January 8, 2021
Dear Academic Affairs Colleagues,
Yesterday we witnessed an assault on American democracy. It is not the first time the Capitol has seen a violent assault, but it is the first time such a sizable mob bent on destruction has been encouraged by the highest leader of the nation to overturn the peaceful transfer of power in the United States of America. While it's clear that the Capitol police were overwhelmed by the rioters, I was also struck by differences in the responses of law enforcement to this violent mob with the responses last summer to the far more peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. White supremacy and racism played an insidious role in yesterday's events and continues to play that role in the threats to democracy posed by the November election and its aftermath.
Such events remind us that we must be ever-vigilant in promoting pluralism, social responsibility, anti-racism, and democratic community engagement. In Academic Affairs, we have a responsibility to teach those values. They are our campus values, and every student should know that, see that, and DO that--in the courses they enroll in, the research projects they choose, the service-learning they commit to, and the co-curricular activities in which they participate.
I challenge us all to think about how we can turn these extraordinarily negative events into positive teachable moments, in and out of the classroom. Have conversations in courses, encourage critical thinking, build in honest debate about values, and ask students about their community engagement and what they think about public events. This is a moment where our identity as a public liberal arts and sciences institution tells us what to do: we all need to be a voice for justice in the public sphere, making connections and fostering responsible and ethical leadership, as CSU Chancellor Castro indicated in a statement yesterday.
The challenges keep coming for all of us, and I know it is hard to run extra legs of a relay race and pick up those batons. Nevertheless, this work is ours. This is where we shine. This work of educating and leading is what we know and what we do best. Thank you all for your work, wherever and however you do it.
My best wishes to all of you for 2021 as we hope ardently for better times.