CSU Commitment to its Employees and Students
September 21, 2023
Last week’s CSU Board of Trustees meeting was a challenging one. The Board discussed, and ultimately approved, a tuition increase. With only two sources of revenue available to the CSU (state funding and tuition), the Board, while expressing regret, voted to increase tuition based on a clear need for additional revenues. Studies have demonstrated a funding deficit for the CSU and the critical need to better compensate CSU faculty and staff. Investing in our employees is an investment in our students and their future.
We have an equally strong responsibility to our students to make sure cost does not impede their access or progress. A third of the additional tuition raised will be channeled back into financial aid as State University Grants (SUG). Undergraduate tuition will increase $342 next year, and graduate tuition will increase by $402. This will generate approximately $9M in extra tuition for SF State—$3M of which will automatically be allocated to SUG and will provide more SF State students with more financial aid.
As the student stories shared with the Board of Trustees attest, the total cost of attendance—especially housing—can make a degree prohibitively expensive. This is an area in which we must do better by increasing available aid and making it easier to access it. Last year, we allocated $300,000 to grants designed to help students with unpaid balances stay at SF State, augmenting the existing HOPE Crisis grant program. Our successful advocacy for a state-supported residence hall will reduce the cost of on-campus housing by 25% for low-income students. And, just last week, the SF State Foundation Board discussed plans to focus their philanthropic efforts on funding that reduces the total cost for students. All know that students are struggling with the total cost of attendance. While there are no quick or easy fixes, this a key priority for the University.
“…the future of California depends on our students and graduates.”
As you work with students, particularly those with concerns about being able to pay the additional amount next academic year, please encourage those facing financial challenges to contact Financial Aid. Students experiencing sudden or acute need should contact the Dean on Call, apply to the HOPE Crisis Fund, or reach out to the Basic Needs team. There are resources available to assist students. Please encourage them to ask for assistance.
I assure you that the remaining $6M raised for SF State by the tuition increase will directly support employee compensation. At SF State, 91% of our base operating budget (a combination of state support and tuition) directly supports wages and benefits for employees, 90% of whom are faculty and staff. I remain deeply committed to supporting fair and adequate compensation for SF State employees.
The discussion at the Board last week affirmed what we all know—state funding for the CSU has lagged behind our need. I am grateful to be in a state in which the Governor and legislature have made a compact with public higher education to provide additional funding despite a serious state budget shortfall. But it is simply not enough.
I conclude by paraphrasing CSU Trustee and SF State alumnus Jose Antonio Vargas who implored the state to look at the funding inequities in California’s higher education system and demanded that the state do better for the CSU. We must continue to work together to advocate for adequate funding for the transformative education that we provide students. As Trustee Vargas noted, the future of California depends on our students and graduates.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
August 21, 2023
Dear campus community,
Welcome to Fall 2023! It has been wonderful the last week or two to catch up with colleagues and students as fall activities began. Many of you have shared stories of long-delayed family reunions and travel, of camping trips and summer concerts, and progress on projects and work. I hope all achieved the difficult balance of having productive and restful summers.
Fall semester opened with a nearly full house at Convocation thanks in large part to our special guest—Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. S.F. Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Shamann Walton also joined us. All spoke to the importance of higher education and of SF State’s mission to provide access, degree attainment, and upward mobility to California’s diverse population. Supervisor Walton, an alumnus and a Gator parent, shared how a SF State education helped him and his family. Associated Students President Ersa elegantly summarized our role as “a beacon of knowledge, a place where dreams take flight and where students from diverse backgrounds come together in pursuit of a brighter future."
It was a wonderful way to start the semester.
Like Ersa, I appreciate the remarkable diversity that characterizes SF State. It is a hallmark of the educational experience we offer. Much higher education news this summer was consumed by the Supreme Court decision to declare affirmative action in college admissions unconstitutional—an action that undoes decades of work to improve access and diversity. I was more than disappointed by the decision as it ignores the reality that race matters, that centuries of systemic racism need systemic redressing. But I was also frustrated by the obsession with admissions to elite universities. They have never been engines of equity enrolling small percentages of low-income and Black and Latinx students. The work of educating America’s diverse population has been done by SF State, the California State University (CSU), and other comprehensive regional universities.
It was refreshing in late July to see the SF Chronicle acknowledge our mission and role. Half of California’s undergraduates attend the CSU, 25% attend UC campuses, and less than one percent enroll at Stanford. The CSU, without question, drives the state’s economy and is the largest driver of the upward mobility of its diverse peoples. The CSU enrolls 41% of the state’s Asian and Asian American students, 50% of its Black students, and 64% of its Latinx students. No education system in the U.S. comes close to this kind of impact.
