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Office of the President

January 22, 2020 – Thoughts on Spring Semester 2020

To: Campus Community

From: President Gayle Hutchinson

Spring semester 2020, the first semester of a new decade, has begun. I know that you are as excited as I am to engage with students through courses, activities, research, and community service. Each of us works hard to establish rigorous academic and co-curricular environments where students are free to question, explore, discover, and learn, thereby making solid progress toward degree completion. More than 5,000 Chico State students will be eligible for graduation come May, and with an excellent education earned they will join over 142,500 proud Chico State alumni worldwide.

As you welcome students into your classes and offices with open arms of compassion and support, be mindful of the challenges they may face in their personal lives. Be aware of how strong and resilient they are as they work tirelessly toward earning their degrees and inch closer to realizing their dreams of a better future. One never knows when an interaction (large or small) may have life-altering or career-changing impact on our students. Through our work on the Graduation Initiative 2025, we understand that helping students connect with us and with others deepens their sense of belonging to our campus community. Students who feel connected and valued sustain progress toward degree and achieve success.

The University is a microcosm of society. Our diverse student demographic reflects that of California and the nation. The current turbulent political climate in our country is also reflected on our campus. Tensions are heightened between groups with varied life experiences, opposing viewpoints, and beliefs. We need to be more intentional and deliberate in creating inclusive learning spaces that are safe for all, especially for students of color and other underserved student groups whose lived experience is founded upon generations of marginalization, discrimination, and violence. It is important that you make clear to your students your expectations for classroom interactions that are meaningful and provocative, yet respectful, supportive, and inclusive of difference. Help students explore the meaning of informed evidence-based debate and civil discourse. Work to reclaim the definition of civility as a word meaning a demonstration of respect and courtesy, and not a word that is code for suppression. Model ways to formulate and ask questions designed to deepen one’s understanding of academic content, scientific theories and concepts, and cultural perspectives different from one’s own.

In these turbulent times, I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.” Let’s choose inclusive communities of excellence.

I wish you a productive semester of learning and engagement.