March 7, 2019
Dear Stanislaus State Community,
In the last week once again, some posters and materials from a number of national white supremacist organizations have surfaced on various parts of the campus. These heinous messages targeting specific ethnic and other vulnerable groups are intentionally designed to incite fear, antipathy and distress. It is understandable if you feel unease hearing about these incidents. We know these situations can be disquieting or frightening. The posters were not legally actionable threats. However, we are deeply aware of their impact on some members of our community, and I want to let you know what we are going to do next.
I was able to meet with students today to address their very deep and real concerns. Beginning next week and continuing to meet throughout the year, we will work together to form a student-centered advisory council on campus climate, culture and equity with a social justice focus. This council will work to address the submitted list of recommendations.
As your president, I reaffirm with ardent conviction that our campus supports the foundational and universal principles of honoring human dignity and respect. These shared values WILL NOT be compromised. I assure you that there is no place for actions of hateful intolerance or bigotry at Stanislaus State. No group, internal or external has the authority to threaten the physical safety of another group. I personally and professionally condemn this kind of hate speech and acts propagated by white supremacy and all other groups who seek to denigrate, malign, oppress, target or degrade other members of our community.
The hate sentiments posted on our campus, and indeed on hundreds of other campuses and in other communities, remind us that racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, anti-LGBTQIA, anti-other religious diversity, economic diversity, disability variations, gender and sexual orientation variation, and intolerance for other “differences” unfortunately still exist in our country. It is important that we reject those sentiments and stand together against hatred that targets others for harm. We take very seriously the campus campaign slogan developed in concert with our students, “We STANd Together for Unity and Inclusion” — featuring student profiles and quotes now visible on banners throughout campus.
One of the foundational constitutional principles of our great nation is our belief and commitment to the First Amendment right to free speech. Our American right to free speech represents a hallmark touchstone of our democracy. Free speech can be a challenging notion at a public university where we strive to ensure that divergent views are allowed a voice, however repellent the rhetoric. For us this means that sometimes our conversations can be uncomfortable.
It is my responsibility to protect our students, faculty and staff, and I will work closely with our justice and legal systems to take swift, evidentiary-based and appropriate precautions and actions to monitor and implement action steps to safeguard our students’ safety and protect our campus from threats of any violence. In response to the current situation, campus leaders and University Police have been alerted and are continuing their efforts to maintain a culture of vigilance and inclusion to ensure a safe — if sometimes uncomfortable — environment in which all voices are heard and constructive discourse is not only protected, but enthusiastically encouraged.
America is a truly extraordinary and beautiful country. It has stood the test of time in struggling, debating and implementing a progressively inclusive culture. More specifically, throughout this historic struggle, we strive, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to guarantee full consideration and rights to indigenous nations. As is the case for vast regions of the U.S. and California, we must pay homage and recognition to the original native residents of our lands, for example the Yokut indigenous tribe in our region. We will continue to better understand our local indigenous roots, and seek to forge stronger alliances and relationships with our local indigenous partners.
When I arrived as president of Stanislaus State during the summer 2016, I initiated a number of landmark steps to enhance and promote diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. One of the first initiatives was to establish a new Presidential Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI) charged to create and secure affirmation and adoption of a comprehensive multi-year Institutional Diversity Plan. I am pleased to report that the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan has been reviewed by the campus and the Academic Senate Executive Committee and we expect final discussion and recommendations from the full Senate in the coming weeks.
- Instituted a new campus night walking tour that includes student representatives to assess areas for night safety improvements in 2017 (e.g., improved lighting, emergency phones, night shuttle, landscaping modifications, etc.). These night tour assessments now occur annually with recommendations that are implemented together with the Division of Business and Finance.
- Regular and ongoing meetings are occurring with various student groups and University Police. Department staff strive to improve communications, networking and closer relationships.
