California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced his retirement Tuesday, saying he’ll step down at the end of June after serving more than seven years.
In a CapRadio interview, White said he’s leaving the university “as stable and focused” as ever — on students.
“I don’t see a wholesale shift in what we’re doing or where we’re going,” the chancellor said. “It’s not a moment to sort of say, ‘Oh my gosh, let’s totally reconsider the CSU.’ Because we have focus, we have a north star — and that’s student achievement.”
White pointed to increases in the CSU’s graduation rate, enrollment and — thanks in large part to California’s economic recovery after the Great Recession — even state budget funding.
“Everything that should have moved up during the last several years has moved up.” he said.
Tuition, on the other hand, only went up once during his tenure.
“This would be a good time, when we’re doing well, to change out the chancellor — rather than waiting to a time when there may be economic distress or other wheels wobbling, if you will, and then making many changes at once.”
Earlier this year, a scalding state audit criticized the CSU for amassing $1.5 billion in reserves. But the chancellor accused the auditor of mischaracterizing why the reserves were needed. And state lawmakers took no corrective actions against the university.
California State Student Association President Michael Wiafe, a senior political science major at San Diego State University, said White was not without fault — but rarely shut students out of discussions.
“I wouldn’t say he was the best chancellor of all time and we are all doomed without him. But I also think it could have been a lot worse,” Wiafe said. “If there was something where he felt there was an issue, he would ask. And I think that that’s a lot more than I can say for a lot of campus administrators.”
Before he led the CSU, White served as chancellor at the UC Riverside campus, as a top administrator at the University of Idaho and Oregon State, and on the faculty at UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan. As a student, he earned degrees at all three legs of the California higher education stool: community college, CSU and UC.
With White’s retirement, both of the state’s public university systems are now looking for new leaders. University of California President Janet Napolitano announced last month that she, too, will step down next summer.