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Transcript of President Nelsen's 2022 Spring Address

President Don Gerth passed way in December, just as he was turning 93. He was the president of Sacramento State for 19 years, and he helped shape this great University. Could we please have a moment of silence for Don?

Don loved Sacramento State, and he loved the mission of the California State University system. He was proud to call Sac State, “The Capital’s University.” And he referred to us and to all the CSU campuses as “The People’s University.”

Well, let’s be honest:  the people in California, the people in our nation, the people in our capital, and especially the people on our campus have been going through hard times lately. COVID-19 has devastated us for over two years since its arrival in the US on January 13, 2020. We hurt, and we hardly recognize ourselves, let alone our colleagues.

How many of you have never met your students? How many of you are working with people whom you have never met face-to-face? How many of you have never even been on campus—never seen our trees, our turkeys, our squirrels?

In many ways, we are estranged. We feel alone. How can we be The People’s University if we don’t know the people?

COVID-19 has done much more damage than just estrange us—it has divided us. We have the vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers, terms that we rarely used before. We have the mask-wearers and the maskless. \We attack flight attendants.

We literally have become a “house divided.”

We are a 50/50 nation, split on almost every issue, whether it is COVID-related or not. Look at the Legislative Branch, look at the Senate—split 50/50—where one person can decide whether we spend billions of dollars or not, whether we invest in the environment or in coal. The House is no better—and it is likely to flip in the coming midterm elections. Factions, even within parties, rule rather than the rule of law or simple common sense. January 6, 2021 will forever be a day of infamy.

Even here in Sacramento, we are split about what to do for the homeless members of our community. We, as Californians with our acronyms, have divided ourselves into NIMBY’s and IMBY’s— Not In My Backyarders and In My Back Yarders.

In the meantime, people, real sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts, spouses and partners suffer, suffer on our streets, in our parks, along the levies, and right next to our campus.

How can we be The People’s University if we don’t care about the people?

When I was planning this address, thinking through what message I wanted to convey, what I thought we needed now, my immediate answer was that we have to be a “Yes University” — we have to say yes to people, to our community, to each other, especially to those people who are hurting or are estranged.

Since Jody and I arrived in Sacramento in 2015, seven years ago, my dream has been to turn the University into a Yes University. I was appalled to learn that we charged the players of the Pig Bowl, our firemen, sheriffs, police, to park their cars when they are raising funds for scholarships. I couldn’t believe that we regularly turned down community groups who wanted to use our facilities, instead of helping sponsor their events.

I was amazed that we put literally thousands of holds on students who missed deadlines for filing paperwork or for paying fines or minor bills. I was shocked that we routinely told students who couldn’t get the class they needed to graduate to take another class and add a minor.

I couldn’t believe the lines outside classrooms as students crashed the classes so that they could get a seat. I couldn’t believe that so many students made their way to the President’s Office because they were told no.

And then, there were the parents — enough said.

We have made tremendous progress since 2015, thanks to you, thanks to everyone on this Zoom.

Not only have we stopped sending out thousands of holds to our students; through HEERF (the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund), we paid off their holds and set the students free.

Every member on the Cabinet is on at least one community board, some on four or five boards.

In 2020, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSEC) honored Sacramento State as the Partner of the Year.

The players in the Pig Bowl have awarded literally thousands and thousands of dollars to our students in scholarships. The Sacramento Police are one of the largest donors to the ASI Food Pantry. Just two months ago, they donated so much food that Business Affairs had to send a forklift to unload the food. 

We have added $5.5 million to Academic Affairs permanent budget to add new classes so that students don’t have to crash courses. We have added 105 tenure-tenure track faculty beyond replacing those faculty members who retired or left. We have increased our four-year first-time graduation rate from 9% to 25.8% and our two-year transfer graduation rate from 27.1% to 44.6%, saving our students millions of dollars of potential debt.

But that is not enough, not in a region where only 33% of the population has a bachelor’s degree (compared to a statewide 52% attainment rate). Not enough in a region where only 18% of the Latinx population has a bachelor’s degree; and only 22% of the Black population and 22% of the Native American population have bachelor’s degrees. Sadly, a mere 37% of the females in our region, and a paltry 29% of the males have bachelor’s degree.

