Cal State's Chancellor Is Retiring. Here's A Look Back At His Tenure

California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White announced on Oct. 22, 2019 that he will retire in 2020. (Courtesy of the California State University)

California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White announced on Tuesday that he will retire next year as head of the nation's largest public university system.

"I find the CSU to be in one of its best spots ever," White told LAist. "The best time to change over the leadership of the organization, in my office, is when the university is working well rather than waiting until things start to wobble and they have to make a variety of changes all at once."

White, who was named to lead the 23-campus system in 2012, plans to step down next June. His tenure has been marked by a number of significant achievements, including the recent announcement that graduation rates for first-time students and community college transfer students have reached all-time highs. But there have also been contentious moments, including a hotly debated proposal to require high school students to take an extra year of math or a related class, like personal finance or coding, to be considered for admission.

Here's a look back at some of the key moments in White's chancellorship:

FACULTY CRITICISM

His moves to enact reforms by executive order drew opposition from the faculty union, which said White didn't solicit enough faculty input before imposing some of the major academic reforms.

"A lot of his reforms were negative," said Jennifer Eagan, who was president of the California Faculty Association from 2015 until this summer.

Eagan said the union group and faculty on several campuses voted not to carry out the 2017 orders. Nonetheless, the faculty overall did carry out the changes, and they're in place now.

The faculty association pushed White to lobby for funding above the formal request made to Sacramento in order to increase the number of mental health therapists on campuses. When that failed, the association tried unsuccessfully to find the funds through a state bill.

That effort may have failed, White said, but there are now more mental health services available for CSU students.

"We make sure that we either provide the service directly or give a student in a place of service as quickly as possible to deal with these burgeoning issues of mental health," White said.

The ratio of mental health therapists per student is well below nationally recommended ratios at most campuses. There's more for the next Cal State chancellor to do in order to improve student mental health services, he said.

"We can't do everything for everybody all the time, but we are very committed to this," White said.

FINDING THE NEXT CHANCELLOR

White said he hopes the board of trustees picks a chancellor who will maintain relationships with Sacramento lawmakers, since funding for the university system rises and falls based on elected officials' votes.

"I don't see the trustees making a wholesale shift that we're going to turn the university, 180 degrees in a different direction. I think they'll be looking for somebody to build on the past and take us to new heights in the future," he said.

The faculty association's Eagan said she hopes trustees pick a chancellor who has experience as a CSU professor and is more attuned to faculty needs.

White, who's 70, didn't say what plans he has after retirement in June, but indicated that he wants to spend more time with family. He said his son is a sophomore in high school in Long Beach and plays water polo, which White also played.