President Papazian’s December Blog

Welcome to the first installment of what will become a monthly communication to the San José State University community.

As I settle into my first year as president of San José State, I want to take the opportunity to reach out to you regularly with updates on the latest developments on campus and beyond. I also will use this space to highlight the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff—so if there are items that you would like to bring to my attention, please email my assistant, Zaynna Tello, at zaynna.tello@sjsu.edu.

The end of fall term is an apt opportunity for us to celebrate accomplishments and progress on key initiatives and for me to share initial impressions from my early months as your president.

Toward sustained stability, leadership

The traditional academic year unfolds along a somewhat predictable pace that I know is familiar to many of you. While this fall has in some respects been anything but “ordinary,” I am confident that SJSU is on a path toward stability and extraordinary opportunity.

This summer, you welcomed me as your new president—warmly and enthusiastically, I should add—and we have begun to fill other key academic and administrative leadership posts. I observed in August that I was fortunate to have inherited a highly capable leadership team. Several months later, I’m even more convinced of this.

Next year, we will welcome new deans to lead the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering while conducting recruitments for a new permanent dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education and a new vice president for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer. As I mentioned in announcing our intent to elevate the latter role to a cabinet-level position, a truly integrated and strategic technology infrastructure is essential to all of our efforts.

Faculty and staff achievement and collaboration

In the meantime, I have been deeply impressed by our faculty’s dedication, expertise across countless disciplines, and commitment to student success and scholarship. Although it is impossible to cite all of them here, I want to recognize several examples of excellence in teaching and scholarship.  I know you will be as proud of our colleagues as am I!

  • Department of Communication Studies Associate Professor Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel The Kite Runner opens at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End on December 21 and runs through March 11, 2017.
  • Associate Professor of Astrophysics Aaron Romanowsky and several international colleagues discovered a massive galaxy that exists entirely of dark matter. (You can read the abstract online.) Romanowsky has another article pending in Nature.
  • Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Rachael French and Assistant Professor of Health Science & Recreation Miranda Worthen received SJSU’s Early Career Investigator Awards for their research efforts.
  • The Online Learning Consortium awarded SJSU the Award for Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Teaching for its exemplary support of faculty development for both hybrid and online courses. Jennifer Redd, the director of eCampus, received the award on behalf of the campus on Nov. 19.
  • Debra Griffith, AVP for Student Transition and Retention Services, in November was named a 2017 CSU Wang Family Excellence Award winner, recognizing her service to SJSU students over the past 16 years.

Supporting diversity and action

Many of you know that faculty diversity lags behind that of our student population. I want to acknowledge the good work of Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies Magdalena Barrera and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Rebeca Burciaga, who are serving as Faculty-In-Residence seeking to diversify our faculty during a period of intensified recruiting. (We are in the midst of adding more than 130 new faculty positions over a two-year period.)

Magdalena and Rebeca actively have consulted faculty search committees, provided informative data assessments and insights, and meet regularly with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and others to support campus-wide efforts to diversify candidate pools.

Others of you have worked to ensure that we celebrate and support our community’s rich diversity. Our African-American and Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Task Forces have intensified efforts on behalf of student success through academic tutoring, finals week study sessions, other engagement activities and cultural celebrations. In addition, nine faculty members participated in a pilot program this fall, living in our residence halls as part of a pilot program seeking ways to better engage students.

Our Faculty Fellows initiative has amplified the work of our PRIDE and MOSAIC centers, helping identify ways to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment. 2016 Faculty Fellows include Erica Boas, an adjunct faculty member in the College of Social Science Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Department; Funie Hsu, an assistant professor of American Studies; Manolo Callahan, a Mexican American Studies professor at MOSAIC, and Stephanie Preston, a counselor with SJSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services department supporting the PRIDE Center.

As many of you know, the fall semester also brought us many challenges related to diversity. I am grateful for the dedicated work of our nascent Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, led by Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong(Lau). Through campus programming, targeted training, guided conversations and thoughtful engagement with individual campus community members, Kathy and her colleagues are deepening SJSU’s commitment to a welcoming, inclusive community. This work will be more important than ever as we enter 2017.

On January 24, SJSU will host what I am confident will be a compelling symposium at the Hammer Theatre Center, in partnership with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). This event—Sport, Activism and Social Change: From Words to Action—will feature an impressive array of panelists and also will serve to introduce the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at SJSU. You will hear much more about this in early January.

Students: at the heart of it all

The success and engagement of our students is something of which we all can be proud.  I feel uniquely blessed by abundant opportunities to see our remarkable students in action. As is the case with our faculty and staff members, I can’t possibly herald everything that our students are doing, but let me offer a few examples:

Helping students succeed 

Even before arriving in San José, I was aware of the impressive, holistic efforts underway at SJSU to ensure college readiness, enhance student retention, and shorten the time to a degree. This work is too complex and requires too much integration to be led by any single campus unit; indeed, every one of us contributes in some way to ensuring student success.

Our Spartan Scholars Program was launched last summer to prepare at-risk students for the difficult transition from high school to college. New advising tools were added to aid students’ navigation through the complex maze of selecting courses and tracking degree requirements. New class sections were added to reduce bottlenecks; and more academic advisors are being hired.

I am very encouraged by signs that this work, collaboratively guided by Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, is paying dividends: Our four-year graduation rate has already risen from 10 to 14 percent; the six-year rate has risen from 57 to 62 percent; the underrepresented student achievement gap (which measures differential achievement among students from multiple racial and ethnic categories) has shrunk from 17 percent to 11 percent.

There is much more to be done if we are to meet (and exceed!) the four and six-year graduation targets established by the CSU by 2025. To that end, we joined with Assemblymember Evan Low to convene a Student Success Summit on September 30, beginning a solution-focused conversation about student success with representatives from K-12, community colleges, the CSU and local education foundations. This work will continue in 2017.

Adding building blocks for our community to thrive

Numerous steps were taken this fall to address our aging infrastructure. We dedicated the beautiful expansion and renovation of our Diaz Compean Student Union, fueled by a $15 million gift from Silicon Valley philanthropist Lupe Compean. Campus Village II opened, adding more than 800 new residential beds. Work began on both a student recreation and aquatic center (on the site formerly occupied by SJSU’s legacy “bricks” residence halls) and the initial phase of a planned overhaul of our South Campus athletic facilities.

Dudley Moorhead Hall is scheduled to reopen in January after months of extensive renovation work. And CSU trustees approved plans for the addition of a Science and Innovation Center, which, when built, will be the first new academic space on our campus in more than three decades.

Engaging beyond our borders

I’ve invested considerable time this fall meeting community and business leaders, elected officials and others to listen, learn and engage. While this at times takes me away from campus, the time invested is essential to building partnerships and attracting support for our shared efforts. I have heard—over and over—tremendous community support for SJSU and a desire that we be at the table for important conversations about the future of our region.

Of course, many of you also are actively engaged with the City of San Jose, County of Santa Clara and innumerable regional organizations and foundations—far too many to mention them all here. I have, however, sensed opportunities for SJSU to step up its regional engagement to ensure long-overdue transportation improvements, find solutions to the region’s housing crisis, and even more effectively meet the region’s evolving and growing workforce needs.

I was energized by strong engagement with local, state and federal officials and their enthusiasm for supporting our students and our mission. We are working actively—in close collaboration with the CSU and others—on an array of opportunities to bring additional resources and enhance our ability to serve students. Several lawmakers have expressed interest in supporting campus capital needs, which today are constrained by limited support from the state.

To leverage these opportunities and others, we will need to be continually attentive, engaged and ready to bring our intellectual assets and other resources to the table. There is room for you to contribute, and I hope that you will.

Milestones

A retrospective look at the fall is incomplete without acknowledging several significant moments of pride for us all, as well as considerable challenges.

We celebrated 50 years of noteworthy marine research and education at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory. We welcomed home many luminaries from SJSU’s Speed City era of dominance in track and field for a day of celebration as we announced the return of men’s track and field to SJSU in 2018 as an NCAA sport. And the Hammer Theatre Center reopened its doors under SJSU management, restoring an exciting season of diverse artistic programming to downtown San Jose.

President Obama awarded the National Medal of Art and Humanities to alumnus and noted playwright Luis Valdez. SJSU advanced in national U.S. News rankings, rising from 8th to 6th among the West’s public comprehensive universities. The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering rose from 4th to 3rd among national public comprehensive engineering programs, excluding service academies.

Earlier this month, Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier announced the hiring of Brent Brennan as SJSU’s new head football coach. Brent has deep Spartan roots—his parents met as SJSU students and he previously coached here for six seasons—and is uniquely prepared to support the academic progress and personal development of our student-athletes.

Challenges and opportunities

We end calendar year 2016 with much to be proud of, and much to do. The aftereffects of a highly contentious national election linger, as do concerns for students who may be affected by shifting immigration policies under a new administration. Our campus was shaken in recent weeks by reports of sexual misconduct that victimized numerous members of our community.

