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Chico State

Addressing Racism and Consent

The flame logo emblem is seen in stain glass on Kendall Hall
Jason Halley/University Photogra

The flame logo emblem is seen in stain glass on Kendall Hall on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

To: Campus Community
From: President Gayle Hutchinson, Vice President for Student Affairs Milton Lang, Dean of Students Sandy Parsons

This week, a photo circulating on social media of one of our students at an off-campus location has triggered outrage and generated complicated, yet important conversations about racism. We thank all of you who have provided us with honest and constructive responses as well as calls for action. We want you to know that we hear you, and that we take seriously the egregious nature of this photo. The University believes racist acts are abhorrent and contrary to our commitment to creating diverse and inclusive learning communities.

At Chico State, we are all here to learn and become better people, even when an unfortunate and hurtful event is at the center of the lesson. With each courageous conversation that tackles racism and other social injustices, our campus community emerges more inclusive and with greater awareness of social issues and a deeper compassion for others different from ourselves. We acknowledge that student success can only happen when all of our students feel safe and valued.

As with any situation we investigate regarding student behavior and conduct, we are unable to disclose the details of the investigation nor the consequences or sanctions that may be imposed. We know people want answers the University simply cannot provide, and in this void, there is a lot of speculation and frustration. In our desire to communicate transparently with you, we obtained permission from this student to share the few details we did. We understand now that unanswered questions have created additional frustration and anger for many in our campus community.

As previously shared, the student did not consent to any part of what happened to her. Ultimately, an egregious act was done to her body without her permission or control and she does not share the perspective of what was written. She was a victim of people who were not her friends and who not only violated her physically but also in the public sphere. This highlights another issue of social injustice: consent. In this case, racism collides with non-consent.

Moreover, it is a bitter reminder to all of us how easily misrepresentation and misinformation can spread on social media. We must also hold ourselves to the highest standard of information literacy, especially in the digital space.

We recognize this incident is a painful reminder to many who have had very real, hurtful, and harmful racist encounters on our campus and in our community, and their outcries cannot go without action. There are students, faculty, staff, and community members who struggle every day with acts of racism, bigotry, and bias. As a campus, we champion diversity and yet we know we still have a long road to go in order to be truly inclusive. This fall, we will conduct several teach-ins led by social justice faculty that address issues of racism and consent.

When we have obstacles, like this one, we will address them together. We will learn from them and find ways to proceed as one university. Unfortunately, this incident will not be the last one we face, but we will move forward with the promise that we will keep confronting them in meaningful and productive ways.