Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed to retire

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California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed announced Thursday that he is retiring after 14 years of leading one of the largest public university systems in the nation through a tumultuous period of cutbacks, spiraling tuition and controversy over executive pay.

Officials said that Reed, 70, had been contemplating retirement for some time but wanted to oversee the search for new presidents, which is nearly compete, at seven of the system’s 23 campuses.

In a message to employees, Reed praised the university, its mission and staff.

“Out of all of the many experiences I have had, what I have enjoyed the most about my time in California is working with so many bright and talented individuals,” Reed said. “Some of my favorite moments as chancellor were those I spent learning about the leading-edge research and teaching innovations of our faculty members; the incredible dedication of our staff; and the against-all-odds success stories of our students.”

Among his endeavors, Reed launched a broad effort to recruit and retain Latino, African American, Native American, Asian Pacific Islander, veterans and other underserved students.

He also collaborated with the California Department of Education and the state Board of Education to create a program to assess the readiness of 11th-graders for college-level English and math.

University of California President Mark G. Yudof, with whom Reed has frequently lobbied and commiserated over declining state funding, called Reed a dynamic and innovative leader.

“The chancellor has been an effective and reliable ally in the fight to keep alive for future generations of Californians the promise of an affordable, top quality education,” Yudof said in a statement.

A. Robert Linscheid, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said Reed has had to make difficult decisions under tremendous pressure.

“Charlie has persevered through the worst budget crisis in the history of California and has had to deal with deep budget cuts to the CSU,” Linscheid said in a statement. “He has a deep desire to do what is best for students.”

The often-embattled chancellor has presided over unparalleled growth in the 427,000-student system, which added more than 100,000 new students during his tenure as well as the new Channel Islands campus.

But he has weathered unprecedented cuts in state support, including more than $750 million this fiscal year and potentially an additional $250 million next year if the state falls short on revenues.

Tuition has increased for six years even as campuses have slashed classes and other student services, capped enrollments and laid off hundreds of faculty and staff.

A board meeting in November at which trustees approved a 9% fee increase for fall 2012 was marked by violent student protests and followed public outcry over the $400,000 salary — $100,000 more than his predecessor — awarded last summer to the new president of San Diego State.

Reed and the Cal State board came under attack for approving that salary increase and in January agreed to cap the pay of incoming presidents at 10% more than their predecessors’ pay. But that didn’t quell the criticism, which came from Gov. Jerry Brown, among others, and a new policy adopted earlier this month will freeze state-funded salaries of incoming campus presidents but allow individual campus nonprofit foundations to boost pay up to 10%.

Also in November, hundreds of members of the California Faculty Assn. staged a one-day strike at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay over a pay dispute in the first walkout since the union was formed in 1983.

There could be more strikes at all 23 campuses in the fall if current contract negotiations falter.

Amid the turmoil, Reed, who makes $421,500 plus an annual $30,000 bonus from the Cal State foundations, has frequently been the focal point of criticism.

Faculty union President Lillian Taiz conceded that she and Reed had often been at odds.

“I don’t think there is any secret that we’ve had very contentious times with this leader over some fundamental differences in understanding of his role and our role,” said Taiz, a Cal State L.A. history professor. “We’ve felt we needed a leader with a real commitment to public service and have been repeatedly disappointed with the apparent obsession with the well-being of executives.

“We’re really looking forward to turning the page and moving on to a relationship with the administration that is healthier and more productive,” she said.

Reed received a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education, a master’s degree in secondary education and a doctorate in teacher education from George Washington University. He previously served for 13 years as chancellor of the Florida State University system.

Cal State officials said Reed is expected to remain in his post until a successor is named by the Board of Trustees.