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CSU Leadership Rejects CFA’s Anti-Racism, Structural Change Proposals

As the country mourned the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, then-Chancellor Timothy White issued a statement to the CSU community called A Call For Unity and Understanding.

“Today, we write to you with heavy hearts,” wrote White. “And we are disgusted and disheartened at the understanding that, from a broader perspective, this tragedy is just another in a long line of tragedies. Of racism overt and hidden. Individual and systemic. Blatant and audacious acts of violence and pernicious, barely perceptible microaggressions.”

From that statement, the university system developed One University For All, its push for the Graduation Initiative 2025, safe spaces, curated curricula, and a focus on faculty.

Fast forward less than a year and their tenor changed.

CFA again met with the CSU labor relations team last week and, rather unsurprisingly, the CSU continues to double down on the dismissal of the experiences of our faculty of color. The Chancellor’s Office demonstrated that their virtue-signaling proclamations against anti-Black and anti-Asian violence and for diversity, equity, and inclusion are but a hollow performance.

When presented with an opportunity to join with faculty (as then-Chancellor White’s administration claimed a “focus on faculty”) to write racial and social justice into the contract, they failed to even negotiate and instead simply said “no”.

“Actions speak louder than words,” said Kevin Wehr, CFA Vice President. “The CSU says that they want to be a more diverse and inclusive system, but when management outright rejects our proposals that would explicitly address histories of racism, exclusion, and bias within the university—these actions speak far louder than pretty words about diversity and inclusion.”  

The CSU leadership rejected our bias in student evaluations proposal, which acknowledges the well-researched fact of race and gender bias in student opinion surveys in Article 15 — and our health and safety proposal, which would address the impact of racism on our campuses by designating alternatives to campus police and appoint faculty to serve in ombudsperson roles for employee conflicts.

“By claiming that our proposal to create care-based alternatives to overpolicing on our campuses is ‘outside of scope’, they communicated to us that the health and safety of BIPOC students, faculty, and staff on our campuses is superfluous to them and that they have absorbed nothing of the lessons of the largest social movement in human history (Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Black Lives Matter) about the grave social problem of violent, racist policing,” said Molly Talcott, CFA Representation chair.

“Last week, our team was left with the bitter taste of racial gaslighting in our mouths, and with the truism burning in our ears, actions speak louder than words!”

But this is a pattern of behavior from CSU leadership. At the March board meeting, Trustees heard information on establishing a biennial symposium – once every other year – to recognize the contributions Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni have made to the CSU. Let us repeat: Every. Other. Year.

CSU leadership can continue to release all the statements it wants about how Black lives matter, yet it refuses to enact real change to eliminate structural racism and white supremacy culture. Black faculty continue to report bias and profiling from university police and other campus community members with no response or action from their campus leadership.

“This is an ironic proposal given that every attempt we have made at the bargaining table to address race and gender bias has been met by refusal,” said Sharon Elise, CFA Associate Vice President, Racial & Social Justice – South. “It’s ironic, given the refusal of (the CSU Board of Trustees), to support ethnic studies until it was forced upon (the CSU).

“It’s important that (Trustees) understand this (bi-annual symposium) is a diversity-lite approach and simply doesn’t address structural racism.(CSU leadership has) to do more to address structural racism and (all 23 campuses) have the experts in the system to help do so.”

In spite of continued opposition from CSU leaders, CFA will continue to fight for structural change within the system for a better Collective Bargaining Agreement to better the lives for all our faculty, students, and staff.