These issues, and others, demand—and are receiving—thoughtful, focused attention from university leaders, police and others.

Finally, an advisory group of SJSU faculty, staff and student representatives are collaborating on a review of SJSU’s Vision 2017 strategic plan, preparatory to beginning to imagine a future strategic plan for our campus. This work will continue into the spring.

I hope that this message illuminates my pride in SJSU and optimism about our future. On behalf of our campus leadership team, I wish you and yours a restful and joyous holiday season!

Mary Papazian

President

President Papazian’s Message on Campus Safety

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Dec. 8, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

The University Police Department (UPD) is investigating six cases of sexual battery that have been reported since October 17. These crimes occurred in Duncan Hall, Sweeney Hall, the Student Union, and Boccardo Business Complex. All of the victims were students.

These disturbing incidents have caused understandable anxiety in our community. I’m writing today to update you on the status of the investigations and several steps being taken or contemplated to enhance campus safety and security.

Responding to a tip from the community, UPD has identified and arrested a suspect in the Student Union case. The suspect is an SJSU student and it is believed that he may have committed additional unreported sexual batteries. If you were a victim of a sexual battery within the last week in the area of Clark Hall or the Dining Commons, please contact UPD.

Police are uncertain if other suspects are affiliated with SJSU. They believe that a single suspect may be associated with at least two of the remaining cases. Leads provided over the past few days are being pursued and police foot patrols have been intensified around campus.

It’s important to know what “sexual battery” means: touching intimate body parts without consent. While this may sound less severe than sexual assault, this behavior is deeply traumatizing to victims. I urge anyone who has been subjected to such conduct to contact UPD as soon as possible.

According to annual crime reports published by UPD, 11 cases of sexual battery were reported here in 2015, compared to 17 cases in 2016 (with several weeks remaining this calendar year). While there is no indication that we are experiencing a significant year-to-year increase in these crimes, even one case is too many.

We all know that campus safety and personal security is a real concern. Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas has been developing a comprehensive safety plan in collaboration with other campus stakeholders. Here are key elements:

Additional security cameras: Twenty-four additional cameras will be purchased and installed in the near future to complement existing video surveillance systems. But as a cautionary note, this video will be used as an investigatory tool and is not monitored in real time.

Police staffing: Recruiting is underway for six additional UPD patrol officers, which will increase the number of sworn officers on our campus to 32. UPD has received approval to hire an additional four Public Safety Assistants, which provides our own students with the opportunity to gain professional experience and expands the Safety Escort program.

Enhanced lighting: Like many of you, I often walk this campus late into the evening. I am very concerned about areas that lack adequate lighting or create blind spots for pedestrians. Additional lighting and related work will begin during the winter break, and continue through spring term.

While these plans move forward, I also want to ask for your help. Chief Decena this fall established a Student Advisory Board composed of students from all aspects of the campus community. This group has already offered many valuable insights. If you have suggestions or would like to get involved, please contact Chief Decena directly at peter.decena@sjsu.edu.

As an urban campus located in the center of a major U.S. city, working to enhance our collective safety and keeping you regularly updated will remain an ongoing top priority.

Sincerely,

Mary Papazian
President

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 Residence Halls

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Sept. 21, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

Staff members were informed Tuesday evening of two swastikas and hateful language found in Washburn Hall and Campus Village (CVC) on floors primarily housing first-year students.

University police (UPD) commenced an investigation last night. It is ongoing.

Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong(Lau), Student Affairs Vice President Reggie Blaylock and others have been working to ensure that we attend to the concerns and needs of our students, their resident advisors, and other staff. Guided conversations facilitated by the chief diversity officer and residential life professionals in Student Housing are being arranged for this evening.

I am both saddened and outraged by this news. Although I am in Long Beach for CSU meetings, I have spoken with campus and community leaders and shared our resolve to provide a safe learning environment where difficult issues can be addressed collaboratively and transparently.

As new information becomes available, we’ll share it with you. If you become aware of information that may be useful to investigators, please call UPD at 408-924-2222.

Sincerely,

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

President Martin’s Message on Campus Safety

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on June 29, 2016.

All,

As you may know, a shooting occurred near the intersection of South 11th and East San Antonio streets yesterday, leaving one victim dead and another gravely wounded. This occurred one block east of campus and within the jurisdiction of the San Jose Police Department.

Although few details have been released by police investigators, it has been determined that the victims are not SJSU students, faculty or staff members. That said, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims.