“We have so much to be proud of… As we begin the academic year, I encourage all to look for ways to engage and participate in our community…”
SF State shines within the CSU for its student diversity. As the SF Chronicle noted, out of the almost 200 institutions offering bachelor’s degrees in California, SF State ranks fourth for Black student enrollment and 12th for Asian and Asian American and Latinx student enrollment. This is something to cherish and celebrate, as are our recent college rankings. Money awarded SF State 4.5 out of five stars in their “Best Colleges in America 2023” and U.S. News and World Report ranked us number 15 for “Top Performers on Social Mobility” – a ranking I value more than I do most other rankings. I share with you all deep pride in our mission to serve students and in our successes, but we must all embrace the need to do far better.
A recent report by the Campaign for College Opportunity demonstrated that we still have much to do to close equity and opportunity gaps in student outcomes. While lauding us for gains in our graduation rates, the Campaign noted that SF State, and the CSU, will fall short of the goals we set for ourselves for 2025. As I have said before, the greatest demonstration of our commitment to social justice starts here by increasing the success of our students, especially our Black, Latinx, and first gen students.
As I look forward to this academic year, I am energized by our work with Excelencia in Education to become more intentional in our work to support Latinx students and our joint effort with the CSU and USC’s Race and Equity Center to elevate Black Excellence. Our attention to consistent advising, better completion rates in courses, holistic support for the student experience, and an intentional focus on belongingness will yield results and improve our enrollment. Retaining and graduating our students is our number one priority.
We have so much to be proud of. The accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff are amazing, as I detailed in my Convocation remarks. As we begin the academic year, I encourage all to look for ways to engage and participate in our community:
Check out GatorFest! Lots of opportunities to greet students and say hello to colleagues!
Attend a Gator athletics game, visit an exhibition, watch a performance, attend a lecture—including a reading by the poet Jessica Care Moore in October.
Join us for the second annual Discover SF State for prospective students on October 21st, an opportunity to share your enthusiasm for SF State with prospective students.
Or just enjoy our beautiful campus in community with one another—gather a group of colleagues or students for lunch at Cesar Chavez or a picnic on the Quad.
As always, I thank you for all you do to make SF State a world-class university and a great campus. I wish you all a wonderful academic year.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
July 17, 2023
With appreciation for your candid feedback and ongoing engagement, I am pleased to update you on our continued efforts to nurture and strengthen a culture of caring, safety, belonging and respect at San Francisco State University and across the California State University (CSU).
Cozen O’Connor law firm has completed its assessment of how the CSU and its campuses respond to reports and incidents of discrimination and harassment. Through a series of interviews, campus visits, survey results and email feedback, they have identified core observations for improvements at both the system and campus levels. The recommendations from this assessment will guide and help us improve our Title IX and Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation (DHR) training, awareness, prevention, intervention, compliance and support systems.
The full report of the systemwide Cozen assessment, including a summary report and a San Francisco State-specific report, can now be found on the CSU’s Commitment to Change and SF State Title IX websites.
As I mentioned in a previous email, Cozen presented an initial overview of their assessment to the Board of Trustees on May 24, 2023. (You can view a recording of the presentation on YouTube. The Cozen presentation begins at 23:15.) The state audit of the CSU and four other CSU campuses will also be released shortly. We expect its findings to concur with those iterated by Cozen.
As I have also detailed in an earlier email, we assembled SF State’s Cozen Implementation Task Force in Spring 2023 which includes representation from across campus, including faculty, staff and students, to review the findings and advance Cozen’s recommendations. We have a lot of work ahead of us which I am deeply committed to accomplishing. With these important findings and recommendations now in hand, the Cozen Implementation Task Force will commence work at the start of the Fall 2023 semester.
Key areas of focus and action over the months to come will include:
- Creating processes that foster a welcoming environment and protect academic freedom;
- Creating a culture of care that both complies with legal requirements and fosters an environment in which all behaviors of concern are addressed;
- Building trust in our processes and offices;
- Reviewing staffing needs;
- Improving data collection in alignment with other CSUs to facilitate consistency and transparency;
- Improving communications, including the website.
I am grateful to VP Jamillah Moore for her leadership over this work and am pleased to introduce Lori Makin-Byrd to the community. Lori will serve as Acting Title IX Coordinator and DHR Administrator and will serve as co-chair with Jamillah of the Cozen Implementation Task Force. Lori has extensive experience working in the equity and compliance field including as the Senior Advisor to the President for Civil Rights and Title IX Coordinator at the College of Wooster. I am confident that her extensive experience in the field will help to support the work that we’re all dedicated to.
