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And like football, it’s a game he learned to play
exceptionally well.
“Football shaped his competitive, blunt personality,” said
Graham, who considers Reed a close friend. “He was not just
a football player, he was a linebacker, whichmeant when the
runner got through the defensive line, his job was to be at the
right place at the right time and knock the guy’s head off. That’s
kind of the way he works.”
Just ask Carol Liu, chair of the state Assembly’s Committee
on Higher Education, who ran smack into Charlie Reed last
summer. Reed had arrived one afternoon at his second home
in North Carolina for some rest and relaxation with his wife,
only to turn around and head straight back to California at five
o’clock the next morning when he heard that a key legislative
bill might die in Liu’s committee. “I’d never, never forgive
myself if I’d have stayed there and lost it,” said Reed.
The bill authorized Cal State to offer independent doctoral
degrees for the first time, in audiology (Au.D.) and education
(Ed.D.). That was highly controversial, because California’s
45-year-oldMaster Plan for Higher Education reserved the
right to offer doctoral degrees for the more selective, research-
oriented University of California system. Cal State is meant to
focus on providing undergraduate education to the top one-
third of the state’s high school graduates; it also offers master’s
degrees. The bill was staunchly opposed by UC, which already
had joint Ed.D. and Au.D. programs with Cal State, and by
Liu, who also chairs the advisory committee for the School of
Education at UC Berkeley.
But at the eleventh hour, Reed persuaded UC President
Robert Dynes to remove his opposition to the bill if it was
limited to the Ed.D. and did not include the Au.D. That was
part of a calculated strategy on Reed’s part. “The idea was to
get as much as we could, but we said if we have to give up
something, we’ll give up the Au.D.,” he said.
“I don’t think of it as a horse trade somuch as the best way
to go about it,” Dynes explained. “And once we got our egos out
of the way, we both came to the same conclusion,” he said: that
it made sense for Cal State to offer the Ed.D., but that UC, with
its medical facilities and healthcare expertise, should continue
to partner with Cal State for the audiology degree.
After an intense lobbying effort orchestrated by Reed and
the bill’s sponsor, state Senator Jack Scott, chair of the Senate
Committee on Education, it passed out of Liu’s committee on
a 5-2 vote. “I expected it to be a very hard fight. And it was a
very hard fight,” said Scott, who was subsequently named one
of two “legislators of the year” by Cal State. Later, much to
Scott’s delight, the entire Assembly and the Senate approved it
by overwhelming margins. “[Reed] knows how to get things
done politically,” said Scott, who, like Reed, is a veteran of both
politics and higher education (he served as president of two
community colleges). “He’s quite indefatigable in the pursuit of
People who know him say the deal was quintessential
Charlie Reed.
“The average college administrator, the best you can get
is Poly Sci 101,” said Assemblyman Dymally. As chair of the
Assembly’s Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, he
has been impressed by Reed’s accessibility, responsiveness and
savvy. “But he’s Poly Sci Pragmatic 101.”
“He’s a consummate politician,” said
California Secretary of Education Alan Bersin,
who also counts himself among Reed’s many
fans. “Even when you end up being in a big
dispute with him, he’s a good competitor. He
could persuade you that something was in
your interests even when you didn’t think so
That was not the case with Carol Liu.
She still believes that the bill was a mistake,
and that the new degree will suck precious
resources fromCal State’s undergraduate
programs. “This is an end run by Charlie Reed
to get around the Master Plan,” said Liu, who
saw herself as its protector and was peeved that
the UC administration abandoned the fight.
“It’s the camel’s nose under the tent.”
Exactly, said Reed, adding that it’s about time the Master
Plan was revisited. After all, he noted dryly, “The U.S.
Constitution has been changed a few times, too.” He is happy
to leave the Ph.D. programs to the University of California
system, but he hopes Cal State’s Ed.D. programwill lead to
approval of more Cal State applied doctoral degrees. “That’s
going to change the character of Cal State,” he said, by adding
prestige and name recognition to the institution. (It could
use some: When Reed introduces himself as chancellor of
Cal State, people often assume he means the University of
So was it a win, a loss or a draw for Cal State? “We won,”
Reed declared without hesitation. “Absolutely.”
And winning, to Charlie Reed, means scoring one for the
students. That is why Reed was at the state capitol inMay,
lobbying alongside students, presidents and other Cal State
officials for a financial aid bill that Cal State and the California
State Student Association had co-sponsored. “I think he works
hard for the students and
really tries to do what’s best for
the institution,” said Jennifer
Reimer, CSSA chair for the
past year, explaining why
the CSSA gave Reed its most
recent Administrator of the
Year award.
Reed is equally popular
with the university system’s
presidents, who say he is a
leader they can trust. Yes, he’s
brusque. Yes, he’s impatient.
Yes, he’s demanding. But,
they say, he’s also honest,
reliable and open to hearing
their ideas. Ruben Armiñana,
president of Sonoma State
University, calls him “a
pussycat with a really loud
Paul Zingg, president of
Cal State Chico (also known
as Chico State) uses a different
Under Reed’s
leadership, Cal
State has garnered
national attention
for innovative
programs designed
to help students
prepare for college.
California Assemblywoman Carol Liu failed in an
attempt to keep Cal State from offering doctoral
Rod Searcey for CrossTalk