The Snider Recital Hall at California State University was packed full with faculty, students, community officials and local residents on Wednesday morning, all eager to hear President Joseph Sheley give his first official address as the interim president at CSU Stanislaus.
During his address, President Sheley stressed the importance of university pride, a collaborative spirit and regional partnerships as the university copes with budgetary challenges in the immediate future and over the next few years.
“We face challenges with our budget. We have work to do,” stated Sheley. “But we are still a community that is proud of this university, its history, and its obvious potential to impact both individuals and the region.”
President Sheley then took time to recognize specific people within the audience for their help and support as he has entered the Turlock community after joining CSU Stanislaus in June.
Attending the event was Turlock Mayor John Lazar, Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden, Turlock Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Silva, Mayor of Stockton Ann Johnston, Mayor of Riverbank Virginia Madueño, Manteca City Manager Karen McLaughlin, President of Modesto Junior College Jill Stearns, Superintendent of Turlock Unified School District Dr. Sonny DeMarto, and many other community members.
“We are not an island,” stated Sheley while emphasizing the importance of being integrated within the region. “We are part of an important region, and we truly want to partner in moving this region forward.”
President Sheley also took time to thank the faculty and staff at California State University Stanislaus, including Provost Dr. James Strong, Dr. Suzanne Espinoza, Dr. Robert Dawson, and Mr. Dennis Shimek, and all of the Deans from each college at the university including Dr. Linda Nowak, Dr. Reza Kamali, Dr. Jim Tuedio, Dr. Oddmund Myhre, Ms. Annie Hor, Mr. Kevin Nemeth, and Mr. Ron Noble. Founding Dean of the College of the Arts for six years, Daryl Moore, was also recognized for having rejoined the arts faculty as part of the recent college organization.
After the warm welcomes and introductions, Sheley refocused his address to bring up the issues and challenges the University faces.
“We might as well look the bear right in the eye – let’s talk about the budget,” he stated.
To cope with difficult economic times, Sheley urged faculty and administrators to be creative, thoughtful and collaborative as they work to offer courses and advising in order to maximize students’ progress toward graduation while minimizing costs. He also encouraged staff members to look for ways to deliver services more effectively and efficiently and called on students to be patient and to become advocates for higher education as the state awaits the results of Proposition 30 – the governor’s tax initiative on the November ballot. Proposition 30’s failure would result in a $250 million “trigger” cut to the entire CSU system.
“Our funding is down to levels we haven’t seen since the mid-1990s, though we’re serving 75,000 more students – that’s the equivalent of about eight campuses our size,” informed Sheley.
“There’s not a person in this room – and I mean administrators, faculty, staff, students and community members who hasn’t felt the impacts of these cuts,” he stated. “There’s no fat left to be trimmed. We are into muscle. We are into bone.”
Should Proposition 30 fail, Sheley says the university would be put into a fiscal situation unlike any other since the Great Depression.
Should Proposition 30 pass, the universities would not collect any new money, however, it would keep them from experiencing the $250 million trigger cut. For CSU Stanislaus, should the tax initiative fail, this would mean facing cuts of several million dollars.
“We have planned as if Prop 30 will not pass, because to do otherwise would be irresponsible,” stated Sheley.
“We cannot let our difficulties blind us to our strengths and accomplishments,” continued Sheley. “We have so much to be proud of, so much to celebrate.”
“We ground our curriculum in the liberal arts – I am talking here not about specific majors but about knowing how to communicate, think critically, write well, adapt to challenges, facilitate change and appreciate perspectives,” he stated. “It’s less about specifics learned than about capacity developed.”
Sheley also emphasized beginning partnerships between the university and local businesses, community groups and governments as being important to the success of the University in becoming less of a ‘hidden gem’ in the Central Valley.
“If we do this, the region’s leaders and citizens become our active, aggressive advocates,” he said. “They celebrate our successes publicly. And they pick up the phone and personally let those who decide our fate know why we matter. No more hidden gem.”
To read the transcript of President Joseph F. Sheley’s Fall Address, go to the CSU Stanislaus website at this link.