I am also pleased to announce that we hired a SAFE Place Advocate, Nour Loren, who will start August 1, 2023. We will share her contact information with the campus community once she starts. As a reminder, here are current resources for those experiencing harassment and discrimination:
- To make a report (all students, faculty, staff and/or public) complete this online form
- To report a crime and to receive emergency assistance: SF State University Police Department, (415) 338-7200, firstname.lastname@example.org
- For students: Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Services Building Room 205, 415-338-2208, email@example.com
- For employees: Employee Assistance Program, 1-800-367-7474
- Off-campus: SFWar (San Francisco Women Against Rape): 3543 18th Street, Suite 7, 415-861-2024 or 415-647-RAPE (24-hour hotline), firstname.lastname@example.org
I am grateful to the Cozen Implementation Task Force members who will invest their time and effort in addressing the key areas of focus and actions outlined above. The President’s Cabinet offers its full support and commitment. Our ambitious goals will require substantial planning and will be accomplished in stages. We will continue to share our progress and specific plans as they are developed and evolve.
Thank you again for helping to ensure SF State is a safe and inclusive place where all can thrive.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
July 12, 2023
Dear campus community,
Today, the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees announced that Dr. Mildred García, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), will serve as the 11th chancellor of the CSU effective October 1. Please read this press release and email message from the CSU to learn more about the news.
I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from Chancellor-select García while in her role as AASCU president. She also previously served as president at CSU Fullerton and CSU Dominguez Hills. Her years of service to the CSU will be to our benefit as we navigate the current higher education landscape. Please join me in welcoming her back to the CSU. I look forward to working with Dr. García closely to address student, faculty and staff needs at SF State and across the system.
I also express my gratitude to Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester who has done so much for the CSU. It has been an honor working with her this past year to advance the nation’s largest four-year university system.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
June 29, 2023
Dear campus community,
It will strike some as ironic, even tragic, that the Supreme Court of the United States chose the week before the July 4th holiday to declare the use of race in college admissions unconstitutional given a goal of its practice was to achieve the equality promised in the Declaration of Independence. While the use of race in public higher education in California has been prohibited since 1996, the CSU has remained committed to educational equity and redressing historical inequities, as a recent statement by the state’s public higher education leadership affirmed.
As we approach the July 4th holiday, I want to encourage all to take a moment to reflect on the holiday’s promise, as well as enjoy the day. I have been giving thought to the ways in which the upcoming holiday should inspire and motivate us. I had the pleasure of hearing Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi at the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club Pride Breakfast. As we celebrated Pride amidst growing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and a political culture pushing anti-trans rhetoric and legislation as a foundation of the 2024 presidential election, Speaker Pelosi reminded us that the path from July 4, 1776, to the present has been a long and torturous one in pursuit of civil rights and social justice. She implored us to remain vigilant in support of communities marginalized by others—a message that resonates deeply at SF State.
SF State and the CSU embrace this work. Today I highlight three initiatives that demonstrate our commitment to inclusion and social justice. I will share longer updates in the future and encourage you to follow the progress. In June, Chancellor Koester shared the report submitted by the Black Student Success Workgroup, Improving Black Student Success and Elevating Black Excellence—a bold commitment to change. You received an email last week from the CSU promising the publication of a forthcoming assessment of CSU Title IX and Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation (DHR) policies and practices and a commitment to improvement. We will share that assessment as soon as it becomes available. Last week, the CSU also received the results of a state audit on CSU efforts to meet the goals of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and California NAGPRA. All of these reports indicate gaps in our work to better support Black Excellence, to create harassment-free environments, and to be better stewards of our relationships with California’s indigenous peoples. Clearly, there is much to be done to right the path of justice.
At SF State, we will go beyond complying to embrace real and lasting change, as we always have. We have already begun this work and will share information on the initiatives in greater detail, as well as ongoing work resulting from campus climate surveys and projects like our collaboration with Excelencia in Education. Look for updates this fall.
So, as I reflect on the July 4th holiday, I am grateful to be a member of the Gator and CSU families who willingly embrace social justice work and am hopeful that one day we will be able to finally respond to Frederick Douglass’s 1852 exhortation to make July 4th a holiday for all when “the great principles of political freedom and…Justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, [are] extended to all…”
Wishing all a Happy 4th of July and a good summer!
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
June 30, 2023
Dear campus community,
I write today with the exciting news that Governor Gavin Newsom’s appointments to the California State University Board of Trustees include our own Darlene Yee-Melichar. Darlene is full professor and coordinator of Gerontology in the School of Public Affairs & Civic Engagement in the College of Health & Social Sciences.
Besides being a valued faculty member, Darlene has been an active member of the University community for 23 years, offering her expertise and knowledge for important committee and shared governance work in addition to an unwavering commitment to our educational mission and students.
Please join me in offering congratulations to Darlene and gratitude for her continued commitment to SF State and the CSU.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
June 2, 2023
Dear campus community,
The last weeks of May found our campus busy with the typical rush of end-of-the-year committee meetings and project deadlines, with papers and exams for our students and grading for our faculty. But it also found us humming with dozens of events celebrating student accomplishments, particularly those of the Class of 2023--all culminating in SF State’s 122nd Commencement held at Oracle Park last Friday. The San Francisco State University family gathered to celebrate over 7,000 graduates along with thousands of their loved ones. As always, it was a joyous occasion reminding us all how powerful our work is and how uniquely wonderful our students are.
