Responses to Your Feedback

Photo of Dr. Joseph I CastroI want to thank all of you who submitted your thoughts on this feedback page. I read every comment submitted!

I am encouraged by many positive remarks about what Fresno State does best. I am especially pleased to see multiple comments that we are a campus that genuinely cares about student success and takes steps to make that happen.

Comments on what we can do better are very helpful to me and Cabinet members as we continually look for ways to improve our University. I appreciate your honesty, your desire to see our University improve and your genuine affection for Fresno State.

Members of my Cabinet and I have prepared responses to the most commonly submitted concerns. I hope these will help explain and clarify some issues and inform you about background and procedures on others.

Joseph I. Castro, Ph.D. M.P.P.
President

Latest Responses

Posted on: 8/17/15

Concern: I graduated in 2014 with Latin honors (magna cum laude). I felt that it was unfair that only those who achieved summa cum laude were recognized by President Castro during graduation. Why can't we honor everyone who achieved Latin honors?

Response: Thank you for this suggestion. I will discuss this with the Provost and see if it is feasible to recognize magna cum laude graduates at next year's Commencement.

Concern: I think we overemphasize "Diversity." It's great that Fresno State is very diverse, but we should also emphasize "Unity". The word suggests more positive feelings, and although we are all different, we should remember that we are all here together.

Response: I agree that unity is essential. We all work at Fresno State because the mission aligns with our values. I believe that true unity in a community occurs when everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Our diversity efforts at Fresno State are important because they provide everyone in our community with the opportunity to understand and respect different perspectives of our colleagues as we shape our own views. It is through this dynamic engagement that I believe true unity can be achieved and sustained.

Concern: Who decided to spend thousands of dollars on a bulldog puppy? Which person in the administration had the audacity to ask me to pay for its vet bills? I am a grad student and teaching associate, and the cost of that dog is more than I make in a year. What are you doing to lower student fees and debts? Why is there one administrative position for every four students on this campus? How do you feel about the fact that almost 50 percent of us will default on our student loans, which we have to take out because the university system is holding our education hostage?

Response: The loss of Victor E II saddened many of us. On the day he died, one of our alumni, John Horstmann, offered to buy a new mascot for us. We accepted this generous gift from him and his wife, Lollie. Ongoing support for Victor E III is provided by private funds. Our Cabinet is very sensitive about student costs. I am pleased that tuition has been flat for the past several years and that Fresno State's campus fees are among the lowest in the CSU system. Our average indebtedness of graduating students is about $18,000, which is about $10,000 below that national average for graduating students. Our student loan default rates are also modest relative to other universities. Fresno State's default rate is 6.5 percent compared to the national average of 13.7 percent. Our DISCOVERe initiative also helped last year by reducing textbook costs by 56 percent for those students who participated. We will continue our efforts to keep Fresno State affordable for students from all income backgrounds.

Concern: Fresno State should be a leader in renewable energy by installing solar panels on every campus building where that is feasible. Doing so would save energy costs long-term, contribute to a healthier Valley and promote local green sector economic growth. Considering our abundant sunshine, this is a sensible, if not overdue, infrastructure improvement.

Response: Agreed. As you may know, the University has one of the largest installations of photovoltaic panels located in Parking Lot P2 (formerly known as “Lot V”). These panels provide approximately 20 percent of the University's overall electrical needs. However, installation of solar panels is still very costly and the energy savings payback is typically 20-30 years. We have explored installing ground-mounted solar panels, but the payback is not financially viable. In addition to solar panels, the University continues to implement many other sustainable initiatives, such as installation of new exterior LED lighting that will substantially reduce energy usage.

Concern: In an effort to make our campus more sustainable, could we look into the possibility of installing water catchment systems on campus? Many of our buildings already have metal roofing. It would not take much to use that square footage to catch rainwater in the winter that could be used for irrigation (both landscaping and agriculture) on campus during the many dry months. Better yet, it would be amazing if we had students working on designing, implementing and analyzing efficiency of such systems as an educational process, rather than paying to contract out work.

Response: The University's storm drainage (or runoff from rainfall, irrigation, etc.) is captured in basins throughout the campus and these basins are connected to larger FID (Fresno Irrigation District) recharge basins on the farm laboratory that help to support irrigation on the farm, as well as helping to raise the underground water table. We always encourage and promote student involvement in campus projects, such as our new Electrical Vehicle Station that was led by a student team from Engineering, Business and Arts and Humanities.

Concern: Foundation employees do not have the same opportunities as state employees - especially when applying for job opportunities on campus.

Response: The University's auxiliary organizations are separate non-profit public benefit organizations established for a specific purpose and function that supports the educational mission of Fresno State. The Fresno State Foundation is one of six auxiliary organizations with the main purpose of supporting sponsored program and philanthropic activities. The Foundation is considered a private employer, and because of this, auxiliary employees do not have the same priority when applying for CSU positions as required by the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Concern: Is it possible to have separate restrooms for faculty/staff? Every professional office I visit has separate facilities for employees and visitors. This would also make it more convenient for faculty to use the restroom before classes begin.

Response: We need to ensure that all campus buildings have restrooms that are accessible to our faculty, staff, students and visitors. In addition, the California building code requires a certain number of accessible stalls based on a building's occupancy. As such, it would not be feasible or practical to provide separate restrooms. However, with the hiring of additional custodial staff persons this next academic year we will be striving to improve the cleanliness of all campus restrooms throughout the day, especially in high traffic academic buildings.

Concern: As a follow up to posting on 7/13 regarding "walking home from my night class from the Peters Building to Palazzo," I would love to see the city or University install flashing (solar) signage of pedestrians crossing and flashing lights on the crosswalk (similar to what Clovis has on trail/road crossing). I can't tell you the number of times I have stopped at the turn-a-bout crosswalk (left lane), only to have a car blow through the crosswalk on the right, and this was done in the day. It's only a matter of time before someone gets hit.

Response: We recognize the concern. Currently, the pedestrian crossing signs have flashing lights. However, we are working with a local civil engineer and the City of Fresno to increase the number of signs, adding LED flashing lights (replacing solar ones) to ensure that the signage is more visible prior to approaching the pedestrian crossing/roundabouts along Chestnut Avenue, given the pedestrian and bicycle traffic with the continued development of Campus Pointe. The design is completed and we are awaiting final approval from the City of Fresno since the City has jurisdiction over Chestnut Avenue. We are also strongly recommending that the City reduce the speed limit along Chestnut Avenue between Shaw and Barstow Avenues. We are also upgrading all exterior and parking lot lighting to LED, which will improve the level of brightness at night across the entire campus.

Concern: The parking evaluation for new parking permitting and enforcement systems are more than one year away from potential implementation. I have been ticketed when my poorly designed hanging permit fell off my rear view mirror. I tried to get an administrative hearing to explain the issue as I have had payroll deductions for more than 15 years. I was told there really is no appeal process - all appeals are automatically declined and everyone must pay the huge parking ticket fine. In the interim, for good faith relationships with faculty and staff, it would be helpful to at least verify the payroll deduction and allow no more than two "mistakes" per academic year.

Response: We recognize the challenge and our goal is to have our parking citation software upgraded this year. That will provide the ability to check license plate numbers to ensure a permit has been issued for that vehicle in the event that a permit is not shown. This will be a major service improvement offered by our parking program.

Concern: Update/change the "hold" music on campus and change the name of NG 118 to something more inviting.

Response: Both of your suggestions are on our to-do list. You'll hear new music soon, and the North Gym 118 name will be on the agenda for the Campus Planning Committee when it meets in the fall. If you have any ideas for the renaming of North Gym 118, please submit to Debbie Adishian-Astone, Interim VP for Administration, at debbiea@csufresno.edu

Concern: Fresno State needs to provide better ways to get through the phone lines just to speak to a person in the financial aid department. My phone calls don't even get answered because the machine says they're busy helping others. I spent a whole day calling and never got through. It would be helpful to be able to at least leave my number and name so I can get a call back instead.

Response: Every year at this time our call and in-person visit volume go up substantially because of the university fee payment deadline and the start of the semester. We have hired more help to staff our phone lines, but unfortunately we had instances in which the call volume exceeded our phone queue capability. We are working with Technology Services to remedy that situation and will continue to monitor our phone lines from this time forward.

Concern: Guarantee we receive quality education, even during summer courses. Many students who took Chemistry 1A this summer did not perform well due to our instructor. Our instructor cancelled class for an entire week of a six-week class and put busy work online for us. If our teacher could not teach the entire six weeks, why didn't someone else teach it? I was trying to get a head start on my pre-med degree and now I feel like I wasted my time and money this summer. I do not think that was fair to me or the other students.

