President’s Remarks to Students at Native American Forum

_Humboldt State University President Lisa A. Rossbacher visited briefly this afternoon, Friday, Jan. 23, with students who are conducting a sit-in in the Native American Forum on campus. She delivered a letter and made the following remarks:_

I’ve come here to the Native American Forum to visit with you for two reasons.

First, I want to check on your welfare. You have been engaged in this for most of the week, and I want to make sure you are okay. I hope you are getting enough sleep and staying healthy.

I am also here to deliver a letter acknowledging the sacrifices you have made for your beliefs. This sit-in has been a real demonstration of your commitment to student access, achievement, and completion. We share these goals. And as we plan ahead, I look forward to working with students and the broader community to support our students, our programs, and a better future.

I also want to thank you for your willingness to work with Chief Peterson over the last week. Your discussions with him have been enormously helpful.

I know you have been working collectively to make decisions, and so I want to leave this letter with you so that you can share a summary of my perspective and ideas.


_The following is the text from the letter delivered by President Rossbacher:_

Dear students:
I am personally delivering this letter to acknowledge receipt of your statement about your goals and motivation regarding your current occupation of the Native American Forum at Humboldt State University. I believe I understand your concerns, and I want to work with you in addressing as many of them as possible.

As I know that University Police Chief Peterson and others have discussed with you, we are all part of a larger community. Our focus needs to be how we work together, rather than against each other. The letter you sent to me earlier this week stated, “Let us help you.” I want to take you up on that offer, but I want to rephrase this to explore how we can help each other.

I am particularly interested in your perspectives on programs to support student success in general and those of Native American students in particular. My conversations with students, faculty, staff, and members of the local Native American nations over the last semester have helped me understand what some of the most valuable types of support may be, and we have an opportunity to build programs together. The issues of funding and programming are ones we need to work on collaboratively, so that we all have accurate information and a shared plan.

I also see great value in discussing the appropriate use of the Native American Forum. You are correct that, over time, this space has increasingly been used for instruction on campus. As you know, the room is excellent teaching space, and faculty and students have greatly appreciated the opportunity to teach and learn there. In an ideal world, the space would serve multiple functions to meet the University’s needs in multiple ways, and I would welcome a broader discussion about the best uses. As an additional point of clarification, the name of this space was never changed to the BSS Forum, and all references to the space are currently being checked to ensure a correct reference in all University materials.

A number of the concerns listed in your letter relate to personnel issues that are not only inappropriate to discuss, but my doing so would violate the Constitutionally protected privacy rights of the employees involved, as well as University policy and state and federal law.

So here is what I propose:
1. This hand-delivered letter serves as both a formal acknowledgement of your concerns and your goals in occupying the Native American Forum.

2. This letter also stands as evidence of my commitment, and that of other administrators, to working with Native American students and tribal nations regarding definitions of student success, the characteristics of appropriate student support programs, the historical and future plans for program funding, the utilization of space in the Native American Forum, and clear plans for how this space will be used in the future.

3. I propose a meeting on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 4, to discuss next steps. The ideal outcome is that we have a productive discussion and can develop plans to move forward in our conversation and planning.

4. Based on the recognition in this letter and this proposal to move forward, I ask those of you currently occupying the Native American Forum to move out and allow the classes that are scheduled there for this semester to continue. Perhaps you are unaware, but your staying in that space after the official closure of the building is against University policy. More importantly, I know you are aware that your prolonged presence in that space during other scheduled events is disrupting the University’s instructional program, and this interferes with the academic experience and success of other students.

I would like to refocus our energy on the goal of what’s best for students and for the University. Let’s work together to shift our emphasis and our energy going forward on how to strengthen Humboldt State University.

With best wishes,
Lisa A. Rossbacher, Ph.D.