It’s who you know
Names and faces to note on campus
As you bustle from class to class, be aware there are many people working behind the scenes to make the rules, provide the services and get the word out. The following five people are some of the biggest names around. They’re the ones who get things done on campus to make it all run smoothly for you, the student. If you see them around, holler out a big “thank you.”
Associated Students president
Jimmy Reed comes off as casual and sweet. But, while he gets along well with university administrators, he says he’s not about to let them run the show when it comes to the Associated Students.
The 22-year-old agricultural-business major from Rio Linda was elected after first serving as A.S. executive vice president, running the weekly Governmental Affairs Committee meetings. The elected officials keep tabs on a $26 million, not-for-profit corporation, which includes the campus bookstore and A.S. food services—a rarity in public universities.
That sometimes means going head-to-head with administrators.
Reed is keeping a sharp eye on proposed cuts as Chico State follows a state directive to slash about $4.5 million from its budget. “The money we receive is directly from students and goes directly back to students,” he said. “The A.S. will not be supporting the university’s decreasing budget.”
That’s a reference not only to fears that the university will cut student services and look to A.S.-related student fees to make up the difference, but also something called CMS. The Common Management System is software the CSU chancellor ordered all campuses to adopt, and the university has told the A.S. that as an auxiliary organization it must pay as much as $500,000 a year to help Chico State meet its share. “We will still not pay for CMS,” Reed said, punctuating a resolution student officers passed to that effect last year. They’ll take it to court if it comes to that, he said.
Meanwhile, the A.S. and university are battling the contractor who built the new Bell Memorial Union and came in several months late and with some defects.
Also, look for a scaled-down version of a student-fee-funded recreation center to surface this year. Voters shot down by 65 percent a spring 2001 resolution that would have OK’d a $65 million center. The A.S. and university president both pushed for the center, but a campaign by Chico gym owners, worried about competition, hammered on just how costly the fees would be, and students balked.
Even with these hot-button issues, Reed said, “We have to be diplomatic, reasonable and calm. Nothing gets done when there’s screaming matches and roadblocks.” Otherwise, he said, “if [the administration] can’t work with somebody at the A.S. side, they just wait a year for the new officers to come in.”
A weakness of the A.S. has always been a lack of continuity. This year’s team hopes to compensate for the naturally transient nature of student leaders in having an overlap, or transition period for the new gang.
“My role for students is that I will be there to represent their needs and concerns to the university and the administration,” Reed said. “E-mail, phone, come in. I have an open-door policy.”
Chico State president
Another president on campus is, of course, the top dog: Manuel Esteban. Esteban came to Chico State in 1993 and has come to be well liked in the community, largely because of his friendly nature and relative accessibility.
He’ll have a tougher time keeping friends as budget cuts continue, but he’s pledged to be open and inclusive about whatever is going to be done.
“We’re doing two major things to ensure that our students have the necessary classes to make progress toward graduation,” Esteban said. “First, we are attempting to reduce enrollment from our record-high 14,750 full-time-equivalent students to around 14,000.” (The state doesn’t pass along more per-student money when a campus is over capacity.) Also, he said, “we will spare direct instruction as much as possible from cuts.”
He praises the faculty members, who teach rather than sticking students in huge classes taught by graduate students, as in larger schools. “Our staff is probably the most educated staff of any university and they are often graduates of Chico State,” he said. “Their love for this institution is palpable and contagious. … The atmosphere on campus is one of friendliness, encouragement, family.”
Esteban encourages students not only to talk with and learn as much from their professors as they can, but also to get involved in clubs and activities on campus. He’s like one of those dads who want you to have fun but learn a lot, too.
“Above all, make wise choices,” Esteban said. “Enjoy the social life that characterizes residential campuses. This is a time to live fully. Study hard and play hard. But remember that there are consequences to all your actions.”
The Orion is the campus newspaper, which comes out on Wednesdays during the school year. But no one just says “The Orion.” It’s always, “the award-winning Orion.” That’s because, year after year, the paper wracks up awards for being the best weekly in the state, and even the nation.
So, when you pick up The Orion, you know you’re getting good stuff. This year, Editor Jen Cooper—a two-year veteran who was chosen after interviews with journalism faculty members—has plans to make the paper even more relevant to student readers: “go deeper” with more investigative pieces, more news and a redesign. “I’m not afraid to use space to write longer,” said Cooper, who’s completed two internships, including one with Scripps-Howard in which she found herself interviewing victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
The Orion’s Web site not only made it one of the first campus papers to go online, nearly a decade ago, but also has an online forum where people can write in feedback to articles and issues. “It’s so nice to have that immediate reader interaction,” Cooper said.
