Last week, Sonoma State University president Ruben Armiñana announced his retirement after 24 years as the longest-serving president in the California State University System.
For some, Armiñana’s retirement may mark the end of the era and for others, a new beginning.
The year is 1991 and Sonoma State is nearing closure because of inconsistent and unstable enrollment. With an unpromising and unsettling future, Armiñana steps in and takes the university to new heights.
In the 24 years since Sonoma State has seen many changes - including the construction of the Green Music Center, Recreation Center, Student Center, upperclassmen dorms and the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center. Despite these numerous additions. the university has seen during Armiñana’s tenure at Sonoma State, the controversies and the desperate need for new leadership throughout the years can’t be overlooked.
Never more was his futurein question than in 2007 when Armiñana received a vote of no confidence via a campus-wide vote among faculty.
Whether the vote accurately represented the opinions of students is debatable, but what the vote did show was that the campus climate had changed negatively under Armiñana’s leadership.
In the last ten years, Sonoma State has seen an increase in student enrollment by 42 percent with a decrease in the amount of tenure faculty.
Sonoma State has the architectural resources to accommodate the increase in students with the recent addition of the Student Center, but how does a university account for a lack of professors and classes that adequately prepare students for their future after graduation?
The improvements Armiñana has brought forth at the university in the last 24 years are undeniably good for both the campus culture and its appeal to incoming students.
The campus is known for its luxurious dorms and luscious landscapes. But when did the appearance of a college campus become a replacement for academics?
But shouldn’t a university also be known as a place of knowledge with passionate professors where students can widen their worldly perspective? With a 90 percent acceptance rate according to U.S News and World Report, Sonoma State is building a reputation as a university anyone can be admitted to, no matter GPA or academic accomplishments.
With Armiñana’s time at Sonoma State coming to a close, now is not only a time to reflect on the changes the campus has seen in the last 24 years but also look forward to the future.
This change in leadership comes at a time when the budget for higher education in California has rebounded and more resources are coming available. Sonoma State needs to give careful consideration of not only how it wants to progress as a campus but what kind of leader it wants at the helm.
In our view, our new president needs to not only set a vision that honors education – and the university’s commitment to students - above all, but pledge to adhere to that platform regardless of what comes in the years ahead. As the university moves ahead with searching forArmiñana’s successor, we will look for more opportunities to comment in the days to come.