Building Diverse and Inclusive Communities of Excellence
President Gayle E. Hutchinson links arms with fellow campus and community members during the Black in Chico rally in September. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)
Perhaps it is the volatile and divisive election season.
Perhaps it is the violence or threat of violence, at home and abroad.
Perhaps it is the alarming numbers of sexual assaults on college campuses.
Or perhaps it is the ever-heavier loads of college debt that students are asked to bear.
It is most likely all of these things and others that have inspired a new era of activism on college campuses across America. Campuses are a reflection of what is going on in our broader society. Here on the campus of a public university, students should find safe spaces to express concerns, show solidarity, and invest in change.
As you have probably witnessed, that resurgence of activism is alive on the Chico State campus. I took a great deal of pride in the actions of our campus and community when we stood arm-in-arm and hand-in-hand outside Kendall Hall in early October to add our voices to the national conversation and concern for African American lives lost due to violence in America.
The demonstration and candlelight vigil that followed were only the beginnings of the conversation. Faculty and students from various academic disciplines held a “teach in” in the days afterward. Organizers described the event as “a series of practical, participatory, action-oriented lectures, presentations, or discussions aimed at raising awareness.” Sessions included: The Intersection of Race and Religion, Language and Social Movements, and Alison Kinney’s book Hood on police violence. Recordings of the sessions can be found here.
It is vitally important that we expose our students to the value of honoring the opinions and concerns of all—even those with whom we most staunchly disagree. As President Barack Obama told the Rutgers University graduating class of 2016, opposing opinions and perspectives challenge and offend our sensibilities, but they also provide opportunities for logic, reason, and words to affect change.
The Chico State community stands proudly in support of the First Amendment. As we engage in free and inclusive speech and model these inclusive and open-minded behaviors in our offices and classrooms, we will instill in our students a confidence and willingness to speak out, and openness to engage with others who possess opposing perspectives. Executive Memorandum 14-013 provides structure for these courageous conversations by outlining time, place, and matter guidelines for the campus.
Chico State has a strong commitment to civic responsibility that is demonstrated by some ongoing, recent activities:
- The Great Debate, which brings together members of the campus and community to investigate and engage in dialogue around a topic that has the potential to divide us. The creators of the Great Debate believed that we must learn to disagree seriously and passionately, but with good will and respect for others who hold differing views. This year’s Great Debate tackled the timely topic of politics, elections, and citizenship.
- Book in Common events around Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which featured UNIV 101 students sharing letters written to the next president of the United States focusing on key issues of the election; and a second event “Wildcats Vote! Raise Your Voice, Raise Your Vote.” I’m encouraged and excited to see such demonstrations of active citizenship.
As Election Day draws ever closer, I would like to encourage everyone—faculty, staff, students, and the community—to cast a vote and be heard. Following the election, and regardless of the outcome, we must remain committed to civility, respect, and engagement. As a place of higher learning, Chico State will continue to provide a place where all can speak freely and be civically invested now and into the future.
In other words, we are building diverse and inclusive communities of excellence.
Gayle E. Hutchinson