Apr. 19, 2021

Dear Students,

Last week, I was battling a bad case of insomnia – my mind was racing as I tried to process the death of Daunte Wright. This was extremely troubling to me, but these feelings were especially exacerbated when considering that we are currently in the midst of the Derek Chauvin trial – and having to relive the death of George Floyd in traumatizing detail. I then thought about Army 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario being threatened and pepper sprayed, and the tragic death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. On top of everything, we are reeling from numerous mass shootings, with several incidents occurring in recent days in Indianapolis, Austin and Kenosha. In addition, we are still grappling with the rise in Asian Pacific Islander racial violence across our nation. And I know this is all just the tip of the iceberg – there are countless acts of violence that do not make the headline news.

As I continued to process, I engaged in several discussions about whether we’ve made any progress – especially when considering the momentum created from last year’s Black Lives Matter global protests for racial and social justice. It was clear that the weight of this continued violence and loss of life can easily result in us giving up hope, and some I spoke with even raised the possibility that our efforts to make racial and social justice a reality may be futile. This reminded me of a text exchange with a close colleague back in January after the insurrection, and his words impacted me on many levels and will continue to be with me moving forward. He stated,

“While these tragedies are so debilitating for us, we can never allow it to steal our hope. Once we become totally cynical about our efforts, all hope is gone… Without hope, there are some days I would not be able to get out of bed. We cry. We are depressed. We curse. And then we get up and put on the armor of hope and press on. As warriors, we do not have a choice in the matter. Giving up is not an option. We are fighting the long game. And I hope you will remain hopeful as well.”

This powerful reminder of hope was so meaningful because as you know, CSUCI’s Inclusive Excellence Action Plan is the top priority of my interim presidency and focuses on cabinet level accountability; broad engagement across divisions at all levels; and is designed to bring more people into this work while ensuring we have the necessary expertise to be in full alignment with theory, research and best practices – and this includes student voices and participation. Perhaps most importantly, this framework has the potential to provide us with clear goals, a more tangible, actionable path moving forward, and the motivation to persevere and find new pathways when faced with challenges. This work, coupled with my unwavering faith in the resilience, leadership and values of our faculty, staff and students is what continues to fuel my hope moving forward.

Taking care of ourselves and finding safe spaces to process and share our emotions, experiences and hopes for a better future is also critical. Please consider participating in the CommUNITY Healing Circle (PDF, 366KB) hosted by the Multicultural Dream Center, for students only, on Wednesday, April 21 and Thursday, April 22, from 2 to 3 p.m.

To RSVP for one of the sessions, please sign up at go.csuci.edu/MDCEvent. If you have any questions before the event, please feel free to reach out to Hiram Ramirez, Director of Inclusive Student Services & the Multicultural Dream Center at hiram.ramirez@csuci.edu.

For students who anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about accessibility, please contact Disability Accommodations and Support Services at 805-437-3331 or accommodations@csuci.edu. The flyer is also attached for your reference. Lastly, our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) team is available – please visit their website for services.

I sincerely believe that each one of us is in a precious minute, right now, with an opportunity to focus our prodigious, collective energies on realizing racial and social justice. Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, whether in response to the Derek Chauvin trial or other news in our centuries-old march toward racial and social justice, let us do good things with our minute in history.

Richard Yao
Interim President

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