Thank you to all of the staff, faculty, administrators and student volunteers who helped make this year’s ceremony a successful event and special day for our graduates and families.
As I did last year, I cede the core of this message to our graduates who spoke at Commencement as they shared the challenges they faced, the values and people who helped them succeed, and their desires to realize a just and humane world.
Associated Students President Karina Zamora shared some of the challenges that the Class of 2023 weathered along their journeys to graduation, including semesters of remote learning. She celebrated the growing number of Latinx students earning degrees and the pride of many of our graduates who are the first in their families to attend college. Karina noted the joy experienced “the first time someone with the family's last name earns a degree.”
Iese Esera, Associated Students Chief of Staff and Chair of the Board of Directors, spoke of the deep personal connections made at SF State and described us as “a playground of ideas, concepts, progress, and even tears, and laughter.” Iese celebrated the diversity of peoples and viewpoints at SF State and urged us to appreciate “human connection” and cautioned us to not “diminish or undervalue the experiences that each of us bring to the table” and to value our individual and collective humanity.
Nicole Bañuelos, the 2023 undergraduate hood from the College of Science & Engineering, shared her experiences as a homeless single parent who overcame great adversity to earn her degree in Biology. Her “experiences taught [HER] that there is no power in the world greater than the power that lies within us.” Nicole applauded the “resilience, talent, and expertise” of the Class of 2023 and celebrated the collective strength of students working together “to bring justice to others and pave the way for a brighter tomorrow." Together, she reminded us that we can “provide hope to the hopeless, empower the disempowered, bring voice to the voiceless, and create justice where injustice formerly reigned.”
Hasti Jafari, the graduate hood from the College of Liberal & Creative Arts, spoke eloquently of the fight for freedom in Iran and the joy she has experienced practicing freedom daily while earning her MFA in Creative Writing. She has “learned that freedom is beautiful, but the path to it is often excruciatingly uncomfortable, painful, and looks different for everyone.” Hasti spoke of the loss of life and persecution experienced daily in Iran and encouraged us “to see their fight is your fight, as the basic rights of women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ and disabled communities are under threat in this country as well.” Hasti poignantly reminded us that “in this deeply interconnected world, none of us are free until all of us are free.”
Our students urged us to continue to embrace our mission of educational equity, to reject exclusion and embrace inclusion, and appreciate the opportunities to learn and grow at SF State—messages echoed in the remarks of our honorary doctorate recipients, Ben Fong-Torres and Satsuki Ina, and our key note speaker, alumni Jayshree Ullal. I was particularly struck by the remarks shared by Satsuki Ina, a Japanese American activist, filmmaker, and academic who stressed the strength of the simplest of values—compassion:
“We need all that you bring, and more than ever, in this world of conflict, violence, injustice, and suffering, we need your compassion. We need you to care and love, family and friends of course, but also the stranger, the other, the foreigner. Reach out beyond your comfort zone, welcome the outsider. It is compassion that can mend the fractures, heal the wounds, and bring us together, our human family of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. It is what can someday make world peace a reality.”
So simple and so powerful.
I offer once again my congratulations to the Class of 2023 and thank my colleagues and our students for all they do to make San Francisco State University a uniquely special place. I wish all a good summer!
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
April 24, 2023
Dear campus community,
I write today to share a happier message and some review of the events of last week, including an update on the Turning Point USA event and news about the great success of our admitted student day, Explore SF State.
Last Wednesday, we demonstrated our commitment to free speech while successfully hosting a speaker whose views do not align with the University’s commitment to inclusivity. We arrived that morning to find the campus awash in chalkings asserting trans rights and other values we hold dear—silent but meaningful assertions of our commitment to justice and community. I am grateful to all who protested peacefully and extend my thanks to staff, faculty and administrators who worked hard to both support students and ensure that the event was not disrupted. I acknowledge, in particular, the Time, Place & Manner (TPM) committee, faculty and staff volunteers, campus safety, and those who hosted teach-ins and other alternative events.
Right-wing media and social media commentary will continue to misrepresent the event to fit their agenda. I assure all that the University’s TPM committee worked with the student organization to accommodate the event. RSVPs to the organization's invitation quickly exceeded both the fire marshal approved capacity of the first booked room and then a second larger room we offered. With RSVPs exceeding 800 and no large venue available on campus for April 19, TPM offered the student org several avenues: a virtual option that could accommodate up to 3000 attendees, assistance identifying off-campus venues with larger capacities that might be able to host the event on April 19 or rescheduling on campus for a date when a larger venue would be available.
The student leaders declined those options and informed TPM that they would hold their event outdoors on the Campus Quad. TPM advised them of pertinent rules governing spontaneous events. The speaker instead announced late Tuesday night the event would be held at a nearby, off-campus location and the student org made plans for the speaker to join them at their tabling on the Quad earlier in the day. Both the tabling and the off-campus program were reportedly uneventful. I am grateful to the many who worked tirelessly over the last two weeks to protect free speech and amplify our own deep commitments to inclusion.
In most ways, last week was a typical week on campus—students attended class and hung out on a sunny Quad, faculty and staff worked hard as we entered the last weeks of the term, and it ended joyously, as hundreds of SF State students, staff, faculty and administrators greeted over 6,000 newly-admitted students and their families Saturday morning. Faculty shared information about academic programs, staff described our many support services and student engagement opportunities, and students shared their love for SF State and ways for students to get involved. Live music by student performers filled the Quad, the planetarium hosted visitors and thousands took tours of campus. I am deeply grateful to the teams in Enrollment Management, to all who made the day a success, and to the facilities and grounds crews who made us shine! In this instance, pictures are worth more than a thousand words.
April 18, 2023
Dear campus community:
The intense political polarization of the last decade and its amplification on social media pose new challenges for universities. In particular, college campuses have become sites for politicized conflicts over free speech. I write today to help all understand better why the University must defend the right of all speakers to speak but, just as importantly, to implore that we, as an academic community, not be drawn into conflicts over speech but rally instead to the causes we embrace.
As a recent article in the Golden Gate Express details, some organizations and speakers encourage this conflict, hoping to elicit negative responses on college campuses and looking to draw more media attention to their message. Let’s not inadvertently amplify the divisive messages of others but instead draw attention to speakers and events that support our individual and collective values.
I have received numerous emails asking why I or the University allow certain speakers on campus. First and foremost, we are legally obligated to support freedom of expression. Denying any speaker the right to speak based on the content of their speech would quickly ensure a period of long and expensive litigation. But, more importantly, I support freedom of expression because far more often opponents of this basic right have used it against causes I hold dear like educational equity and civil rights or to stifle accurate depictions of history in textbooks. I support freedom of expression to protect us all.
But there are speakers who will use this right to share messages of division and exclusion, and some as I note above hope to elicit negative responses on college campuses wanting to draw media attention to themselves. We became one of these campus sites of conflict two weeks ago, and, while the discussion with the speaker was peaceful, her departure from campus was unnecessarily delayed by protestors until University Police and SFPD could escort her off campus. This left many on campus very upset while also providing a platform for the speaker and organization to gain media attention and support. This is not an outcome any here desired.
We face our next test tomorrow, Wednesday, April 19. Turning Point USA is hosting a speaker whose message many here will find abhorrent. There is the potential for a large number of participants, and it is likely that the event will occur spontaneously on the Quad, as we have informed the student organization that we have no available venue large enough to host the number of RSVPs they have received. Please note that there will be heightened University Police presence on campus tomorrow to keep all safe.
I urge us all to defy the expectations of media and others who want to see us react negatively and instead use this moment to amplify values of inclusion and not values or speakers we find objectionable. Just as we are an exemplar for social justice, I urge us to become an exemplar for allowing freedom of expression and avoiding the conflicts that some who politicize free speech would like to see occur here. There is no ultimate gain to shouting down or threatening speakers with whom we disagree. I applaud the many faculty, staff and students who have and are actively designing alternative events, hosting teach-ins, and promoting silent and nonviolent means of protest.
While I encourage those who want to hear the speaker or engage with him constructively to attend, I write today to implore all not to disrupt the event or attempt to shout down the speaker, or engage negatively with other participants. Doing any of these will amplify divisive speech and messages and empower speakers with whom you disagree. Engage in protest that does not amplify the message. Boycott the event, protest peacefully, attend the teach-in being held that day, promote your own values and support one another.
There is great support for activism at SF State, but we cannot support behaviors that disrupt events and threaten speakers or anyone on campus. The safety concerns are obvious, but I want to draw attention to the other costs of behaviors that stifle freedom of expression. First, as said above, conflict creates powerful platforms for divisive speakers and actually amplifies their messages. Second, I urge all to consider the impact threatening behaviors have on the staff who manage these events. These are our colleagues from Student Life, Human Resources, Administration & Finance, and Academic Affairs.
I know that having speakers that disagree with our core values can be frustrating, but it is unjust to then redirect it at our own SF State community members. Third, depriving others of their rights – including the right to free speech – is unlawful and cannot be tolerated on our campus. As set out in the CSU Code of Student Conduct and the laws of our State, such action can have serious consequences.
Again, let’s defy expectations, let’s show that we can support our values and disagree with others without providing platforms for polarization and misinformation. There are so many ways to engage in positive, transformative change and promote social justice at SF State. In that spirit, I urge you to participate in Earth Week events to promote important discussions about climate change—the existential crisis of our time. Attend a hip hop celebration or the teach-in being held for SF State students and employees in Humanities 587 tomorrow from 11-3. Faculty and staff will also be available throughout the day to engage in discussion with you and to offer support.
