President Papazian’s March Blog

This week’s break has been memorable for 16 SJSU students spending the week in Washington, D.C., and New York city on an alternative spring break trip led by Associate Professor Michael Cheers. Among the trip’s highlights was a meeting with U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis (photo courtesy of Professor Michael Cheers).

This week’s break has been memorable for 16 SJSU students spending the week in Washington, D.C., and New York city on an alternative spring break trip led by Associate Professor Michael Cheers. Among the trip’s highlights was a meeting with U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis (photo courtesy of Professor Michael Cheers).

As we approach the midpoint of the Spring Semester and the rainy winter turns into a beautiful spring, I hope we all take a moment to enjoy the quiet of Spring Recess and to recharge before entering the final weeks of the academic year and the many celebratory activities of Commencement season.

It is my hope that this week brings to students and faculty members some well-deserved restorative time, and that our hard-working staff also can take a bit of a breath during the extended weekend afforded us by the celebration of Cesar Chavez Day this Friday, March 31.

SJSU students meet civil rights icon

This week’s break has been memorable for 16 SJSU students spending the week in Washington, D.C., and New York city on an alternative spring break trip led by Associate Professor Michael Cheers. Among the trip’s highlights was a meeting with U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis.

The students also were scheduled to tour the African American Museum of History and Culture (an incredible telling of our collective American story that I had the chance to visit earlier this year); visit Howard University’s Graduate School Admission’s Office; tour the Studio Museum in Harlem; and meet with high school students from Satellite Academy “alternative” High School in Manhattan, where three of our students who participated in a study abroad trip to Cuba are sharing their experience.

This remarkable experiential learning opportunity is the result of Professor Cheer’s vision and persistence—the meeting with Rep. Lewis was months in the making—and the support and collaboration of many campus and community partners. I look forward to sharing some of their stories in future blogs.


As many of you likely have heard, CSU Trustees last Wednesday approved a $270 increase in undergraduate tuition for California resident students, bringing the annual tuition rate in 2017-2018 for full-time in-state undergraduates to $5,742.

This action was taken reluctantly after many months of public discussion and deliberation. While the additional funding will make it possible for us to enhance our capacity to serve students, I understand that for many, this was disappointing and frustrating.

Set to take effect this fall, the system-wide increase will provide $77.5 million to the CSU for additional investment in student success initiatives that benefit all students by enabling campuses to hire more tenure-track faculty and add course sections, and it will help address inequities impacting students from low-income backgrounds and underserved communities.

As we digest this news, there are several important things to keep in mind.

Impacts minimized by financial aid

First, for the more than sixty percent of CSU undergraduates already receiving full financial aid, the increase will be fully covered. (In all, eighty percent of CSU students received more than $4 billion in financial aid in 2015-16 from various sources.) I encourage any student concerned about how this increase may impact them to seek help from our financial aid office.

Second, the preliminary budget proposal issued by the governor in January provided to the CSU no additional funding for enrollment growth, new student success initiatives or deferred maintenance needs. All of us in the CSU—from the Chancellor’s Office, to our faculty, staff, and students here at San Jose State and throughout our sister campuses—are continuing to encourage lawmakers in Sacramento to fully fund the 2017-18 operating budget previously adopted by trustees.

Making the case for stronger public support

I traveled to Sacramento earlier this month for meetings with lawmakers and legislative staff and was joined there by many of my fellow campus presidents, Chancellor White and others.

Our message to lawmakers was straightforward and simple: although California’s investment in public higher education is just about back to pre-recession levels, we are educating tens of thousands more students; our facilities are years older; our costs are materially higher.

And, we know there are obstacles that stand in the way of students who are motivated and would otherwise be able to complete their degrees within four years. We want to remove as many of these obstacles as we can.

Doing so, however, will require innovation, a steadfast commitment to making decisions with student needs at the center, and additional resources strategically allocated. I am pleased to say that members of our local legislative delegation with whom I have met regularly since arriving last summer, want to help. There are other legislative proposals under consideration that, if enacted, would generate additional new revenue. We will learn and share more as budget deliberations continue this spring.

In the meantime, we also will continue to work with area lawmakers and local education leaders on creative ways better to enable high school graduates to navigate successfully the transition from high school to college and to ensure that they thrive once they arrive here.

From words to action

Finally, on this topic, I know of no one who wants students to pay more for their education. I want to acknowledge the students and other members of our community who have been and continue to be engaged in advocacy and other forms of expressive action seeking stronger public support for the CSU.

