November 21, 2011

I feel it is important that we, as a higher education community, take the opportunity to reflect upon last Thursday’s one-day strike by the California Faculty Association (CFA). At last week’s action, members of the CFA and others voiced their issues. As a university, we value freedom of speech and expression, and we strive to foster an environment that encourages a free exchange of ideas and viewpoints. At the same time, our primary mission is to educate our students and we must always be concerned with the physical and psychological safety and welfare of our community — students, faculty, staff, and visitors. 

As we saw last week, balancing these priorities and values can create differences of opinion and put stress on our relationships with others. Clearly, the CFA activities had a differential effect upon our constituents and campus operations. Yet the planning, communication, and cooperation that occurred prior to and during last week’s action resulted in civil and respectful interactions.

Though this one-day strike is over, the issues confronting higher education — the California State University (CSU) and Cal State East Bay, specifically — are still with us. State funding for the CSU has dramatically declined and is now below 1998 levels while we are serving nearly 58,000 more students. Student fee increases have not replaced the cuts in state support. We are anticipating an additional midyear reduction of $100 million to the CSU that will translate into an additional $3.7 million reduction to Cal State East Bay.

The fundamental question ahead for us is: How do we come together, as a united university community, to discuss and develop a unified message we can take to the governor and legislators in Sacramento? These conversations will be critical if we hope to preserve our capacity and unwavering commitment to access to an affordable, high quality college education for California residents.

During the October listening sessions in which many of you participated, perhaps the most common sentiments expressed were about our shared pride in the University and our colleagues, our commitment to our mission and students, and how deeply we value our diverse community. Let us refocus and recommit ourselves to these values and principles as a means to preserve and strengthen our relationships that may have been strained by the strike. 

Let us begin these conversations now to strategize collectively on how we communicate our message to California voters, particularly alumni, parents and supporters, and elected officials. I seek your ideas and suggestions about how we can most effectively make and press our case. All constituents, speaking in a collective voice for the university, our students, and our mission will be the most effective.

Please share your ideas and suggestions with me through this feedback link. I look forward to hearing from you.

I appreciate everyone’s commitment and dedication to the University. Our ability to express differences of opinions and manage conflict in a civil and respectful manner will continue to be paramount if we are to succeed as an educational community.

Leroy M. Morishita
Interim President

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