By Antony Garcia
President Jolene Koester announced her retirement this week and highlighted university achievements during her tenure as president of CSU Northridge. It was beautifully written and focused on very positive aspects during her last few years of presidency, which while beneficial, are not the only or most significant accomplishments during her tenure.
She said graduation rates have improved, the VPAC is completed, and her leadership allowed CSUN to “weather difficult budget circumstances,” but I hear a politician when I hear the statement “weather difficult budget circumstances” and I think it is an insult to the intelligence of our academic community.
The image presented in her announcement is that of a beautiful, shining university, beaming with academic responsibility as a backdrop and the Valley Performing Arts Center as the glorious flagship to an impressive institution. But I’m looking behind the façade, behind the curtain.
What I see is a cut-and-paste job of a failing financial plan, with more fee increases expected, a growing discontent among students and faculty who are speaking out and protesting, even interrupting Chancellor Reed’s luncheons, against an overall backdrop of statewide protests, sit-ins, and administrative building lock-ins.
What I see is a president who has recognized that her flagship of a performing arts center leads a titanic of financial calamity sinking steadily into dark, frigid waters. The bullet point plan to deal with the university’s financial crisis was to cut funding to programs, classes and staff, institute temporary furloughs, and all while raising enrollment fees. Does this sound at all like “intensive and consultative” planning? Who exactly was consulted, the CEOs of the failing banks that plunged us into our overall economic balancing act?
What I see is a politician, taking an opportune time to make a calculated exit. She recognizes that the growing, student-led discontent is reaching an explosive point, not only at CSUN but also on a statewide level, and she does not wish to be at the helm of the ship when that happens.
But, then again, I may have an over active imagination. What is it that you see?
In the campus newspaper this week, I saw an article by only one student who had the valor to truly question if her leadership has been effective and beneficial to the CSUN community amidst praise by students and colleagues. I greatly respect and appreciate that lone voice and I consider it the most accurate and resounding of all.