March 17, 2023
Dear Campus Colleagues,
While the latest atmospheric river keeps our weather volatile and expectations edgy, campus work moves along at a steady pace, with both the weather and the work anticipating the renewal that spring should ultimately bring. As we all know, institutions and bureaucracies do not move at the pace of a flash flood, but more like the gradual back-and-forth shift of tectonic plates. We may worry about possible earthquakes, but for the vast majority of time, we just see small, slow movement and experience relative geological stability.
Although we don’t know exactly why tectonic plates shift the way they do, the movement we experience on campus is both purposeful and, for the most part, planned. Every facet of our university requires attention, action, adjustment, and assessment. Research moves our society forward, theoretically and practically; teaching prepares students for future success; student affairs theories and programs evolve to keep up with new generations; the visual and performing arts sustain a cultural bridge to the community; while fundraising, budgeting, technology, and all other areas of administration must keep moving forward to ensure the integrity and relevance of the institution. And all of this work is carried out within the context of a fierce commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Communities change, students change – well, everything changes eventually, and we need to be responsive but steady and stable.
As I have emphasized more than a few times, our budget situation requires the most intense attention right now, so that we can remain steady for all of the other areas in which we need to keep moving forward. Hopefully you read my administrative reorganization update email on March 10, where I reported that we did not see the savings we had hoped for in our VSIP program, and indicated our plans to pursue other savings strategies. I hope you attended the March 16 Spring 2023 Budget and Planning Forum, where we presented more detail and answered questions. Note that if you missed the forum, you will be able to watch it on video several days after the live event. I understand that the focus on budget can be tedious and nerve-wracking, but its importance to our institutional viability cannot be overstated. And we want everyone to participate in the process, to be part of the synergistic effect of shared contributions.
My hope for this campus comes not only from the talent of our learning community, but also from some of the wonderful events and meetings of which I am a part. Last month Dr. Griffin-Desta and I participated in a private luncheon for Congressman Huffman, hosted by North Bay Leadership Council. We learned about the state of affairs in D.C., including what is was like being in the room during the voting process for the new Speaker of the House! After the luncheon, Dr. Griffin-Desta and I met with Congressman Huffman in his Petaluma office, where we were able to share some of the wonderful work we are doing at Sonoma State, which he listened to and discussed with sincere attention and engagement. And, on yesterday, Representative Mike Thompson toured Stevenson Hall and learned about our current challenges. He has pledged to support our campus in any way.
I also participated in a number of exciting event over the past weeks: CSU Super Sunday on February 26, in Fairfield; Reading Across America at Monte Vista Elementary School; and CSU Budget Advocacy Day in Sacramento (see stories below). On a lighter but no less important note (pun intended), I served as a judge at the 2023 Alpha Gamma Delta Lip Jam, which was held at the Green Music Center and raised more than $30,000 to ameliorate hunger. An annual event, this year’s Jam featured Billboard 100 artists in a lip syncing and dancing extravaganza, and it was truly an impressive and ebullient event.
As you know, I walk to my office from the apartment my wife and I share on the campus, and I am still enamored enough of SSU’s beauty to take pictures of what I experience on my walk. This week that included the most beautiful crabapple trees, blooming heartily in the aftermath of so much rain. A greatly appreciated reminder that spring is on its way, with its promise of renewal and reward. It is moments like this, where I am caught by something so lovely or fun or moving on our campus, that I remember how emotionally uplifting and satisfying work in higher education can and should be. For all of the hard work, worry, and seriousness, there is also just an inherent joy in seeing our students, faculty, and staff flourish and find purpose on the campus. And as we push though this difficult time, I want us all to remember how important and enriching our work can be, and to keep the faith that we are moving as we should be to keep Sonoma State the valuable resource we know it to be.
Mike Lee, Ph.D.