News & Information

Sacramento State Spring Address 2011


President Gonzalez' speech as written

Thank you for coming today, and welcome to the beginning of another semester.

 Joining me on stage are:

  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Sheley
  • Vice President for Student Affairs Lori Varlotta

Last year at this time, we got together to cover:

  • Folsom Hall
  • Challenges surrounding our enrollment
  • And an uncertain state budget

 Well, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 So first, I want to update you on the significant developments in each of these areas.

 Let’s start with the good news.

After much hard work by individuals across our campus, the Division of Nursing’s move
into Folsom Hall is complete.

Classes and labs are beginning there this semester.

This is a tremendous victory for our Nursing students and faculty – and it also stands to benefit the Sacramento region for generations to come.

 Thanks to this project, we will be able to:

  • Provide clinics for the under-served
  • Educate more nurses for an aging population
  • And give our entire community another reason
    to take pride in Sacramento State.

 Let me take just a moment to share my experience. 

Like many of you, Gloria and I have been providing care and support for aging parents; in this case my mother-in-law. 

On Christmas Day we ended up in the emergency room of Sutter General where she was treated and later admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. 

I can’t begin to tell you how reassuring it was to have her cared for by expertly trained and compassionate nurses and staff members. And the best part of it was that so many of them were proud Sac State alums.

My congratulations go out to our Nursing faculty and students.

The beginning of another semester also gives us the opportunity to welcome 3,000 new students to Sacramento State.

Despite some very challenging circumstances last year, prudent enrollment management has left us in a relatively sound position for spring.

Let me briefly give you an idea of what we had to deal with.

Our target basically changed four times in just a few weeks.

These changes were based on the ever-shifting nature of last year’s state budget negotiations.

At the time, we said it was not easy to turn on the spigot, but turn it on we did.

I have no doubt that Lori Varlotta, Ed Mills and the staff in Student Affairs have more than a few blisters from their work on that spigot last semester.

Lori will give you more details shortly, but the bottom line is that we were able to give 3,000 new students the opportunity to pursue their dreams at Sacramento State – and we are not “too big” or “too small” to deal with the challenges ahead.

Now, let’s talk about some of those challenges.

As I’m sure you are aware, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing $500 million in cuts to the CSU.

That level of funding would reduce our state support to 1999 levels.

So in essence, we are now being asked to deliver a 21st century education with 20th century dollars.

The Chancellor has said that we need to look at all options, and no single solution will be enough to solve a cut of this magnitude.

It pains me to say that the CSU cannot rule out furloughs, enrollment reductions and more deep cuts.

As difficult as it is to imagine, this budget plan is being viewed as the best-case scenario, because the governor is also proposing extensions of tax hikes that are set to expire.

Much of this will rely on approval by the Legislature and voters in a special election so needless to say, we are a long way from final budget numbers.

For this reason, it is too soon to determine how the state budget will affect our campus specifically.

However, I can say that we are in a relatively better position financially because of the actions we have taken in recent years.

We have managed the budget, reduced spending and resisted the temptation to use one-time funding for permanent commitments.

Much of this is due not only to outstanding work done by leadership across the campus, but also the University Budget Advisory Committee.

UBAC has helped to steer our University through this very difficult period and their experience is precisely what we need as we navigate the coming months of budget negotiations.

Our mutual goals of working cooperatively, in a transparent manner, and doing what’s best for this university now and into the future, continues to guide our deliberations. You can rest assured that we will continue to work diligently during this very difficult period.

The uncertainties we face are sure to be difficult, but we must also continue to focus on the future of our University.

This is growing more problematic, because in many ways, we are at the mercy of an electorate and elected officials who too often see higher education as an expense, rather than an investment.

Any plans we make for the future must be guided by the reality that we simply do not know how many students we will have in the years to come.

This makes enrollment targets impossible to predict.

But while we may depend on others to determine our size, we are very much in control of our strength as a University.

It is up to all of us to help Sacramento State become the best, most valued and most innovative regional campus in California.

So as we move beyond Destination 2010, we are looking at how we can improve what we do,
while remaining ever mindful of the economic realities we face.

We are now looking very hard at what is next, and conversations with students, faculty, staff,
and community leaders are guiding our work.

I hope many of you had the opportunity to attend one of the focus groups we held.

So far, the feedback tells us that a few areas of strong consensus have emerged – and we are seeing that everyone wants Sacramento State to continue moving forward and become a premier, comprehensive University.

This sentiment fits directly with what the city, the people and businesses of the region have in mind.

We want Sacramento State to be the epicenter of Sacramento’s intellectual, cultural and economic prosperity.

This includes:

  • World-class academic programs that prepare graduates for the workforce.
  • Centers of excellence that will make us a regional hub for innovation.
  • And facilities and attractions that will make our campus a destination for events and entertainment as well as academics.

One such facility is a new building for our science programs, which we all know we desperately need.

Our faculty and staff in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics have done the best they can with the space they have.

But much like we saw with Nursing, the programs are outgrowing their facilities and struggling to keep up with advancements in modern science.

We have already secured more than $1.1 million in federal grants for science equipment.

And last week, Bayer Healthcare announced a donation of $1 million worth of equipment that will allow us to establish a tissue culture facility for teaching and research in the Department of Biological Sciences.

The department faculty members were instrumental in getting this equipment, and I applaud their outstanding efforts.

All of this tells me that it is time for our science programs to have the state-of-the-art facilities that they have long deserved. And even though we have attempted to move the initiative during the past several years, it is time for bold and innovative thinking.

So we have developed a new proposal for the Chancellor’s Office that would include a new Science Center at Sacramento State.

In conjunction with that project, we would remove the outdated labs in Sequoia Hall and convert that building into classrooms and offices.

That, in turn, would allow us to tear down the old and outmoded buildings in the center of campus that are the source of much of our deferred maintenance. They include Douglass, Calaveras, Alpine and Brighton Halls.

Thus far, our proposal has been received positively. But of course it is still subject to approval by the Board of Trustees and funding from the CSU and State. However, I’m optimistic that our plan will move forward.

We will be discussing Sacramento State’s future extensively in the months to come, and I pledge to keep everyone informed about all the issues facing our campus.

You can expect to see additional updates from me any time there is more information, and I thank you for all of your great work on behalf of our students.




Before we close this morning I’d like to remind everyone that the budget process has only begun. While we need to be informed, we also have to be prepared for the various eventualities that may transpire. 

Make no mistake—we are in the midst of some very dramatic and profound changes not only to the state but to public higher education in California.

We will be turning away students and denying access. Rising fees and now tuition will continue to be an issue.  We will continue to be asked to do more with less.

But, most important, I think the model of public higher education under the Master Plan is being challenged.  This model is based on strict segmentation of the University of California, the California State University, and the Community Colleges and continuous growth that can’t be maintained over the long term.

That is why I’m asking each of you to work with me in dealing with the difficult times we now face and in developing the right strategy and model for Sacramento State’s future. It won’t be an easy task, but in the end we’ll survive and thrive.  I know all of us are committed to striving for the best and we’ll achieve it.

Thank you and have a good semester.