A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
November 10, 2005 Volume 36 / Number 3

 

Turning the Corner

Virtually everyone on campus and many beyond understand that the campus has embarked on a new approach to Greek and other student organizations on campus. Many are also aware that President Zingg has created task forces dealing with hazing, alcohol and drugs, and student safety in campus neighborhoods. Late last spring the president constituted two additional task forces on student engagement and new student transition to the University. All of these task forces operate under the umbrella of the President’s Commission on Campus Life. As chair of that commission I would like to contextualize the work of this commission and these task forces.

On Dec. 13, 1987, Sacramento Bee Magazine asked the following question on its cover: “The Party School Fights Back: Can Chico State Change Its Image?” Almost exactly 18 years later—and too many student deaths, too many highly qualified students who chose NOT to attend Chico State, at least one too many porno videos, and far too many distracting and disparaging jokes and comments—the question still stands and the answer is more important now than ever. President Zingg has clearly indicated his answer—“Yes, we can, we must, we will, and we have begun.”

A primary source of frustration over the last 18 years—for faculty, staff, students, administration, parents, alumni, friends, employers, and supporters alike—is that the negative halo of the “party school” image is at such variance with the underlying reality—the Chico State that we know. In ways documented in these pages the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of this institution routinely accomplish amazing things and consistently achieve uncommon success. The simple fact is that, in the minds of the public, the light of negative attention shines brighter than the light of accomplishment. Bad news trumps good or, at least, marginalizes it. Impressions matter, and no amount of good news can un-ring the bell of bad news.

This basic and quite human reality forces Chico State, and every other campus that has suffered as we have under the pall of negative news and characterization, to not only continue and expand our achievements, but to eliminate the negative. Not reduce, overwhelm, or hide the negative—eliminate it. Such an effort will require the commitment of every member of the Chico State community—every student, every faculty member, every staff member, every administrator, every alum—not just most or a majority, but every person.

What must every person do? We must, as President Zingg challenged the Greeks, live up to our stated values and commitments. Students must understand both their opportunity and their obligation as students. Faculty must daily affirm our stated belief “in the primacy of student learning.” Every student, faculty member, and staff person in this community must “stimulate intellectual rigor, moral development, and creative accomplishment and evoke callings to imaginative citizenship in the world beyond the University.” These are not merely politically correct aphorisms appropriate for needlepoint and vision statements, they are already, for most members of this community, their raison d’être. Most students are already predispositionally committed to enlightened notions of academic integrity. Most faculty members already adhere to our publicly stated dedication to academic rigor and high expectations and follow our adopted and publicly expected practices in grading. Most staff members and administrators already understand their responsibility for promoting a civil and respectful community. Most members of the faculty have embedded contemporary and effective principles for good practice in their teaching and work to engage students in their studies. The gap, however, and the challenge that must be met is the chasm between “most” and “every.”

Having “most” students avoid alcohol poisoning or “most” faculty teaching effectively cannot be our goal. “Most” will not get us past our two-decade-long travail and, more importantly, isn’t good enough. We must achieve “every.” The goal of the commission and its respective task forces, therefore, is to find ways to ensure that every student, every faculty member, every staff member, and every administrator understands, appreciates, and lives the values and commitments that are the heart of this institution.

—Stephen W. King, chair
Commission on Campus Life