New University President, New Horizons

Mark Laluan

As CSUEB President Mo Qayoumi leaves to take up a new post as president of San Jose State University, we are left pondering what we would like our next leader to accomplish.


Qayoumi’s legacy is that of improved diversity, campus life, buildings and a shift toward science, technology, engineering and math.

It is said Thomas Jefferson condensed the exercise of leadership into the following pithy phrase; “In matters of style, swim with the current: in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

Mohammad Qayoumi’s tenure as President of Cal State East Bay set his sights on results and never shied away from moving against the current campus opinion when necessary. Now his leadership style will grace the students, staff, faculty and campus at San José State University.

His administration stressed tangible results and his legacy will include the beautification and upkeep of campus spaces, a proactive approach to university fundraising and most controversially an education master plan which would re-tool CSUEB towards becoming a center for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) based education.

As we ponder over the individual who will replace him, we can see through both positive and negative aspects of President Qayoumi’s tenure what qualities and priorities ought to be taken into account by the powers that be when choosing a new President for this campus.

It is our hope that whoever will be chosen will recognize that STEM is not the right fit for CSUEB. We have historically found our strength in the Humanities and in Business and it would be farsighted to build upon this tradition and recognize our natural strengths rather than relying on the possibility of increased federal grant money to offset the cost of undergoing a tectonic shift of teaching priorities.

Qayoumi’s executive-based decision making process—while effective at motivating a rudderless campus—run roughshod over principles of collegiality and multilateral collaboration. While decisive measures may have been needed to set the campus aright in 2006—the year Qayoumi took office—such administrative methods run the long term risk of over-correcting the problem.

While the university has been successful on the whole in attracting funding from various sources thus preserving some notion of a quality education in these times of budget cuts, the perceived emphasis on fundraising when combined with rising parking fees has created an atmosphere where the sans culottes of our generation readily get away accusing our school administration of being cabalistic and uncaring.

Such arguments should be disregarded as nonsense, at most a fantasy generated by younglings already disinclined toward figures of authority. Yet this sentiment does make it plainly obvious that the next President should be one committed to generating true communication between students, faculty and the administration.

Without effective communication between all members of the campus community, neither ties of affection nor can bonds of solidarity be forged through a common sentiment of investment in the future of this campus.

President Qayoumi had a distinct lack of campus presence, which was compounded by his use of members of the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) to ascertain the pulse of the campus and to communicate and disseminate his will to the student body.

The next President ought to be willing to address the student body and campus community without resorting to the extensive use of such intermediaries.

Or the micro level, intermediaries such as ASI are far too focused on causes far removed from campus or average student concerns to construct an effective media campaign to communicate the administration’s message. On a macro level, it is always necessary for a leader to be willing to sell his ideas in person.

Thus the next President would be wise to engage students directly and to open him or herself to impromptu questioning during town hall style information forums and involve students and faculty directly in the policy construction process.

Fostering such involvement in a responsible way will go a long way toward creating a sense of shared investment among members of the campus community. Simply mandating policies through does not create an atmosphere of enthusiasm where such concepts can be readily implemented with zest.

What this campus needs in a leader is a primus inter pares—a first among equals—who can find the necessary balance along the financial track bequeathed by Qayoumi to the campus and who can restore the collegial, collaborative atmosphere necessary at this stage in CSUEB’s development.