President Papazian’s Message on Hate Incidents

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 12, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

This week brought multiple reports of aggressive behavior targeting students of color. Wednesday, an unknown assailant grabbed a Muslim-American student by her hijab in the West (Fourth Street) Garage, yanking her backwards and causing her to fall. And Friday afternoon, a South Asian student was verbally accosted while studying in the Engineering Building.

We’ve been in touch with both students to offer our support and encouragement. University police are investigating both cases.

There have been other reports of students facing subtle taunting and overt verbal attacks. I understand that some of you have experienced or observed this behavior in classrooms and elsewhere on campus.

All of this is deeply troubling. And it leaves students–including those who are undocumented–as well as faculty and staff members concerned for their safety. Many of you are frustrated and unsure how to appropriately respond. Some of you have asked for our help.

I understand. We are just days removed from an election that provoked a dizzying array of reactions ranging from elation to depression. In several U.S. cities, thousands have taken to the streets in protest. And, sadly, attacks against individuals have been reported on other college campuses and in many communities.

As I observed earlier this week, we are a family. We celebrate opportunities for healthy dissent. But no one should face intimidation–or worse–based on a political viewpoint or on racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual identity. An attack on any member of our family is an attack on us all.

So where do we go from here?

The university administration will continue to provide support to any student, faculty or staff member who seeks our help. We will explore opportunities to further enhance campus safety and security.

We will continue working with campus and community members interested in fostering healthy dialogue and promoting an inclusive, safe, supportive climate.

And I ask you, as a member of the Spartan family, to join me in approaching the upcoming holidays with respect and appreciation for the unique diversity that sets us apart among our nation’s public universities.

Mary Papazian
President

President Papazian’s Message on Election 2016

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 9, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

We all are processing the results of a long, hard-fought and often-contentious national election.  It is an opportunity to reflect on the resilience of our people and the constitutional freedom we enjoy to express our opinions, our aspirations and our feelings.

As one of America’s most diverse public universities, it is reasonable that this election would provoke uniquely strong–and potentially mixed–reactions.  These will take time to fully absorb, and process.

In his remarks to the nation this morning, President Obama observed that “…everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team… We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first.”

To the president’s comments, I would add this: as members of the San Jose State community, we, too all are members of one team, and one family.  And, as a community devoted to preparing students to be engaged, informed citizens, it is critically important that we provide ample room for diverse opinions to be expressed safely and civilly.

This evening at 7 p.m., we will hold a guided campus conversation: “Together We’ll Rise: A Community Dialogue Moving Us Forward From the Election.” The Residential Life Team, the Student Affairs division, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have collaborated to provide this opportunity to come together, help each other make sense of the election, and continue building the inclusive Spartan community to which we all aspire.

This dialogue will take place in front of the Smith/Carlos sculpture, which honors two Spartans for their brave, civil activism. I encourage you to honor their legacy by joining in this important conversation.

Mary Papazian
President

President Papazian’s Follow-up Message on Sexual Assaults

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

Dear Campus Community,

Recent reports of sexual violence involving several students have disheartened many of us. Many of you have expressed concern for their well-being. I’ve been encouraged by the response from our community.

I also have heard and taken to heart the concerns ​some of you have expressed about the issues illuminated by these incidents.

I write to you today to assure you that I am determined to do everything possible to ensure that SJSU is a safe, caring, inclusive community. I have every confidence that working together, we can make this happen.

But as a recent disturbing account from one student reminds us, there is much to be done–and it must involve our entire community. While we wait for criminal, student conduct and Title IX cases to be adjudicated, I want you to know how we plan to address the systemic implications of these incidents.

First, we will look comprehensively at how to improve communication in the wake of reported Title IX incidents. While many offices and individuals responded in the wake of last month’s incidents, it is clear that we need to better “connect the dots” among resource providers and more clearly identify primary points of contact for students involved in sexual misconduct cases. This review will be co-led by Student Affairs and our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Second, I am asking for a reevaluation of the protocols for determining when campus crime alerts should be issued. Although it appears that we were in compliance with federal guidelines in the recent incidents, I believe it is time to reexamine and consider changes to notification policies. University Chief of Police Peter Decena will oversee this review in consultation with appropriate subject matter experts and campus ​and community ​stakeholders, including students.

Third–and perhaps most critically–each of us must fully understand the gravity of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination and embrace our duty to help combat it. To that end, I’ve asked Title IX Officer Natalie Potts to arrange a series of campus conversations, facilitated by our own experts as well as others, beginning ​as soon as possible and continuing throughout the year. This will supplement existing CSU-mandated and other training that already is offered.

It is easy to say we want to do better. We also need to walk the talk. I ask you to join me on that journey.

