Incoming CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro discusses COVID-19 plans and priorities

“You should know your chancellor and I want to know you,” Castro said.


Incoming CSU chancellor and Fresno State president Joseph Castro discusses his plans for campuses on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020 as he prepares to take office on Jan. 4, 2021. Castro addressed the virtual spring semester, funding for police departments and diversity across the 23 campuses. Screenshot by Jenna Cooper via Zoom.

Jenna Cooper

Incoming California State University chancellor Joseph Castro discussed his plans and top priorities for CSU campuses with CSU student press via Zoom on Wednesday. 

Castro will be the eighth CSU chancellor and first Mexican American and native Californian appointed to the position. He currently serves as the Fresno State president and will take office on Jan. 4, 2021.

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All 23 CSU campuses will administer predominantly virtual instruction for the Spring 2021 semester according to a press release. Castro said current CSU Chancellor Timothy White, his vice chancellors and the campus presidents discussed preparing their COVID-19 plans for the spring on Tuesday. 

“There will be some campuses that have the conditions in which they can add more in-person courses,” Castro said.  

Fresno State is an example of a campus that plans to have more in-person courses in the spring compared to the fall Castro said. 

“There may be some campuses that can’t do that because of the local health conditions,” Castro said. 

“The primary focus is to be sure in the course of educating all of you and the other very talented CSU students and also thinking about the health and welfare of our faculty and staff and all of your families,” Castro said. 

Castro does not anticipate a huge difference in the spring, but said that all COVID-19 plans are situational as they discuss with county public health officials. 

“We’ll have to be flexible in terms of how we approach this, but without flexibility around our mission and our values,” Castro said.

Castro said as soon as he takes office in January he will talk with the CSU presidents about plans for both the summer and fall of 2021. 

Diversity on Campus

In order to create more diversity among staff and faculty at CSU campuses, Castro said the first step is to have conversations with the CSU presidents and reflect on what works well and what more they can do to increase the number of African American students.

“I think that we need to look at the strategies we have utilized in the past and presently and continuously ask are these the right strategies going forward and what can we do to increase the number of African American students who attend the CSU,” Castro said. 

Castro said one objective is to meet with University of California President Michael Drake and discuss how the UC and the CSU can work together to diversify campuses.

“The UC educates a large number of Ph.D. students and graduates them, and they are becoming more and more diverse and I would like us to be in a position where we inspire those graduates to join our faculty,” Castro said. “I think that’s a really nice intentional synergistic relationship between the two large public university systems in the country.” 

Apart from working with the UC system, Castro said a plan for implementing Assembly Bill 1460, which will require students to complete ethnic studies courses that are currently in the process of development, is important. 

RELATED: New ethnic studies requirement signed into law by Gov. Newsom

“I’m committed to the successful implementation of that bill that’s now law and I know that Chancellor White and his team have been working with the presidents and provosts and faculty to begin that implementation process,” Castro said. “I’ll look forward to continuing that and completing that as the new chancellor next year.” 

CSU Police Departments

Castro said he believes in the  need to fund the CSU public safety officers amid the lack of student presence on campus. 

“I can speak as the president of Fresno State and to let you know here on this campus and I presume on the other campuses, we need to have public safety officers in order to protect our facilities, and the people who are here,” Castro said.

Castro said that although campuses are not occupied by a large number of people, this can be a time when people who want “to do bad things” could use the opportunity of a nearly empty campus to commit crimes.

Finance and Enrollment for Campuses

Castro said at Fresno State they try to make sure that fees are appropriate.

“I don’t yet have a full awareness of all the different kinds of campus fees across the systems, so I will need to take some time to do that,” Castro said. 

Castro also hopes to inspire more students to go to CSU campuses that are under-enrolled.

“Here in the San Joaquin Valley we’ve had a different situation where we’ve had significant increases in enrollment,” Castro said. 

“There are regional differences and I think it is important for us as a system to understand that and take appropriate steps to address it and that will help with the budget situation,” Castro said. “It will not help with regard to the other state cuts.” 

To help with enrollment at CSUs, Castro said that he needs to inspire students who are eligible to attend universities to apply and enroll.

Castro said CSU students are a part of the next generation of leaders for the future of California’s economy.

“One out of 10 Californian employees is a CSU graduate and so from a social and economic perspective it’s vitally important that the CSU succeeds,” Castro said.

Castro’s Top Priorities as Chancellor

Castro said his top priority is to make progress and achieve the goals that are in Graduation Initiative 2025.

“In 2015, the California State University (CSU) launched Graduation Initiative 2025, its ambitious plan to increase graduation rates, eliminate equity gaps in degree completion and meet California’s workforce needs,” according to the CSU website.

Castro said his second priority is to continue to create strong relationships with legislators in Sacramento and Washington D.C. to inspire them to invest more in the CSU system. 

“The third priority is to consider ways of using technology differently and more strategically to advance our mission,” Castro said. 

 Castro said he wants to use technology as a way to enhance teaching, learning, research and service. 

Castro also said that as chancellor he wants to remain accessible to students.

“You all should know who your chancellor is and I want to know you,” Castro said. “I’m going to use forums to connect with you. Social media, I’m on Twitter and Instagram.”