Thursday, June 30, 2011
Outgoing San Diego State University President Stephen Weber said today he hopes the public doesn't saddle successor Eliott Hirshman with expectations that he will immediately solve the school's funding crisis. The state budget signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown today cut spending for the California State University system by $650 million, $150 million more than expected.
Weber said administrators found ways to deal with SDSU's share of the initial $500 million reduction, but there weren't any remaining ideas for compensating for further cutbacks. "I worry a lot about the budget situation," Weber told City News Service from his home on Hancock Point, Maine. "It's a really dire situation in California, and it will probably get worse before we're done."
He said Hirshman, whose tenure as SDSU's eighth president begins Tuesday, underwent a thorough orientation process earlier this month. "I like him a lot," Weber said. "I think he has really good instincts and I like the way he asks questions. Weber, who left for Maine on June 16, was praised from nearly all corners near the end of his 15 years at SDSU. "The truth is, people are being very kind," Weber said. "In a lot of cases, they gave me credit for things other people did."
He said his main contribution was to ask questions. When he first arrived on campus, the school was overcrowded and had no enrollment controls. The University Senate debated whether to educate more students or serve fewer students better, and chose the latter course.
Since that change, the graduation rate improved more than at any other school in the country, and the number of freshman applications soared to among the highest nationally, he said. He said he and his wife, Susan, built a house in Maine when they lived there years ago and kept it, spending vacations there. "Our kids always think of Maine as home," Weber said.
He said he and Susan will travel during the cold-weather months, and have already rented a San Diego condominium for next February and March. That the return visit comes near the end of basketball season was no accident, he said. "I never doubted that the basketball program would come together, but I thought it would be next year," Weber said. "That it was this year was a treat." The Aztecs men's basketball team compiled a 34-3 record and went to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. He also said he also hoped to remain a leading voice against college football's Bowl Championship Series, which he called "a cartel."