Diversity and the presidential search


Will Baker

The search committee forum was hosted in the Luckman Theatre on campus, although Cal State LA community members were able to attend either in person or virtually.

Faculty from all walks of life stood in solidarity with one another to voice their concerns during the Cal State LA presidential search open forum held in Luckman Theatre on November 2. 

The forum was hosted by Jack Clark, vice chair of the CSU board of trustees, along with other search committee members. 

“Our goal here is to learn from this university community what is important with respect 

to experience the qualifications, skills, and background of the individual that will become your next president,” Clark said. 

The presidential search will continue for the rest of the fall semester well into the spring semester. The official selection process will occur throughout March of next year when candidates’ resumes are reviewed.

According to a committee member, Interim Chancellor Jolene Kessler, the selection process will be carried out confidentially. 

“Many good people cannot disclose their interest in this search here because it will risk damage wherever they are right now,” Kessler said. “We’re going to appoint one person to be the next president of Cal State LA morally. We don’t want that process to damage the careers and personal worlds of others.”

Both in person and over Zoom, audience members were allowed to comment.

James Thomas, a Pan African studies assistant professor, was the first to speak and shared what values the future president should possess.

“Cal State LA is an activist-oriented university, and so it’s very important that the person who leads this university understands that,” Thomas said. “I believe that Cal State LA is poised to be the best university in the region because of its diversity if we can get over our anti-Blackness.” 

Valarie Talavera-Bustillos, a Chicanx and Latinx studies professor, stressed the importance of addressing equity issues among students. 

“If we continue to operate as if our students are middle class, we will continue to ignore and neglect the needs of our diamonds in the rough,” Talavera-Bustillos said. “Students of color learn best when they are in campus environments that reflect themselves, and Cal State LA has never had a Chicanx-Latinx bicultural president. Our administrative leadership does not reflect the local community demographics.

According to the U.S. Census, L.A. County has a 49% Latinx community. As of fall 2022, Cal State LA’s student makeup is 73.18% Latinx, according to Cal State LA’s website.

A.D Williams, a professor at the College of Education, discussed how the university’s lack of engagement with students and faculty contributes to ongoing issues. 

“We are a fractured campus due to the university’s desire to rely on antiquated and oppressive systems of action and belief, including viewing the students, staff, and faculty as deficient rather than seeing the population as filled with assets that can and should be built upon,” Williams said. “We need a leader who’s ready to come in prepared to rethink the CSU’s model for education.” 

Afshin Matin, a current history professor who attended Cal State LA as a student in 1977, remarked that the search committee process is inherently flawed. 

A spokesperson for the university could not be reached by the time of printing. A statement will be added to the online version if the University Times receives one.

I’m about to retire…hearing my colleagues basically plead with you to appoint a president who is more responsive to our demands is really sad,” Matin said. “You are treating us like children who don’t know what’s good for us. We have to come to you as grown-ups to choose a president for us to run our campus; why can’t we?” Matin questioned. “We live here; we work here, we’ve been here for decades; why can’t we choose our own president?” 

Victoria Ivie contributed to this story.