Feb. 13, 2017Vol. 47, Issue 4

Everyone Deserves Human and Civil Rights

 President Gayle E. Hutchinson joins Chico State students and staff during a Sacramento rally for women's rights. (Photos courtesy of Gayle Hutchinson.)

On January 21, the day after the US presidential inauguration, my partner and I woke excited to participate in the Women’s March that was scheduled to take place in Washington, DC, and other cities across the globe. We planned to march in Sacramento, and we were looking forward to riding on a chartered bus to the capitol city with friends and Chico State students.

Leaving our home—a little late—we found ourselves jogging down Second Street toward the designated gathering place only to see the chartered bus drive away. You guessed it, we missed the bus. In disbelief and after momentary disappointment, we pulled together our resolve, changed our plans, jumped in the car, and drove to Sacramento.

Once there, it did not take long before Chico State found us, and during the march we found our fellow Chicoans. Together, we marched in solidarity of women’s rights, human rights, and civil rights. The energy was electric; the wave of humanity was extraordinary. It was a march heard around the world!

The astounding success of the Women’s March renewed my hope in the future of humankind. It demonstrated to me that people, regardless of gender, culture, country, and politics, remain resilient and resourceful, and they want the same thing: human and civil rights for everyone.

Those values have long been celebrated at Chico State, where we embrace diversity in all of its forms and recognize the importance of global interactions and education. We also understand the importance and responsibility of speaking up or speaking out when we disagree. Our country—and our University—depends on the engagement of all of us. Building diverse and inclusive communities of excellence is and will continue to be a hallmark of Chico State.

Since the march, President Donald Trump has issued several executive orders, including one to ban travel of people from a list of seven countries. Once again, I was heartened to see citizens unite and speak out across the nation. On January 30, 2017, Chancellor Timothy White and all 23 CSU campus presidents published an open statement expressing deep concern over President Trump’s executive order. Signing my name to this statement on behalf of Chico State was an honor and a duty.

Challenging times require action, not apathy. Democracy works best when citizens are involved in local, state, and federal issues. It has been years since we have seen activism on this scale.

Over the course of my lifetime, numerous social justice and political struggles have challenged our American culture and democratic ideals.  Growing up, I remember well

  • the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 1963
  • the Cold War, 1947–1991
  • civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech, and the March on Washington, 1963
  • the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • the Education Act and President Johnson’s War on Poverty, 1965
  • the Vietnam War, 1955­–75, and the Kent State shootings, 1972
  • the second wave of the Women’s Rights Movement, 1960–80s
  • the Stonewall Riots and the Gender Revolution, 1960s–80s
  • Title IX of the Educational Amendments, 1972

Today, in these emotionally and politically charged times, we will do as we always have done: provide students with safe, welcoming spaces and experiences where the focus is on learning. We will continue to embrace and celebrate diversity in all its forms. We will continue to encourage student involvement in civic engagement and service-learning projects that remain at the core of our curricula.

I invite all faculty and staff to create opportunities for students to engage in respectful dialogue, courageous conversations, and meaningful and evidence-based debate about current events, politics, social justice issues, and democratic processes with individuals who think differently from themselves. To support you in this endeavor, the University has established the Our Democracy website. Here you will find University and community resources for civic engagement and in support of civil rights. There are tips on inclusive pedagogy, information on managing conflict in and outside of the classroom, and a list of upcoming campus events.

Black History Month, which we celebrate on our campus with a series of events every year, is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and embrace diversity. I’d especially like to highlight one of this year’s offerings, the “Conversations on Diversity and Inclusion: Moving Men of Color Forward” discussion on February 15 at noon in Bell Memorial Union, Room 210. As we celebrate Black History Month throughout the coming weeks, let’s build a better tomorrow by remembering the struggles and violence endured by our African American communities and realize that harm to any individual is harm to everyone.

Let’s sustain the enthusiasm for human and civil rights that we witnessed in the Women’s March in Chico, Sacramento, Washington, DC, and sister marches worldwide. As we work with students both in class and on campus, let’s be role models for inclusive and diverse communities of excellence.

Sincerely,

Gayle E. Hutchinson

President

Men carrying hardhats exit the concrete structure of the Hoover Dam.

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