Improving communication with students is a top priority this year, said Jolene Koester, President of CSUN, at her seventh annual convocation speech held on the morning of August 31.
“This is on the top of my ‘to do’ list,” said Koester, referring in her speech to the need for improved communication and improved advisement for students. She later said she will personally overlook improvements of the CSUN portal system.
The budget for the university has rebounded for now, but Koester used an analogy that compared the university to a car that will get increasingly smaller and less luxurious as the car “continue(s) (its) travels within a proportionately declining resource base.” She said the resource base is proportionately declining because the university is growing.
An audience of about 500 filled the lawn in front of the Oviatt Library at 9 a.m. to hear the president’s speech. The audience was made up mostly of faculty and staff, but there were some students in attendance as well.
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the academic accreditation agency for CSUN, and Koester said WASC would be evaluating CSUN for accreditation again starting this year.
In order to accomplish what is ahead this academic year, Koester told her audience “we need to provide three qualities.” She said those qualities are systematic efforts for planning the future, focusing on student success, and collective efforts combined with individual actions.
Alexandra Cole, an assistant professor of political science at CSUN, said she was surprised that there wasn’t more information about the speech available to students. She said she tried to look online to see when the speech was, and she couldn’t find the information on the calendar.
“I was disappointed,” said Cole, referring to what she thought of the convocation speech. Cole said she expected there to be a segment of the speech where Koester would be open for questions, like in her previous convocation speeches.
Cole said she wanted to ask about the negotiations that were going on between CSUN and the California Faculty Association (CFA). Cole wore a black shirt to the speech in support of the CFA. She said it was important for Koester to take questions, especially at a time like this when there could be a strike in the future.
“We made the decision last night to not bring the bull horns,” said Dave Ballard, president of the CFA chapter at CSUN. He and half a dozen others clothed in the black-shirts of the CFA were putting materials on the tables on the lawn before the speech began. The materials included bottles of water, paper fans and green flyers.
Each flyer stated that, while CSUN students have seen tuition increases of 76 percent since 2002 and faculty has seen a 5 percent net loss factoring in inflation in their salary, Koester has received a $50,000 raise and the CSU chancellor receives a salary of $362,500.
The CFA and CSUN have been in contract negotiations for 17 months, Ballard said. This semester CFA will hold an event on campus every month until negotiations are settled, but he said that “there are still significant problems.”
In an interview conducted with the Daily Sundial after the speech, Koester said when it comes to management and unions, there is always a process of give and take. She said, “That’s bargaining.”
Koester said, “We are very well positioned this year” for WASC. When asked if CSUN would receive accreditation again, she said “it will be done.”
Koester said she will be focusing on and overlooking a wide range of goals and challenges this academic year. She said she wanted to make clear the responsibility for university improvements, though the collective effort of many, rested with her alone.
“To quote Harry Truman,” Koester said, “the buck stops here.”