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UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White chosen to lead 23-campus California State University system

Timothy White

Steven Cuevas/KPCC

Timothy White

After four years as head of U.C. Riverside, Timothy White is leaving that job to become chancellor of the massive California State University system. Cal State made the announcement Thursday after it completed final interviews earlier this week.

White becomes the seventh chancellor of the Cal State system. He’ll take over the nation’s largest university system amid major budget cuts, tuition increases, and reductions in courses and enrollment that have affected the system’s 427,000 students.

“I actually feel very humbled, very honored, very grateful but also very prepared in order to go forward,” White said in a conference call announcing his appointment.

Exiting Cal State chancellor Charles Reed praised White’s selection. “I am really pleased and proud that the board has selected somebody that really understands the California State University mission,” Reed said.

Part of that understanding, Reed and the chair of the board of trustees said, results from White's education in California public schools and higher education. White’s family emigrated from Argentina when was about eight years old. He attended public schools in Northern California, studied at Diablo Valley Community College, Cal State Fresno, Cal State East Bay, and earned a PhD at U.C. Berkeley.

Pursuing the Cal State chancellor job, White said, is a way to improve the state university system that changed his life.

“I will want to understand the dynamic between the largest system of public higher education in the country and in the world but also the individual expressions of that in our communities where there are campuses,” White said.

A batch of good news at U.C. Riverside in the last few years couldn’t have hurt during White’s final job interview this week.

The campus opened a School of Public Policy last month and after a failed attempt last year, and U.C. Riverside secured preliminary approval for a medical school to open next year. The Washington D.C.-based national board that oversees medical schools had denied the medical school petition last year after California legislators pulled funding for the school. White pushed the university to raise separate funds, including a 10-year commitment of $20 million from Riverside County.

The Liaison Committee for Medical Education gave U.C. Riverside’s medical school a preliminary green light this week.

A large portion of Cal State’s fiscal health for this academic year hangs on the thread of Proposition 30 on California’s November ballot. The initiative would raise California sales taxes and some taxes on wealthy citizens to help pay for public education. Because of the way the state’s budget has been balanced, the failure of Prop. 30 would mean a  $250 million system-wide cut to Cal State. 

White joked that he’d “drink a big glass of scotch,” if the measure fails. Some Cal State undergraduates would probably want a shot too. Last month trustees approved a 5% tuition increase for undergraduates in the spring if Prop. 30 fails.

Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, said in a statement that she hopes White “will understand the needs of the CSU and will establish a goal of unifying everyone behind our critical educational mission, particularly during these difficult times.”

The association has clashed with the current chancellor, characterizing his push for tuition increases and faculty pay cuts as a corporate-driven management style. White said he looks forward to a positive relationship with the university’s faculty.

White said he’d start his new job late this calendar year. The university said his annual salary will be $421,500 plus a $30,000 supplement from Cal State foundation sources. The compensation, Cal State officials said, is the same as that of current chancellor Reed.

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