Sonoma State leaders opened the new academic year with a grim assessment of the economy's impact on the school, a call to focus more on diversity, a promise of faculty unrest and a dose of inspiration.
The school's traditional convocation on Monday marked its 50th year. It also marked the reality, said SSU President Ruben Armi?na, that the school is getting no more state funding than it got a decade ago while it has about 1,000 more students.
It also faces a further cut of $2.3 million in January if state revenues fall short of projections, as many expect.
"This seems highly probable," Armi?na said.
The school so far is set to get roughly $50 million from the California State University system. Student tuition was raised 12 percent in July, an addition to a 10 percent increase approved in November.
"In my time here, tuition has more than doubled," said senior Alex Boyar, president of the university's Associated Students Inc. organization.
He said the association plans to play close attention to how student fees are used. Fees and tuition make up approximately half SSU's revenue.
Boyar was among the leaders of a successful campaign last year to raise student fees $300 a year to pay for a new student center.
Work on the center is set to begin this year, Armi?na said, highlighting <NO1><NO>it as one of the few bright spots, along with the hiring of 14 tenure-track faculty and the completion of the music hall at the Green Music Center.
Boyar, though, spoke chiefly to efforts to improve diversity and resources for students of different backgrounds. He said SSU's administration, though it has devoted money and time to several high-profile initiatives, was falling short on diversity issues.
"We are done with this university talking about diversity," he said. "It is time for this community to to commit energy and financial resources.
He called for, among other things, more consistent funding for the school's Multi-Cultural Center.
"We understand there is a budget crisis, however the inclusivity of our campus must take top priority regardless . . .," he said.
In a harbinger of potential faculty discontent on a campus that has seen its share, political science professor Andy Merrifield, President of the California Faculty Association, or CFA, said the association had approved "escalating action" on CSU campuses if it does not get a fair new contract.
The CFA represents about 21,000 CSU faculty members who have been working without a contract for about year as negotiations with CSU Chancellor Charles Reed drag on.
"We are going to start letting the administration know that we deserve a fair contract and inviting them to come . . . with a fair offer instead of stepping on our necks because of the budget crisis," he said
SSU in recent years has seen steady friction fueled by faculty members critical of Armi?na, who they say has sacrificed the academic mission for grand projects such as the $120 million Green Music Center.
But mathematics professor and faculty chairman Ben Ford pointedly cited the center as part of a "great opportunity to take advantage of what the first 50 (years) have produced" to find a "shared vision" with which to proceed.
"For us to fulfill our mission, we need to tell a compelling story . . . about what that mission is and how we accomplish it," he said.
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