A Donald Trump moment at the Future of the University Panel Discussion

A Donald Trump moment at the Future of the University Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion, CSULB Beach Auditorium

aka Planning the Physical Growth of the CSULB Campus

I attended a future of the university panel discussion in the CSULB Beach Auditorium yesterday. The questions from the audience turned out to be not so future of the university. The students in the room were far more concerned with the failing present of the university.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I was at a Donald Trump rally with an angry crowd shouting their resentment for Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump

For many Americans Donald Trump is a flawed, perhaps deeply flawed, perhaps fatally flawed candidate. Yet there are many other Americans who don’t care about those flaws because Trump represents their only chance to send a message to Washington. Their best and only chance to send the message they’ve wanted to send for a generation. At its simplest, that message is to punch Washington DC in the face.

From NAFTA to TPP, Globalization may represent new possibilities for those of us on the coasts, but for many who live in states in between California and New York it represents the loss of jobs and the evaporation of opportunities for their children. The 2008 bank bailout represents a clear message that Washington cares more about the wealthiest few than it does about ordinary Americans. Veterans who risked their lives and lost family and friends can feel betrayed by politicians who never served.

For many disenfranchised Americans Donald Trump’s flaws are irrelevant. He is their one chance to express the anger they’ve felt for years.


When yesterday’s discussion opened for questions from the audience the first speaker was an Animation & Illustration student. When she stood up, about 20 of her classmates, nearly the entire 1st & 2nd rows of the auditorium, stood up with her, each holding an FA4 (Fine Arts Building #4) ceiling tile that had randomly fallen on their heads at some point during class. Her concerns were not of the university of the future but of the failure to live up to the basic needs of today. She spoke of how humiliated and second class she feels when she passes CSULB’s glorious Hall of Science on her way to her classes in disintegrating FA4.

She might as well have been a Trump voter talking about how betrayed she felt when the Bush & Obama Administrations bailed out the banks and let her lose her home. For her The Hall of Science is not some beacon of educational possibilities, it is Goldman Sachs.

She was followed by other questions from students in Music, Art, and elsewhere who were not concerned with the university of some future when I’m not here anymore, but with the university of how am I supposed to complete my education today?

I understood this frustration. I’ve been painfully aware of how much we fetishize STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math), at the expense of The Arts. I’m also convinced that the current obsession with STEM is a mistake. STEM can help you figure out how to do something, but STEM can never tell you what we as human beings care about. If you look at the people who’ve changed the world, they are typically STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math), not STEM. Steve Jobs was not STEM, he was STEAM. Albert Einstein was not STEM, he was STEAM.

A Classroom for the 21st Century?

About 14 years ago a CSULB School of Art (SOA) student placed a piece in one of the SOA Galleries that featured fallen FA4 ceiling tiles. So I can’t say I was unaware of the decayed state of some School of Art facilities.

Still I came to this discussion because I am passionate about the university of the future. We live in a time when Google can find any journal article, when YouTube can teach any skill, when Wikipedia can explain any concept, and when MOOCs can offer courses in the world’s knowledge for no or low cost. In my view these new tools don’t represent threats to the university, they represent a new floor from which we can erect higher ladders. But if we ignore them, then they become threats. What value do we offer for all the time and money a students invests?

The questionnaire sent out in advance of this discussion was inspiring in it’s future-thinking questions.

Questions 7 from the Planning the Physical Growth of the CSULB campus online survey

SurveyMonkey questionnaire asking what features buildings on the CSULB campus should have

I came to talk about the future of the university. About what education might look like in the 21st century. I wound up feeling guilty for thinking about it when students working today are so underserved by old, disintegrating facilities. Yet to try to create a campus where the students of tomorrow don’t have to repeat the complaints of today, we must engage in blue sky considerations of tomorrow’s possibilities.

Hillary Clinton

At the moment it looks like Donald Trump will not prevail in the 2016 presidential election. Yet even if this outcome does come to pass, his alienated voters will not go away. Hillary Clinton has set for her administration an ambitious agenda. In addition to the issues she’s campaigned on, her administration will have to address these lost Americans.

I hope the Clinton Administration can find a way to reach into the future with Globalization Partnerships, and also find ways to bring all Americans along into new prosperity. I further hope that CSULB can find a way to stretch its limited budget and somehow find a way to serve both the students of 2016 and the students of 2026.

Announcement for Yesterday’s Discussion

Planning the Physical Growth of Campus
The office of Physical Planning, in conjunction with President Conoley, is seeking input from students, faculty and staff on development of a plan for the physical growth and revitalization of the campus over the next 10 years. We would like to include your input by having you fill out the attached survey:

A public forum to solicit input will be held Tuesday, October 25th at noon in the Student Union Beach Auditorium.

Forum topics will include envisioning the future of:

 -Learning Spaces
 -Study Spaces
 -Food Service / Retail
 -University Student Union
 -Community Spaces
 -Campus Housing

Please join the discussion on Tuesday, October 25th.


Mary Stephens
Vice President, Administration and Finance

Comments? Questions? What great art did you see, make, or experience today?

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