Paying student fees for services not being used this pandemic and several other issues were discussed during the virtual press conference of the new CSU Chancellor, Dr. Joseph Castro on September 30.
Having worked as the President of the CSU Fresno campus since 2013, he will begin his role as Chancellor on January 4, 2021. He is also credited as the first Mexican-American Chancellor to be appointed and will become the eighth Chancellor of the CSU.
The event was moderated by Michael Uhlenkamp, the Senior Director of Public Affairs for the CSU outputs of the Chancellor. He instructed student reporters on how to raise their hands through Zoom so that they may be selected to have their questions answered by Dr. Castro. Nineteen CSU student press members were in attendance, including one from the University of Southern California. Within the thirty-minute conference, nine were selected to ask their questions.
Since the announcement that CSU would provide virtual learning after spring break of this year, there has been a backlash as tuition and fees remained fixed. Madalyn Amato of Long Beach asked, “Do you have any plans to address students’ concerns of being charged fees for on-campus services that we don’t have access to?”
“I don’t have a full awareness of all the different kinds of campus fees across the system,” Dr. Castro said. “We’ve tried to make sure that the fees we do charge are appropriate.”
Students have been exempt from paying for parking, while housing and dining fees are alleviated for those who aren’t living on the campuses. “There are fees like our fitness center and our student union, which it’s true that students are not using those facilities, but I would say that those are like the houses that some of our families own and they will be used in the coming years. It’s really important that we continue to fund and support those,” said Dr. Castro.
Dr. Castro is looking to understand the different fees across the CSU campuses as he remains cautious of spending money from the reserves. “As you know, reserves are really like a savings account at home. Once you spend $1 of your savings account, unless you replenish it, it’s gone forever,” said Dr. Castro. He followed this up by saying, “It’s very important that as we consider using reserves, we’re careful not to use them too quickly or for things that are really recurring in nature.”
The low Black student population was another concern for those in attendance at the event. Blanca Gonzalez of Cal Poly Pomona said, “At Cal Poly Pomona only 3% of the student body is Black.”
In response to these statistics, Dr. Castro would like to review the strategies that have been used in the past and analyze which ones would be right to increase the enrollment of African-American students. “I think that all of us need to look at that and take steps to address this so that over time, we can increase the representation of African-American students and also work harder to retain them and help them graduate. That way, they can be part of this emerging group of leaders in California and throughout the country,” said Dr. Castro.
A similar response was given when asked about diversifying the CSU staff while also including his plans to collaborate with the University of California (UC) system. “One idea I have is that I plan to discuss with the University of California President, Michael Drake.”
He credits the UC as educating the largest number of Ph.D. students and graduates who have been becoming more diverse. “I would like us to be in a position where we inspire those graduates to join our faculty. I think that that’s a really nice potential synergistic relationship between the two large public university systems in the country. So it’d be a ‘grow our own strategy’ within California.”
With COVID-19 continuing to be a concern for many people, there are some areas in California that do not have as many cases compared to others. This has led to some university students questioning whether or not there will be more in-person classes available for the Spring semester.
Dr. Castro explained that each campus president would prepare a plan for the spring that would be reviewed by the Chancellor’s office. “There will be some campuses that have the conditions in which they can add more in-person courses. Here in Fresno, that’s our plan: to have more in-person courses in the spring than in the fall.”
He clarified that this may not be applicable to all campuses, as local health conditions vary. “Thinking about the health and welfare of our faculty and staff and all of your families, that needs to be the first priority.”
Dr. Castro concluded the conference by speaking about his social media presence on Twitter and Instagram and invited students to engage with him virtually during the pandemic.
“After the pandemic, we’re going to get to spend time together in rooms and safely on your campuses,” said Dr. Castro. “I’d like to think about other ways of supporting the presidents because they are the leaders of each of your campuses and I’m going to be there, alongside them, and support them to reach our goals.”