Wednesday, February 9, 2011


As promised, I've asked each of the FAS Leadership Council members to write a guest blog.  Our latest guest blogger is Chief Ron Hackenberg...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… These are the first words of the book “A Tale of Two Cities” written by Charles Dickens in 1859. As I read those words over 150 years later, I believe it applies to our current climate in 2011.

It is not too hard to figure out why we can refer to our present day as the “worst of times”. Budget cuts have been hitting us like waves coming over a boat for the past three years. One wave hits, and just as you seem to have recovered, another one hits. These unprecedented cuts have taken the CSU system down to budget levels from over ten years ago, but with about 70,000 more students. It is painful at the system level, but it is also very painful at the personal level. Many of our employees have been working more than three years without a pay increase, during which some have been blessed with several children and other additional responsibilities.

So when will this budget crisis end? I don’t think anyone really knows for sure, and that is one of the aspects of this current situation that is very challenging. A couple of years ago, the FAS leadership team read the book “Good to Great”, by Jim Collins. The book cites something called the “Stockdale Paradox”, referring to the late Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was taken prisoner during the Viet Nam War, and was held in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. Many of his fellow prisoners did not survive, and Stockdale made some observations about those that did survive, and those that didn’t.

Prisoners that were pessimistic and felt they would never survive were often times right, and that may not be too surprising. But what was remarkable to me was that very optimistic people who set a specific timeline for release (such as “we will be out by Christmas”) did not survive either. Those that survived were “realistic optimists“. They knew they would survive and they knew things would get better. But they also had a firm grasp of reality- that things currently were bad, and may be bad for some time. They didn’t set a time limit for their release. They were sure things would improve, but they didn’t know when.

The “Stockdale Paradox” can also be applied to current this fiscal crisis. Our nation has survived many economic downturns, and has always come back. But will it get better by this fall, fiscal year 12/13, or two years from now? We just don’t know. But we do know things will get better.

So why is today the “best of times”? These are the best of times because we have smart, consistent leadership at the university and the division level. When each “wave” has hit us, the water recedes, and there we are- standing tall, still delivering excellent service, still meeting all of our challenges. And yes- even still moving forward. When the first budget cuts hit in early 2008, employees at UPD made a promise to ourselves and this campus community that we would continue to move forward toward our vision, no matter what. And we have delivered on that promise.

During these past three years of budget cuts, we have met every challenge that has come our way. Working closely with our campus community, we have apprehended several groups of persons that began to target the property of our campus community members, and also apprehended those who actually threatened the safety of individual members of our community. With the help of our community, we have kept this campus safe.

We have also made great progress in the area of Active Shooter Preparedness and with our Emergency Notification System. We have a system that is unique and that works in practical application, and we work hard to continuously improve. Perhaps even more importantly, we have initiated a Threat Assessment and Violence Prevention Program that has worked well. It is critical to intervene in potentially violent situations before they occur.

During these difficult past three years, our Parking and Commuter Services Division (PACS) has also been moving forward. We opened our first parking structure on campus, and were innovative in providing temporary and special event parking locations. We responded to the challenges associated with the Sprinter light rail train stopping on campus, by providing shuttle service to the main campus, subsidies for those that ride the Sprinter, and providing an ADA compliant van for a lunch shuttle and late evening transportation back to the Sprinter. And we have continued to provide the excellent customer service that PACS is known for.

Recently, we have implemented employee initiated ideas and programs, such as our K-9 and Motorcycle programs. Our employees have been innovative, and by “thinking outside the box“, we have been able to beg, borrow, (but not steal) the resources necessary to get these programs up and running. They are not only programs conceived by line level employees, but programs that are fiscally responsible and are in line with our mission of keeping this campus community safe.

Why is today the “best of times“? We are preparing to move into our new police station, and truly become one family- University Police, Parking and Commuter Services and Emergency Management. The possibilities for synergy are endless, with all of these talented and committed professionals under one roof.

Creativity and energy will be essential going forward. As President Haynes stated during a recent budget forum, and during her report to the community- we need to shift our thinking, and be focused on the future. CSUSM is still a growth university, just waiting to be turned loose. But we also need to face the reality that, even when the economy recovers, we may not return to the same level of state support we had in the past. We need to continue to work harder, smarter, creatively and with focus and clarity to be successful going forward.

So how will we do that? We will continue listen to our employees, and value their input. Whether proposing new programs, improving current processes or providing innovative ideas for training via our UPD Training Committee, we will be "turning loose" the creativity of some of the best and brightest employees I have ever served with, and I can’t wait to see the results.

Yes, today really is the “best of times“. Mindful of the Stockdale Paradox, we will stand tall and face our current reality, while being laser focused on the future. Our President is right, this is a growth university, and we need to be fully prepared for that future growth. To be effective when we resume our rapid growth, we must begin planning now- and we will do that, involving the expertise and creativity of all of our employees.

So when the fog of this economic downturn burns off under the bright Southern California sunshine, and this university is off and running, we need to start fast out of the blocks as well. And we will, because meeting challenges is what we do best.

No comments: