Dec. 5, 2016Vol. 47, Issue 3

One Must Give Trust to Earn Trust

President Hutchinson listens to students, faculty, and staff during her 100-day listening tour. (Photo by Jason Halley / University Photographer)

In his book On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis said, “Integrity is the basis of trust, which is not so much an ingredient of leadership as it is a product. [Trust] is the one quality that cannot be acquired; [it] must be earned.”

This fall, we have been finding our way together by having conversations, rekindling old relationships and forging new ones. Currently, I am finishing my review of hundreds of notes and comments collected during the 100-day listening tour. I’ve learned many things from you about our institutional strengths, challenges, and potential areas of investment, which I will share soon in a culminating report to campus.

There is one finding that I already knew about Chico State—our faculty and staff are our most valuable strength and the engine that provides high-quality education and experiences to our students. Your comments reminded me that our faculty, staff, and students believe in the University’s mission and have the deepest appreciation for each other’s passion for learning. These observations make real the Chico Experience. These comments warmed my heart.

However, woven through the comments of praise are lingering threads of distrust for one another, especially those who serve in administrative roles, along with concern over lack of institutional transparency. A faculty member had this to say in the listening tour online survey: “I think there is an overall lack of trust on campus. Not just of the administration, but all of us. I think many programs and people have felt vulnerable because of a lack of transparency and therefore do not feel secure. This has led to decisions that are based more on self-preservation and less on what is right or what is important or even creative and challenging.”

Although these comments are few, they arrive on the heels of a recent tumultuous time on campus. And, they inform us that there is more work to be done in building trusting relationships between coworkers and among institutional groups. As I stated in my convocation address, first and foremost among my transition goals are to improve campus climate and restore shared governance.

I continue to reflect how all of us must take action to improve our fragile bonds of collegiality and enhance our framework of collaboration and inclusion. Let’s begin with the reaffirmation of our commitment to our students, the University and to one another.

We can learn from one faculty member who during the listening tour stated that she feels vulnerable in our campus community but counters this reality by “continuously review[ing] and uphold[ing] [her] commitment to the mission, vision, and values of the overarching system and institution, without perceived waiver and with an uncompromised standard of excellence.” This is an approach we all should embrace.

It was William M. Boast, author of Masters of Change, who said, “Trust is . . . established when words and deeds are congruent. Trust also develops when people feel safe and secure. When thoughts and ideas are shot down and ridiculed, it doesn’t take long to realize that the climate is neither safe nor conducive to making yourself vulnerable.” Boast continues, “Defensive climates can be diminished by providing descriptive rather than evaluative comments, expressing feelings of caring and involvement, and being willing to actively seek out, listen, understand, and utilize other people’s perspectives.”

Rebuilding or enhancing our trust in one another, as well as our trust in institutional processes, begins with our own personal recommitment to the core values of this University. Our values are found in the current strategic plan. Of the 12 values, all of which are listed below, I suggest we start with this one: “We affirm that we are ‘One University’ where collaboration, mutual support and trust, and common goals define our work together and the spirit of its engagement.”

In addition to commitment to purpose, another hallmark of our interactions with one another must be civility. It has been said that the term “civility” is overused, however, I would suggest that courtesy, graciousness, and all that civility encompasses are suffering on a national scale. If we turn our attention to a new civility on campus, we devote ourselves to maintaining confidentiality, respect, and an ability to disagree without disrespect.

Moving forward into 2017, I ask you to keep in mind our future as a campus, and consider the world we want for our students and ourselves. While some may sink into nostalgia for the good ol’ days, more is to be gained from engaging and becoming a part of change and a participant in progress. We have work to do and will forge ahead with goodwill: increasing our graduation rates, rewriting our strategic plan, and improving our campus climate.

We will keep the conversation going. We all want to be included in the discussion about how we evolve as a University. We will accept that change is part of living. And, we will seek opportunities for self-discovery, possibly learning something new about ourselves and finding we have grown in some respect as a result of struggle, nurturing our resiliency.

Strengthening our personal and institutional integrity strengthens our sense of togetherness as one University. The stability of our efforts is dependent upon trust as our foundation. One must give trust to earn trust.

As we close out the semester, I wish you happy holidays and I look forward to additional pivotal conversations in 2017.

Sincerely,

Gayle E. Hutchinson

President

Our Values

  • We stand for academic freedom, the exploration of the frontiers of knowledge, and a strong sense of intellectual community characterized by reason, respect, civility, and openness of expression.
  • We share a commitment to academic excellence and will communicate high expectations to our students.
  • We seek the purposeful integration of liberal and applied learning and the provision of full access and equal opportunity for all our students to the knowledge, skills, and habits that form the basis for life-long learning, civic engagement, and enlightened service in a diverse society and global community.
  • We promote active learning, curiosity, and the recognition that learning occurs in our classrooms, studios, and laboratories, and beyond, through the co-curricular experience, service engagements, social interactions, and other expressions of a full and healthy student environment.
  • We teach not only with the command of our disciplines, but with the force of personal example, enabling us to transmit knowledge effectively through integrity, intellectual honesty, kindness, and enthusiasm.
  • We emphasize both the quality and the spirit of services to our students, employing "student friendly" policies and practices that foster student achievement and progress to degree.
  • We acknowledge not only the obligation of service, but also the value of service to others in defining institutional character and measuring institutional performance.
  • We hold dear the values of multicultural respect, awareness, and understanding and we pursue diversity not just as an idea to embrace, but as a community to form.
  • We aim to be a community connected in our conversations, confident in our strengths, and intentional in our aspirations.
  • We celebrate a distinctive institutional culture through a keen sense of place, a deep respect for our natural environment, an orientation to the principles and practices of sustainability, and the use of the campus' entire physical environment to promote the University's goals.
  • We appreciate the loyalty and achievements of our alumni and retired faculty and staff and the importance of a strong alumni organization to keep alumni informed and engaged with their alma mater.
  • We affirm that we are "One University" where collaboration, mutual support and trust, and common goals define our work together and the spirit of its engagement.
DingXin Cheng, Civil Engineering, was awarded the O’Connell Endowed Faculty Chair.

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