Welcome to Spring Semester

The following e-mail was sent to the campus community on March 2, 2017:

Dear Campus Community,

The campus is alive as we move toward the midpoint of the Spring 2017 semester. We are a values-driven community that cares deeply about the academic, social and personal success of our students. We also believe deeply in the ability of this university community to make a difference in the lives of all our constituents, including our families and our communities. That is why this institution is so important to San Francisco, to California and to each one of us.  The commitments of our strategic plan are more important today than ever. Please take a moment to read and reflect on it again.
The activities for this semester hinge on some points offered below. Given what we face nationally, staying focused is important, and staying committed to this focus helps us all. Allow me to offer a view of our immediate future and the implications for the university in the longer term.
The Graduation Initiative is making a difference.  I’ve asked Interim Provost, Dr. Jennifer Summit, and her fellow Vice Presidents to provide a follow-up email with the results of our efforts thus far in greater detail. The teamwork between Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Admin/Finance and Advancement is effective.
Post-census Spring 2017 data shows we are moving in the right direction. The enrollment deficit gap is closing, quicker than I imagined, but congruent with the goals I asked of this team. The additional 250 courses added to the curriculum relieved considerable pressure. Keep in mind:  this has not solved the “bottleneck” problem nor the access to courses sought by students. But the picture has significantly improved. Continued advocacy by both the CSU system and each one of us individually with our legislators is critical to ensuring that we are able to fund and support the Graduation Initiative in the coming year. Remember, funds used this semester were one-time dollars.
We continue to make progress toward improving campus facilities and resources to support teaching, scholarship, students and faculty. This spring, my priorities will be aimed toward accelerating the transformataion of the main campus.
Updates include:

  • We are nearing the final required step prior to the start of construction of additional student housing on Holloway, phase 1.
  • Funding has been secured to significantly advance our plans for the construction of the new Creative Arts building on the “Tapia triangle.” Our work with the design and construction phases now moves forward in earnest.
  • The opening of the Mashouf Wellness Center quickly approaches. There is still much to do, but I encourage you to take a moment to go down to the site and take a look.
  • We now will be ready and able to advance our planning for the development of our Winston Ave property into much needed housing. The initial design proposal including a potential funding model is now under review in my office. The success of this project directly affects the timeline to breaking ground on the new science building at 19th Ave and Buckingham.
  • For the new science building, designers have given me a miniature model of what is possible and it takes my breath away. As this model develops we will certainly share ideas and designs, and my eye is on accelerating the path for this project.
  • Serving the Bayview Hunters Point community has been a goal of mine since 2013.  I wanted to let you know that I have decided to pause any significant activity on the “Shipyard” development project, but our commitment and effort to initiate our presence has not died. The developers have extended the planning horizon to 2025 for a number of reasons. Despite the slowdown at the Shipyard, I am pleased to share with you that an alternate option in Bayview is approaching reality. I’ve asked Dr. Summit to begin program planning ideas with the academic deans and our external partners in the city. We will also keep you informed of our work in conjunction with the SF Public Utilities Commission to bring this effort to fruition on a potential site at 3rd and Evans.

The success of our comprehensive campaign to raise $150 million continues. At this point in time we have raised over $62 million. The teamwork and effective effort of our Advancement teams, academic deans, our Foundation Board and Campaign committee, volunteers and especially our donors and supporters is a point of pride for me.  I expect us to be at or over the midway mark by Fall 2017.
We will weather the unpredictability of the political climate together. This country is now entering a period in which “unpredictability” and “insecurity” are words far too common for this republic. And with this has come a level of hate and aggression that is both repulsive and inexcusable. The direction and tact of this president and his team require us to be even more vigilant and committed to the values that define this country. I am more than alarmed by the cavalier steps taken by this administration without a sense of history, let alone facts, truth and decency. Even though this president continues to wrestle with the country, let me close by affirming our commitment to the San Francisco State University community:

  • Our support and protection of our Dreamer students is unmistakable. I am proud of our Dream Resource Center whose grand opening we recently celebrated and I am proud of the courage of the faculty, staff and students who will ensure that our students will pursue their educational goals with our full support and the least amount of fear.
  • Our support for the intellectual, social and human rights work of our faculty and staff will not be compromised. Public criticism and private threats are not welcome nor do they inform our judgements of what is worthwhile to teach and learn, to think about, let alone to read. Academic freedom is a fundamental value we will not compromise.  We will continue to support our faculty and students in the face of public criticism, opposition, politically motivated hatred and threat. Academic freedom carries with it responsibility and accountability, and we will live up to those values.
  • This support also means that we must engage ideas we dislike, said by people whose reputation and credibility we suspect and whose message is biased if not hateful with more talk, more speech and more importantly, better questions. Academic freedom is not achieved nor epitomized by disrupting or preventing presentations. Our first amendment is clear.
  • My first priority remains the safety and integrity of the University, its employees, our students and the public who choose to join us in our pursuits.

I remain honored to be a part of this community. I believe deeply in what we do, and I honor and respect the incredible teaching, learning and scholarship that occurs here. The coming months will be difficult and challenging but our sense of fairness prevails.
Have a terrific semester as we engage the future. We own our own minds, we will make a meaningful difference, and we expect the opportunity to lead a meaningful life. No one will take that from us.

Les Wong