A group of our Associated Student “lobby corps” traveled to Sacramento days before my recent visit; others organized campus informational activities or attended the recent meeting of CSU trustees. Their persistence, eloquence and energetic activism are Spartan trademarks, and they embody what it means to turn words into action.

Philanthropy: helping us reach our potential

State support and revenues from tuition and fees can only take us so far. To achieve true excellence, we also depend on the support of individual and institutional private partners.

Preliminary conversations have begun in anticipation of a major comprehensive fundraising campaign, which would be just the second in SJSU’s history. I recently joined a planning retreat organized by Vice President for University Advancement and Tower Foundation CEO Paul Lanning for the foundation’s board of directors. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment to moving this important work forward.

Additional philanthropic support will allow us to strengthen our student success efforts, improve our support for faculty members in research, scholarship and the creative activity, and continue to improve our physical infrastructure. I especially am pleased with our ongoing conversations with our Bay Area business community, and its interest in developing deeper partnerships with San Jose State University.  I am confident that these early conversations will lead to greater opportunities for our students and faculty, as we continue to invest in the success of our city, region, and state.

Tangible impact

There are reminders of the power of private philanthropy—some of them visible, others less so—all over our campus.

Thanks in part to a transformative $15 million gift, the Diaz Compean Student Union is now a thriving hub of campus life. Students in our School of Journalism and Mass Communications have access to a state-of-the art, technologically advanced campus broadcast studio that was funded through an $8.7 million endowment. And our long-neglected South Campus facilities are now beginning to be renovated as the result of significant private gifts and a multi-year partnership with CEFCU.

Faculty, staff contributions matter

Less obvious, but no less significant, are individual philanthropic contributions from SJSU faculty and staff members.

Your support makes a big difference in the lives of students. Our annual faculty/staff giving campaign Spartans Supporting Spartans —now in its sixth year—fuels many campus programs including a fund that provides critical short-term support to students facing economic emergencies.

This fund was a vital lifeline for students impacted by last month’s San Jose floods. One student described the fund to a local news outlet as “…life-changing. It allows me to stay in school and not to have to drop out.”

Last year’s staff/faculty campaign attracted gifts and pledges for a mix of specific programs and general discretionary use from several hundred individuals. Our highest participation rate came, as it has in prior years, from our colleagues in the Facilities Development and Operations office.

Giving can be arranged automatically through payroll deduction, and your gifts can be designated to any of a wide array of programs. A series of special campus events are scheduled through April 13; I hope you’ll attend one and explore ways to support this year’s campaign.

Toward a better, stronger community

Securing the financial resources we need to support our mission is an essential aspect of our daily work. So is finding ways to collaborate with local partners in imaginatively and actively addressing local and regional quality-of-life issues.

Both as a major employer and a source of significant intellectual expertise, SJSU should be meaningfully involved in community building efforts.

CommUniverCity is a nationally recognized leader in building community-based partnerships that afford experiential teaching and learning opportunities to faculty members and students while also delivering meaningful benefits to San Jose neighborhoods. SJSU invests meaningfully in this city/university/community collaborative.

In April, SJSU’s Community Engagement Collaborative and Center for Community Learning & Leadership will welcome the Santa Clara County Office of Education to campus to display a “tiny house” constructed by local K-12 students in an effort to raise awareness of possible short-term solutions for housing the homeless.

Community engagement

As downtown San Jose’s largest employer and property owner, and with a daytime population of 40,000 students, employees and visitors, SJSU has a responsibility to engage actively with local and regional leaders on major quality of life issues. We want to ensure that our city grows and prospers along with us.

This means taking opportunities to contribute ideas and solutions to our region’s complex housing and transportation challenges, and this has been a priority for my administration since I arrived last summer.

At a macro level, we are actively engaging and collaborating with many local and regional organizations including SPUR, the Silicon Valley Organization, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, San Jose Downtown Association, Bay Area Council and others. We also are meeting regularly with local and regional political and community leaders to advance SJSU and its critical and deepening partnership with our city and region.

BART Phase II: Major decisions ahead for downtown SJ

Housing and transportation issues are inextricably linked; the high cost of living in this area obliges many of our employees and students to commute to campus from long distances. And transportation issues—fighting freeway and street traffic, inadequate parking, and uneven transit options—represent barriers to student success.

