Cal State L.A. President William Covino to retire after 10 years

A plaza at Cal State Los Angeles with statue of an eagle.
Cal State L.A. President William A. Covino has announced his retirement. A campus plaza is shown.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

William A. Covino, president of Cal State L.A., plans to retire at the end of the 2022-23 academic year after heading the 27,000-student campus for a decade, the university has announced.

Covino shared his decision to step down months after faculty members issued a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

“I’m honored to have had the opportunity to serve as president of Cal State LA for 10 years,” Covino said in a statement Thursday. “To offer students a transformative education, one that forever changes their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities, is a high aspiration. At Cal State LA, we hit the mark day after day, year after year.”


Cal State University Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester credited Covino with boosting graduation rates and moving the university forward in national rankings. In 2017, one study ranked the university first in the country for upward mobility.

Koester also praised his efforts to bring opportunities to community members from marginalized backgrounds, which included launching the Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative, a bachelor’s degree program for men incarcerated at the state prison in Lancaster.

Cal State Los Angeles’ prison BA program exemplifies inmate reentry efforts and imparts hope for a life after incarceration.

Nov. 4, 2021

But in recent months, Covino’s relationship with faculty had soured. Members of the Cal State L.A. Academic Senate condemned Covino after campus police forcibly removed a Cal State L.A. professor from a mayoral debate in May.

In video of the encounter, which was decried by mayoral candidates and elected officials, the professor, who is also a Black Lives Matter leader, Melina Abdullah, is heard identifying herself as a professor and shouting, “You’re hurting me,” as four campus police officers physically removed her from a seat in the student union’s theater.

Shortly afterward, 40 senators, or 91% of those who participated in a vote, supported the no-confidence resolution.

At the time, one professor described the incident as “the straw that broke the camel’s back” after years of frustration over what faculty said was a pattern of insensitive treatment of marginalized communities.


Some community members urged the president to step down for failing to take responsibility for the encounter. Covino has said he would not have approved Abdullah’s removal from the debate had he been consulted.

Before arriving at Cal State L.A., Covino served as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Cal State Fresno and provost at Cal State Stanislaus. He started his career as an assistant professor at San Diego State.

Cal State officials said they will conduct a national search for Covino’s successor.