Wong envisions changes to University in a Q&A session with Xpress


SF State President Les Wong answers questions during an interview given by Xpress editors in the Administration Building Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.

SF State President Les Wong answers questions during an interview given by Xpress editors in the Administration Building Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Frank Ladra / Xpress.
SF State President Les Wong answers questions during an interview given by Xpress editors in the Administration Building Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Frank Ladra / Xpress.

Golden Gate Xpress editors sat down with SF State President Leslie E. Wong last week to discuss the future of the University. The Gator president expanded on his plans for a new science facility, a campus extension at the Hunters Point Shipyard and expectations for a redesigned athletics. Here are his responses, edited for clarity.


Xpress: What are some of your greatest accomplishments while president at SF State?

LW: “I feel really proud of the new spirit that’s on campus.  The sort of sense of identity within San Francisco, within the CSU, we’re getting our name out nationally, you know, little by little.”


Xpress: What are your plans for the future?

LW: “I think we’re going to do a lot of groundwork to set the stage to start the strategic, very strategic, planning for a new science building. We sort of tentatively thought maybe up on 19th and Buckingham might be a best spot to do it. We’ll take down a smaller building there, but it is a way for us to think about roughly 200,000 square feet for straight science work.”


Xpress: Now that you can look back at your two years at SF State, what would you have done differently?

LW: “All of the various infrastructure problems told me that I should have been far more prepared on day one to look at the physical plans. In many ways a new guy get’s to say let’s look underground, let’s look at the buildings. I should have known and that’s terrible, I should have known within the first semester where our soft spots were and I’ll have to admit I didn’t.”


Xpress: Do we have the teams to bring us to a higher level of athletics?

LW: “ “I’ve had a lot of students ask the perennial question of football and (that) variety of things. To use a baseball analogy, for us to go to third base with a foot stuck on first isn’t gonna work, and I think we ought to get really good at what we do, with what we have, get to second base and ask ourselves ‘will new sports fit us?’”


Xpress: New Gator or old Gator?

LW: “I like the new one.”


Xpress: What can we expect to see down at Hunters Point?

LW:“Our thinking now with Lennar Urban and with the deans who have been, kind of interested, really have been to get programs that fit both the city’s plan ideas and Lennar’s, the neighborhood’s group there and ours—because we want to put good programs out there.  I mean, we really want to make a difference.”


Xpress: Will it be an extension school or are we moving departments from here to there?

LW:“If there are departments here that would like that opportunity to move down there, we’ll talk to them.  No one is going to be assigned, dragged against their will to go down there. I actually think that center will generate students”


Xpress: How has the community at Hunters Point reacted to the proposition of moving down there?

LW: “I’ve had nothing but positive feedback.  It’s been mostly individuals and we’re gonna start sponsoring some neighborhood meetings as we did when I first arrived here.”“Lennar was not on the radar at that point but I’ve gotten calls and notes from people saying, ‘I was at that little meeting in Bayview about two years ago, you didn’t forget us and I feel really good about that.’”


Xpress: What is the University going to be doing to ensure that the shipyard is clean when we get there?

LW:“I’m going to bring the same attitude to that project as I did with the Science Building. We’re going to make sure that it’s absolutely safe. We’re going to make sure that even before any potential construction occurs that the soil, grounds, access in and out – all of that stuff – meets our standards and expectations before we move forward.”


Xpress: How did this year’s change in Title IX policy affect SF State?

LW:“It involved a commitment on our part to, in our minds, to be on the cutting edge of reforms, and standing up to our values that our campus is going to be safe and we’re going to do our due diligence. We’ve reorganized the whole violence against women act requirements. I think we’re beyond them by far. Everybody is asking us for copies for the way we reorganize to implement this. We already begun training students. We’ve already started training employees. We are out on the cutting edge of the wave, saying, ‘we’re committed to this professionally and morally.’ I think Luoluo’s (the Title IX Coordinator’s) leadership has been instrumental in that.”


Xpress: We’ve been reporting about allegations of a rape on campus. We’ve heard some comments from Luoluo, but we haven’t really heard your input. What’s your stance on that?

LW:“I don’t know about the case in general. I’ve been off campus. In fact, I got on a plane at 1 o’clock last night to make this meeting from the east coast, so I don’t know the case (that you’re talking about).”