Moving Forward in the Face of Challenges

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

The California State University once again leads the country in making the right decision about Spring semester and making it early. But for many of us that now means we have to prepare for even more months of the “New Now.” Late last week, I sent a video message to our students. I know that the news of a remote Spring deeply affected them. In the days after that announcement was made, I received numerous emails and read dozens of social media posts. People expressed their anxieties, their frustrations, their anger and their relief — frustration with remote teaching and learning, anxiety about the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic, relief that the decision about spring was made early and prioritized public health — and many expressed what I would describe as an angry fatigue at the unfairness of the whole situation.

We have entered our seventh month of remote instruction. It has now been six months or longer since we saw many of our friends and families in person. We have adjusted to wearing face coverings, and we seemingly bathe in hand sanitizer. Many of our families have experienced pandemic-related tragedies of illness, death and economic devastation. The same week that the CSU announced continued remote instruction, over 100 SF State employees were laid off, a decision I was forced to make with the heaviest of hearts. And then, with much of the state in flames, the sky turned orange and we experienced firsthand what an environmental apocalypse might look like. It was a hard, hard week.

This week, I listened to dozens of our students, staff and faculty speak at the Board of Trustees meeting asking that the CSU protect staff from layoffs. I have never been sadder nor more proud. Sad that our budget challenges require that we make permanent budget cuts that will hurt our staff, many of whom are alumni. But I was proud to hear person after person stand up for SF State, its mission and its students. While we cannot avoid these layoffs, we can advocate together to get funding restored to the CSU and to ward off future cuts. Additional permanent funding and enrollment growth would also allow us to hire back staff. 

In my recent video message, I told our students that I believe that this is the hardest moment in recent U.S. history as multiple troubles collide. Last Friday, for many, the moment took a darker turn with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a feminist icon and a leader in the fight for women’s rights. I turn to her example now as we navigate ongoing public health and environmental crises, growing economic hardship, and increasing social and political unrest and conflict. 

Many will find something in Bader Ginsburg’s writings, actions and life to help plot a course through the next few months. Her career as a litigator demonstrates how individual, incremental gains can add up to incredible change. Her work as a justice on a conservative court demonstrates the impact of dissent. Even when you don’t win, your dissent has value and power. Her judicial activism demonstrates that advocacy works. This extraordinary woman overcame great professional obstacles and leaves a nation transformed by her quiet but powerful intellect and drive. 

Like another great leader who transitioned earlier this summer, civil rights icon John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life reminds us that we are not powerless even in the face of great challenges. We can and will move forward, however hard the moment may feel. We can advocate together to protect the state’s greatest educational resource – the California State University. 

I conclude with observations made by RBG’s former law clerks, Abbe Gluck and Gillian Metzger, published in the New York Times on Saturday.

     “Her commitments were always the same and grew ever louder. Even at the very end, she reminded us how much more work there is left to do.” 

Let our commitments to our students and to our communities remain steadfast over the next months as there is much left to do.

As always, I thank everyone for all they are doing and wish you all good health.


Lynn's Signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.