I was deeply shaken by this news. The shooting occurred in a neighborhood where many students and other members of the SJSU community live or regularly walk. Our location—in the heart of Silicon Valley and in an increasingly vibrant downtown—is a significant asset. It provides our students with numerous professional and community service opportunities, as well as a rich residential and cultural life. We are working closely with the city of San Jose and other community partners to further enhance and enrich life in our city. If there is one certainty in all of this, it is that we all want a community with less crime and that is safe for everyone.

I would like to express particular concern for those most affected by yesterday’s events, including students living in nearby homes, apartments, sororities and fraternities, and I would like to thank these students for their patience while South 11th Street was closed to traffic as police secured the area during the early stages of their investigation.

As returning students and many others of you know, the Alert SJSU system sends messages about time-sensitive safety issues. New students are automatically registered for the service; if you are a staff or faculty member, I encourage you to register as well. All registered users can and should periodically update their information to ensure we have the appropriate contact data to connect with you for important safety alerts.

This system issued several alerts yesterday afternoon. While important, these updates can also be frightening. It is worth noting that, compared to other large cities, San Jose is among the nation’s safest urban communities.  We will continue to seek ways to further enhance your safety.

Our Student Affairs staff began outreach to affected students yesterday afternoon; those efforts continue today. Please keep in mind that counseling is available at no cost to students, faculty and staff members.

Sincerely,

Sue Martin, Interim President

Provost Feinstein’s Message on Student Success Plan

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on May 5, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

For the past year, we have collaborated and gathered information from faculty, staff, students and other experts, to develop a data-driven campus-wide student success strategy with one goal: to significantly increase our retention and graduation rates for all students while improving the quality of their educational experience. Our 57 percent six-year and 10 percent four-year graduation rates, and a double digit underrepresented minority student graduation rate gap are not acceptable. We owe it to our students, their families, taxpayers, employers and our community to improve.

We have developed a plan to accomplish this. We encourage you to review “SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success: College Readiness, Advising, Student Engagement and Clearing Bottlenecks,” which highlights our process in developing the plan and details of each pillar.

Public universities across the nation are striving to improve graduation rates, and provide an educated workforce. It’s a huge challenge, and now, SJSU is on the road to a meaningful solution on our campus. We look forward to working with you to enhance the success of every SJSU student.

Sincerely,

Andy Feinstein, Provost, and Reggie Blaylock, Vice President for Student Affairs

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

President Martin’s Statement on Hate Crime Sentencing

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA–The following should be attributed to SJSU Interim President Susan Martin.

We respect the district attorney’s and the court’s discretion in considering appropriate sanctions based on the defendants’ conduct. That notwithstanding, the behavior described in this case is unacceptable, and SJSU is committed to a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. The three individuals convicted of committing battery on D.J. Williams are no longer enrolled here.

 

President Martin’s Message on Hate Crimes

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

Dear SJSU community,

A jury in Santa Clara County criminal court earlier today returned verdicts on misdemeanor charges against three former SJSU students accused of race-based hate crimes against a fellow student and residence hall suite mate in fall 2013.

All three defendants were found guilty of misdemeanor battery. One of the three was found not guilty of a misdemeanor hate crime; the jury could not reach a verdict on hate crime charges against the other two.

A fourth defendant was a minor when these acts occurred and was adjudicated through the juvenile court. That outcome is confidential.

All four students who engaged in these acts are no longer enrolled at SJSU. The victim and his family are pursuing civil remedies independent of the criminal actions.

Much work lies ahead as we seek to create a truly inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for every member of our community. We continue moving forward on multiple fronts:

Plans are underway to bring campus community members together this semester to openly discuss results of the most recent campus climate survey.

The search for a chief diversity officer is moving toward a conclusion; semifinalist interviews will take place this weekend.

More information will follow on these and other efforts.

Sue Martin
Interim President

Provost Feinstein’s Message on Why Students Leave SJSU

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Dec. 11, 2015.

Dear campus community,

As we work toward increasing graduation and retention rates at San Jose State, we have a new report that offers some insights into why some students leave before completing their degrees. The report, “Why Do Students Leave? A Study of Student Departure from San Jose State University,” was conducted during summer and fall 2015 by Dr. Michael Cheers, Dr. Rona Halualani, Dr. Lisa Oliver and Dr. Marcos Pizzaro.

I would like to thank these four professors for their work on this valuable report, the first of its kind on our campus.  The goal of this study was to learn more about the experiences of SJSU first-time freshmen who have either stopped out (meaning they left SJSU with the intention of returning in the future), dropped out or are persisting at a different institution.