Response: Quality instruction is a high priority for the campus. Faculty and courses are regularly evaluated and student ratings of instruction are an important part of faculty evaluation. The instructor for Chem 1A did, unfortunately, have an unexpected scheduling conflict this summer. To avoid having to cancel the class entirely, the instructor reformatted the course delivery method to include one week of on-line instruction and assignments. The goal was to not jeopardize student learning outcomes or the quality of the course. Your comments are appreciated as we continue striving to provide the best educational experience possible for our students.

Concern: I am an IT liaison for a college, and I would ask the DISCOVERe group to communicate more with the IT liaisons. DISCOVERe has not done a great job communicating to the liaisons as to what hardware faculty will be using, how the tablets will be used in the classroom and the level of support that is expected from the liaisons when there is a technical issue. I believe a liaison should be present when decisions are being made for DISCOVERe.

Response: Thank you for sharing your concern. Chief Information Officer Orlando Leon would be happy to speak with you to learn more about this to understand better what you are experiencing. If you'd like, you may contact him at oleon@csufresno.edu. Our vision is to have a more cohesive and united technology organization at Fresno State, and it will be essential to have clear and effective communication as well as clarity of roles and expectations. CIO Leon will be taking time to learn more about our academic and administrative technology teams and processes to better understand how we can more effectively collaborate together to serve our students, faculty and staff.

Concern: It would be a nice benefit to offer some kind of a discount for faculty and staff who are interested in season tickets.

Response: We do! Faculty and staff members can purchase up to four football season tickets at a discounted rate. Season ticket discounts are also available for other sports. Please contact the Bulldog Ticket Office at 559.278.3647 for more information or to place your order.

Concern: The University should require law enforcement to include only Penal Code 13837 sexual assault programs or Penal Code 13835 programs or clearly identify those programs on the Penal Code 679.04 form given by law enforcement to alleged rape victims. This improvement would make Fresno State safer for students, faculty and employees by increasing the chances that rape victims will receive prompt services from sexual assault programs which clearly document their compliance with the California Sexual Assault Service Standards and their religious nondiscrimination policies.

Response: The safety and well-being of our students is always a priority. We have been working closely with the CSU system in implementing new policies and resources that will support victims of sexual assault in accordance with State and Federal law. Most recently, Fresno State hired a new confidential advocate position who is dedicated to victim advocacy and who is a 24/7 resource for students in times of crisis. She will also be working closely with our Title IX Coordinator and University Police. Fresno State is also working collaboratively with community crisis centers to ensure students have immediate access to services and resources. Please refer to the following website http://www.fresnostate.edu/adminserv/hr/title-ix/students.html for more information regarding resources and support services.

Concern: Fresno State needs to obtain significantly more funding from federal funding agencies (DOE, NIH, NSF, etc.) with significant indirect to enhance its education/research and make Fresno State a better place.

Response:Fresno State is one of the few campuses in the CSU that has maintained or increased its grant levels. Grant and contract funding plays a critical role in sustaining and advancing Fresno State's broad mission, and, at nearly $33 million in the last fiscal year our overall sponsored program funding ranked third in the CSU. So far this year we are seeing increases on last year's total as well. That is notable. Our faculty members are the engines that drive research dollars, especially from federal agencies such as NIH, NSF and DOE. Additionally, over the last few years the Provost's Office has distributed $700,000-$800,000 each year to advance research. While Fresno State fares exceptionally well in overall grant dollars relative to comparable CSU campuses, we do have a relatively low indirect cost recovery, in part because many of our larger federal grants (particularly student service grants) either allow no indirect costs (or low ones), and in part because some of our researchers' areas of expertise do not align with federal agency priorities. Later this year the Grants and Research Advisory Board (GRAB) will be revisiting policies on indirect cost recovery to determine if there are more effective ways of utilizing available funds to enhance research and sponsored programs across the university. GRAB's recommendations will be submitted to the Provost and the President for consideration.

Concern: Faculty needs to play a bigger role in determining upper administrator positions, and especially deans. Policies on evaluation of deans and interim deans on regular basis need to be implemented. One thing to consider is to set up advising panel which consists of faculty with remarkable achievements in teaching, research, etc. for dean at each college.

Response: APM 335 "Periodic Review of Academic Administrators" is the relevant policy. In accordance with that policy, deans are reviewed annually by the Provost. Additionally, the policy requires periodic evaluation of administrators every four years and specifies the criteria and process (including the role of faculty) to be used. This policy is followed. Since interim appointments seldom last four years, individuals in such appointments are not normally subjected to the periodic review but they are reviewed annually by the provost.