Not good enough indeed.

Yes, we have to become a Yes University — and our dedication to being an Anchor University is helping us do so — but just saying yes will not be enough to turn our region and our university around, not in a COVID-19 era.

Instead of just being a “Yes University,” we must become a “Healing University.”

The lesson of COVID-19 is that we must heal and move forward. But we must do more than just heal from COVID-19—we must heal our region, our state, our country, our university, and most of all ourselves and our students.

COVID-19 has shown us the inequities in our society, the flaws in our education system, the paucity of our knowledge, the weaknesses of our social support structures, and our own personal shortcomings.

Please don’t get me wrong — I am incredibly proud of what Sacramento State has done throughout this pandemic. We pivoted and taught online. We graduated 9,099 students last year at what may end up being my most memorable graduation ceremony in my 33 years in higher education—Carmencement.

Thank you to everyone who participated.

But even more thanks, genuine thanks, thanks from my heart to yours, to everyone who taught a class online, everyone who came to campus to process financial aid, every campus safety officer and every police officer who kept campus safe, every custodian who every night cleaned and sanitized our buildings, every groundskeeper who kept blowing those leaves which didn’t stop dropping because of COVID-19, every member of University Advancement who doubled the number of scholarships for students, every technician who kept our labs operating, everyone in Human Resources and Business Affairs who had to come to campus to process our paychecks, every advisor who picked up the phone to keep our students on track, every nursing student and Student Health Professional who got us vaccinated, to everyone at Sacramento State who turned on their camera and opened their hearts on Zoom.

I can’t wait to celebrate all of you this spring when the current Omicron spike recedes, celebrate you with a whole series of events and with the recognition that you deserve.

You are what makes our Hornet Family strong. You are the ones who are truly responsible for graduating those 9,099 students, for transforming in one year alone 9,099 lives who will transform tens of thousands of additional lives.

Our work, however, is not done.  And won’t be done when we beat Omicron and move from a pandemic to an endemic.

Our 50/50 culture must be healed — Sacramento State must be a transformative healing agent.

We must all realize that we are healers, whether we are keeping this University clean, safe, and beautiful so that the healing can take place, raising funds for our students so that they can make ends meet and graduate in four years, helping to hire the new faculty, especially faculty who look like our students, whom we need so desperately, redesigning classes where our underrepresented and Pell eligible student have historically failed or withdrawn, implementing our Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan, or truly making Sac State into the Capital’s Anchor University deeply rooted in our community, working reciprocally with that community to transform lives.

But first, let’s be honest, we have to heal from COVID-19 and all of its variants first.

Let’s address, so to speak, the elephant in the Zoom and what we all must do together, not as a 50/50 culture, but together as a Hornet Family to return to campus wisely and safely.

You have read countless emails from me in the past two years about COVID-19.

And you have deleted just as many, often because the information in the emails had quickly been superseded by new information. No masks, masks; one shot, two shots, three shots and now pills; three feet, six feet, no feet, six feet; SARS-CoV-2, Delta, Omicron. Whiplash after whiplash, but also evolving science.

I am not a scientist, nor am I a doctor. But I am very thankful for Joy Stewart James and her colleagues at the Health Center who helped set up the vaccination clinic and who have been running the testing center.

I am also very grateful to Dr. Olivia Kasirye from the County Health Department who has worked incredibly close with us as we established our guidelines for at first depopulating the campus and now to repopulating the campus.

And I am especially grateful to the University of California epidemiologists who have every time correctly told us what to expect of the virus and when to expect it to peak and subside. We are using their guidance even now as we prepare to return to face-to-face learning February 7th.

All these individuals (and I agree with them) are confident that although COVID-19 is still here we are moving out of the pandemic phase and into the endemic phase,  just like we experienced in 1918 with the influenza pandemic. 

Sadly, people still die from the flu, but the flu is manageable, especially for those individuals who get what we now simply call “flu shots.” People will still die from COVID-19 in the foreseeable future, but the vaccines, particularly as they mature and are further developed, will allow us to return to some sense of normalcy where we can interact, go about our businesses and our lives, educate our youth, and heal our nation.