We have defied expectations for decades, let’s do it again.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
April 10, 2023
Dear campus community,
Last week was a hard one for San Francisco State. As an academic community, we are deeply committed to academic freedom, freedom of expression and to the right to teach and learn free from censorship. But, as we have seen here and at many universities, balancing these with dearly held commitments to inclusion and social justice is hard and painful. We saw this all too clearly last week in two unrelated incidents.
The first involving a class illustrated how challenging it is to implement antidiscrimination policies, processes, and trainings, especially in connection with academic freedom. The second centered on a controversial speaker whose remarks rejected our University’s deeply held values of inclusion and social justice and were deeply hurtful to many members of our community.
The Classroom Incident. Last week, the Office of Equity Programs & Compliance initiated an investigation into an incident that occurred in an Islamic Studies class. Our systemwide antidiscrimination policies and processes are governed by federal and state laws, and they are complicated and legalistic. In this case, our implementation of these policies prompted faculty concerns about academic freedom.
I am deeply committed to protecting academic freedom. I am also deeply committed to protecting our students’ and employees’ rights to learn and work in an environment that is free from harassment and other forms of discrimination. This incident highlights some of the challenges that SF State and other CSU universities face in implementing our systemwide antidiscrimination policies. SF State will work swiftly to address the concerns raised by all involved in this complaint and will include the Academic Freedom Committee in that work.
I offer my personal apology to all who have been disappointed by the University’s response to this incident, particularly the professor whose experiences illustrated these challenges and the students who felt disrespected and unheard when they shared their concerns.
The Public Speaker. Last Thursday, Turning Point USA hosted an event on campus that advocated for the exclusion of trans people in athletics. The event was deeply traumatic for many in our trans and LGBTQ+ communities, and the speaker’s message outraged many members of the SF State community who value inclusion and social justice.
I applaud the students, staff and faculty who rallied quickly to host alternative inclusive events, protest peacefully and provide one another with support at a difficult moment. Unlike previous events on this campus and other campuses, I am proud to say that the First Amendment was honored. The speaker expressed her views and engaged in dialogue with those present. In fact, a Turning Point USA representative noted in a media interview that the discussion was “constructive and polite.” Unfortunately, a disturbance after the event concluded delayed the speaker’s departure. We are reviewing the incident and, as always, will learn from the experience.
Due to the attention this speaker received from national media, you may see or receive communications critical of the University, its employees, and its values. Please respect their right to voice that opinion, even if it differs greatly from your own as long as you do not feel personally threatened. If you do feel threatened, contact the Office of Campus Safety or the University Police Department immediately. Please also avail yourselves of the support services for students or employees as needed.
Universities are complex places that require and deserve complex responses for our community to thrive. We must be rigorous in protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression, but we also have a responsibility, individually and as a community, to express respect and compassion for one another. I ask that you all take some time this week, and every week, to check in with a student, with a colleague, and offer an ear, a shoulder and compassion. And to our trans community, please know how welcome you are. We will turn this moment into an opportunity to listen and learn about how we can better support you.
In closing, I am thrilled to report on the near-conclusion of our WASC reaccreditation process. While we will not receive the final report for several weeks, I share with you the commendations we received from the review team last Friday. We were commended for promoting student well-being and student success; for our inclusive strategic planning; for improving communications and expanding leadership opportunities to better include more perspectives; and for establishing the Enrollment Operations and Retention Operation committees who are removing obstacles to student success with great speed and enthusiasm.
There was one more—I saved the best for last. We were commended for “demonstrating the institution's orientation to social justice and its history of activism.” Last week, we saw this demonstration in our commitment to creating a community free of discrimination, our commitment to protesting ideologies of exclusion and in our commitment to free speech. Some of it we did well and some needs improvement.
As the president of an educational institution, I embrace this as an opportunity to learn and grow. We will review and improve our implementation of the CSU’s antidiscrimination policies, processes, and trainings. We will ardently defend faculty rights to academic freedom and our community’s right to work and learn free from discrimination and harassment. We will continue our work to provide space for all speakers. And we will continue to provide resources and support for all members of our community, each and every one of whom belongs at San Francisco State. I cannot promise we will always do this perfectly. I can promise that this will be hard and messy, and that we will continue to learn together.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
April 6, 2023
Dear campus community,
I write to you today to update you on Cozen O’Connor Institutional Response Group’s review of the CSU implementation of Title IX and Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation (DHR) Programs. Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Leora Freedman has announced that review has been completed.
I want to thank all members of our community who participated in the review by providing email feedback and attending open forums. I invite you to watch the live presentation of the system-level findings at the May CSU Board of Trustees meeting.
All students and employees have the right to learn and work in an environment that is free of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct and retaliation. I look forward to receiving SF State’s findings and working with the Implementation Team and the University community to make needed improvements. I will share our campus specific report once it is available.
