Dear Sonoma State Campus Community,
It's springtime, a season that symbolizes new beginnings and transformations. In the many conversations I've had with individuals and groups in the greater Sonoma State community these past few days, I've heard two recurring themes: personal support (for which I am truly grateful) and the need to clearly restate our values and articulate our immediate priorities.
We are rounding the corner of this school year and entering what has always been an uncomplicatedly joyous time at Sonoma State. There is much excitement as we prepare to welcome our newly admitted students this Saturday, April 23, to Decision Day. In addition, we are only about four weeks away from our in-person Commencement Ceremonies and Special Celebrations for this year's graduates and their families.
Sonoma State is a special place, a wonderful learning community, and we have accomplished so much together since I arrived here nearly six years ago. I'm proud to lead a group of dedicated professionals who have worked hard to change the culture of the campus and focused us on our inclusive academic excellence and our strategic priorities. Let's remember that we are at heart a very kind and caring campus community. In fact, our Academic Senate recently passed a United in Kindness Resolution of Unity. We value each other and appreciate that each person here makes important contributions to our campus.
It is very disappointing and can truly be hurtful when we fall short of these ideals. I have heard from many of you about the work we have to do. As your President, I have the ultimate responsibility for doing everything possible to maintain a community that is free of sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. I reiterate: if anyone has an incident or harm to report, I encourage you to do so. I include a list of the available resources for you at the end of this message. Your SSU leadership strives to offer a thorough, fair, and just process that continues to earn your trust and confidence. I will never stop working toward that goal.
Moving forward, I have four priority areas of focus:
Title IX: We will review and improve our Title IX services and processes. We have been laying the groundwork this past year on initiating a Restorative Justice Program on campus that will be implemented in the fall. I recall the wonderful collaboration that characterized the work of the COVID Planning Committee. It was described as relatively "conflict-free," and the Committee, comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, and students, made important recommendations for me to approve. I would like to see the structure and model we used for COVID planning to address and communicate about Title IX issues. With that in mind, I will be appointing a President's Advisory Committee on Title IX, which will be charged with reviewing and enhancing our policies, practices, and services. As with our other PAC's, I will work in concert with the Committee and receive their recommendations for action.
Strategic Enrollment: We have received over 14,000 applications for the Fall 2022 cycle. We have taken numerous steps to continue our recovery from the wildfires and the pandemic and are working hard to ensure our enrollment grows at a healthy pace. The Chancellor's Office is committed to maintaining our funding at our targeted enrollment numbers for two years. This gives us some time to actively and more aggressively rebuild our enrollment. We have been extremely successful in helping students move more quickly towards graduation with many of your extraordinary efforts and the help of extra Graduation Initiative 2025 funding. The "downside" of our success has been that it reduces our overall FTE (Full-time equivalent) and enrollment.
We are beginning to explore the development of 4+1 programs in certain majors that allow students to graduate with a Bachelor's Degree and then earn a Master's Degree with one additional year of study. We will need faculty, department, and dean leadership to identify the best areas of opportunity. This is an exciting and realistic possibility that can help us attract additional talented students to our campus.
I am working in concert with the presidents of four other Northern California CSU campuses (Chico, Humboldt, East Bay, and San Francisco State) who are similarly experiencing significant enrollment declines. We have joined forces to advocate maintaining our current enrollment targets and the funding commensurate with it for five years. At Sonoma State, we are also recruiting new student populations and strategically reaching out to first-year and transfer populations.
I have been working with Chancellor Carol Christ on developing possible partnerships between UC Berkeley and our campus to address each of our enrollment challenges. My Zoom call meetings and visits with Community College presidents are already yielding results. I met with the leadership at not only our primary feeder, SRJC, but also at Berkeley City, Cañada, Folsom Lake, Mendocino, Napa Valley, Sacramento City, Solano, Sierra College, and the Los Angeles Community College District. In these meetings, I shared data on the number of students who apply to Sonoma State from their particular campus and provided the number who are admitted and enrolled. Importantly, we share our phenomenal success with our transfer students. We emphasize our Transition and Transfer Center Services, our on-campus housing for transfer students, and that we have the highest two-year transfer graduation rate in the CSU! As a result, our transfer applications are up.
Additionally, I have authorized campus funds to be used with philanthropic gifts designated for scholarships to help increase our yield of both new first-year and transfer students. To achieve some of our goals, we need the help of donor gifts. Our second-ever Giving Day just concluded with more than $250,000 in gifts received on this single-day annual event. I am also pleased to report that SSU has achieved 90% of our annual fundraising goal of $9.5 million. I work closely with our Advancement team and others to secure these philanthropic dollars to supplement our budget.
Budget Stability: With strategic budget planning, and the restoration of the state funding for 2021-2022, the campus reduced the base deficit from $19.8M in 2020-2021 to $6.2M for the 2021-2022 year. I have witnessed many rounds of belt-tightening in my career, and I know how tough the process can be, but it needs to be done to better fit the changing size and demands of our campus. We cannot have the same number of staff, administrators, and faculty as CSU campuses that have twice or more the number of students.
With regard to specific budget adjustments, I want to assure you that no final decisions have been made on organizational changes in Academic Affairs. There has not been adequate consultation nor time for input, feedback, or other ideas. We will be reaching out to all sectors of our community to help us think about how we might address our budget needs with our current reduced enrollment.
My plan is that we will change, improve and reduce our spending without the need for layoffs. I value each of you and know that it is simply too disruptive to individuals and families to be without dependable employment. But I must be honest with you about the challenges ahead and will continue to communicate our progress, current data, and specific actions openly and transparently.
New Initiatives: Many outside supporters and partners contribute financially to our success. We are fortunate to have an increasing number of grants and gifts and are developing new partnerships to support our strategic goals. I am working to secure earmarked funds, both state and federal dollars, to better support our campus, including addressing our deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs. I am particularly excited about our work on a new initiative to develop a Sonoma State Climate Resilience Institute. The Institute will be the central hub for our five existing centers that work on climate change and sustainability. Specifically, I am working with Congressman Thompson and others to develop an interdisciplinary institute that will leverage all academic disciplines to engage students, faculty, and the community in climate change education, research, and service-learning.
Many SSU faculty and staff continue to struggle to find affordable or convenient housing options. SSU's Marina Crossing Apartments in Petaluma are now 100% occupied, and we need to continue to develop additional faculty/staff housing options. Since our on-campus student housing units are not completely full, this fall, we will convert up to 50 units to create a faculty/staff housing section.
We are finalizing a Power Purchase Agreement, with major funding and support from private sector partners and a $650,000 commitment from the Chancellor's Office for our campus MicroGrid, Solar, and Battery Project. The solar array and battery bank will enable us to reduce our PG&E energy consumption. We estimate that our savings from this project will be $6.2 million in reduced energy costs over the next 30-years.
With this Microgrid, we'll be able to provide "Tier 1" campus vital emergency services in future Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) events. This "Tier 1" MicroGrid will provide emergency energy support to our: Emergency Operations Center, Campus Central Plant, Student Center Main Kitchen, Rec Center (shelter in place), and University Police. This will help us to be more resilient as we continue to face the challenges of climate change and help us make progress toward the campus net-zero carbon footprint commitment. We will begin construction of a carport solar array canopy structure in parking lots: E, F, J, R6, R7, and R8 next year.
As we look ahead, you have my promise that I will work every single day for the best interests of our faculty, staff, students, and our larger campus community. It is an honor for me to be your president.
There are many processes in place to support individuals who wish to report any concerns. Anyone wishing to come forward with a concern or complaint or to learn about university complaint and resolution processes, including rights and options, is encouraged to contact the following campus or Chancellor's Office resources.
The SSU Title IX Compliance Office can be reached at 707-664-4140 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The SSU Victim's Advocate can be reached at 707-664-2698 and via email at email@example.com.
The DHR Administrator for other civil rights type complaints is Julie Vivas, Title IX Officer and Senior Director of the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination firstname.lastname@example.org 707-664-2480
The SSU Human Resources Whistleblower contact is Erin Taylor, Director of Employee and Labor Relations email@example.com 707-664-2212
The CSU Systemwide Title IX Compliance Office can be reached at 562-951-4641 and via email at EO-TitleIX-Compliance@
The CSU Systemwide Whistleblower contact at the Equal Opportunity and Whistleblower Compliance Unit, Systemwide Human Resources, CSU Chancellor's Office EO-TitleIX-Compliance@