We can speed up this healing through vaccinations and testing. Masks, social distancing, self-isolation, temporarily suspending face-to-face board meetings, requiring proof of vaccination at mega events, etc., will also help.

But the bottom line, the experts, the scientists, tell us is that we need to get as many people vaccinated as possible and with boosters when sufficient time has passed.

Sacramento may be 50/50, 60/40, or even 70/30, but Sacramento State must be as close to 100% as possible. And we are almost there.

At the writing of this address, 93.79% of our faculty and staff and 87.73% of our students were vaccinated with two shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna Vaccines or 1 shot of the J&J vaccine. 0.24% of the faculty and staff had medical exemptions, and 2.87% had declared religious exemptions. Amongst the students, 0.45% had medical exemptions, and 4.94% had declared religious exemptions.

More students and faculty are accessing campus, and more students are enrolling, so we expect to see additional vacillation in the percentages. But the numbers will stabilize once the semester starts because no one will be allowed to access campus unless they are vaccinated or have an exemption.

To make certain the vaccination numbers are accurate for our students, we receive daily uploads from the California State Immunization Registry’s database.

And as an added precaution, under the new vaccination policy, we are requiring booster shots within five months for anyone who has received two doses of either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine and within two months for anyone who has received one shot of the J&J vaccine

Testing twice weekly those individuals who have exemptions will further ensure the safety of everyone returning to campus. And testing everyone who is symptomatic and self-isolating anyone who tests positive will even further help us protect and heal each other and to heal our campus. 

Of course, there will be breakthrough cases—we know that. COVID-19 is not going away, at least not anytime soon. But neither is higher education or our role as The People’s University. We are here to stay, here to heal.

As the Capital’s University, as The People’s University, our mission is to transform lives by preparing students for leadership, service, and success. And our students’ mission is to join with us to heal this divided nation, to honor and sustain democracy, and to prepare the next generation of servant leaders.

On Jan. 6, one year after the insurrection and demolition of our Capitol in Washington, D.C., the New Yorker asked, “Is Civil War Ahead?” The answer is no, no because education, because Sac State, will help to heal our nation and preserve democracy.

And, in spite of COVID-19, we will do it one new student, one recovered student who dropped out, one community member, one community project in Del Paso Heights, one class project on the American River, one redesigned course, one new hire, one or maybe more changes in our tenure and promotion policies, one more renovated art lab, one larger MLK center, one newly constructed Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Center, one more supplemental instruction session, one more Project Rebound student, one more class at Folsom Prison,  one more nursing simulation, one more homeless intervention, one more truckload of food for the Food Pantry, one more Sacramento Black Art of Dance recital, one more DACA student graduating, one more football championship (How about them Hornets? Talk about bringing the community together, talk about healing).

We are destined to succeed one more student at a time.

Education is the great equalizer; it is also the platform for change. If we are to be a Healing University, if we truly want to heal this 50/50 nation, we must graduate our students, providing them with an excellent education, fulfilling the promise of education itself. Hence, for the most recent six years, we have focused on the Graduation Initiative, on increasing our four-year first-year and our two-year transfer graduation rates.

I have already mentioned how well we have done, but to put the increase in perspective our increase from 9% to 25.8% for our first-time fulltime freshmen is a 187.8% improvement, 50 percentage points higher than any other CSU university.

These numbers are not just phenomenal numbers; these numbers are real students who each and every one of you, including people in Facilities, Student Affairs, Human Resources, University Enterprises, Incorporated, the Children’s Care Center, Athletics, the WELL, Financial Aid, the Multicultural Center, the Pride Center, University Communications, the Community Engagement Center, the Anchor University Advisory Council, all the Affinity Groups and the Action Planning Groups who helped produce the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan, all of you have made the Miracle on J Street happen, have unleashed the power of education to heal.

Our governor and our state Legislature know that education — in particular, higher education — is critical not only to our economy but also to the welfare of our state. Hence, the governor has committed to increasing the CSU system’s budget by 5% each of the next five years — 5% for five years, $211.1 million next year alone. 

