On Wednesday July 15th, a virtual meeting was held for all administration, staff, faculty and students on behalf of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI). There was also a meeting held on July 1st that addressed the same topics of how Stanislaus State can continue to co-create social justice and equity on campus.
Although President Junn has been holding these commissions for a few years now, recent events, such as the death of George Floyd, led to massive protests across the country and around the world. These protests erupted as a part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, calling for equality for people of color everywhere and justice for those who were victims of crimes committed against them by law enforcement.
The discussion began at Wednesday’s Zoom meeting by suggesting that the president’s commission have a name change that may be more fitting for the goals it is trying to accomplish. Students pointed out that simply changing the name would not actually change anything and called for real action to happen on Stan State’s campus and that more meaningful conversation needed to be had.
Shantel Singh (Graduate Student, Social Work) expressed what her and many of her colleagues hoped to achieve by attending the meeting. “In the meeting, I had addressed the need for a transparent system to hold faculty, staff and administrators accountable,” Singh said. “It was a notion to create a safe method for students to report discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, etc. President Ellen Junn stated that there is an existing system to submit these issues. This reporting system is not clear nor proven to be anonymous. Therefore, the current system fosters feelings of uncertainty toward the situations students face and create fear of repercussions.”
Singh also expressed another concern regarding the differences between the students and members of faculty and administration. “There is a massive social disconnect between administrators and students,” Singh said. “In 2016, LA Times reported that President Junn receives housing and car allowances. Whereas, there are Stan State students who are homeless, working several jobs to make ends meet, and are losing health benefits during a pandemic. It is really easy for administrators and faculty to discuss which policies and curriculum they want to implement while they are sitting at the ivory tower of academia.”
The 2016 LA Times article that Singh referred to appears to show that the Cal State University committee that appointed President Junn preferred her because of her experience and expertise on many of the issues that students were addressing. “At other campuses, she was recognized for establishing initiatives such as the African American Student Success and Hispanic Student Success task forces at San Jose State and the Women’s Campus Connection and the Asian Faculty and Staff Assn. at Cal State Fresno,” the article states.
The article also includes praise for President Junn from CSU Trustee Hugo Morales. “She has a long history of always putting students first and has expertise in working to increase academic achievement among students from underserved communities,” Morales said.
During the meeting, President Junn, as well as many other faculty and administrators, expressed their shared concern towards the issues that were brought up and vowed to try and help students and the campus community achieve the change they wish to see on and off campus.
Singh added her own suggestions as to what changes could be made regarding the student body. “We need to create an organization that is student led, for the students. It should be centered around anti-racism and dismantling white supremacy in our academic establishment.”
“We need students from all departments, all student organizations, all sororities and fraternities... diversity isn’t simply the presence of different cultures on campus, [but] it’s when everyone comes together to speak on the issues they’re facing as Stan State students,” Singh continued. “By creating this type of organization, you can make a step to changing the atmosphere on our campus. We need students to take the lead in this conversation.”
PCDI Chair Dr. Kilolo Brodie explained that major actions aren’t being taken right now because it is the summer and there is not enough representation at this time. Moreover, she emphasized the recent pandemic which has brought struggles. She explained that changes will more than likely happen in small progressions, but some small change now are better than none.
Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting the world and, as a result, classes will be moved to mainly online instruction for the Fall 2020 semester. Many students may feel like they are not getting the help they need at this time but should know that faculty members and administrators are hearing their concerns.