The California State University Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Dr. Mildred García as the new Chancellor of the CSU university system.
Board chair Wenda Fong made the announcement at their July 12 meeting stating that García will be the 11th Chancellor to serve in the role and will be the first Latina appointed to the position of heading the four-year university system.
García currently serves as the president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, an organization that represents many state colleges and universities with the aim of advocating for student access and opportunity within higher education.
“Thank you chair Fong, and the entire board, for the confidence you have placed in me,” García said in a taped response to the board. “I vow to work alongside you, the amazing faculty and staff, presidents and vice chancellors, to lift CSU to even higher heights.”
While the appointment of García received a near unanimous standing ovation, there was some disagreement on the board regarding the proposed salary for the chancellor position.
The proposed salary from the Committee of University Faculty and Personnel was $795,000 for an annual salary with an additional $80,000 in annual deferred compensation. A monthly living allowance of $8,000 as well as an allotted $1,000 for automotive transportation were also included.
While the motion passed 9 – 2, many people that spoke at the meeting disagreed with the details. Some board members felt that the compensation was too low for the level of expertise that García would bring to the university, especially when compared to private university systems.
“She’s a gift. She’s a gift to the students, a gift to the faculty, and I believe that she will fight for them tooth and nail,” Board member Lateefah Simon said at the meeting. “And we are today suggesting that we pay her at the median.”
The two board members that voted against the compensation package did so based on agenda items the board had also discussed in the recent meeting: raising tuition costs and fair compensation for university staff, faculty and student workers. The dissenting members questioned what type of message was being sent to the public.
“My vote is an advocacy attempt to ensure that salaries in the CSU are equitable,” Board member Diana Aguilar-Cruz said at the meeting. “I respect the work of our current chancellor and our incoming chancellor, but I also respect the work of our faculty, staff and student workers, who also deserve a fair living wages.”
According to Hazel Kelly, the manager of strategic communications and public affairs for the Chancellor’s office, García won’t be taking on her role of chancellor until Oct. 1 and will be focusing on her duties for AASCU for the time being.
Cal State Long Beach President Jane Conoley released a statement regarding the new appointment.
“Chancellor-select García steps into this role at a critical time,” Conoley said. “We at Long Beach warmly welcome her back to the CSU, and we have every confidence that with her leadership the system will meet its current challenges while continuing to build the very best future-focused educational experiences for students.”
García previously served as President of CSU Dominguez from 2007 to 2012, and then CSU Fullerton from 2012 to 2018.
In her response to the board, García spoke about her experiences growing up. Her father died when she was 12, and as a child in a working class home, her mother gave her permission to work in a factory. García said she was treated horribly there, so she instead went to community college when it became available.
According to García, the support she received from the staff and faculty at her college and beyond helped her realize that she wanted to work toward making college available to everyone.
“I stand on the shoulders of those that sacrificed so much and that came before us,” García said. “With the responsibility, I owe them to provide all who enter our doors, regardless of who they love, regardless of their background, regardless of their income, to a high quality education.”
García is replacing Jolene Koester, who stepped into the role of interim chancellor on May 1, 2022, and wasn’t expected to fill the role for more than 15 months. Koester took over the role after the resignation of Joseph Castro amid allegations that he failed to properly address sexual assault incidents that occurred during his time as president of California State University Fresno.