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Office of the President

November 20, 2019 – A Commitment to Inclusivity and Freedom of Expression

To: Campus Community

From: President Gayle E. Hutchinson

At Chico State, we work diligently to find ways to balance our values and commitments to diversity and inclusivity and the right to freedom of expression. We live in politically and emotionally charged times, and our campus is not isolated from these challenges. Frequently, I hear from students who say they feel unsafe or unsupported because of who they are, how they identify, or what they believe.

Chico State condemns violence, harassment, and demeaning actions of any sort, for any reason, including culturally offensive stereotypes and personal attacks. Any reports of taunting, harassing, and of course, any threats and/or physical violence will be dealt with swiftly. It is vital that we connect with and support one another and be vigilant against malicious acts—even those that are not intended to be hurtful.

At the same time, the University is an ardent supporter of the First Amendment, which protects even speech that many find hateful and abhorrent and may be in conflict with the values we hold as a community. As a public institution, we cannot discriminate against or prohibit speakers invited to speak on campus or prohibit student groups from sharing their beliefs—nor would we want to. It is our goal to respect all people, of all backgrounds at all times.

We know Chico State as a University and as a community of individuals is imperfect, and that we still have great strides to make in our strategic priority of equity, diversity, and inclusion. But our shortcomings do not mean it is any less of a priority for me or the University. On the contrary, it is one we take incredibly seriously. It's not about prioritizing one group over another, but making sure Chico State is a safe place for everyone to learn—where we can be our true selves and be respected for who we are and what we believe.

Yes, we live in a charged social and political society, but we can commit to making our own campus community one that is characterized by reason, respect, civility, diversity, and openness of expression. We can embrace the importance of meaningful dialogue and courageous conversations that help us all wrestle with the issues, and do so in ways that are respectful and build community.

As we pursue our educational mission in a diverse community, it is likely you will come into contact with those who hold beliefs that differ from your own or that you find offensive. In preparing students for the world after graduation, we must show that we can choose when and where to engage in thoughtful dialogue, and when to walk away. We can choose to research and develop our own opinions on local or global issues. We can choose to lean on our communities for strength and cultivate our inner resilience. I realize this is no easy task, but I hope you will join me in making Chico State a place where everyone can thrive.