The percentage of first-generation students, underrepresented minorities in particular, who left SJSU after attending for just one year was significantly higher than the overall population.  Using telephone and online surveys, and online focus groups, the researchers discovered four recurring factors that influenced students when they made the decision to leave. These factors include:

  • Difficulty in attaining classes
  • Precipitating event or crisis point in a student’s life, and a perceived lack of assistance from staff, faculty or advisors
  • Feeling no connection to the campus
  • Difficult encounters with advisors

The full report are available online. I encourage you to review the data now and attend forums in the spring when the team will further discuss the results of the study.

I invite you to work with us as Academic Affairs continues to collaborate with the campus community to develop a student success strategic plan. The information from this study and your input will be integral in addressing the needs of all of our students.

Sincerely,

Andy Feinstein
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

President Martin’s Message on Divestment

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 19. 2015. 

Dear SJSU community,

The SJSU Associated Students (A.S.) board on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling for divestment of invested assets in several companies doing business in Israel, one of which is part of a fund maintained by the SJSU Tower Foundation.

After public comment and board discussion, the resolution was passed on a 10-5 vote, with no abstentions.

I was returning late Wednesday from a CSU trustees meeting in Long Beach and couldn’t be present. But I am told that the debate was vigorous and civil, and that A.S. worked hard to provide equal time for supporters and opponents to speak.

Ensuring room for debate and dissent is essential to the fabric of a public university. I respect our Associated Students leaders for embracing this challenge, and thank all who invested time in expressing their views on such a complex and contentious subject.

The Tower Foundation Board will review, study and discuss the resolution.

Sincerely,

Sue Martin
Interim President

Provost Feinstein’s Message on Graduation Rate Report

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 20, 2015.

Dear campus community,

I am pleased to announce that graduation rates of SJSU undergraduates continue to improve. As you will see, we have both good news and challenges to address. Your input will be important as we move forward.

Six-year and four-year graduation rates

The six-year baccalaureate rate reached 56.8 percent for our fall 2009 freshmen cohort, up five percentage points over last year’s rate.

As with other campuses in the CSU system, graduation within four years remains the exception rather than the norm. Only 10 percent of the freshmen who started in fall 2011 graduated within four years. Few students enter college ready or, for a variety of reasons, cannot take the course load required to graduate within four years. Going forward, summer programming will allow more students to start the fall semester on an even footing with their college-ready peers. In addition, the campus has plans to support all undergraduates by allowing students to increase their average unit load so they can take courses needed to complete their degree.

Transfer graduation rates

At the same time, the three-year rate for transfers from California Community Colleges rose to 58.4 percent this year from 56.9 percent last year, while the four-year rate for transfers held steady at 69.6 percent. Among both freshmen and transfers, SJSU is well on its way toward surpassing the 2025 graduation goals set forth for the campus by the CSU Chancellor’s Office earlier this year.

Underrepresented minority (URM) graduation rates

While we continue to improve graduation rates for underrepresented minority (URM) students (specifically African-American, Hispanic and Native American) with rates up nearly 2 percent from last year, the new data tells us we still have significant work ahead. Although both URM and non-URM graduation rates improved, the rate of improvement was much higher among non-URM students, increasing the graduation difference for URM students from 12 percent last year to 17 percent this year.

Student Success Task Forces

The news about our growing underrepresented minority achievement gap is disheartening. We must work together to reverse this. As a start, the African American Student Success Task Force and Chicano/Latino Student Success Task Force have introduced a number of community-building events and academic activities, including group study sessions with opportunities to meet with an academic advisor, graduate school workshops, and resiliency workshops. This semester, Student Academic Success Services has expanded its early alert system to all underrepresented students to identify and assist those who are struggling in their classes.

Also happening this year, members of the task forces and other researchers at SJSU are studying factors that influence persistence of URM students to better understand why some leave. This in-depth research will help to inform the actions SJSU must take to retain and graduate our underrepresented minority students.

Moving forward

We need to do much more. As a start, we are developing a strategic plan to support student success broadly across the campus. All of the colleges have also developed ambitious graduation rate goals, including enhancements in URM degree attainment rates. The deputy provost has inventoried our existing student support programs, with the inventory available on a Graduation Rate Strategic Plan website, and completed a preliminary degree completion needs assessment. In the spring, we will be presenting findings broadly and will be soliciting feedback through a variety of venues from students, staff and faculty to inform our strategic plan for student success.

As we develop our strategic plan, I welcome your engagement and feedback through the website, where you can share input and review up-to-date information on our progress. We each have an essential role to play in fostering a sense of belonging and empowering our students to succeed. I look forward to our continued work together.

Sincerely,

​Andy Feinstein
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs