words used by Gonzalez could hint at potential changes on the horizon.

“He said some things that I thought were good, like directing more state revenue towards the CSU system,” Conwell said. “However, I’m worried a little bit when he speaks of efficiency, because sometimes that means smaller classes and worse education.”

Conwell also commented that the speech was surprisingly brief in duration.

During the speech, Gonzalez clarified that even while speaking of efficiencies – he knew faculty and staff are still “vitally important to higher education.”

Using a television commercial about robots running a day care as a reference, Gonzalez spoke of the future of higher education. He said that while faculty “are being pressured to be more like robots,” those expectations were not going to come to fruition.

Gonzalez said the budget cuts are going to make for a financially tough couple of years, but that things would improve once the economy picks up.

“One of the problems that we face as a state institution is the fact that our funding is dependent on the revenue that comes from the state,” Gonzalez said. “Because of that, we are always lagging behind. They have to get the revenue before the allocations come to us.”

Discussion of the budget problems was followed by Gonzalez inserting some positivity – telling numerous success stories of Sac State students.

This includes tales of students such as Montana Hodges. An alumna who published a book on geology following her education at Sac State. Hodges is now producing a documentary on the relationship between fossil collectors and scientists.

 “In the current budget climate, we literally cannot afford to hide our successes,” Gonzalez said. “

Edward Inch, the new dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said he looks forward to working in an environment in which leadership can remain positive in times of such distress.

“Budget challenges are currently being experienced everywhere,” Inch said. “You can either approach it negatively by thinking that it’s a hopeless situation, or you can find efficiencies and communicate with the community in a way that moves us toward a more positive future.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]