As always, thank you for all you do to make our campus a safe and welcoming place for all.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
March 15, 2023
Dear campus community,
I have been reminded recently just how unique SF State is and how that presents us with a special opportunity to be something few institutions have achieved—a truly inclusive university that celebrates diversity, welcomes difference and works hard to help all feel a sense of belonging, individually and collectively.
Two recent campus visitors shared with me their amazement at our campus diversity. Like many in higher ed, both have spent their careers at primarily white institutions and reveled in the breadth of the diversities they saw here. I was reminded what a privilege it is to work in such an environment. But as I have said before, demographic diversity itself is insufficient—what is important is how we celebrate it and inculcate belongingness. How do we provide spaces for folks to explore and affirm their identities and ensure the belongingness that becomes the foundation of a shared SF State experience?
While we have much work to do, I have not had to look far to see evidence of those spaces at SF State. In early February I attended the Open House hosted by the Division of Equity & Community Inclusion. I visited with students and colleagues in the Black Unity Center, the Latinx Student Center, Asian American & Pacific Islander Student Services, and the Dream Resource Center. I had a chance to catch up with colleagues from Health, Promotion & Wellness, EOP, Jewish Student Life and many other areas.
I saw it in January when many came together at a wrestling match to honor Hamzah Alsaudi and support his teammates and family. I saw it again later in February when I was invited to a Chicken and Juice gathering in celebration of Black Excellence and Black History Month hosted by Black faculty and staff. And I regularly (when all this rain not interfering!) speak with the students hosting tables outside Cesar Chavez encouraging their peers to join an incredible range of student organizations, including Associated Students, the Muslim Student Association, Greek Life, the General Union of Palestine Students and the League of Filipino Students, among so many others! A glance at our social media stories demonstrates the incredible variety of events hosted by folks across campus, including last week’s S.H.E. L.E.A.D.S. conference.
What I see almost everywhere I look are hundreds of staff, students and faculty dedicated to creating spaces for celebration and belongingness. But we know that there is much work to be done. I am pleased to announce that we continue our work with Excelencia in Education to strengthen Latinx student success and with local schools and community partners to ensure that California’s Black communities know that their academic success in a priority for us. We continue work to hire a coordinator of Muslim Student Life and to find our Muslim students and colleagues better space for prayer. We have launched a search for a director of the Black Unity Center and are nearing completion of the search for a director of Asian American & Pacific Islander Student Services.
We also continue work to ensure that faculty, staff and administrators better represent the rich diversity of our students. Academic Affairs is implementing the “Equity and Student Success Cohort Hire” initiative designed to hire excellent faculty with expertise in the areas of curricular transformation and pedagogical practices explicitly centered on closing student equity gaps with the goal of welcoming 15 new faculty in Fall 2024. And CEETL and others continue their nationally renowned work on equity-driven pedagogies.
The list of organizations, events and initiatives is endless, and the commitment deep and broad. SF State has been a leader in educational equity and social justice for decades. As folks elsewhere fail to embrace diversity, we will once again be leaders for cherishing it and ensuring the belongingness that allows us then to celebrate what we share as Gators!
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
January 26, 2023
Dear Campus Community,
Happy 2023 and Lunar New Year! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and found time during the early (and wet!) weeks of the new year to both catch up and reenergize. While I appreciate the quiet time winter break allows for reflection and planning, I miss the energy and enthusiasm that you all bring to campus. Welcome to spring semester!
Sadly, we start the term in the wake of great tragedies. My thoughts are with the members of our community who have been deeply affected by events both near and far, particularly our AAPI communities who have been through so much. The tragedies in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park are the latest deeply unsettling and all-too-frequent mass shootings plaguing the nation. I remind all that the University provides information about how to respond to an active shooter, as well opportunities for trainings – please email email@example.com for more information.
Closer to home, we keep the family and friends of SF State student athlete Hamzah Alsaudi in our hearts as he remains missing following a swimming accident. As we return to campus friends and routines, please remember to show care for those around you and for yourself.
I have always found the start of a new academic year or a new semester exciting—beginning with a childhood love of school supplies. Sharpened pencils, pristine notebooks and even those clunky binders were a sign of exciting things to come. While the symbols of a new beginning may have changed, my excitement remains undiminished. We are yet again on the brink of an exciting period of teaching, learning and working.
As I made the transition to administration, I missed being in the classroom full time. I came to realize, though, that I was still teaching, albeit in different ways. I was advising. I was training new staff. I was mentoring new colleagues. I was, in fact, teaching all the time—as are all of you. As an academic institution, our work is different and, as a mission- and values-driven organization, it can be more rewarding than other workplaces. In all our interactions with one another, we teach, we mentor, and we support.
The teaching and mentoring that our faculty provide is without par. Some among our dedicated staff assist students while others more directly serve their colleagues, teaching us all how to navigate a complex university. Administrators train and mentor staff and faculty, as well as teach students. And our students mentor and teach one another and all of us—my favorite classes were always the ones where I walked away having learned from my students.
