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Sunday, Jun 4, 2023


csun/d.taub/34″/dt1st/jc2nd By DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter Students and faculty at Cal State Northridge were outraged last month when administrators cut men’s baseball, volleyball and swimming. But the decision also upset another group: Valley business leaders. Corporate officials say they would have donated money, started a fund-raising drive or done whatever else was necessary to preserve the teams but the university never asked. Moreover, business leaders say, the sports situation reflects a larger rift between CSUN and area businesses. “Quite frankly I don’t see a whole lot of activity going on in relating to the business community,” said Walter Mosher, president of Precision Dynamics Corp., a Pacoima-based medical supply company with 350 employees. “I don’t really see them getting out and trying to build relationships with businesses.” CSUN President Blenda Wilson said the university is reaching out to the business community, pointing to $2 million in corporate contributions for the 1995-96 fiscal year. But Wilson also said that the diversity of the Valley’s business community makes it difficult to reach. “The thing to say, I think, is that the business community is segmented in the same way all economic communities are segmented,” Wilson said. Others, however, put the blame on the university. “I really don’t think they’ve connected with anybody here in the Valley, with their athletic programs, their business programs, their fund raising,” said Richard Hardman, executive director of the Northridge Chamber of Commerce. State Sen. Cathie Wright, R-Simi Valley, whose district includes CSUN, said that the university’s ties to the business community were better before the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Damage to CSUN was the most severe ever suffered by a U.S. university from a natural disaster. “It seems to me that things were going well until the earthquake, then I think the university itself got so preoccupied with getting up and running that that was the main thrust,” Wright said. “I think they did lose contact with the local community, which includes the business community.” But Wright also believes that the university is starting once again to realize the importance of having a close connection to the Valley’s businesses and that local business people want to form partnerships with CSUN. “I think the signals are there, and I think the university understands that, and I think you’ll see some changes,” she said. CSUN eliminated the three men’s sports as well as men’s soccer, which was later given a temporary reprieve after it proposed funding itself for one year in order to comply with Title IX, a gender-equity law that requires universities to allow women and men equal opportunities in sports. Although the law was intended to encourage universities to add women’s sports teams, limited budgets have instead forced some to eliminate men’s teams to comply with the law. The decision last month surprised students, faculty, alumni and local business leaders alike. “Had we known any of the sports were in danger at the university, some of us would have tried,” said Barry Pascal, owner of Northridge Pharmacy, located a block from the university’s campus. “I’m not saying that the end result wouldn’t have been the same, but at least we would have tried to do some fund raising.” John Rooney, president of the Valley Economic Development Center, added that Cal State Northridge has only recently made any serious attempts to work with businesses in the area. “If the university was more aggressive in partnering with the business community, I think it would have the relationships needed to meet some of its major goals,” Rooney said. At the same time, Rooney and others said there are signs that relations between the business community and CSUN are improving on some other fronts, including: – A decision by the Northridge Chamber of Commerce to hire CSUN students to do a feasibility study for the Northridge Business Improvement District. “We’re hoping they’re going to do an outstanding job for us,” said Walter N. Prince, chair of the chamber’s Planning and Land Use Committee. – The recent creation by the university of a new major in entertainment industry management a partnership of the schools of arts, business and engineering. The major was designed based on input from local entertainment companies, and students in the program will do internships and apprenticeships at the companies. – The formation by CSUN of a task force primarily composed of local business people and business organization members to give it input on the university’s north campus retail project. Wilson said one example of the university’s increased efforts to connect with the business world is a computer system developed by faculty members that shows which industries in the area are growing, along with the number of students graduating in those fields. “This is an elaborate computer program that will be available to chambers and others in the region,” Wilson said. Ric Hill, vice president of corporate relations for Woodland Hills-based 20th Century Insurance Co., was also complimentary of CSUN’s relationship with the business community, saying that Wilson visits the company once or twice a year. “We as a company have hired a lot of people that have graduated from CSUN,” Hill said, adding that 20th Century hires more graduates from CSUN than any other local university. Wilson also pointed to the funds CSUN has raised from such local businesses as 20th Century, KNBC-TV Channel 4, Hughes Aircraft, Atlantic Richfield Co. and Litton Systems Inc. Businesses contributed more than $2 million to the university in the 1995-96 fiscal year, and are projected to donate $2.4 million in the 1996-97 fiscal year. The $2 million CSUN received in donations from businesses in the 1995-96 fiscal year ranks lower than the average for universities in the CSU system. The average amount was just over $3 million, and CSUN was ranked No. 10 in business fundraising among the 22 universities currently in the system. Bruce Erickson, director of public relations for the university, said CSUN has many connections with the Valley in its art, music, theater, health and counseling programs, but that those connections are often unseen by those not directly involved in them. “It’s almost invisible, the way we’re woven into the community itself, until a program is cut or hurt in some way,” Erickson said. Many people also fail to realize that CSUN has an annual payroll of nearly $90 million, and a $170 million-plus annual operating budget a significant addition to the Valley’s economy, Erickson said. David W. Fleming, a Studio City attorney and Valley business booster, said the university’s relations with local companies have improved since Wilson became CSUN’s president in 1992, but that it along with all of the other universities in the Cal State system has a history of depending on Sacramento for all its funding. Nonetheless, even with recent cuts in state funding, Fleming said the local business community is not the first place CSUN should turn for financial support. “I think the first order in fund raising for colleges and universities is to tap the alumni, and obviously schools that have been around for 100 years have a lot more going for them,” Fleming said. As for the university’s athletic department, CSUN Athletic Director Paul Bubb said he would have liked to solicit the business community for donations, but he was working within tight time constraints at the time he decided to cut the three teams. Even so, Bubb said he doubted they could have been saved with business donations alone. “Could we have, or would we have, raised enough money to save all four sports? I think that might be stretching a bit,” Bubb said, noting that it would have cost $1.5 million to add three women’s sports teams and keep the men’s teams. But the point, Prince said, is not whether the teams could have been saved, but whether CSUN sees itself as being connected with the surrounding business community and whether the school sees local businesses as a place where it can turn for help. “Policy-wise, I think that the school has made a lot of missteps with the local business community,” he said. “So they’ve made a lot of, I think, really bad public relations blunders. Can they correct them over time? I think they can. Are they going to correct them over the next six months? I doubt it.”

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