It was reported in The Times that Cal State Northridge's $3.1 million in fund-raising was disappointing in light of the sums spent to bolster donations ("Donations Hit 6-Year Low at CSUN," Jan. 24). From my perspective, reduced donations could have been expected considering these key factors:
* CSUN has not enjoyed a good reputation for providing timely access to the courses required for students to make steady progress toward graduation. Students are aware of this and so are their parents.
* CSUN's president has been outspoken in favor of affirmative action, including minority preferences. This is contrary to the public mood, especially the more conservative, affluent segments of the local community.
* CSUN received some bad publicity for its management of earthquake construction, in particular the Blenda Wilson aide who accepted free home construction work from an employee of the same contractor who was the beneficiary of millions of dollars of contracts.
* Valley demographics are changing. Many longtime residents are moving out due to retirement and quality-of-life reductions. High-income jobs are harder to find, both for graduates and their parents, many of whom have been impacted by the recession.
* As two volunteer members of the Cal State Northridge fund-raising program, we feel compelled to respond to The Times article referring to the post-earthquake slump in private giving to the university. The article points to two important facts relevant to the university and the community.
The first is that private support is critical to the well-being of public universities. No public university is 100% funded by tax dollars anymore. The second is that in order to cultivate, solicit and manage private gifts, there must be an effective infrastructure of volunteers, professional fund-raisers, organization and computing hardware and software. The best institutions have had large, sophisticated fund-raising programs for many years. Founded in 1958, CSUN is a newcomer to serious fund-raising. Beginning in 1993 under leadership of President Blenda Wilson, the university started to build an appropriate volunteer and professional fund-raising infrastructure. This was interrupted by the Northridge earthquake. We believe, however, that as the economy of the Valley and the rest of Southern California rebounds, the infrastructure we are putting in place will position the university to substantially increase fund-raising.
We support Wilson's efforts to build a greater CSUN through private philanthropy. Perhaps The Times' story will provide a wake-up call to alumni and the community that institutions are made great not by the state but by the generosity and involvement of friends, alumni and community.
F. ANTHONY KURTZ and
ALBERT M. LAPIDES
Kurtz is chairman, CSUN Foundation; Lapides is chairman, CSUN Board of Advancement.