Gonzalez explains retirement

Jonathan Ayestas

At the end of his yearly convocation address, what was thought to be a routine speech resulted in the announcement of Sacramento State’s President Alexander Gonzalez’s retirement.

After mentioning hiring 49 new faculty members this year, the record 3,700 incoming freshmen class and the over $1 million given away in scholarships, Gonzalez confirmed the 2014-2015 academic year would be his last.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years at least,” Gonzalez said. “But you know, there’s always something else to do.”

Gonzalez begins his 36th year in the California State University system; starting his 12th year as Sac State President, 18 years in Fresno State and six years at CSU San Marcos as president.

“There’s always a bittersweet moment when somebody announces their retirement,” California Faculty Association President Kevin Wehr said.

Gonzalez said his wife’s condition played a role in his decision as well.

“Last year my wife had an illness, and that was very bad,” Gonzalez said. “I think that’s when I really started thinking, both of us have been thinking ‘Do I wanna keep doing this? And for how long?’ Things happen. When you have a job like this, it’s tough. To have her be ill and still try to do the job as best I can, I think that’s what pushed me over.”

According to Gonzalez, the CSU Board of Trustees and Chancellor Timothy White will be putting together a committee which will include representation from the board, faculty members from Sac State, a student trustee and community members.

In the next month the hand-picked committee will meet on campus in an open process and solicit nominations. The board will select their pick from the list of candidates, announcing their decision around late March or April 2015.

“Probably that person will start in June or July 1, and I will cycle out and be gone,” Gonzalez said. “But ceremoniously.”

One of Gonzalez’s goals he wished to see through was adding more space for science classes in Sequoia and Humboldt Hall.

“Those are old, old building with old facilities,” Gonzalez said. “In ‘67, it was state-of-the-art. But in 2014, it’s just an old building.”

Sequoia was built in 1967, funded through bonds. Gonzalez said with recent economic downturns and Gov. Brown not issuing any more bonds, different ways of funding a new science building are being considered.

Wehr pointed out how he sees a lack of core academic buildings being built to address full classes, in spite of other recent buildings like the Well or American River Courtyard.

“[Gonzalez] prioritized some things, that I think a lot of faculty instead wished he would prioritized other in things that are a little bit more central to the core mission of the University in quality education,” Wehr said.

Vice President for Public Affairs and Advocacy Phil Garcia said there was money for a new science building in the 2009-2010 academic year, but because of the economic crisis, Gov. Brown decided to cut the budget for all projects in the CSU and University of California systems.

“We were that close a few years ago,” Garcia said.

“The amount of money that we have for Capitol programs is severely diminished,” Gonzalez said. “Especially now with what happened in Napa, for the last several years, the projects that have been funded have been for seismic retrofit, to make sure building don’t fall out.”

Garcia said Gonzalez wrote a letter addressing the need for the $50 million short the CSU didn’t receive from Gov. Brown, originally as senate bill [SB] 782. After revision, its next step is to head to the governor’s desk as assembly bill [AB] 1476.

Gonzalez said Sac State’s budget is at a cautious optimism, with slight improvement.

“Prop. 30 is really what changed everything for us,” Gonzalez said. “It stopped the bleeding- we weren’t reducing every year, but we’re buried at the bottom and we’re just starting to come up, but very slightly.”