Mary Papazian
President

President Papazian’s Message on Sexual Assaults

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Oct. 12, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

In the last 24 hours, news reports have surfaced regarding allegations of sexual assault involving a SJSU student and member of our men’s water polo team and two victims, also students. Although student privacy and numerous pending investigations limit what we can say, I want you to know as much as can be shared.

These deeply troubling reports first came to the attention of university staff last month. Because they occurred off campus, city of San Jose police (SJPD) have led the criminal investigation. I am told that the case is now being reviewed by the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office.

In the meantime, our Student Affairs staff and Title IX office have acted to protect and support the students involved while internal student conduct and Title IX inquiries moved forward. Although there are reports that the student is no longer in the U.S., these investigations are continuing.

Pending the outcomes of these investigations, the student accused of these acts was placed on interim suspension, barred from campus, and ordered to stay away from the victims.

I know some are wondering why a campus crime alert was not issued sooner. The totality of information available at the time—including the fact that the suspect had been identified and was being closely monitored—led to the determination that there was no imminent safety threat to the campus community.

While we are confident that this was a reasonable decision based on what we knew, I very much appreciate this concern. We will be reviewing all existing protocols and processes in collaboration with our newly established Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence and many others. Please contact Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong(Lau) or Title IX Officer Natalie Potts if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Mary Papazian
President

 

President Papazian’s Follow-up Message on Residence Halls

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Sept. 22, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

In the wake of yesterday’s disclosure of two swastikas and hateful language discovered in two of our residence halls, I left CSU meetings in Long Beach a day early and returned to San Jose late Wednesday night. I was back on campus this (Thursday) morning.

While mindful of the need to preserve student confidentiality, I am determined to be as transparent as possible. Let me update you on the latest developments.

First, the University Police Department (UPD) has made enough progress in its investigation that we are able to share some details. One of the two swastikas discovered Tuesday was accompanied by undeniably hateful, anti-Semitic language (“Admit One Jew”). Police have identified the student responsible and determined that this act, while bias-based, targeted no one in particular and is not by definition a hate crime.

The second incident involved a swastika and language scribbled on a white board, in a residence hall suite. The white board was described to police by the student responsible as a “joke board.” While this incident remains under investigation, police are confident that the two incidents are unrelated.

Meanwhile, we are focused on continuing to engage and support open dialogue with, and among, students, faculty and staff members, and community leaders. We all want to understand and make sense of these deeply disturbing acts. I’ve been reminded by several of you that symbols and words can carry different meaning and significance depending on one’s age, ethnicity, race, gender, faith and other factors.

We must ensure as many opportunities for dialogue as are needed to ensure that your voices are heard. Last night, our chief diversity officer and professional housing staff members facilitated a dialogue with 150 students. I’m grateful to our residence life and counseling staff for their dedication to our students’ concerns and needs.

Earlier today, I met with more than 100 faculty members and with the executive director of the local chapter of Hillel; I also briefed the media. This evening, I’ll meet informally with students in the Dining Commons at 8 pm.

A facilitated conversation on campus climate issues has been scheduled for next Thursday, September 29, and I will hold a town hall meeting with students on Wednesday, October 5. Details will follow soon.

While I remain disheartened and outraged by these profoundly hurtful acts, I am also encouraged by the response from our campus and broader community. Together, we can use this difficult moment to grow and learn how to be a fully inclusive and welcoming community.

Mary Papazian
President

President Papazian’s Message on Gender Equity

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Sept. 6, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

Our students’ success depends in large part on our determination to build and sustain a learning environment that is safe, affirming and non-discriminatory. We are just as obliged to provide a safe, equitable working environment for every faculty and staff member.

With these principles in mind–and in the wake of new reporting by the Mercury News of the sexual harassment of a student–I am writing to be sure we all are aware of our responsibilities and available resources. This is especially important in the early weeks of fall when, research tells us, students are at particular risk.

As I said during the fall welcome address, each of us has a role to play in supporting student success. That includes encouraging students to report inappropriate behavior to our Title IX office, and reminding faculty and staff members and administrators of their duty promptly to report potential violations, whether they occur on or off campus.

Prompt reporting is essential to supporting victims of inappropriate conduct and protecting others from similar behavior.

We already are benefiting from the leadership and experience of our new chief diversity officer, Kathy Wong(Lau), who brings particular expertise in equity and diversity training. We are committed to building our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which Kathy leads.

Meanwhile, programs for students, faculty and staff members are being expanded and enriched on multiple fronts. You’ll hear more about them in coming weeks.

The actions alleged and related issues enumerated in news coverage are troubling. We are looking into them, we will learn from them, and we will take appropriate systematic actions based on what we learn. And I’m confident that working collaboratively and creatively, we will be the welcoming, inclusive and supportive community to which we all aspire.

Mary Papazian
President