Timothy P. White, 63, was selected Oct. 4 to succeed Charles B. Reed, who announced his retirement this past May.
White immigrated to Northern California from Buenos Aires, Argentina. White is a first-generation college student and has matriculated within the California Community Colleges, the CSU and University of California systems. He attended Diablo Valley College, earned his bachelor’s degree at Fresno State University and Cal State East Bay, and his doctorate at UC Berkeley.
“I am humbled to have been chosen to lead the California State University system at such a transformative time,” White said in a news release. “I look forward to engaging with faculty, students, staff, campus presidents and CSU trustees, along with the communities we serve, as we advance this vital system of higher education for California’s future.”
Kris Lovekin, spokeswoman for UC Riverside, worked closely with White. She described him as a good communicator and a great asset to the campus during his time at UC Riverside.
“His four years here have been very productive with a strategic plan for the campus, hires of important new leadership, the successful shepherding of the medical school plan to accreditation, even in a very difficult economic environment,” she said.
White’s establishment of the medical school at UC Riverside is noted as one of his biggest accomplishments. The UCR School of Medicine received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education Oct. 2.
CSU spokesman Erik Fallis said that a few things stood out about White during the selection process.
“He was part of all three systems of our University,” Fallis said. “This gave him a student experience in all three systems, which makes it easy for him to identify with students. What also makes it easy for him to identify with students is that he was the first one of his family to come to college.”
Lovekin said that White was also a good chancellor in times of crisis. A raucous protest broke out at a UC Regents’ Meeting Jan. 19 at UC Riverside. During the meeting, seated protesters had the opportunity to talk about recent tuition hikes, rising administrative costs and the lack of communication between regents and students. Outside, the police used rubber bullets to calm the protesters down.
“He (White) did what he needed to and talked to a lot of people, at one point he even walked into the crowd,” Lovekin said. “Safety was important to him, but also that the protesters were heard. He is reassuring in times of crisis and protective of a students, a clear leader who tells you what to do.”
Not everyone seemed as happy with White’s reaction to the protests. Patricia Morton, UC Riverside associate professor and chair of the history of art department, wrote a blog post titled “Undercover Chancellor,” indicating that White authorized the police violence on his campus against peaceful protesters. Morton indicates in her piece that White initiated a public relations campaign that made the protesters look like troublemakers without an agenda.
Lovekin said that this is the opinion of one person and it does not represent the faculty of UC Riverside. She admits that there were many uniformed officers on the scene that day, but that force was necessary because the university needed to meet the regents and wanted them safely returned to their cars. Police violence was used, but it was not severe, according to Lovekin.
“They did use a paintball-type weapon at one point during the day, so there were a few protesters who had bruises on their lower legs because they attempted to break through police lines,” she said.
Lovekin also said that protesters asked for clear instructions that would allow them to continue the protest without being arrested.
“When the campus put together a list of rules for them, we were accused of abridging free speech. We were simply responding to a request for guidelines,” she said.
White will take his position as chancellor in December. Until then, his job as chancellor at UC Riverside is his first priority. Fallis said that White is very approachable by students and has a sense of humor as well.
“White sure has a humorous side and is a real storyteller. When he was asked what he would do if Proposition 30 does not pass, he answered: ‘Well, I would drink a big glass of scotch,’” Fallis said.
White has some challenges to face as a CSU chancellor. If Prop. 30 fails, the CSU system will have to turn away about 25,000 students and cut roughly 3,000 faculty and staff jobs, according to a blog by Inside Higher Education. Failure of Prop. 30 would also trigger a $250 million funding cut on top of $750 million in reductions already made during the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Sabah Randhawa, provost and executive vice president of Oregon State University, used to work with White when he was the provost at Oregon State. He described White as compassionate, respectful, confident, optimistic and an effective communicator.
“I enjoyed working with Tim, even though he was my supervisor. I always felt that I was working with him as a partner. He was open to sharing his agenda with me and valued my input and perspectives,” Randhawa said. “Tim has had progressively increased experiences at all levels of university administration with significant interactions at the system level that has prepared him very well to take on the new leadership role for the CSU system.”
White is expected to receive the same salary as Reed: $421,500 plus a $30,000 supplement from CSU foundation sources and a standard benefits package, according to the Washington Post.
Brad Wilson contributed to this report.