CSU's President Sands sits down with The Stater

CSU’s President Harlan Sands on April 21 sat down with The Stater’s Editor-in-Chief Aurora Harris in an interview that ranged across CSU 2.0, campus reopening in fall 2021, future plans for CSU, athletics and the press around the hiring of Douglas Dykes. 

The first theme covered was campus reopening in 2021 and Sands responded very optimistically when asked what the game plan would be if the COVID-19 variants caused cases to increase. 

“We have one of the safest urban campuses in the country,” Sands said. “Our students have complied, we think we got a good plan and we’re very, very confident that we can manage this, no matter what the variants are, as long as we can get as many folks vaccinated as possible.”

On a question about tuition, Sands said CSU is still going to give incoming freshmen free tuition but wants to remind upperclassmen that the university is still doing a lot of good for them as well and that there is a misunderstanding.

“Yes we’re going to continue the plan for incoming freshmen, the GPA has been adjusted a little bit to a 3.0,” Sands said. “We gave out last year almost seven million dollars of direct aid to students as part of our additional commitment to upperclassmen. Freshman didn’t get that. We plan on doing that again.”

Sands was very upbeat about CSU 2.0.

“It’s a fantastic, elective achievement and we started on this right around the time, a little bit after the pandemic hit," Sands said. "What better time to take stock on where we are and see where this is going to take us, what better time to invest in ourselves and think about our future together."

What was Sands role in the CSU 2.0 blueprint?

“We set up five task forces late last spring in areas of academics, administration, growth and innovation, science and diversity, equity and inclusion, and we came out of that with some really specific recommendations which we rolled up over the past nine months,” Sands said. “This involved hundreds of folks on campus, faculty, staff, students. It was a collective process, it’s ambitious, it’s inspirational, we’re going to grow in a time when a lot of places are shrinking.”

In response to the 2.0 blueprint, faculty responses were positive and negative. Sands said that feedback is good and the administration wants all the feedback it can get moving forward. 

“Obviously we have a lot to do over the next five years to achieve these goals," Sands said. "No good plan doesn’t have a way for folks to respond and for us to pivot when we get suggestions. Good plans change and they do evolve so we’ll take all that feedback on-board.” 

Sands also said he’s confident about the changes being made in the colleges as their number is cut from eight to six. 

“We’re pretty confident in our blueprint," the president said. "As we go to our next phase and talk about implementation, I think it’s reasonable to say that we’ve got some details to work out and the details still are things we can certainly work on.” 

CSU 2.0 also aims to increase student enrollment to 20,000 by 2025. President Sands said he does think this is a doable goal even with parking and dorming being limited.

“I think it’s very doable, and we’re going to figure all those things out,” Sands said. “We’re going to go on our next phase of reimagining our campus, you know we have 85 acres and over 60 plus buildings, so doing this in a way that gets folks excited and interested in coming to CSU is the goal.”

Along with expanding student enrollment, CSU 2.0 talks about hiring 200 new faculty members. 

“Here's what I’m going to say about our new faculty recruits. Last year we recruited, for the first time in our history, two fully funded researchers, which means they were funded from the National Institutes of Health,” Sands said. 

“Our brand is solid," the president continued.

"We are recruiting even through the process this year folks that I think is a reflection of who we are now," Sands said. "The quality of the folks we’re bringing in is much higher, so I’m very very confident in what’s been happening in the last two years.” 

On the question of HR and hiring, Sands said he believes the university has a good relationship with the city's media after Cleveland.com questioned the recent hiring of Douglas Dykes as associate vice president of human resources.

“I think our relationship is good. I've sat down with Cleveland.com reporters and Plain Dealer reporters and we have a very open relationship," Sands said. "I'm very accessible and we’ll continue to do the things that build Cleveland State."

With campus hopefully returning to "near normal" operations in fall, Sands was optimistic about allowing students to attend sporting events.

“Our goal is that we have fans back in some capacity next year,” Sands said. “It really depends on how well we can protect ourselves and get vaccinated, that’s my personal view.” 

Ending the interview Sands explains his future plans with CSU.

“This is where we make a difference in student’s lives,” Sands said. “Beyond 2026, I don’t have time to think about that right now.”