- This semester, we will explore with student feedback, the hiring of additional student safety liaisons to serve as campus “eyes and ears” for noticing, communicating and referring students to appropriate resources for questions and concerns. Student liaisons could be hired through the University Police Department or another relevant unit such as Student Affairs. They will be trained to respond effectively to a variety of situations.
- Regular, ongoing semester meetings will be held with the vice president for student affairs, president (when available) and other relevant vice presidents, along with students or student clubs to raise, discuss and resolve any issues of safety or concern.
Improving Campus Diversity and Inclusion Efforts and Activities
- In 2017, I provided Provost Kim Greer with funding for two new tenure-track positions to hire two new ethnic studies faculty (probably the highest number of new ethnic studies positions added to a single campus in the CSU) as well as filling a newly vacant position. Those faculty were hired to further strengthen and build a vibrant and sustainable degree program and courses to enrich students’ curricular options and knowledge. We remain excited and supportive of the Ethnic Studies Department.
- Also in fall 2017, we invited the campus community to participate in a week of “courageous conversations” around free speech as well as hate speech, intolerance and how to effectively counteract this behavior. Again, I invite you to continue the conversation not just in words, but in actions.
- In 2017, the President’s Office allocated $50,000 annually to establish a Diversity and Inclusion funded RFP grant and other campus activities, lectures, presentations and exhibits promoting and featuring diversity-related topics, as well as setting aside funding to support faculty and student research on diversity.
- Upon discovering that our campus did not have any space or office designated for multicultural affinity groups, I charged the vice president for business and finance to examine and identify space to establish a new Diversity Center which also is provided with internal funding. The new Diversity Center offices officially opened in fall 2018.
- We allocated funding for and are searching for a new director for the Diversity Center.
- The campus is conducting a campus climate survey and incorporating diversity action plans into the University Strategic Plan.
- Student Affairs has been allocated funding to hire a new coordinator for the Males of Color Student Success Initiative.
- Student Affairs successfully applied for and received a grant to hire a Dreamers’ Program Coordinator and to deliver programs and services to undocumented immigrant students and families.
- The President’s Office launched and secured approval from the Turlock City Council and Stanislaus State to create a first-ever City-University Joint Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion (CTSS-JTDI) in fall 2018.
- Creating and hosting a regular and ongoing campus open forum or symposium on diversity and inclusion, that will be jointly sponsored with CFA, Labor Council and the ASI-USU Boards to further deepen dialogue and determine action steps to continuously improve and enhance students’ experience, appreciation and education of diversity and inclusion topics.
Although our campus has taken many significant steps to comprehensively support diversity and inclusion, there is still much to be done. My administration, faculty, staff, students, University Police and I cannot do this alone. The entire Stan State community must be committed to ensuring full inclusion and providing everyone an equal opportunity to thrive.
We look forward to developing active partnerships with students, faculty and staff as we move forward. As I have said before, safety is our top priority. Our UPD and the City of Turlock will continue to monitor, review and enhance safety precautions and measures. In addition, we must all work to report and fight any acts of hatred, bigotry and bias. We acknowledge that student success can only happen when all of our students feel safe and valued.
Sadly, events of this kind continue to grow not just on our campus, but across many other campuses and the country. If these events have been a trigger for you, or if you feel unsafe or observe anything of concern, we encourage you to report your concerns to the University Police Department at (209) 667-3114 or Public_Safety@csustan.edu. The StanCares team is available to address the needs of students who have a concern and need support and guidance (contact Clarissa Lonn-Nichols, Judicial Affairs Officer at (209) 664-6700 or email@example.com. Another resource is Psychological Counseling, which provides professional, ethical and confidential psychological counseling to students at (209) 667-3381 or in the Library Building, Room L185.
I hope you will join us at a jointly sponsored University Town Hall. Details are forthcoming very soon. I encourage everyone to participate to learn more and to dialogue together about these critical issues. Together, we can build a wonderful, safe, affirmative and even more inclusive environment at Stanislaus State.
Thank you for your consideration.
Ellen Junn, Ph.D.