Dear California State University community,
Today, we write to you with heavy hearts.
Like you, we were horrified, dismayed and enraged to watch the video of an African American man slowly choked to death as a police officer knelt on his neck. Our hearts broke when we heard George Floyd pleading for his life – when we heard a son desperately calling for his mother.
And we are disgusted and disheartened at the understanding that, from a broader perspective, this tragedy is just another in a long line of tragedies. Of racism overt and hidden. Individual and systemic. Blatant and audacious acts of violence and pernicious, barely perceptible microaggressions. Of course, these microaggressions are “barely perceptible” only to the perpetrators. Those who suffer them are always, painfully, aware.
Never in our lifetimes has there been a sense of helplessness so profound, felt by so many. Feelings of helplessness, unabated, turn to frustration, and frustration to outrage. Outrage is justified and protest – that which leads to action – is imperative, and has been a powerful force for positive change throughout our country’s history. But that same history and our common morality tell us that responding in kind – with violence and destruction – is not the answer and serves only to widen the rifts that divide us.
The people pushing an agenda of violence must be stopped. They are taking away the livelihoods of many, including oppressed minorities and the proprietors of “mom and pop” shops who have already been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. These are the very people we need to help – and the senseless violence and destruction dilute the public outrage and shift the focus away from demanding action against pernicious racism.
We are not writing to deliver a stirring “feel-good” rallying cry. It is not the time to feel good and, frankly, we don’t have the solutions to bring racism and bigotry to a permanent end – solutions that the people of this country so fully and rightfully deserve. And any such attempt would be to belie the breadth and complexity of the issues.
Instead, we will simply offer this immutable, absolute certainty:
As our society and our nation are pulled apart by the powerful, centrifugal forces of hatred, intolerance, bigotry, ignorance, selfishness and greed, our California State University with its 23 campuses – and the faculty, staff and students who comprise them – will continue to serve as vital and essential wellsprings of the centripetal forces that will hold us together and lead to critical discourse and analysis, to understanding, resolve, action and healing through the current and future crises. Whether virtual or face-to-face, our classrooms and labs, student affinity centers, performance halls, counseling centers and food pantries – indeed, every manifestation of the CSU – will be sources of knowledge, tolerance and understanding. They will be places that host and inspire respectful debate. We will search for solutions. We will take deeper action that promotes justice in its full breadth including racial, economic, health and social domains. We will explore, discover and express our shared humanity. We will continue to offer opportunity to all. We will learn from one another as we hone our intellects and fulfill our human potential. We will remain the nation’s most powerful driver of socioeconomic ascent.
As America’s largest and most vibrantly diverse institution of higher learning, the California State University is and will continue to be a beacon for the world through these heart-wrenchingly difficult times, transforming the feelings of helplessness for many into hopefulness for all.
Through this historic and challenging week, our campus presidents have demonstrated that they are the very personification of these uniting principles and values. Some have hosted town halls. Others have held vigils. Still others have written powerful messages to their campus families and extended communities. We have been touched and inspired by these messages. Many of them are collected here. We encourage you to read and reflect upon them.
It will be time well spent.
Please continue to be safe and be healthy.
Timothy P. White
Loren J. Blanchard
Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs
Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer
G. Andrew Jones
Executive Vice Chancellor and General Counsel
Vice Chancellor, Human Resources
Garrett P. Ashley
Vice Chancellor, University Relations and Advancement
Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer
Dr. Karen Nakai
Chief of Staff