Page 2 VOICE OF THE ASSOCIATION Winter, 1997
MUNITZ LAUDED IN L. A. TIMES
Article by Amy Wallace in the Magazine section of the Sunday, January 19 Los
Angeles Times features "California's Mr. Chips"
Assuming that not everyone in the state reads the Sunday Times, the VOICE
presumes to relay an evaluation that is largely laudatory of our Chancellor, and
indeed, of the CSU system.
One college president called him "A higher education blueblood."
The Chancellor of Oklahoma's Board of Regents called him "one of the
handful of individuals who help shape the contours of higher education
nationally." A UC official said that the UC President was once preeminent,
"But Barry is the leader in this state. He heads California's
Education Roundtable...and is Chairman of the Washington based American council
on Education...that Munitz -- who represents neither the Ivy League nor a big
research university holds both these jobs is especially striking." Robert
Atwell, past President of the American Council on Education, said Munitz
"is without a doubt the best academic political statesman that I've ever
In his own words, Munitz said: "I'm going to use words that strike
terror into the hearts of academics." Partly because he uses corporate
terms for academic issues, and partly because he is always on top of his game,
faculty may be suspicious of him. They deplored his immediate background: CEO of
Maxxam Inc., which used junk bonds to acquire Pacific Lumber and then increased
its rate of cutting to pay the debt. He is unapologetic about that, and about
the fact that he made enough at Maxxam so that he would not have to work again.
He felt that he had to return to academic life, because "his soul was
empty."Taking a 50% salary cut to come to the CSU, he nevertheless has
donated the equivalent of two years' salary to the CSU.
He is, however, a scholar. He calls his bookshelves "my security
blanket." Scholarship was encour-aged by his immigrant family and neighbors
in Brooklyn. He never felt like a full-time student while attending Brooklyn
College, having to support his mother and sister by working full time at night.
Completing a doctorate in Comparative Literature at Princeton in two years, he
taught Literature at UC Berkeley. But after three years, he went with Clark Kerr
to the Carnegie Foundation. His career after that has been all administration.
At 35, he was Chancellor of the University of Houston central campus.
Munitz is criticized for refusing to fight on such issues as affirmative
action and rising student fees. "...is he being a shrewd tactician? Or a
coward?" He says he does have a bottom line.... But he acknowledges that he
rarely, if ever, reaches that limit. "Like a mouse in a maze, I'm going to
bang my nose against every door to see if I've got a way to solve [a problem]
that causes the minimum hurt and disruption to those things that are
What are the things that are important to Barry? His agenda is to shore up
Cal State's role as what he calls "the socioeconomic engine for mobility
and economic development in the state." Along the way, he is committed to
the new merit-raise system to reward professors for effective teaching, not just
for research. This last point puts him at odds with many faculty members. He has
made it clear to the CSU Academic Senate, however, that merit-raises are here to
stay. He doesn't always compromise. He regards the success of K-12 as a part of
Cal State's mission, especially as it trains the majority of California's
Patrick Callan, head of the California Higher Education Policy Center, is one
of Munitz' critics, but he says: "But when he took over, the CSU had been
held up to scorching ridicule. That he has given the system a more positive
sense of itself is one of those intangibles that doesn't spell out success, but
is a condition of success."
When Munitz came to the CSU five and one half years ago, private funding
sources hardly existed. This has been turned around; today, each campus
president is rated on how much he can raise from the private sector. At the same
time, each president is given much more freedom and the CSU has attained more
control over its own funds.
Barry is determined that the CSU stands for quality. After state funds were
cut and fees raised, there were 50,000 fewer students in '94-'95 than in
'90-'91. Criticized for denying access, he made his point that a Cal State
education is worth defending. At the same time, he down-sized his headquarters
from 700 employees to 500. Both funding and enrollment are now rebounding, and
fees haven't been increased for three years.
All of the quotes in this article and all of the ideas except one are from
the Wallace article. The one is Barry's answer to the CSU Senate that
merit-raises are here to stay. This has earned him the most criticism from
faculty. However, it is a part of his package, which is quality, access and
public support. His style is always to speak to the public at the same time that
he is speaking to faculty, trustees or legislators. Ted Mitchell, A UCLA Vice
Chancellor, says "He's bilingual: he speaks academic, but he also speaks