A Message from the VP for Student Affairs: Black Lives Matter
Posted: June 30, 2020
At Stan State, Black Lives Matter. In Student Affairs, Black Lives Matter. I don’t think I would have begun this statement this way if I had written it on May 24. Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have been writing about this. George Floyd was killed by police on May 25, and since then, I’ve been listening, pausing, digesting, reflecting, convening, and listening some more. I have heard some awful truths about our campus. I have heard that statements denouncing police brutality aren’t enough. Calling to dismantle the white supremacist system in which we all function is not enough. And, listening isn’t enough. It is time for action!
I heard things from students like... “The Black student voice is complicit...for survival.” “Silence doesn’t equal peace.” “Our institution isn’t ready to hear us, but needs to hear.” “I’m tired of Martin Luther King quotes.” “No one stands up for us.”
I notice that some Black men apologize when speaking and when writing - likely to prevent escalation lest they be thought to be as a threat. I notice that in conversations about race, White people overwhelmingly speak first. I notice that the word "articulate" is still being used to describe high-achieving Black students.
I’m showing up.
I asked if I could meet with the new Black Student Union leadership; we met, and we’re going to continue to meet every other week. I met with the Student Athlete Advisory Council leadership (and soon, hopefully the Council) - our student athletes want to know if they’ll be supported if they kneel during the national anthem. They will. In the Diversity Center, we recently hired a Coordinator for the Male Success Initiative, and our campus is participating in the Statewide Young Males of Color Consortium. The Consortium held A Moment of Brotherhood on Juneteenth, and faculty, staff, and students from Stan State participated and were commended for their participation. Seven of our Black graduates participated in the Statewide PanAfrican graduation; over 1000 Black graduates from 30 colleges and universities across California participated. Not only was U.S. representative Maxine Waters the live keynote speaker, but one of our own students was selected to be a speaker at the event. It was powerful!
I’m speaking up.
At every session of New Student Orientation (NSO), I said in my opening welcome remarks that at Stan State, Black Lives Matter. I meant it, and we’re working on showing it. I’ve proposed a Black Student Success Project and team to participate in the CSU Middle Leadership Academy which will include a wide and deep review of institutional and other data to identify inequities and develop actions which will ultimately improve the Black student experience and success rates (persistence, graduation, etc.).
At one of the NSO sessions, a new student sent me a chat in response to my welcome in which he expressed that he didn’t appreciate my “identity politics propaganda.” I really thought about the response I sent - I truly wanted to invite this new student to consider the possibility of challenging their biases and assumptions. And, before May 25, I’m not sure that I would have responded at all.
There are 25 managers who make up the Student Affairs Council, and we held our summer retreat in mid-June. For the better part of two days, we had a dialogue - we discussed and listened and shared and suggested...how can we make a difference? With 25 of us, we can lead the way to action. And, most of us are still processing...all of it.
Nearly one hundred ideas were collected and distilled into a few buckets: Data, Hiring, Education, Programming, Leadership, and Culture. The largest bucket was by far the actions/ideas related to Culture. Real and lasting change isn’t possible without a change in the culture. Raising student voices and creating opportunities for students to co-create our new culture and ignite change; this is the heart of our work.
According to our collective suggestions (so far), we need to: support our Black and African American students, staff and faculty; be advocates (not just allies); start with listening and learning; encourage open dialogue; have courageous conversations about social justice; create safe spaces for students to share and process; use curiosity over judgment; learn about the “why” to educate ourselves; and talk about racism. Essentially we need to take risks and have discussions – we must be open-minded and be willing to be uncomfortable in these discussions.
Collectively, we are revisiting our list to create action plans that include reviewing and refocusing our work. Our equity efforts are not “in addition to” all of our other work; equity efforts ARE our work. We will engage with our plans at our bi-weekly Student Affairs Council meetings; our actions and lists will evolve as we listen. We will share our progress and invite feedback and input and participation at our monthly All-Division meetings and in Department Staff Meetings. We will create space for departments to share successes as some departments have already begun to demonstrate progress.
Inclusive Excellence will drive our efforts. Very simply, with Inclusive Excellence, diversity and inclusion are catalysts for excellence and infused throughout the division, departments, and programs. We are creating an internal Student Affairs Inclusive Excellence Committee. We are planning a book club/group read and discussion, movie club and discussion, and professional development for our managers and for our staff. These efforts will be on-going as opportunities to learn are very important to advancing the cultural competence and humility of our entire division.
Being an advocate is different than being an ally. Advocate is also a verb; it’s an action. Neutrality is a viewpoint. And, progress isn’t linear. This is a turning point - an opportunity to commit to creating that culture where speaking up is the norm and where we systematically examine where there is disproportionate impact in our programs and eliminate it. I truly believe this is our moment to create real and lasting change. Let’s turn this “moment” into momentum! Please let me know your thoughts and ideas by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of this statement is written in the first person. I used, “I,” because “we” seems so generic. When I read “we” statements, sometimes it’s not clear who “we” really is or if “we” really exists. But the entire Student Affairs Council is making these commitments. We are the “we.” And, we Stan Together.
Christine Erickson, Ed.D., Vice President for Student Affairs
Student Affairs Council
- Aaron Allaire, Senior Associate Athletic Director
- Alissa Aragon, Assistant Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator
- Amy Diaz, Interim Director of the Student Health Center
- Andy Klingelhoefer, Interim Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students
- Brandon Price, Ed.D., Interim Associate Vice President of Student Success
- Carolina Alfaro, Director of the Diversity Center (soon to be Warrior Cross Cultural Center)
- Cesar Rumayor, Executive Director of Associated Students, Inc., and University Student Center
- Clarissa Lonn-Nichols, Ed.D., Student Conduct Administrator
- Debra Stanard, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs
- Elizabeth Peisner, Ed.D., Interim Executive Director of Health & Wellness and Interim Director of Psychological Counseling Services
- Erlynn Johnson, Interim Director of the Learning Commons
- Evelyn Ramos, Interim Associate Director of the Career & Professional Development Center
- Gaby Nuño, Director of the Academic Success Center
- Heather Pearson Villeda, Associate Director, Residential Life
- Jennifer Humphrey, Assistant Vice President for Operations, Planning, and Assessment
- Jennifer Sturtevant, Interim Care Manager
- Julie Sedlemeyer, Executive Director of the Career & Professional Development Center and CareerReadyU
- Juanita Cruthird-Billups, Director, Student Support Services
- Marvin Williams, Director of Disability Resource Services
- Meg Lewis, Director of Health Education & Promotion
- Renee Giannini, Interim Director of Housing & Residential Life
- Stephanie Hubbard, Interim Director of Student Leadership & Development
- Terry Donovan, Athletic Director
- Victor Lucatero, Interim Director of Campus Recreation