President Joseph Castro sent the following message to the campus community on June 5, 2020:
This has been a very difficult week for many of us. As our country grapples with the deeply felt consequences of and anger at the killing of Mr. George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, it’s understandable that some may be overwhelmed and perhaps even deflated or discouraged. Mary and I have felt that way several times in just the past few days. Yet, I am uplifted and inspired when I reflect on the actions many of you have taken, or commitments you have made, since I last wrote to you on Saturday, May 30.
Last Sunday, student leaders of the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized and led a peaceful protest in downtown Fresno in which thousands of people participated, while adhering to public-health protocols in light of COVID-19. I was deeply impressed by the wisdom and strength this action demonstrated. Our students seized the moment to speak to power in a moving way that caught the attention of our entire region — including public officials and civic leaders — while also ensuring that the event wasn’t hijacked as similar protests throughout the country have been. Many of their classmates, faculty, staff and administrators joined our student leaders by participating in the demonstration. We were all moved by the message and calls for change and for justice. I, for one, intend to carry that momentum forward to examine what I can do on a personal level, as well as what I can do as your president.
Our faculty and staff also continue their impactful work. For example, based on recent feedback received from faculty and staff, particularly those of color, new support and advocacy groups are being formed to provide safe spaces to discuss concerns and for those who are looking for ways to support social justice. Below is a sampling of groups that you may be interested in joining. The meetings will be made available on Zoom, and details will be provided to those who register for the sessions.
- “Conversations that Matter” will be held by the President’s Commission on Human Relations and Equity (PCHRE) each Thursday at 11:30 a.m. during the months of June and July, beginning on Thursday, June 11. These conversations are open to all Fresno State students, faculty and staff. To RSVP, register here.
- Forum for Faculty and Staff of Color — a space for discussion of personal and community impact and concern drawing from the circumstances of Mr. George Floyd’s death and ensuing actions against protestors and press. This group will meet on Mondays at noon, beginning on Monday, June 8. To RSVP, register here.
- Open Group for Social Justice — a space for Fresno State faculty and staff who are interested in focusing on ways to support social justice. Details regarding this new group are forthcoming. If you are interested in leading this group or participating in it, please contact Marsha Baum in the Office of Faculty Affairs.
Earlier this week, my cabinet members and I dedicated part of an evening to a candid, thoughtful conversation about the role of the University at times like these, particularly given the turbulent national climate.
I was heartened by each cabinet member’s heartfelt ideas and sentiments. I think they would agree that if I were to summarize our conversation briefly, it would be: Let’s build on the good work of our partners — especially our colleagues who have been at this for many years — and on the energy and talents of our students. We must rededicate ourselves to strengthening existing programs and to initiating new ones, and above all, to take a stand against hate, in the classroom where our students need to feel safe to learn and perform at their best, and in the workplace where our black faculty and staff contribute to the success of our students.
Yesterday, I met with student leaders of the campus chapter of the NAACP to discuss strategies to increase the recruitment and retention of African American students on our campus. One strategy will consist of establishing a stronger connection between African American students, faculty and staff at Fresno State and Fresno City College. We committed to working on this and other action-oriented strategies in the days ahead. I will ask many of our talented faculty and students to assist in developing these strategies.
Despite the challenges we face, I am inspired by the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Let’s work together to ensure that this will be the case on our campus and throughout our nation.
My thanks to you who have championed diversity and inclusion on our campus and in our community for years. You are heroes. Please keep up your efforts, even if they make some uncomfortable. I welcome those of you who are realizing the importance of participating in this movement to be courageous and speak out and take productive action. Together, we will guide Fresno State to new heights of academic distinction and inclusiveness that would have made Dr. King very proud.
Lastly, you may be interested in reading a thoughtful conversation with Professor Andrew Fiala on sustained political action and education, and a recent news interview I participated in regarding driving social-justice reforms. You will see a variety of perspectives in upcoming media coverage as we continue to elevate the voices of our campus community through media outreach, such as this recent example.
Joseph I. Castro, Ph.D., M.P.P.