Latest updates on our efforts to address systemic racism at SJSU

Dear campus community,

The recent news regarding the terrible events in Boulder, Colorado, was both horrifying and heartbreaking. Coupled with the recent increase in racist incidents and hate directed at Asian Americans—including the shootings near Atlanta—many of us are reeling and distraught. Many are also on edge as the trial involving the killing of George Floyd continues to unfold.

In this context, and as I noted in a December 2020 message, we are committed to developing tangible, actionable plans on issues surrounding systemic racism. Today, I write to offer an update on the efforts and actions we have taken at SJSU to address anti-Black systemic racism on our campus. 

I understand that many members of the campus community worry about being heard on these issues, and others may even, at times, be frustrated by the slow pace of change  on campus. To that end, many of the actions below are a direct response to feedback and recommendations from members and leadership of our Black campus community. 

Following are updates on a variety of initiatives, programs and activities in which we have been engaged these past months. Specifically, I am noting those activities relating to our educational efforts about anti-Black racism, training and ongoing dialogues and forums with members of our campus community. Just as importantly, we are doing proactive work that centers on wellness and belonging for our Black students, faculty and staff through programs, curricular inclusion, teaching and community building. Much of the work has been led by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I am grateful to them for their commitment and dedication to racial justice.

Leadership and communication

  • We launched a new website – “Working to Combat Systemic Racism at SJSU”. The site offers detailed information on the many specific actions the campus is taking, along with a “progress status” graphic showing our progress on various initiatives. There also is a resource section offering links to books, videos, webinars and presentations that may help educate members of our community about systemic racism. Finally, the website features an archive of campus messages that have been posted on this topic.
  • We changed our communications guidelines to capitalize “Black” in all university correspondence.
  • We renamed our African-American/Black Student Success Center, which is now known as the Black Leadership Opportunity Center (BLOC).
  • We created the Campus Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and announced its inaugural members.
  • We conducted training to educate the President’s Leadership Council (PLC) on frameworks for racist systemic injustice, working with PLC members to produce specific action plans for all SJSU divisions and departments.  

Education and training (completed and/or ongoing)

  • Our Task Force on Community Safety and Policing has been meeting regularly and is due to issue its report later this month. The task force has been examining critical safety issues on our campus and the roles the University Police Department and other campus departments, student and community organizations, neighborhood associations and other groups have in ensuring an environment conducive to learning, racial justice and equity.
  • Led by our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we facilitated 10 hours of training on systemic equity, racism and sexism in our Division of Advancement and are making plans for similar training sessions for other SJSU divisions.
  • My cabinet members and I completed a 4-hour training on racial microaggressions and systemic racism.
  • We facilitated several academic college and program-wide trainings that directly addressed racial microaggressions, anti-racism pedagogy, faculty representation and curricular improvements.
  • We created a 10-hour, mandatory asynchronous instructional unit for the Teaching Online Summer Certificate program, a partnership between our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Center for Faculty Development, addressing a variety of equity and inclusion topics that reached approximately half of SJSU’s faculty.
  • We designed and facilitated approximately 10 hours of contact time addressing identity and racial microaggressions for Housing Professional Staff and Resident Advisors (RAs).
  • We continue to conduct racial microaggression workshops for supervisors and managers.
  • Led by our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and our College of Health and Human Science, we have developed an upcoming summit and Summer Institute on Dismantling Racism in Health and Human Sciences.
  • We have implemented training programs for faculty search and retention, tenure and promotion (RTP) committees focused on implicit bias.
  • We have developed tailored training sessions on racial microaggressions in the workplace and classroom, and exclusionary behaviors among employees.  

Additional and in-progress training efforts

  • We are developing a summer bridge program for Black students.
  • We are expanding housing and themed floors for our BIPOC communities.
  • We have initiated planning efforts around racial microaggression workshops for all university staff.
  • We are undergoing a thorough review of the RTP process for tenure track faculty with a particular focus on racial and gender inequity in evaluation processes.
  • We are developing strategies, policies and resources for the hiring of more Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) tenure/tenure track faculty.
  • We continue to increase community partnerships with Black community organizations.
  • We continue to review previous letters and resolutions submitted to the Office of the President to ensure concerns are addressed.
  • We are completing a review of campus-wide recruitment, hiring, and retention practices to eliminate systemic injustice and ensure that our staff, faculty and administrators reflect our student population.
  • We are conducting a review of Fraternity/Sorority Life (FSL) on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and resources with an additional focus on systemic inequities and racism. Included with be a review of the support and resources we offer to historically non-white organizations.
  • We launched a new Employee Affinity Groups Program within our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in February.  

Although what I have described includes many tasks that have been or will soon be completed, our efforts will continue well into the future. Our campus is actively working to address systemic racism in its many forms. We are committed to doing our part to end systemic racism so our work must, and will, continue.

I am proud of what we have accomplished these past several months, and I will continue to offer periodic updates. With a look ahead to spring graduation, please join with me in standing up for our shared values of inclusion, equity, fairness, acceptance and respect.


Dr. Mary A. Papazian