A modest proposal: break up the CSU

The idea is simple, perhaps too simple.

Disband the California State University system and set the 23 campuses that make it up, free.

Let’s say it again: Disband the California State University system and set the 23 campuses that make it up free.

At this point the question probably being asked is: Are you nuts?


But the State of California – more specifically the state Legislature, the CSU administration and CSU Board of Trustees- clearly are nuts if they believe the current arrangement is acceptable to anyone (except perhaps them…).

There have been so many egregious things happen because of the hapless (and occasionally malevolent) central administration of the CSU (the Chancellor’s Office and the Trustees) they are hard to even catalog.

No need here to rehash the Common Management System, the subject of a blistering report by the California State Auditor a few years ago. Or recently, the CSU’s stated position that it will not put any limits on lodging costs for any of its world-traveling (and well-paid) executives. (This while student fees soar, enrollments are cut, faculty are taking pay reductions – and teaching more students in their classes.)

The Chancellor’s Office needs to be shutdown, shuttered and perhaps its Long Beach building fumigated – or an exorcism performed – to banish the corruption, the bureaucratic thinking (and the anti-student & anti-faculty attitudes) to let ideas (and higher education) flourish again in the state.

Each of the 23 campuses should be set free to pursue their own destiny, freed from the bureaucracy of the central administration and the CSU Trustees.

What would that pursuit of destiny look like?

I don’t know.

There are 23 campuses in 23 different geographic areas of the state with 23 different faculty, staff and students invested in the success of their campuses. And all 23 have spent years under the heel of an administration that treats all 23 campuses almost exactly the same, when they are clearly different.

And in that difference, in those 23 campuses filled with people who have a real stake in providing quality education (as opposed to simply protecting a bureaucracy) there are likely 23 models waiting to be revealed. Twenty-three!

It would be a beautiful thing to watch – and in which to participate.

But the idea is simple, perhaps too simple.

Michael Fitzgerald is a journalist and journalism teacher at California State University, Sacramento. See his blog here.

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