Message from President Wong: End of Semester

Dear SF State faculty and staff,

May is upon us, and with it, the end of the academic year. The issues of campus safety and intolerance that came to the fore this month continue to loom large in my mind and in my heart. I will reiterate: racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Arab rhetoric and other forms of aggression and discrimination are not welcome on this campus. We all have a right to coexist, just as we all have a right to be heard. We are a microcosm of the larger world, and we cannot build a wall around our campus to keep others who don’t share our community values out. Instead, we must call-out and reject hate and discrimination when we see it, but also remain open to listening to perspectives that are different from our own. Finding this balance is a challenge.

Update on Campus Climate Initiatives

As I indicated when I wrote to you in my last message, my Cabinet and I have taken immediate action, and I have the following to report on our progress:

  • I have begun work on creating and charging a President’s Task Force on Campus Climate. The Task Force will be chaired by me, along with a University representative and a community leader. Additionally, the task force will be composed of four subcommittees focused on students, faculty, staff and community engagement. These subcommittees will be chaired by Vice President Luoluo Hong, Provost Jennifer Summit, Vice President Ann Sherman, and Vice President Robert Nava, respectively.
  • Vice President Luoluo Hong, with my support, is recruiting three positions to help us next year and beyond; an Assistant Vice President for Equity and Community Inclusion, a Dean of Equity Initiatives, and a Director of Human Relations and Campus Climate. Preparation work will begin this summer.
  • The revision of the Time, Place and Manner Policy, including a new section that addresses posting on campus by both internal and external groups, will be finalized and in place by July 1, 2017.
  • The investigation into the alleged exclusion of Hillel from the Know Your Rights Fair this spring continues to move forward. We are conducting a thorough inquiry, carefully following all due process requirements. The outcome of an investigation has the potential to impact the lives of both the complainants and the respondents; all parties deserve a careful, complete inquiry into the matter. However, I want to be clear that exclusion from full participation in an educational activity, event or program on the basis of viewpoint or protected status will not be tolerated. If we learn exclusion occurred, we will respond to findings of responsibility with strong and appropriate action.
  • The Academic Senate, Provost’s Office, and President’s Office have begun planning a series of events, discussions and lectures next year that will explore question of “How to be a University in a World of Conflict.” We are in a position to lead the higher education community once again in constructing a new and different vision for teaching and learning in a troubled world. It has my full support. We all need to engage in this important year of conversation.

Commencement 2017

While the anxiety over world events and those on our own campus can feel overwhelming at times, we have a lot to celebrate. As you know, Commencement is Thursday, May 25th, at AT&T Park, and your presence and your support will boost the sense of community and accomplishment of our graduating students. We will be honoring two significant alumni with honorary diplomas. Peter Casey is among the most significant producers of situation comedies in the history of television. His Emmys for such memorable shows as “Cheers” and “Frasier” testify to his immense talent. And then there is John “Johnny” Mathis, a legendary singer whose voice has graced us over six decades. He maintains an active live concert schedule and is still actively recording. Our commencement speaker, Neda Nobari, is an alumna, who graduated as a computer scientist and went on to business stardom with BeBe Stores, Inc. Her philanthropic interests now energize our awareness of diasporas, and in particular, the Iranian diaspora. All three symbolize for me owning your own mind, making a difference and living a meaningful life. They all inspire me. Please join me in congratulating our graduating students. I believe they will live up to our expectations and follow in the footsteps of our Gator alums!

Celebrating our Successes

Tremendous credit goes out to the Vice Presidents, their teams and all of you. In a very short amount of time we have cut our enrollment target shortfall nearly in half. Focused, strategic and tireless, we have implemented a number of initiatives that are making a difference. More courses, more advisors, an in-depth strategy to remove “roadblocks” and significant improvement in using data to inform our moves. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been successful. We just submitted our long-term plan to advance the Graduation Initiative 2025 to the Chancellor, as required of all CSU campuses. I am proud of our collective work. I am even more gratified by the results being produced. Thank you all!

We continue to exemplify academic and intellectual excellence on so many platforms. The values of our strategic plan continue to inspire awards in the public eye. But there continues to be a commitment to living up to those values in our communities and in our neighborhoods. I think of these as more meaningful and perhaps more important but less heralded: we influence the lives of those around us in meaningful ways. Hearing individual stories from our students, families and alums about how we changed and improved their lives is a privilege I honor.

SF State Exemplars

Others are recognizing our impact, and there below are just a few of the accolades bestowed on our community members during the spring semester:

  • Anita Silvers, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy, received the Wang Family Excellence Award for 2017 recognizing outstanding faculty among the 23 campuses. 
  • San Francisco State graduate student Andrés R. Vindas Meléndez is a National Science Foundation Fellow studying combinatorics.
  • Engineering undergraduate Alec Maxwell won first place and Design undergraduate Lamar Pi won second place in the CSU Student Research Competition, competing against students from all 23 CSU campuses.
  • Project Rebound and Documentary Film Institute at SF State presented a screening of “Life after Life,” by filmmaker Tamara Perkins.
  • SF State has earned a STARS Silver Rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). 
  • Amy Sueyoshi, associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies, has been selected to be one of the community grand marshals for this year's San Francisco Pride Parade. 
  • Ten SF State alumni were part of the Bay Area News Group team awarded Pulitzers for reporting on the “Ghost Ship” fire and the loss of one of our students, Michela Gregory, and two alumnae, Donna Kellogg and Jennifer Mendiola.
  • The SF State men's basketball team won a spot in the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament for the first time in 23 years.
  • The women’s track and field team took second place at the CCAA Championships with a team score of 153 points, both school records. 

I wish you a very happy end of the academic year, and thank you for all of your efforts in support of the University. I believe in our mission, our values and our community. I believe in SF State.

Les Wong