Recent acts of racism and prejudice on California State University (CSU) campuses have revealed publicly what students of color have long experienced in institutions of higher education throughout this country. And although these incidents are not unique to the CSU system, they demonstrate that our campuses are not immune to the challenges of systemic racism that endanger the safety and inclusion of students in our campus communities, specifically students of color.
According to the 2016 CSU Student Health, Wellness, and Safety Report, threats to wellness and safety were most prevalent among students of color, incidences of physical assault on non-white students was more than twice as high as their white student counterparts, and students of color were more likely to report being verbally threatened and feeling that discrimination impeded their academic performance.
That’s why CSSA, as the largest and most diverse student association of any four-year university system in the nation, believes that we must not only denounce incidents of racism and other acts of hate, we must be intentional in our approach to creating and maintaining campuses that are inclusive of all identities. This requires tough conversations at every level and the prioritization of pursuing equity and social justice in the everyday life of the campus. The best way to do this is to put student voices at the forefront of every conversation — and then listen to them.
Our CSU campuses play an important role in creating a more just society. Therefore, all CSU stakeholders must work together to ensure that every student across the CSU system is able to access a high quality education — one in which there is an understanding that quality inherently rejects systemic racism. I encourage all CSU stakeholders to consider how the ways in which we respond to incidents of hate, intolerance, and prejudice on our campuses impact the ability for students to develop intellectually and personally, and ultimately achieve their dream of obtaining a college degree.
The CSU system leads the nation in many ways, of which all stakeholders should be proud. I call now for the CSU to be at the forefront of addressing inequities caused by systemic racism on campus — through bold, student-led, introspective conversation that is focused on collectively solving these important issues. Historically underrepresented and marginalized students are already balancing work, school, family responsibilities, and navigating an educational system that was not built for them; all leaders have the responsibility now of listening to them, responding to their needs, and making not just diversity but safety and inclusion part of their daily work.