Free Speech & Advocacy

Post-Election Message to Faculty and Staff from Interim Provost Ward and Vice President Calandrella

Announced on: Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016

To:      Faculty and Staff

From:  Mike Ward, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
           Drew Calandrella, Vice President for Student Affairs

With one of the most difficult and vitriolic presidential elections our country has ever witnessed behind us, we must now work to move forward collectively, productively and powerfully.  The election revealed to us that, on a variety of levels, our country and our communities are deeply divided.  

And yet our charge, educating students, remains.  That work is foundational to the economic well-being of our students, our North State region and our state.  Equally important, our work as engaged educators is foundational to democracy and to the health and vibrancy of our community, and indeed, our planet.  

At Chico State, our core mission is to “assist students in their search for knowledge and understanding and to prepare them with the attitudes, skills, and habits of lifelong learning in order to assume responsibility in a democratic community and to be useful members of a global society.”  

We have a long and proud tradition on our campus of creating educated and civically engaged students.  We will continue to provide students with the tools for engaging in meaningful conversations and actions around the issues that matter most to them, our communities and our nation.  

Simultaneously, we will reinforce our commitment to creating and maintaining an environment of safety and civility that is free from violence and discrimination for all our members.  Since the election, we are aware of several incidents of bigotry and hatred across the country, as well as in our own community.  These acts, to put it mildly, are not productive and not acceptable.

Just as important as staying focused on the need for a safe campus is cherishing constitutionally protected free speech. We all benefit greatly from the First Amendment, even if we struggle at times to define it, as this Federal Courts website(opens in new window) points out. This is a time to reinforce our sense of community, deepen our understandings and exercise our rights to free speech in ways that embrace the democratic values upon which this country was founded. 

We hope none of you is a victim of, or witness to, acts of hate and discrimination; if that does occur, we urge you to contact University Police, or you can also contact one of us. There may be other actions to take in the wake of such an incident; the campus Health and Safety website has many useful links to web pages with valuable information. In addition, President Hutchinson recently formed a Campus Incident Response Team (CIRT) composed of faculty, students and staff who meet to respond, and think proactively, about incidents that may occur on campus.  Our plan going forward is for CIRT to do the following:

  1.  Serve as a repository for reports of events that students, faculty and/or staff have passed along that might impact our students’ safety. Again, it will be important to report any incidents you become aware of, or that are conveyed to you, to UPD or us.
  2.  Ensure that students have access to services, resources and tools they need to be safe and successful in their programs, and to advocate for the issues they care about.
  3.  Provide faculty with tools to protect, support, and empower our students in both the short- and long-term.
  4.  Reinforce the importance and centrality of education in our North State region, our state and beyond.

In the coming days, we will be providing more details about the support resources that we will offer to students, faculty and staff. 

In the interim, please consider attending the Conversation on Diversity and Inclusion tomorrow, Nov. 16, at noon in BMU 210.  Dr. Devjani (Juni) Banerjee-Stevens will be delivering a presentation, “Is it Me, or Are You a Racist?” that will focus on strategies for having difficult conversations.  We plan on offering several workshops, brown bags and other forums in the coming weeks around these and other topics.  

It is an enduring quality and virtue of Chico State that our students are our top priority; thank you for everything each of you do to make that a reality.  Creating an environment where students can focus on their education and its lasting benefits, and modeling for them the highest ideals of the democratic process, is our shared goal.