Our desire to remove these barriers—as well as our commitment to sustainability and the environment—make the extension of BART into downtown San Jose a critically important issue for all of us.

BART has served the Bay Area since 1972; when its so-called Phase II expansion into our downtown core is finally completed, the cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco will for the first time be accessible via a single transit system. This will be an enormous potential benefit to the SJSU students, faculty and staff members living along BART’s route system, as well as the countless visitors who come to campus throughout the year.

For this reason as well as others, the location of the downtown San Jose station and related plans for the corridors along which pedestrians will travel throughout the downtown and to and from our campus are critically important choices that ultimately will be made by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board at its Sept 7 board meeting.

It is no exaggeration to call these “100-year choices.” And we take seriously our responsibility to ensure that decision-makers consider all of the impacts of station locations and related variables. Earlier this month SJSU submitted comments to VTA as part of the BART project’s environmental review (CEQA) process.

There are two locations under consideration for the downtown station—the West option, near Market and Santa Clara streets, and the East option, on Santa Clara between Third and Sixth streets. I encourage you to review our submission, which articulates our view that the diverse interests of all downtown community members would be better served by the East Station option.

I will be sure to keep you updated as the approval process continues to unfold.

Let me conclude this month’s blog with a few informational updates:

London attack: SJSU students, faculty safe

Our hearts are with the people of London in the wake of last week’s frightening terror attack that claimed several lives and injured dozens of others. We are aware of one SJSU faculty-led program from Humanities and the Arts taking place in London, and we have confirmed that the faculty and students are safe. The Humanities and Arts dean’s office is staying in touch with faculty there.

Our study abroad office also has confirmed the safety of all SJSU students known to be studying in London and other European cities.

Investiture/Inaugural events

I am very much looking forward to a spirited, joyous celebration of our university’s remarkable legacy and bright future during a weeklong series of inaugural events during the week of May 1 – 5. The investiture ceremony, on May 4 at 9:30 a.m., is an opportunity for reflection and vision-setting.

I hope you will join me on the Tower Lawn for my investiture ceremony as we celebrate the history and promise that is San Jose State. If you are interested in participating in the academic procession, please register online by April 13.

Inauguration week will be filled with many wonderful celebrations—from an exhibition on the Near East Foundation’s Near East Relief efforts a century ago on display in the lower level of the Diaz Compean Student Union (from April 21 through May 5), to a variety of musical performances, to a celebration of poetry in the Hammer Theater—that speak to the heart and soul of our values and commitment to social justice, human rights, inclusion and the arts. I hope you take a moment to enjoy these wonderful events!

On the evening of May 4, our Tower Foundation will host the Inspiration to Innovation gala celebration during which we will confer the coveted Tower Award on SJSU alumnus, noted playwright and National Medal of Arts recipient Luis Valdez, ’64 English, ’88 Honorary Doctorate.

Luis is considered the father of Chicano theater; his decades of noteworthy artistic contributions reflect his deep commitment to social justice and human rights. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of our university’s highest honor.

This will be a joyous celebration of what makes us Spartans. Tickets are now available on the Inspiration to Innovations website.

Welcome to Dean Dan Moshavi

Dr. Dan Moshavi, our new dean of SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, joined us at the outset of the month and is settling in. He is an engaging, outstanding, and experienced leader who has returned to SJSU (he began his academic career here as an assistant professor in the late 1990s) after serving in academic leadership roles at two other institutions. I hope you have the opportunity to meet him soon. Welcome home, Dan!

Athletics: team and individual excellence

And, finally, it has been an impressive month for Spartan athletics.

My congratulations to the SJSU women’s gymnastics team for claiming the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s team championship and to student-athletes Haleigh Shepard (vault) and Taylor Chan (floor) on being named individual event champions.

We have nationally-ranked softball and women’s golf teams and nationally ranked competitors in women’s golf and women’s tennis. Ten Spartans earned all-conference honors in men’s basketball and several women’s sports: basketball, swimming and diving, and gymnastics.

The San Jose State men’s and women’s judo teams repeated as national champions, and the cheerleading team placed second at its national championship.

Be sure to check out the Spartan Athletics website for scheduled athletics event, and support our student-athletes as they continue a busy season of spring competition. San Jose State faculty, staff and students are admitted free to home events with a valid Tower ID card.

I hope that Spring break is affording you the opportunity to rest and recharge. Thanks for all you are doing on behalf of SJSU.