Words Matter

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Dear campus community,

As I have mentioned in earlier messages, San Francisco State University is in so many ways a model of a diverse and inclusive university. There are moments, however, when even we are tested. We must remain resolute in our values of inclusion and meet the challenges with education and resolve.

The emergence and spread of the coronavirus is such a moment. Across the country and beyond, we have seen an increase in stigmatizing rhetoric and behaviors toward Chinese and Asian American communities (an increase that Professor Russell Jeung, chair of the Asian American Studies Department, has commented on in nationally broadcast interviews). At this time, rather than acting out of fear and ignorance, we at San Francisco State will respond with compassion, knowledge and justice. As with all viruses, there are things we can do to protect ourselves and one another. Please take time to review these basic health tips and respect one another as we protect our collective health and stand in solidarity with those who are ailing and those on the frontlines fighting this illness.

But this is not the only test of SF State values. In the past week, I was deeply saddened by a small but concerning number of bias incidents on campus, including the use of racial and anti-Semitic language. Over the last decades, the notion that “words can never hurt you” has been soundly discredited by academics, health care professionals, civil right activists and spiritual leaders, among others. At SF State, we embrace and protect free speech, but this does not absolve us of our responsibility to create a welcoming environment for each other. We meet these incidents not with censorship but with education. Words hurt; let’s teach one another why and be open to learning. Faculty, staff and students across campus have initiated many excellent programs promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. Have a suggestion for additional programming? Please share it with Frederick Smith, AVP, Equity & Community Inclusion at FrederickSmith@sfsu.edu.

San Francisco State University is rightfully proud of its reputation for diversity, equity and inclusion. I ask that we work collectively to ensure it.


Lynn's signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.