August 16, 2017
To the Stan State Campus Community
Like many across our nation, I am profoundly troubled and grief-stricken by the recent tragic incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia. We at Stan State stand in unity with the University of Virginia President, Theresa Sullivan, as she and her campus work to address the aftermath and move forward to heal and unite the UVA community. Our hearts go out to the victims and the families of those who lost their lives or were injured during this appalling incident.
In some ways, one wonders how any campus can possibly "prepare" for the almost inconceivable calamities that took place in Charlottesville. Yet, prepare we must, and as an educational institution dedicated to equal opportunity and access, that preparation must start with our core commitment to diversity and inclusion. And it is in that spirit that I seek to share with you, our campus and the larger community, several action steps that Stan State has already embarked upon to affirm and further our core commitment to inclusion. These actions, which predate the events at UVA, are dedicated to creating a stronger, much more visible, powerful and proactive countervailing message from our campus, students, faculty and staff that communicates our unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion as an inextricable element of our campus fabric and ethos. To place these actions steps in context, I begin with three guiding principles.
Key Guiding Principles
- As president, safeguarding the safety of our community — students, faculty, staff and administrators — is our overarching priority. We have zero tolerance for violence on our campus. It is important to note that as a microcosm of our nation, the University community too must abide by the rule of the law. I urge others to consider the complexities of the law, including rights of speech, due process and compliance with jurisdictional constraints. However, be assured that within those constraints and rights, we will also take swift and decisive action to ensure the safety of everyone on our campus and our local community.
Some have inquired regarding the University's response to date to off-campus, non-university-related activities by Stan State students. Importantly, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student privacy and prohibits the University's disclosure of personal individual student information. That said, I can assure you that the University is committed to continuing to monitor any potential threats to the health and safety of our community — students, faculty and staff alike — and is both prepared and committed to taking prompt and appropriate action to address those threats should they occur.
- Standing firm and strong with many others in our nation and community, Stanislaus State has a deep, rich and long-standing core commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion (see recently updated campus Statement on Diversity approved by the Academic Senate and my office).
- Both the traditions of the academy and extensive and well documented research demonstrates that empowering a diverse range of viewpoints and ideals — epistemic egalitarianism (e.g., Allen, 2014) — produces a more powerful, richer and more nuanced dialogue and set of perspectives. Groups who preach and practice exclusionary, prejudicial and/or hateful viewpoints and target other groups based solely on race or culture, such as white supremacy or hate groups, while protected by the First Amendment, violate these principles and are intellectually, pedagogically and morally repugnant, bankrupt and antithetical to our core values of honoring individual human worth from all cultures.
Campus Action Steps
To further diversity and inclusion, empower a diverse range of viewpoints and ideals, and nurture the Stan State environment, the campus has implemented six action steps:
- Established our new President's Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI), charged to create and propose a comprehensive institutional campus diversity plan with annual progress assessments and reports;
- Allocated funding ($50,000 this year) for the PCDI to sponsor a series of workshops, presentations, lectures and other open forums to educate our students, campus and community about an entire range of issues including: free speech, hate speech, First Amendment rights, coping with hate speech and other events to support diverse and inclusive understanding;
- Established two rapid response teams (Behavioral Intervention Team — BIT; Executive Strategic Assessment and Response Committee — ESARC) to review, assess and immediately take action regarding emergency situations and threats;
- Promoted our StanCares online web portal for students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members to report confidentially or anonymously any potential concerns regarding hate crimes, bias or criminal activity;
- Monitored and annually reported campus threats including Clery statistics, hate crimes, bias and other related concerns;
- NEW: Creation of a new campus messaging task force composed of students, faculty, staff, administrators and community members to create, promote and implement a powerful, countervailing campus slogan, logo, banners and visible messaging clearly promoting support for diversity. Some slogans that have been offered and will be considered include: "Diversity and Equity," "No Hate at Stan State" and others.
In sum, efforts to unite our campus community will not be silenced by the recent acts of hatred and violence. We are very proud of our very diverse, collegial and peaceful campus. I reaffirm our commitment not only to these foundational concepts, but to the overall safety and security of our entire Stan State campus community.
The horrific, hate-filled events of the past week and year will not deter or dampen Stanislaus State's resolve to strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion for the educational benefit for our students. Now is the time to rise above, together, as the community we already are.