In an expression of their dissent, a group of Cal State Long Beach faculty organized a town hall-style forum Thursday night in an attempt to draw attention to the Cal State University’s search for CSULB’s next president.
Held in Room 203 of the University Telecommunications building as part of a course on media and culture, the forum was representative of the transparent and issue oriented process that the faculty members call for in the search for of Cal State University campus presidents, according to Brian Lane, an organizer of the forum.
“Today is the first shot across the battle,” said Lane, who is also a 12-year professor in the film and electronic arts department.
According to Lane, the forum was designed to encourage the public, including the campus and surrounding community, to get involved in the presidential selection process as well as a petition.
The petition calls upon CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, the CSU Board of Trustees, Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to make the CSU presidential search process a “public search in which faculty and students and taxpayers participate.”
The change.org petition also seeks for CSULB to gain ”a new president who embraces the planks of a platform that will refund past tuition overcharges, lower present tuition and fees, and re-focus the campus to providing excellent education from quality teachers.”
According to Lane, the petition was started by the faculty members at the forum and filed by a speaker at the forum, CSULB alumnus Earl Carraway.
“It really all comes down to transparency of the search, involvement of the faculty and the students and cutting management,” Lane said.
Two of the faculty members and speakers for Thursday’s forum. Micheal C. Pounds, a professor in the film and electronic arts department, and Carraway sent emails during the summer to apply for the CSULB president position. They received replies thanking them for their interest and explaining that the application will become available later.
As part of a media and culture class, the first forum was included in the class’ syllabus. The speakers were met by a quiet audience comprised of mostly students who at first were not participating in the forum. One student interrupted the event to leave because he was uninterested in the topic.
But when both candidates campaigned for cutting tuition by two thirds and implementing it in a two-year plan, students began talking among themselves and asking questions.
“What I thought was interesting was their timeframe of when students will expect to see change,” senior XXX major Victor Reed said. “I thought the town hall meeting was informative. The [speakers] had the students first and foremost in their agenda and our future.”
According to state law that governs the CSU president selection process, although the speakers participating in the town hall forum have the credentials for the presidency, they lack the authority to appoint a university president.
According to state legislation, the authority to select a president lies solely with the CSU Board of Trustees.
Stakeholders in the school, including students and faculty, are represented in the search through an advisory committee, one of the two committees that work on the presidential selection. Though the stakeholders are represented in the search, the advisory committee doesn’t participate in the final voting of the president.
Other than committee representation, and a few votes by the board held in public view, the presidential selection process is held behind closed doors.
The CSU, however, says that the selection of the president has transparency because, in some way, all stakeholders are represented.
“The transparency, first and foremost, comes out of the fact that the trustees themselves are dually appointed, both nominated and confirmed, representatives of the public interests of the State of California,” CSU Spokesman Erik Fallis said. “Secondarily the advisory committee is selected by the stakeholder groups directly so that they provide a direct channel to the selection process.”
Ultimately the faculty members acknowledged their own lack of authority in selecting the president but said they still believe they can have an influence on its outcome through these town hall forums.
“Look, I don’t think I have much of a chance of truly winning the presidency,” Pounds said. “We just don’t want to see another president that [the CSU] parachute in without our consent.”
There will be a second town hall forum held by communications professor and two-term CSU trustee Craig Smith, Mary Celsi professor in the College of Business Administration, Pounds and Carraway at 2 p.m. on Wednesday in the Fine Arts building 1 room 206.
Future forums will not be held during any classes, according to Lane.