Recently, The Orion has been scooping the other media in town, including the daily paper. “I get so frustrated when other newspapers get stuff before us,” Cooper said. “We’re on campus! We all really feel like we have an obligation to students and we take that really seriously.”
Reporters show up at campus budget meetings, dig around in academic departments and chat up fellow students in their attempt to, as Cooper puts it, “capture student life.”
Students from the graphic design department lay out the paper, and there’s also a business and advertising staff.
Cooper said readers may be surprised at how much freedom the student reporters and editors have. “Everything in the paper is the students,” she said, and they write what they think their campus readership needs to know.
Sometimes a professor or someone else on campus will call Orion Adviser Dave Waddell, hinting around about getting a story killed. Cooper laughs. While the staff relies on Waddell’s mentoring, “He has no idea what’s in the paper until Wednesday unless we go to him with a [question].”
The Orion is run out of a dark basement office in Plumas Hall, where editors work well into the night getting the paper ready to print. “We’re doing journalism, and that’s what excites us,” Cooper said.
Academic Senate chairman
Every other Thursday during the school year, professors sit around a rectangle of tables in a Kendall Hall meeting room, pondering policy and procedures that affect not only them, but also the thousands of students who attend Chico State.
Appropriately for such a den of philosophical, academic discussions, the man who will be presiding over these Academic Senate meetings is Dennis Rothermel, the chairman of the Philosophy Department, who first taught here in 1981, before many of you were born.
He’s served in the senate for seven years and headed up subcommittees, but this will be the first time he’ll run the senate meetings. Rothermel, an expert on Kant and Hegel, studied at Yale and Northwestern.
The Academic Senate, which is also referred to as the faculty senate, consists of mostly professors but also other teachers, some administrators, student leaders and some folks who just sit in. President Esteban is always there. The senate has several subcommittees; the most recently formed one is focusing on enrollment management.
While discussion may turn toward topics such as faculty workload and the fairness of merit-based pay raises, it almost always comes down to, as Rothermel puts it, “what’s good for students.” While some universities are heavy on research, CSU profs are teachers first and foremost.
Having a faculty senate involved in setting the curriculum and other policies for the institution is called “shared governance.” When something gets rushed through without the faculty having a chance to weigh in, like last year’s sudden implementation of year-round school at the direction of Gov. Gray Davis, they’re not happy.
Rothermel agreed there is some overlap with the California Faculty Association, the teachers’ union, because they share some of the same goals. But, he said, “We will deal with similar issues in different ways.”
The topics around the senate table can run toward the dry, but when they get into it, it’s fun to watch. Smart people engaging in intellectual debate is productive, Rothermel said. “It’s part of being an academic—you’re supposed to come up with ideas.” They’ll need all their brains and sense of humor as budget troubles loom.
Rothermel said for the most part he and his colleagues are dedicated and love their jobs, but students should know: “Most of us are exhausted most of the time.” Most professors teach four courses each semester. “You throw everything you have into it,” he said, “and it takes every single ounce of your time and energy.”
University police chief
A Chico State graduate as police chief? Yep. Leslie Deniz, class of 1989, is starting her first year leading the University Police Department.
Deniz was hired last spring, taking over the department that had been without a permanent chief since Mike Minard retired in December 2000. She’s excited to get to work.
“One of the reasons I applied for this job here is I wanted to come back to my alma mater,” Deniz said. “I feel very comfortable here at Chico State, and I like the atmosphere here on campus.”
She lives in Chico but had worked for the last few years as a lieutenant with the Yuba City Police Department. She also put in a couple of years with the Oroville Police Department.
While you’re extremely unlikely to see campus police unholstering their guns, the agency—woefully underfunded, by the way—is “a full-fledged law enforcement organization,” just like a city, county or state police agency. They have all the training to handle the most serious of crimes.
Chico State’s police department, though, is more about honoring the philosophy of community policing. An escort service, where you can call for a walk across campus, is just one of the student-friendly programs offered. “The overall goal is to be helpful,” Deniz said. Look for her as the city and campus community work to tone down the melee that is Halloween in Chico. She believes in getting advice on problems and looking for long-term solutions.
That said, she advised students to stay out of trouble by, essentially, policing themselves and “being responsible for your actions.”
Deniz is the first woman to lead the department, but she feels that’s barely worth mentioning. She’s modest about another of her accomplishments—brace yourself for a major cool factor here—having won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The discus champ appeared solo on a Wheaties box.
If you see her on campus, Deniz said, “please come and say hello to me.”