CSUMB Crisis--Multiple problems continue to plague CSUMB campus.
Thursday, May 6, 1999
In the midst of a major challenge to his leadership, President Peter Smith of CSUMB responds with the rhetoric of self-justification. Terms like "trying," "work in progress" and "lofty vision" all bespeak an impossible task through language of excuse, escape and apology. How many times has Smith failed to address the deteriorating conditions of diversity on this campus? Unable to provide pro-active and informed leadership, President Smith avoids and ignores events of concern until they become crisis.
Concerns arising at CSUMB in the last several weeks are not solely related to issues of diversity. The financial situation of the university has also come into question, leading some campus groups to call for an audit of the school''s finances, especially the funds collected from the two- and three-bedroom units rented to faculty and staff. Smith''s salary of $175,536 is roughly equal to that of the president of San Jose State, who administers a campus of 26,000 students while Smith''s campus has only 1,577. In addition to his own salary, the top-heavy administration Smith has put together has higher annual salaries than the administrative salaries at Cal State Humboldt, Bakersfield, Dominguez Hills, San Bernadino, and Stanislaus, and equal to that of Cal State Hayward with 14,684 students.
When the campus was first opened, the leadership of the university decided not to create "separatist" programs like an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). Since CSUMB was to be a model institution that embraced diversity and multiculturalism, it was decided that rather than create programs that only served some students, the university would commit itself to offering support for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, class or socioeconomic status. The problem with this approach was that the CSUMB leadership never committed the resources necessary to provide the promised services that students would need to succeed.
Likewise, the continuous cuts in the Migrant Ed. program have left a half-time faculty position with no budget and no staff to serve the continually recruited farmworker youth of our region. This practice of recruitment without retention support is a recipe for disillusionment.
Contributing to the worsening situation is the continuous attrition of diverse faculty role models. How can our students feel welcome and safe on the campus if their own role models and mentors are not able to stay?
At CSUMB, the challenges faced by any institutional start-up were magnified by a conflict-ridden atmosphere created when Smith unilaterally decided to terminate the position of founding Provost Dr. Steven Arvizu. Since the departure of Dr. Arvizu, a minimum of 28 founding faculty and administrators have either been reassigned to lesser posts or have departed/are departing the university.
Leadership''s failure to create an ethical, cross-cultural climate on the CSUMB campus is grave. The present leadership has found it easier to create its own sense of comfort at the expense of students, faculty, and staff while failing to create any central space for students to gather and learn across all their differences in a common social world. Some have described it as an imperial landscape more suited to a private college than a state university mandated to serve the students of our region.
In a time when minority populations are reaching a majority status in this region, it is unconscionable that we must battle to maintain the small measure of diverse representation that we have. Our communities hold funds of knowledge which must be valued by those who lead, and if this cannot be done, new leadership must be found. The lofty vision of CSUMB demands that much.
Ray Gonzales, PhD, is co-chair of the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association of CSUMB.