(The following statement, from Interim University President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, was distributed to Fresno State students, faculty and staff)
Over the past several weeks, our country and community have relived the tragic death of George Floyd, while closely watching the trial of Derek Chauvin. This has been a painful process and one that evokes visceral emotions for many across the country, including here at Fresno State. George Floyd’s death is further compounded by the fact that his death is not an isolated incident within the African American experience.
While the trial has concluded with a guilty verdict, we must resist the temptation to turn the page, content that some level of justice has been brought. This verdict acknowledges the egregious violence done to George Floyd — it draws a line stating that this particular action went too far — but it does not address other violent practices that come near, but do not cross, this newly-identified threshold. While this moment of accountability is important, we must still continue to push for equitable institutions and practices — ones that resist unjustified uses of power. While promising, the work of the jurors in this trial does not suffice to create a better society, nor does it ensure that injustices, including other needless deaths, will not continue to occur.
Graphic images of Mr. Floyd’s despairing final moments have travelled all over the world, as his death has prompted a much-awaited call for change. These images are now part of our collective memory — a memory that ignites emotion while signaling our duty to reflect and promote values worthy of the multicultural and multiracial America we all love. As the premier educational institution of the region, it is our duty to promote a deeper understanding of the ways history and race have shaped dynamics of power and affected people of color in our country. How can our disciplines enable awareness and improvement? How can we learn from others’ perspectives and disciplines, to cultivate empathy and appreciation for the viewpoints and lived experiences of those like and unlike ourselves? How can we engage in practices that lead to more equitable systemic outcomes? Our task is to seek answers to these and many more questions, as we take a holistic approach to forging a stronger Valley.
I want to encourage students who need additional support during this difficult time to seek services available at the Student Health and Counseling Center, by calling 559.278.2734 or by visiting during business hours, and checking the center’s website for information on after-hours care, or the Let’s Talk service. Staff and faculty may contact our Employee Assistance Program if they are in need of support. Then, consider the steps you can take to build respect, understanding and appreciation for our diverse communities, their trials and tribulations and their enduring contributions.
This trial is over, but our efforts to create a more just society and campus are anything but complete. At Fresno State, we must be more committed than ever to creating an equitable environment and an anti-racist culture that permeates all levels of our campus community.
Soon, we will launch the Active Anti-Racism Coalition — a group of faculty members specializing in anti-racist pedagogy and theory, creative students who are invested in building bridges of understanding, and dedicated and professional staff from the Cross Cultural and Gender Center — whose mission is to foster a genuine and deeper sense of community.
I hope you join me in ensuring the success of this new coalition by learning more about the history of anti-blackness in the U.S. and its lingering impacts across all areas of society. Please participate in upcoming events, and implement anti-racist practices within your own sphere of influence.
Interim President, Fresno State