Unprecedented. And the State has also promised to fully fund 600 additional Fulltime Equivalent Students next year. Yes, fully fund. 

How will we ensure that these new students—and all students—will be prepared to transform our region, state, and nation? Not simply by broad initiatives, but by targeted initiatives to targeted populations, to real individuals.

To continue with the metaphor, we have to treat one student at a time. There is no elixir that we can secretly put into the water. Each person must receive his, her, or their own personal prescription.

And with whom and where do we start?

Just as we started with the vaccinations for COVID-19 and with the vaccination for polio so many years ago, we need to begin with those individuals who are most at risk. As such, we need to rethink and refine our Finish in Four and Through in Two programs.

Instead of broadly focusing on everyone, we need to focus our energy and our resources on our underrepresented students, our Pell-eligible students, our first-generation students; on our students who stopped out because of COVID-19, because of finances, because of administrative barriers; on our students who are close to graduating but have lost track and are spinning their wheels, who need a boost.

If education is truly to be the great equalizer, we must implement specific targeted initiatives to close our equity gaps, especially our underrepresented minority equity gap.

We must focus on those who have not had the opportunities that others have, those slowed and all too often held back because of opportunity gaps.

Now is the time to reinvent the Graduation 2025 Initiative, to make it more targeted and to support it through our Anchor University work, our Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan, and our hiring practices. As I stated earlier, we have made progress, but the opportunity gaps are real.

The CSU System chooses to measure opportunity gaps in six-year segments, using six-year graduation rates. According to the six-year metric, our opportunity gap is 4.1 percentage points for our 2015-2021 cohort of underrepresented minority students. The gap is even larger for our Pell Eligible students—4.8 percentage points, which demonstrates the horrific damage that economic inequity wreaks.

Not everyone will be able to graduate in six years, let alone four years; some may need eight or even more years. We must honor and respect everyone’s personal circumstances. But if we really want to heal the economic inequity gap in our region, then the sooner that we graduate students, the sooner they will be able to access permanent, higher paying employment.

At Sacramento State, for the sake of students, to keep them from going into debt, we will and must continue to focus on four-year graduation rates and two-year transfer graduation rates, and we will do so by tracking our success rates by ethnicity and Pell Eligibility.

Overall, the CSU system has given us a goal of a 30% four-year graduation rate by 2025. We will realistically surpass that goal well before 2025, and we hope to reach a 40% first-year four-year graduation rate by them, which will match the system’s overall goal.

Since 2016, the four-year graduation rate for our African American students has risen from 4.3% to 19.8%. During the same time period, our four-year graduation rate for our Asian American Pacific Islander student has risen from 5.5% to 24.4%.

For our LatinX students, we have seen an increase from 8.6% to 25.1%.

And our Pell Eligible four-year graduation rate has climbed from 5.5% to 23.2%.

Unfortunately, our Native American students’ four-year graduation rate has fallen from 12.5% to 11.1%. We have work to do here, but we have work to do everywhere if we are really going to close the opportunity gaps.

I could easily brag that Sacramento State has already surpassed by 5.5% the 2025 goal that system set for us for our two-year transfer graduation rates. Yes, system set our goal at 38%, and we are currently at 43.5%.

But bragging will get us nowhere — the opportunity gaps for each of the identified underrepresented and Pell Eligible students still exist. To remind all of us, these numbers, these gaps, signify real people, real students. And we want to do better.

So, for the next year, in accordance with the new Graduation 2025 Initiative, we will be dedicating $1,065,000 to five specific targeted initiatives:

  1. Re-Engage and Re-Enroll Underserved Students,
  2. Expand Credit Opportunities for Summer and Intercession,
  3. Ensure Equitable Access to Digital Degree Roadmaps,
  4. Eliminate Administrative Barriers to Graduation, and
  5. Promote Equitable Learning Practices and Reduce DFW Rates.

Yes, to heal our region, as a Healing University, we are going to reach out and re-enroll students who stopped out because of COVID-19, because of economic inequities, or whatever other reason. Just from the 2019 cohort alone, we will be reaching out to 655 students who are no longer enrolled at Sacramento State.

We will also be increasing the number of credits that our underrepresented students earn in their first two years and beyond by increasing the number of courses available in the summer and during intercessions and by providing grants and scholarships to lower the costs of those courses.

We want every student to have the opportunity to earn 60 credit hours in the first two years that they are enrolled at Sacramento State.

I am saddened to report that in the most recent two years, the latest cohort of 1,477 of our underrepresented students earned only 52.8 credit hours. As a consequence, by the end of two years, they are already more than two courses behind where they should be if they want to graduate in four years. We cannot let them fall behind; we cannot allow them to incur more debt.

To make sure that all students stay on track, we will institute block scheduling for all first-year students and sophomores, expanding our Hornet Launch to two years instead of just the first year.

Before we can build the block schedules and load them into the Civitas degree planner, we will have to build degree roadmaps for all degree plans. And we will have to complete transcript audits before students enroll, a goal that we are committed to achieving, that our new students deserve.

The expansion of Hornet Launch is undoubtedly the biggest lift for all of us in this new, revised 2025 Graduation Initiative, but I believe that fully implementing Hornet Launch is absolutely critical if we are going to close opportunity gaps.

I am pleased to report that we have already begun to remove administrative barriers to graduation, but we will go further. We will reassess our graduation filing process. We will reassess our drop for non-payment policy. And we will reassess the consequences of all existing registration hold categories. 

We don’t want any student to be slowed from graduating on time because of bureaucratic red tape.

Finally, each year beginning now, we are going to identify the top ten Drop, Fail, and Withdrawal (DFW) courses with the largest equity gaps, and we will work to improve those courses.

The Provost’s Office recently announced a call to redesign high DFW courses, and we will be using additional funds beyond the $1,065,000 to further this work and to reward the faculty for their time and their efforts. In the meantime, we will transparently track the progress, encouraging embedded tutoring and supplemental instruction.

These targeted initiatives are intentionally intrusive and (I hope) surgical. If we don’t heal our processes, if we don’t heal our classes, how will we heal our society? 

We are at a pivotal time not only in the history of education but also in the history of our nation.

I am often asked if education will ever be the same after COVID-19. When most people ask that question, I think that they are often thinking about online instruction. Yes, more classes will be online. Yes, faculty and students will use technology differently. Yes, there will be more employees working from home.

But education will always be changing, and should always change. I won’t bore you with the details, but Socrates taught in one way; his student Aristotle taught in an entirely different way. What is needed of education today is not what was needed in the industrial age or even in the dot.com era.

Never in my lifetime has education needed to concentrate so much on healing — never have we needed to heal so much, even during the Vietnam Era and the beginning of Civil Rights. Never have we needed more of education.

George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Stephon Clark, so many names … I want to say them all, but I can’t — there are too many. 

We need to remember that we are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And it is education that has the power to heal us, to make us indivisible, to provide liberty and justice for all.

We cannot let racism divide us. We cannot just show up at 6000 J Street everyday and then go home. We must go beyond 6000 J Street. We must eradicate racism on our campus and in our community. We must be an Antiracist Anchor University, a Healing University. We must be there for our students and for our community.

As such, we are embarking on creating a Strategic Plan that will have goals and metrics that ensure that we provide our students with an excellent education, that we truly do transform their lives, and that we transform our community and our region — a strategic plan that unites us.

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee has been hard at work creating a framework for the Strategic Plan. And now I am asking that each of you who are listening to this address, each of you who will read the address, and each and every Sacramento State partner, to join them and be actively involved in creating the Plan. 

I am thrilled to announce that Robin Carter will be returning to help lead us as we develop the Plan and as we celebrate our 75th year of existence. I know that it is hard to believe, but Sacramento State is 75 years old, and celebrate we must.

The celebration must look back. It must acknowledge those individuals who got us where we are — the Faculty Senate leaders, outstanding, award-winning professors, student government leaders, even some administrators, like Guy West, Don Gerth, and Alexander Gonzalez.

But mostly the celebration and the Strategic Plan must look forward, must pave a path forward.

The five imperatives that have guided us these last six years — Student Success and the Graduation Initiative; Diversity and Inclusive Excellence; Community Engagement and the Anchor University Initiative; Philanthropy and the On the Rise Campaign; and Safety and Health — will be embedded in the Strategic Plan.

But with the Strategic Plan, we finally have the chance to define and shape measurable outcomes (as we have done with closing the equity and opportunity gaps). More importantly, we have the opportunity to develop action items, specific initiatives to achieve those outcomes.

Many of those initiatives will come directly from the Anchor University Taskforce Report (and the work that the Anchor University Advisory Council has been doing) and from the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan (and the work that the Inclusive Excellence Team, the Employee Affinity Groups, and each of the Divisions and Colleges have been doing).

With creation of the Strategic Plan, we will begin the implementation of the recommendations of the Action Planning Groups and Anchor University Advisory Council.

But of course, the Plan itself must extend beyond Antiracism and Anchor University work. The Plan must cover student-readiness, graduate education, international education, sustainability, and wellness. It must cover the Innovation Hub and the California Mobility Center on the Ramona property. It must cover the Placer Center expansion in Placer County and our joint partnership with Sierra College. It must also cover Athletics, which serves as the front porch for so many of our returning alumni and for so many new students. And it must finalize how we leave behind our identity as a commuter campus and integrate ourselves into the University Village that is being built around us.

Strategic plans are rarely sexy, and with COVID-19 interrupting our work, we have waited an extra year to write our new Strategic Plan.

People are tired of waiting — and we will not wait to implement critical recommendations from the Antiracist and Inclusive Campus Plan or the Anchor University Task Force Report. I fully understand the concrete, very visceral desire to finish the work that we are doing, to become an Antiracist Campus and to become fully engaged in our community as a truly Anchor University.

After all, Sacramento State is on the rise, and we want to continue rising through philanthropy, through student success, and especially through healing.

People, rightly, nearly every day ask me, “How and when will we implement the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan?”

Inclusive Excellence and the Action Planning Groups produced a 200-plus page framework for significant change at the University, for necessary systemic change, for transformation of our University and thereby the transformation of our students so that, through leadership, they can transform our community, our region, and our nation, as well as the experiences that their partners, children, and friends will experience.

We need the multi-year roadmap that a Strategic Plan will give us. But we need to enact change, make change real now. We cannot abandon the tremendous work that so many have done.

Hence on Feb. 14, we will convene a university-wide Convocation, appropriately named, “A Call to Action: Eradicate, Resolve, and Liberate.”

At the Convocation, we will lay the foundation for our transformation by acknowledging the hard truth of the impacts of racism and exclusion on communities of color and those who have been marginalized. We will hear from a panel of past, present, and future champions for an antiracism and inclusive campus, those who participated in the development of the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan and those who will make it a reality.

And we will hear from them about their experiences writing the plan and their experiences on our campus and elsewhere. We will also hear from keynote speaker, Dr. Bettina Love, about how we can commit ourselves to an abolitionist goal of educational freedom, as opposed to reform, and to moving beyond an educational survival complex.

And in our breakout sessions, we will examine what it looks like to operate from a liberated place in every aspect of our institution. We will learn what implementation will look like during and after the Convocation and how each of us can get involved in transforming our campus.

The Convocation is an important step toward realizing our dreams of being a caring university, a university built around mattering, an antiracist university.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cabinet, the Divisions, and many, many departments have committed themselves to long-term cultural change by developing unit specific diversity and inclusion statements, by creating guidelines on how to create and maintain anti-racist practices and policies, by examining current policies for biases and discrimination, and by evaluating our hiring and performance review practices for adherence to principles of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

The Provost is working with the Faculty Senate, the UARTP (University Appointment, Retention, Tenure, Promotion) Committee, and the Office of Faculty Affairs on integrating antiracism and anchor work into the standards for promotion and tenure.

Human Resources and Academic Affairs are developing policies, procedures, and guidelines for exit and entrance interviews. We are also refining our annual reviews, especially of administrators, so that the reviews hold the reviewees accountable for proactively pursuing and upholding diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives. And this coming year, we will engage the University in an equity survey, not only of salaries, but of the workplace itself.

