(TNS) — Growth, education equity and innovation were among the themes touched on in an optimistic annual "Report to the Community" delivered Thursday morning by Cal State San Marcos University President Karen Haynes.
Her speech about education equity and diversity inside a large tent on a campus parking lot at times competed with the chants of about 20 students outside who were protesting the recent dismissal of the top campus diversity administrator.
Haynes said after the speech that she could not comment on sudden departure of Arturo Ocampo, who had been head of the Office of Diversity, Educational Equity and Inclusion. Haynes did say the position had not been eliminated.
Ocampo had worked at the university in the position since 2013, and Patricia Prado-Olmos, vice president of community engagement, has been named as his interim replacement.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Ocampo said he had been advised not to talk about his situation.
Haynes did not address the issue in her annual address to university members, community leaders and invited guests. She identified three goals for CSUSM: increasing access to higher education, embracing innovation and building global awareness.
It is important to renew the university's collective commitment to those goals to prepare college graduates for jobs of the future, she said.
"The jobs of today, and certainly of tomorrow, require skill sets and experiences beyond high school levels," she said. "Yet, projections show that at today's enrollment rates, by the year 2030 California will suffer a 1.1 million-degree gap between the total state output of bachelor's degrees and what our state's workforce will require."
Filling the gap will require almost 75,000 new enrollments each year, she said, adding that state funding is not keeping up with the need.
The governor's proposed budget allows for only a 1 percent growth in enrollment, or 3,500 more students statewide, she said. For California State University San Marcos, the increase will fund only 160 additional students, she said.
She said that because of past funding reductions "we are denying admission to too many eligible students every year."
The university's enrollment has grown significantly in recent years, however, and enrollment hit a record 14,000 students last fall. Haynes noted that the student body had grown 24 percent over the past three years.
Despite the funding frustration, Haynes' address was optimistic, especially when referring to the university's commitment to growth and community engagement.
"Impacting tomorrow together is not an easy task, but we approach it from a position of strength," she said. "Together with you, we have created a first-choice, forward-focused institution that stands as a 21st-century model of public higher education."
To meet growing needs for graduates, Haynes said CSUSM had expanded access to the university through online programs, which often relies on no state support.
Academic Partnerships, a service that provides technological support for online programs, chose CSUSM as one of only four "growth" universities in the nation for online programs, Haynes said.
Audience members applauded several times as Haynes referred to the university's accomplishments in educational equity.
"Many of our students at one time thought, or perhaps were told, that college was not a place for them," she said. "At Cal State San Marcos, they find a university wholeheartedly dedicated to their success.
Haynes noted that more than half of the university's students identify as being from an under-represented minority, and over the past three years more than half the graduates were the first in their families to receive four-year degrees.
More than 10 percent of CSUSM students or their dependents are in the military or are veterans. She said the university serves more former foster youth per capita than any higher education institution in the country, she said.
Haynes also talked about the university's commitment to help all students feel safe, valued and appreciated.
Those efforts helped the school earn a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine for the past two years, she said.
In its 2014 recognition, the magazine stated it was recognizing CSUSM for its "exemplary diversity and inclusion initiatives, and ability to embrace a broad definition of diversity" on campus, including gender, race, ethnicity, veterans, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, and all others.
Haynes also noted that the university received national attention last year for its "Beyond the Stereotypes" poster campaign that challenged viewers to reexamine attitudes on issues of cultural identity.
The Office of Diversity, Educational Equity and Inclusion, headed at the time by Ocampo, was among the partners that worked on the poster campaign.
Students protesting his firing on Thursday said Haynes was being hypocritical for speaking about diversity on campus. Some students held signs that read, "CSUSM diversity is dead" and "Why did you fire our diversity champion?"
Student Selena Arellano said Ocampo's dismissal was a sign that the university didn't value diversity on campus.
Other students said they were frustrated about Ocampo's sudden departure and the uncertainty about why he left.
"The university claims to care about diversity, and then they do this," said Lizbeth Moreno, a fourth-year women's studies student.
"I think it's frustrating how our school is recognized for a lot of diversity, but one of the main persons in charge of diversity on campus was let go and fired," said Luis Romero, a second-year psychology student. "I think that's very hypocritical."
Associate professor Darel Engen, CSUSM chapter president of the California Faculty Association, said he did not know why Ocampo had been let go, but he said the Office of Diversity recently had been restructured.
The office used to report directly to the president, but now it is part of the Office of Community Engagement, which Engen said some faculty members saw as diluting its impact.
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