The California State University Board of Trustees selected Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro on Wednesday to lead the nation’s largest public university system. Castro will replace Chancellor Timothy White, who is expected to retire at the end of the year.
Castro, a grandson of Mexican immigrants, will become CSU’s first chancellor of color when he takes over the job on Jan. 4. He is also the first chancellor since the system was formed in the early 1960s to be named from inside the CSU system and first time the board selected a president of one of its campuses to head the system.
He joins recently named UC President Michael Drake, who is Black, and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who is Latino. For the first time in state history the leaders of all three public higher education systems are people of color.
Castro will lead a system where Latino students make up the largest ethnic group, at 43%, followed by 22% whites, 15% Asians and 4% Black.
“The California State University provides unprecedented and transformational opportunities for students from all backgrounds to earn a high-quality college degree and to better their families, their communities and the industries in which they become leaders,” Castro said. “There is no other institution that makes this great of an impact on the entire state — the CSU is key to a growing and thriving California. I am truly grateful for and excited about this unique and wonderful opportunity.”
Castro has led Fresno State since 2013 and was recognized nationally for recruiting and graduating students from diverse backgrounds. Before joining the CSU system, he served in various administrative positions for 23 years in the University of California system and was a professor of family and community medicine at University of California San Francisco.
“Dr. Castro is a passionate and effective advocate for his students, his campus and the CSU,” Board Chair Lillian Kimbell said. “Above all, he is a leader that inspires greatness in students, faculty and in the broader community. He is the right leader for the California State University in our current circumstance and for our future.”
In a statement, the California Faculty Association, which represents more than 29,000 faculty members, welcomed Castro as the new chancellor: “Castro assumes leadership of the nation’s largest public higher education system during precarious times. CFA urges Chancellor-select Castro to take the CSU mission of being the People’s University to heart and center decision-making on the student perspective and experience.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said, in a statement, that he is thrilled to welcome Castro as the CSU chancellor and looks forward to working closely with him.
“His extraordinary record as a leader in higher education will serve him well as he assumes this role at a pivotal time for students, faculty and staff,” Newsom said. “I know he has the experience, wisdom and respect of many that he will need to build on Chancellor White’s progress on graduation, retention and diversity and inclusion.”
Castro will receive $625,000 plus a monthly housing allowance of $7,917 and a monthly auto allowance of $1,000. The system is based in Long Beach. At Fresno State, Castro earned a salary of about $345,000 a year, in 2018. White, who announced his retirement last year, is paid a salary of $477,771 a year. (Interestingly, in the CSU system, the top administrator is the chancellor with presidents heading the individual campuses while in the UC system the top administrator is named president.)
Castro is taking on the university system’s highest position against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, widespread job losses and historic wildfires that have significantly altered instruction, faculty and student lives this year. Earlier this month, his predecessor, White, announced that most classes would continue to be held online for the spring term that begins in January 2021. The system also faces at least a $300 million cut in state funding if Congress doesn’t approve additional stimulus relief before Oct. 1.
Like most colleges and universities across the country, the CSU campuses also face challenges with improving diversity and have been trying to create a more inclusive system as Black Lives Matter protests intensified over the summer. The new ethnic studies law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August gives the CSU only a year to expand Native American studies, African American studies, Asian American studies or Latina and Latino studies across the 23 campuses for freshmen entering Fall 2021.
Castro will officially lead the CSU system of more than 482,000 students and 53,000 faculty and staff on Jan.
In a statement issued shortly after Castro’s selection, Oakley praised his new colleague. “The California State University board of trustees could not have picked a more committed and student-centered leader. Joe Castro will be a champion for students, and I look forward to working with him.”
UC President Drake also applauded Castro’s selection.
“Great things are in store for CSU students, the CSU community and higher education in California under Joe’s leadership,” Drake said. “I’ve known and worked with Joe for a quarter-century and look forward to partnering with him in the coming years to advance higher education in our state.”
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