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We must take strong action against racism, bigotry, hate
CFA letter to CSU Chancellor, Trustees, Campus Presidents

CFA delivered the following letter at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on November 7, 2017. CFA Associate Vice President-Affirmative Action Cecil Canton made remarks about the letter at that meeting before the Educational Policy Committee.

November 6, 2017

Dear Chancellor White, Trustees, and Campus Presidents:

Recent events at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, show us once again how close to rending is our social fabric. White supremacy, white nationalism, and neo-Nazism have resurfaced and have come to dominate our attention and our discourse. This is not the first time that blood has been spilled, nor the last time someone will die as a result of hate and bigotry. We have been fortunate that, to date, our CSU campuses have not been shaken with the most fatal forms of racial violence and hatred.

Yet, hoping to be lucky is hardly the same as being proactive in the face of this rising threat. What is the CSU leadership doing to keep students, staff, and faculty safe from this increasing danger? The statements that have been issued by the campus presidents do not rise to that challenge. They have, for the most part, been inadequate, if issued at all.

And now, DACA is under direct threat. This attack on immigrant rights is deeply rooted in white supremacy and xenophobia. Our students and other members of our campus communities deserve protection from a system – the CSU – whose mission is to advance the public good. At this pivotal moment on our campuses, we need you to be much more aggressive in your protection of both our DACA-mented and undocumented students, staff, and faculty. 

When you fail to address the existential threats seeking to undermine the progress we have made in the post-civil rights era and to divide and destroy our campus communities, you hardly inspire confidence among our students, staff, and faculty regarding your commitment or ability to, maintain the order, safety, and security necessary for a safe working and learning environment. When CSU executives issue vague and equivocating platitudes – delivered from a safe distance via email that are accompanied by zero courageous actions or bold positions – they only inspire cynicism and feelings of abandonment among those most vulnerable to the structural and legislative forms of racism we are facing.  

You can start by naming the problem and calling it what it is: white supremacy, white nationalism, and neo-Nazism. If you can’t name it, you can’t tame it!

In addition to naming the problem, the following are some concrete actions that the CSU can take in order to demonstrate a commitment to fighting white supremacy in all of its forms.

  • Publicize the CSU’s role in the California Attorney General’s law suit against the Trump Administration over ending the DACA program.
  • Devote campus funds to assist DACA students, and implement AB 21 ahead of schedule.
  • Increase counseling center resources to assist students harmed by hate on campus.
  • Make sure that food banks are stocked and open for extended hours.
  • Mandate anti-racism training for campus police.
  • Work with campus communities to create clear and transparent protocols for when hate groups come to campus.
  • Engage in complex discussions of what free speech means on campus.
  • Acknowledge that protecting students is more important than following unjust laws, and certainly more important that avoiding lawsuits. and that the CSU may have a moral imperative to act accordingly.

On this last point, it is critical to learn from our (very recent) history. DACA was achieved through nonviolent civil disobedience, carried out by incredibly courageous undocumented youth activists. Had they continued to comply with the unjust laws that deny immigrant youth a chance at a dignified future, DACA would not have been ordered by President Obama in the first place. Immigrant youth, by disobeying the law, forced his hand to sign the order. When our undocumented and DACA-mented students hear campus presidents repeat the talking point, “We will defend the public good and obey the law,” they know intimately how vacuous such statements are. We need more wisdom from you, a sense of history, a strong moral compass – and a heavy dose of courage.  Plenty of our students, if you talk with them, have much to teach about courage in the face of losing everything they love.

Now is the time for you to directly name the threat we face, to work with students, staff, and faculty to create a plan on how to address it, and to make clear and unequivocal statements on what the CSU values and how it intends to practice its values. Statements without action maintain the status quo; we urgently need both from you.

As leaders of the CSU, you must be brave and stand up for all members of our campus communities. If you won’t stand up and lead our defense, who will?

Sincerely,

CFA Board of Directors

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