I wanted to officially welcome you to the spring 2020 semester, the first of a new decade! I hope you’re as excited as I am to engage with our students, faculty, and staff through courses, activities, research, and community service.

As you continue this semester, I encourage you to be open to new perspectives and life experiences.

Recognize how strong and resilient all our students are as they work tirelessly toward earning their degrees and inch closer to realizing their dreams of a better future. You never know when an interaction (large or small) will have life-altering or career-changing impact. Making meaningful connections with others can deepen your sense of belonging and helps sustain progress toward academic success.

The University is a microcosm of society. Our diverse student population reflects that of California and the nation, and the current turbulent political climate in our country is also reflected on our campus. Tensions are heightened between groups with varied life experiences and opposing viewpoints and beliefs. We all need to be intentional and deliberate in creating a safe and inclusive environment for all, especially for individuals whose lived experience is founded upon generations of marginalization, discrimination, and violence.

I have encouraged faculty to make clear to students their expectations for classroom interactions that are meaningful and thought-provoking, yet respectful, supportive, and inclusive of difference. I challenged them, and I challenge our students as well, to explore the meaning of informed evidence-based debate and civil discourse.

Together, let’s work to reclaim the definition of “civility” as a word meaning a demonstration of respect and courtesy, and not a word that is code for suppression. Let’s model ways to formulate and ask questions designed to deepen one’s understanding of academic content, scientific theories and concepts, and cultural perspectives different from our own.

In these turbulent times, I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos and community.”

Let’s choose inclusive communities of excellence. 

I wish you a productive semester of learning and engagement.

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