We have already begun an analysis of our hiring and separation data, and the Office of Faculty Affairs presented to the Cabinet a report on the Hiring and Separation Trends for Faculty from 2016-Present that we will be sharing more broadly in the coming semester.

Overall, we hired 277 faculty to bring us to a total of 716 faculty. However, from Fall 2016 to Fall 2021  140 faculty separated from the University, 48 of whom resigned, and 84 of whom retired. The total net gain is, as I mentioned earlier, 105 new, non-replacement tenure-tenure track faculty.

I am very pleased that we have more faculty, even though we all know that we don’t have enough faculty. Where I am not satisfied is how far we are from our faculty reflecting our student body or our Sacramento community. And I am saddened that so many faculty have separated; just as I am deeply troubled that so many Black administrators left the University last year.

We have to address the separation issue, and we will. That’s why we are putting so much effort into creating a robust exit interview strategy.

Of course, the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan covers so much more than just the diversity of our faculty and our students. But without addressing the diversity of our faculty and administration, both the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan and the Anchor University Initiative will fail, and we will not heal our University, let alone our nation.

We must face the problem now, even before we have a new finalized Strategic Plan.

The numbers tell a story that we must change, change if we are to be a Healing University:

  • 69% of our faculty are white.
  • 26% of our students are white.
  • 7% of our faculty are LatinX
  • 34% of our students are LatinX.
  • 5% of our faculty are Black.
  • 6% of our students are Black.
  • 14% of our faculty are Asian American and Pacific Islander.
  • 20% of our students are Asian American and Pacific Islander.

This data is raw — and it is inaccurate because an increasing number of faculty and students are choosing not to declare ethnicity.

But when your institution has only eight faculty members who declare themselves as Native American out of a total of 716 tenure-tenure track faculty members, you can clearly see that you have a problem, a problem that the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan sees, and a problem that our students see.

Building a new Native American Student Center will help, but it is not a solution. We must change our hiring practices. We must change our tenure and promotion policies. We must build a stronger mentoring system. We must collectively implement the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan. We must reward the work being done to ensure that we are The People’s University, that we are the capital’s Anchor University

We are talking about ending systemic racism. If we are to heal the University, we must heal the system. We must come together as a Hornet Family, not just a Hornet Community, and we must truly live up to our hash tag, #MakingItHappenAtSacState.

Money will help. The 5% increase from the governor will help — we will dedicate it to student success, to access and equity.

The $222,257,798 that University Advancement has raised as part of the On the Rise campaign will also help as we double scholarship and hire more endowed chairs. This spring, we will shatter our $225 million goal that we set five years ago because shatter goals is what we do at Sac State, whether they are fundraising goals or Graduation Initiative goals.

But money will not be the answer. The answer lies in culture, in our Hornet Family culture. We are a student-centered University—a University that loves our students. We exist to serve our students.

But, even when we learn to live with COVID-19, even when we achieve 40% first-time four-year graduation rates, even when our faculty look more like our student body, our work will not be done. There will always be more students, and Sac State will be here for them, here to serve our democracy, here to heal our country until it needs healing no longer.

Now more than ever, we need to believe in each other. We need to listen to what our fellow Hornets have said in the Anchor University Task Force Report and in the Antiracism and Inclusive Campus Plan. We need to listen to what all of you will say in our strategic planning process. We need to be open and accepting of change.

We can still disagree — families disagree — but let’s not be a nation divided. 50/50 does not work, will not work. Honest dialogue, Hornet Pride, Hornet Hearts work. Let’s lead with our hearts and let’s heal. And COVID be damned.

We are the capital’s Anchor University, The People’s University, and what we need most now, a Healing University.

Sac State is No. 1  Stingers Up!

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About Robert S. Nelsen, President

Dr. Robert S. Nelsen has been Sacramento State’s president since 2015. Under his leadership, the University’s role as a regional force and important partner for the community has grown, with Sac State proudly embracing its standing as Sacramento’s capital university.

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Looking for a Faculty Expert?

Contact PIO Anita Fitzhugh
(916) 278-2806 or (916) 217-8366
fitzhugh@csus.edu