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Questions for Chancellor White

October 10, 2012

It’s been a week, and most of us still know almost nothing about the new CSU chancellor, Timothy White — except that I’ve gathered he goes by Tim. Searching the web for news about him, I’ve read about his personal and professional background, his salary, and the new medical school he got started at UC Riverside. I’ve also read that he likes to walk around campus on exam days and give out cookies. A UCR professor posted a highly critical account of White’s record there. And of course there’s the “Undercover Boss” episode, which, troubling as it is in some respects, probably says more about his qualities as a television actor than as a higher education administrator.

I haven’t been able to find any statement of White’s overall vision for the CSU. No explanation of how he intends to cope with our funding crisis. No discussion of how he will restore public commitment to higher education. When it comes to our two presidential candidates, I’ve gotten sick of hearing about all their “plans,” but I’d like to hear at least a few ideas from our new chancellor.

In the comments section of his blog, Chris Newfield posted a series of excellent questions:

– Will Mr. White fight tooth and nail for restored public funding for CSU? Can you cite speeches and incidents in which he went out on a limb to oppose the status quo for either system?
– Will he define 21st century educational quality for the CSU students he no doubt cares about, putting new money into high-end instruction? What was his special educational vision for UC and UCR?
– Will he oppose the stratification of CSU campuses, refusing to protect flagships as UC protected its flagships in part at the expense of UCR?
– Will he be open and upfront with the CSU community about the budget? Was he upfront with UCR about the real costs to the campus of a new medical school that the state will clearly not pay for as it did for the 5 existing UC medical schools and centers in their early years?
-Can he work with unionized faculty and other unionized employees? How did he do with them at UCR?
-Can he press for the general good rather than for prestige showcase projects, and bring people together rather than set one category against another?

According to a San Francisco Chronicle report, White said, “We have our work cut out, but I’m enormously optimistic. . . . We just have to find a way here in a difficult economy.”

Yes, we just have to find a way — and if White’s got a map, or even just a compass, or maybe a seeing-eye dog, I sure would like to hear about it.
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