Monday was a frightening and confusing day on campus. The University became aware of concerns circulating online about a non-student individual whose behavior, several days prior, drew alarm. A University Police investigation revealed that though there was no actionable threat, his disturbing, racist social media posts and behaviors represented a disruption to the campus community, and he was issued a “Stay Away” order prohibiting him from returning to campus.

Although we have an open campus, our community became focused on an individual whose spirit and words of hatred threatened our personal safety and security and targeted African Americans, which is completely unacceptable. This works against our ability to provide a safe learning community for our students and contradicts our values of diversity and inclusion.

Given this individual’s behavior and history, your feelings of unease were understandable and we know the situation was frightening. It was for all of us. In today’s reality, I am deeply aware why stories like the ones circulating yesterday are unsettling and scary, even though there was no actionable threat. I want to talk about what we’re going to do next.

Safety always comes first at Chico State. As Chief Reid’s message yesterday indicated, this person, who is not a student here, has been issued a “Stay-Away” order, and UPD will continue to monitor the campus to ensure he does not return. The University is constantly reviewing and enhancing security measures across campus including building access protocols. Additionally, UPD continues its preventative patrol that places police officers on the campus core or in facilities during peak activity times, to be more accessible and available, and conduct security checks.

While we have made many strides as a campus, we know our African American students and other students of color continue to have experiences at Chico State and within the greater community where they feel targeted. We must all work to fight against any acts of hatred, bigotry, and bias. We acknowledge that student success can only happen when all of our students feel safe and valued.

If Monday’s events have been a trigger for you, please know you can access support services from the Counseling and Wellness Center 24/7 by calling 530-898-6345. The Cross-Cultural Leadership Center is also open this week as a welcoming and healing space.

Conversations have already started to address this matter, and I am looking for an opportunity to bring the campus together later this week to discuss issues of safety, hear your concerns and experiences, and to let those become a part of shaping our way forward.

While Chico State is generally a safe place, we experience the inherent threats and risks that exist anywhere. You, your colleagues, and the students you teach and work with are likely struggling with feelings of unease this week, and we encourage you to have open conversations with one another on both the validity of these concerns as well as affirming that the University works every day to keep our campus safe. It is on all of us to look out for one another’s safety and well-being, and we encourage anyone with concerns to never hesitate in reporting suspicious activity or behavior.

At the same time, this incident is a powerful reminder to us all about our responsibility in the social media age. The challenges with digital literacy are many, but we must do our best to be discernable critics of any information circulating online. In knowing there is almost always more to the story and working to tell truth from fiction, we can dispel unsubstantiated ideas or misinformation before they take root, hopefully preventing the panic we saw yesterday and maintaining vigilance and responsiveness for when true threats do occur.

When we say your safety and well-being is our priority, know that it is heartfelt. Please, know how sincerely we, and your fellow campus leaders, care for you and our students. We will never stop working to provide a safe place for you to learn and work and appreciate all you do each day to support us in that effort.