The Daily 49er sat down with President Jane Close Conoley Wednesday, Sept. 5 to ask her about her ambitions for the new semester and her hopes for the future of the campus. Conoley touched on new housing developments, parking, more classes, the fate of Prospector Pete and the new Beach 2030 — an initiative that looks to community input to improve Long Beach State.
Beach 2030 Initiative
What’s been on my mind is the launch of Beach 2030 — our big vision and strategic planning process. We’re putting a lot of time into that, hoping to involve a lot of people. I feel the big challenge is to make sure that it’s meaningful, and we won’t know that for while. We have various milestones; you have to get engagement and want to get people talking. I want to make sure we do it in a way that at the end of the process – two years from now – people say “not only are we moving in positive some directions but my voice was heard.” So, that’s really on my mind because it would be a very terrible waste of time and money and people’s brain power if we ended up with a document that we put on the shelf.
Professional education opportunities
I’m thinking of the Arizona State University model with Starbucks. For them, Starbucks is paying tuition for their employees who want to finish their degrees, so that’s one model.
Some of our plans are to move some of our continuing education … downtown into a vacant building down there … to make it more convenient for working adults to come and maybe finish a degree or upgrade some skills that they need now in their job. The hope would be that there would be some financial incentive … that the Port [of Long Beach] would be investing in them by paying at least some of their tuition. We’d be investing in them by either moving our stuff online or in closer proximity, geographically, literally to make it easier.
We see state funding being very stagnant … California is great because it has continued to invest, but it’s only back now to its pre-recession levels. And this is how long since the recession? So we have to be looking for other ways to attract investment, and I think some of these partnerships with hospitals, with business and industry, with foundations where we can be a win-win will help … keep tuition down and increase our accessibility to people.
We are going to build more housing on-campus that will hold about 500 more students. We are in regular negotiations with a nonprofit in town called LINC Housing to try to get the funding so that part of the new building would be built with affordable housing dollars. This would mean students would have to qualify, that would be a separate process from our process. So that’s in the works. I think within two years, we’ll be building something. The other thing we’re doing … is the downtown work where there’s a promise for affordable apartments, that would be available for faculty, staff and students who are 21 or older.
What we could do is get into a public-private partnership, but then it would be hard to control the rates that would be charged for students and faculty and staff to park in those [lots]. We would have to figure that out, put it in front of people, [and ask] are you willing to pay this much more for parking? But do we raise everybody’s parking fee in order to pay off the loans, or do we [have two] private … structures and you pay for the day that you’re there? There’s a lot of questions.
Accommodating a commuter campus
We have weekend classes, but I think we can do more on that. We’d have to hire people to do it, because we don’t have professors or advisers sitting around doing nothing. So then how do we get the money in the constraint, in the financial situation?
We have commuters, we have full-time workers, we have family people who can’t really be away. [Having online classes] might create accessibility for another population of students who want a college degree … So we have a cap of, let’s say, 30,000 students, and that cap is literally what the state pays you for. If you go above the cap, you’re not getting state money. So we try to stay very close to the cap. But if you’re online, you can have students above that cap because they’re not figured in.
We are continuing in a gradual way to schedule more classes on Friday; that’s a way to reduce parking during the four days … Our vice provost told me that we have increased the number of Friday classes by about 14 percent. Every student group that I’ve talked to is very much in favor of it.
We asked Forty-Niner Shops when they run out of their last Prospector Pete shirt not to get that again … we’re just trying to do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt people’s financial situation.
A group of students, faculty, alumni, staff all agreed that Prospector Pete was kind of passé, and we didn’t need to beat up the alums in the ‘60s for their lack of understanding about that. We’re building the alumni and visitor center, which I’m not sure if we raised enough money to do that [yet]. Anyway, the statue will be moved. I asked ASI if they thought it was a good idea, and I think they’ve agreed that they’ll run a referendum this year sometime among students what should be our new mascot. The Cal State University system has asked us to stay away from people.
Click the video to watch our Q&A exclusive with President Conoley: