President Papazian’s January Blog

We’re a month into the new calendar year and just days into the spring term—traditionally a time of renewed energy and hope. In spite of the tensions that are in play around the world and close to home, I hope this month’s blog post reflects SJSU’s energy and hope and our collective ability to influence our community, region and beyond.

Acknowledging uncertainties

We can’t, however, ignore the uncertainties that I know are on many of our minds and will influence our efforts moving forward.

Yesterday afternoon I commented on a recent federal order that indefinitely bars entry to the U.S. by Syrian refugees, bars all refugees for 120 days and individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.

Late Monday, the office of the CSU Chancellor released a joint statement from Chancellor White, campus presidents and leaders of the CSU Academic Senate and California State Students Association expressing deep concerns about this action and its potential impact on our mission and our community.

We are—and we will remain—focused on serving the needs of our students, faculty and staff members, and broader community. Ensuring that every deserving student has access to a quality education is neither a political nor partisan issue; it is essential to our mission. And it cuts to the heart of who we are, what we stand for and what we value.

In that vein, I was proud to join thousands of community members two Saturdays ago in my capacity as a citizen, a parent, and a descendant of Armenian immigrants, marching to express my love for our country and its values. And I am proud of all Spartans—from all political perspectives—who exercise their constitutional right to protected free speech.

Supporting international, Dream Act students

With immigration policies in flux, we are working to engage, communicate with and support international students as well as students who are here thanks to the federal Dream Act, California’s AB 540 and related state laws.

Late last year I joined hundreds of leaders from public and private higher education in supporting federal policies aimed at protecting these students, and I renewed my support during visits in early January with lawmakers and other government officials in Washington D.C.

These visits were heartening, and we hope to welcome some members of our delegation to San Jose this spring to meet our students and see first-hand how important it is that we preserve educational opportunities for all who have earned them.

Supporting a safe environment

In last month’s blog I referenced several unsettling reports of sexual misconduct and our commitment to studying ways to enhance student and community safety.

Progress is being made on multiple fronts.

Informed by an inclusive group of campus stakeholders, Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas has developed a comprehensive set of safety initiatives including the hiring of more university police officers, additional campus surveillance cameras and enhanced lighting.

A detailed report outlining these plans will be available soon.

Efforts in support of Title IX, under the auspices of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, are also expanding:

  • Title IX staff are closely coordinating their efforts with University Police, reviewing all reported incidents that may be subject to Title IX regulations to determine if crime alerts should be issued. (This may increase the overall number of alerts.)
  • Communication with complainants and respondents in Title IX cases is intensifying with the goal of more regular and consistent case updates and check-ins to ensure that the needs of these individuals are being met.
  • More frequent campus dialogue; two campus conversations took place last fall; a third is planned for February and others will follow. A commitment has been made to greater transparency, including publishing a comprehensive report of reported Title IX incidents from fiscal year 2015-2016.
  • Enhanced training opportunities for designated confidential-level university community members, to increase the number of individuals eligible and available to support Title IX related processes.

While the outcome of criminal complaints is not within the university’s control or purview, these measures should enhance our ability to respond to Title IX incidents and support the needs of all affected parties. Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong(Lau) will share more details on these efforts in coming weeks.

Celebrating our values

I’m very proud to share several initiatives and activities that reflect our values and demonstrate a commitment to social justice and student success:

Student Research

In early January, Associate Professor of Photojournalism Michael Cheers led a small group of students to an international conference on education to present research in which the students had participated in summer 2016. (Dr. Ruth Wilson co-led this project, which brought the students to Cuba to study Afro-Cuban culture.)

The project was structured to evaluate opportunities to close the achievement gap among underrepresented students by combining culturally relevant content and teaching methods. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs contributed support to this endeavor, enabling undergraduates to present research to more than 1300 participants representing at least 36 countries.

Upward Mobility

Earlier this month, SJSU was named one of America’s top ten universities for fostering students’ upward social mobility. The Social Mobility Index considered cost of attendance, graduation rates, median early career salaries and the percentage of students coming to campuses from low-income households.

According to the report, “…The SMI measures the extent to which a college or university educates more economically disadvantaged students (with family incomes below the national median) at lower tuition, so they can graduate and obtain good paying jobs. The new SMI rankings show that through wise policy-making, colleges and universities can be part of improving both economic opportunity and social stability in our country.”

We can all be proud to see SJSU ranked among leading American universities described in the New York Times as “…deeply impressive institutions that continue to push many Americans into the middle class and beyond — many    more, in fact, than elite colleges that receive far more attention.” This recognition is the result of everything our faculty and staff members, alumni, donors, and elected and community leaders have done and are doing on behalf of our students, our campus, and the CSU.

From Words to Action

Last Tuesday we celebrated the launch of the nascent Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at SJSU with a morning symposium, From Words to Action, filling the Hammer Theatre Center and bringing together a luminous group of Spartans and other change agents from sports and the media. Panelists included NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Olympic champion Tommie Smith, several active or recently retired professional athletes, and many influential national and local sports journalists.

We are grateful to these individuals for lending their voices to an important conversation, and to institutional partners including the San Francisco 49ers and the York family; San Jose Earthquakes; Golden State Warriors; and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) for their contributions and active involvement.

The institute, guided by an advisory board now being formed, will facilitate educational offerings developed by SJSU faculty from multiple academic disciplines; stimulate research at the intersection of sports and society; and host ongoing community programming. (A panel conversation featuring women in sports media is now under consideration.)

Last week’s symposium—which attracted a large outpouring of national and local news media—and the institute itself bear the heart and soul of Dr. Harry Edwards, a proud Spartan whose commitments to human rights and social equity are well known and well documented.

Thanks to the efforts of many members of our campus community and others, and augmented by Dr. Edwards vision, SJSU is poised to influence and be at the epicenter of the national conversation about race relations, gender equity and human rights. A recent Mercury News editorial affirmed this, declaring that “…the time is right for San Jose State University’s new Institute…and so is the place.”

Personal commitment

We believe that as Spartans, what powers us changes our world. I want to acknowledge SJSU nursing student Annie Ho, whose quick reaction and selflessness helped save a life last November.

Annie helped administer CPR to a runner who fell ill while competing in last year’s annual Thanksgiving Silicon Valley Turkey trot. The Mercury News reported in mid-January on an informal “reunion” of the victim and his emergency caregivers at the race site.

Annie, Spartan nation is proud of you!

A look ahead

  • Efforts to engage and inform state lawmakers about the possibility of a tuition increase and advocate for additional investment in the CSU began last week, with a visit by Chancellor White and campus presidents to the state Capitol and meeting with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. (While there, I met with several lawmakers and administration officials.) This activity will continue throughout the spring.
  • We are continuing to engage local elected, transportation and community leaders in conversations about the future of BART’s downtown San Jose stations and associated regional planning issues. As a hub of downtown activity (more than 40,000 students, faculty and staff members on campus, many of whom also travel to and from nearby destinations, plus daily visitors to MLK Library and other campus destinations), SJSU’s voice and input are important to decisions that will eventually be made by the VTA board.
  • Academic Affairs and Student Affairs will co-host the second Student Success Summit this Friday, Feb. 3 in partnership with California Assemblymembers Evan Low and Ash Kalra. The focus of this working session will be identifying ways to enhance college readiness.
  • Many campus groups are engaged in strategic planning. Work continues on preparing for closure of the Vision 2017 strategic plan, and the Academic Senate last Friday held its winter planning retreat. I look forward to receiving and sharing updates on these and other planning efforts.

As a reminder, please share suggestions for these monthly posts by writing to zaynna.tello@sjsu.edu. I hope you find them informative and useful.

Here’s to a productive month!