President Martin’s Message on Diversity

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on March 17, 2016.

Dear campus community,

As many of you know, court proceedings involving three former SJSU students charged with race-based hate crimes and battery against a fellow student ended earlier this week. Although jurors found all three guilty of misdemeanor battery, none were convicted on hate crime charges and all received reduced sentences.

These verdicts and sentencing outcomes left many in our community disappointed; some have expressed outrage. While we respect the independence and discretion of jurors and the courts in reaching these determinations, the offenders’ conduct was unacceptable and incompatible with our values. They are no longer enrolled at SJSU.

It is clear to me—as I believe it is to many of you—that building an inclusive, welcoming climate at SJSU demands sustained effort and contributions, large and small, from all of us. And these efforts need to support the unique academic, cultural and socio-economic needs of a highly diverse student population and campus community.

Some progress has been made. I am writing today to update you on this work. Among many things, our campus:

  • Is completing a search for a chief diversity officer. Finalists for this role will visit campus beginning this Friday, March 18. You can meet each of them during scheduled open forums. The successful candidate will report directly to the president, lead an Office of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, and spearhead diversity initiatives.
  • Added diversity awareness programming to new-student orientation, student leadership development and residence hall staff training, to increase every student’s sensitivity to others’ perspectives and differences.
  • Hired more resident assistants, bringing the ratio of RAs to resident students to 1-to-35, better than the national average of 1-to-40. This provides a greater degree of monitoring and mentorship in our residential community.
  • Launched task forces to support Chicano/Latino and African American student success by creating support networks and targeted, culturally specific programming and services.
  • Welcomed civil rights icon Ruby Bridges to campus on February 24 to receive the prestigious John Steinbeck Award and participate in an onstage interview on race issues.
  • Hosted KQED Forum for a very candid conversation about campus climate and race issues.

I am proud that students, faculty and staff have taken the lead on many of these and other diversity activities.

But, many challenges remain—among them, clear indicators in recent campus climate surveys that some in our community feel unwelcome, disconnected or unsafe. In some areas, perceptions have worsened over time. Clearly we have much work to do.

I believe an important next step in addressing these concerns is to have a meaningful dialogue that includes an overview of campus climate survey results and facilitated conversations about our future. This is scheduled for April 11 at 10 am in the Student Union Theater; we will follow up next week with additional details.

Together, we can work to make our campus safe and welcoming.

Sue Martin
Interim President