Even as he praised the quality of faculty and students at Cal State Fullerton and its potential for excellence, the university’s new president warned Thursday of austere times ahead with state budget cuts that will spell a shortfall of at least $3 million this school year.
In his first major speech since taking office this month, President Milton A. Gordon emphasized that the governor had not yet signed the California State University budget and that cuts for the system could range far deeper.
In making decisions on where to reduce the campus’s $100-million budget, however, Gordon told a standing-room-only crowd of university professors and administrators that his goal is to “maintain the integrity of our educational programs and the vitality and development of the campus.”
Some student internship programs will be lost, as will the campus’s visiting lecture program of “distinguished scholars,” because state lottery funds for those programs will be needed to help balance the university’s budget, Gordon said in an interview after his speech in the Little Theatre on campus.
Beyond that, he could not be more specific about potential cuts except to say, “It’s going to be a problem.”
But since more than 80% of the university’s budget represents fixed costs, the $3-million-plus shortfall would have to come out of remaining discretionary funds, he said.
Barry A. Pasternak, Fullerton’s representative to the California Faculty Assn., predicted the budget crunch would probably translate into cuts of classes and some services for the academic year that begins Tuesday.
“There isn’t that much fat around here,” said the management science professor, who has closely monitored the faculty group’s negotiations with university administrators as they grapple with uncertain funding for the 20-campus Cal State system.
Eliminating classes may mean that many students would take longer to graduate because of a shortage of required courses in some disciplines, Pasternak said. “I’ve been in the CSU system since 1977, and this is the worst crisis I’ve seen.”
But Gordon remained upbeat despite the gloomy forecasts, promising to work together with the faculty and administrators to turn an already “fine institution” into “an outstanding university.”
Gordon, 55, is the fourth president of the 25,000-student university, which was founded in 1957 on 225 acres of orange groves. The Chicago native succeeds Jewel Plummer Cobb, a biologist who retired July 31, nine years after she became the first black woman to head a major university in the western United States.
Black Issues in Higher Education, a biweekly national publication, reported in its Aug. 16 issue that Gordon is the first black to succeed another black as president of a predominantly white university.
In his speech, Gordon ticked off Cal State Fullerton’s noteworthy achievements and detailed an ambitious construction program of new laboratories, classrooms and student facilities. These construction funds come from separate sources and are unaffected by the current cuts.
Then he gave a sweeping--if general--sketch of his vision for the university.
Cal State Fullerton already is a “comprehensive urban university,” he said, but it must become a “caring campus” where faculty, students and even alumni are encouraged to “reach their optimum personal and professional development.”
Signaling a slight shift away from Cobb’s insistence that professors engage in active research in addition to their teaching loads, Gordon called for a faculty reward system that recognizes “outstanding teaching” and encourages professors to seek new knowledge and skills.
“Education cannot be just simply an introduction to a career, but a lifelong endeavor,” he told them.
As a state university, Fullerton already represents a “pathway into the American mainstream for individuals and families who otherwise would not have the opportunity,” Gordon said. With Orange County’s minority population projected to hit 40% by the year 2000, the university must strive even harder to “create a campus climate sensitive to, and supportive of, differences in gender, ethnicity and culture.”
Since there is no relief in sight to the budget troubles that have plagued the Cal State system for the last five years, Gordon said Fullerton must develop “other funding sources for the support needed to excel and to stand prominently among the nation’s foremost state universities.”
He plans to expand the President’s Executive Forum, a panel of top corporate executives from major companies such as Rockwell International and Western Digital, to include a broader base of business leaders. And he hopes to take the message to the community that Cal State Fullerton is a valuable resource that already provides thousands of graduates each year for the county’s work force.