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Impasse leaves Cal State University board without faculty reps

The Cal State University system’s governing board has been without a faculty voice for eight months because of a disagreement between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the university’s Academic Senate about who should occupy the seat.

The impasse has come at a critical time for the Cal State system, which has grappled in recent months with a $564-million cut in state funding, resulting in controversial decisions to raise student fees 32%, slash enrollment by 40,000 students over two years and require nearly all employees to take furlough days.

Last March, the faculty group sent the governor the names of two candidates it judged to be highly qualified for the trustee post. The faculty representative serves as liaison to Cal State’s 23 campuses and represents the views of its 23,000 faculty members at board meetings. Cal State is the nation’s largest system of higher education with 450,000 students.

But Schwarzenegger has yet to appoint either faculty nominee. Instead, the governor’s appointments secretary in December asked the Academic Senate to “broaden the candidate pool with one or more candidates of diversity.”

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Both candidates -- Barry Pasternack, chairman of the information systems and decision sciences department at Cal State Fullerton, and Henry F. Reichman, a history professor at Cal State East Bay -- are white men. The faculty group said that it had considered a diverse pool of applicants; of four finalists, two were women, one of them Asian American.

But the dispute has moved beyond the diversity issue and become a political tug of war between Schwar- zenegger and the faculty body, which sees its historical role in the appointment process being threatened. In January, the group unanimously resolved to support its two original nominees and refused to name additional candidates. Doing so might politicize the process, said John Tarjan, chairman of the Academic Senate.

“We’ve never faced this situation before,” Tarjan said. “We respect the idea that the governor has to make sure the interests of all the citizens of the state are considered. But damage to the system will be done if [the appointment] gets held up much longer.”

Meanwhile, some faculty members have speculated that the delay may be a result of past or present union activities of the two candidates. Reichman is a member of the collective bargaining team for the California Faculty Assn. Pasternack was on the association’s board in the 1990s but has not been active recently.

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Reichman would not comment on the dispute but said a faculty perspective “is critical as the university continues to face incredible challenges.” Pasternack declined to comment.

The governor’s office has been tight-lipped about the delay and what kind of diversity it is seeking.

The appointments secretary would still welcome additional candidates, deputy press secretary Mike Naple said. But he said that Schwarzenegger will abide by state statute and make the appointment from the nominees submitted by the Academic Senate.

“The process is moving forward, but that sometimes takes awhile,” Naple said. “The governor is committed to appointing the most qualified applicant to serve.”

Craig Smith, who served as faculty trustee for four years before stepping down in June, wrote a letter to the governor suggesting that inaction on the appointment has damaged California’s tradition of shared governance.

“It’s a very bad situation,” said Smith, director of the Center for First Amendment Studies at Cal State Long Beach.

“There is no faculty voting on issues like student fees and curriculum, and that is a problem.”

carla.rivera@latimes.com


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