I chuckled at a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The almost unrelenting focus on elite research universities in the media typically frustrates me, as they represent such a small percentage of universities. This article, though, made me smile. In response to growing criticisms of higher education, the authors implored research universities to do what we at SF State have always done—embrace our roles as teachers. The authors implored their colleagues “to commit, state publicly, and make good on the idea that undergraduate education and student welfare are top priorities.” We do not need to be asked to do this at SF State. It is who we are. It is who we all are.
As we welcome the start of spring semester, I encourage you to celebrate the purpose and value in what you do and what we do. Recognize your value and the value of all members of the SF State community. At a university, we are all teachers and we are all students. We learn, grow and thrive together.
I close, as always, in gratitude for all you do and for the honor of serving such a remarkable community.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
February 2, 2023
We are at a unique moment in the history of higher education in California and across the U.S. I recently read that we may finally be entering the endemic stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are, however, emerging into a world different than the one we left in March 2020 as individuals and collectively. In higher education, we are wrestling with the impacts of the pandemic including responding to declining enrollments and finding a balance between new opportunities to use technology to create more flexible teaching, learning and work environments and the benefits of being together in community on campus and in-person. Clearly, we have been challenged to live in interesting times, and we will continue to meet these challenges, as we have for the last three years.
As I mentioned last fall, the CSU has not been immune to enrollment changes as COVID-19 accelerated dramatically downward enrollment trends present before the pandemic. Our sister universities to the south have experienced years of consistent enrollment increases while most of Northern California has experienced declines which reflect the current population density in the state. Last week, at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting, Chancellor Koester announced an anticipated process to move forward with a reallocation of CSU funding to align with changes in enrollment across the system. Campuses that are more than five percent below their funded target will begin to experience reductions in their state allocation beginning in 2024.
Currently, SF State is at least 17 percent under our funded target and, while we project modest enrollment growth over the next few years, we will remain well under target for the foreseeable future. In addition to the declines in tuition revenue which we have already experienced, we now anticipate reductions in our state allocation that require more work to align our expenses with our enrollment. We anticipate needing to reduce our expenses by approximately $30M over the next four years.
While $30M is a daunting figure, we do have several years to gradually reduce our spending by 10%. We currently serve more than 21,000 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) students —a large university by any one’s standards—and we anticipate enrolling more than 22,000 FTE students in the coming years. We are and will be a large and thriving university. We remain an economic driver for the city and region and a source of upward mobility for thousands of students and their families. We will just be a bit smaller and need to reduce expenses accordingly.
We anticipated this and began working with the University Budget Committee (UBC) two years ago to reduce our reliance on the tuition we were are no longer collecting. We are prioritizing our work to grow enrollments. We launched a Strategic Enrollment Plan and are implementing many key initiatives to increase retention and the success of our students. We are projecting enough growth in enrollment to stabilize our budget by 2026-27 if we all work together to improve retention. I cannot emphasize enough the need to work together nor the good news that our purpose and role remain unchanged – we are and will continue to be a major metropolitan university serving the civic, cultural and workforce needs of our region and state.
I do not want to underestimate what we are facing. We will work through this transparently and collegially, minimizing the impact on our students. I urge you all to attend University Budget Committee meetings, as work allows, for university-level details. We will also host a series of Enrollment and Budget Briefings at the university, divisional and college levels to provide more details, hear concerns and answer questions. We will continue to meet regularly with the Academic Senate, Staff Council, constituted governance bodies and union leadership. Shared governance remains our greatest strength.
I am mindful that pandemic challenges have left many tired and frustrated, and now we face yet another challenge. I watched with awe and joy as we worked together to reopen campus in Fall 2021. I know we can again work together to meet the demands of aligning enrollments and budget.
As always, thank you.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.
February 10, 2023
Dear campus community,
I write today to update you on our efforts and those of the CSU to create a safe, welcoming and caring campus environment.
One key component of those efforts at SF State is an effective Title IX program in our Office of Equity Programs and Compliance. I want to encourage you to participate in the CSU’s Title IX Assessment survey, which will remain open through February 15, 2023.
This survey is part of a systemwide review by Cozen O’Connor Institutional Response Group, which is assessing each of the 23 CSU campuses response to reports and incidents of discrimination and harassment to help us improve CSU Title IX and Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation (DHR) systems for training, awareness, prevention, intervention, compliance and support.
You are also invited to participate in one of the open forums for students on Wednesday February 15th at 3 p.m.; faculty on Friday, February 17th at 11 a.m.; or staff on Tuesday, February 14th at 11 a.m.
We know that this is a sensitive topic that may be triggering for some. Participation is voluntary and responses are confidentially delivered directly to Cozen.
More information may be found on the CSU Title IX Assessment website.
On our campus, much work has been done to ensure that our Title IX office is positioned to effectively serve our students, faculty and staff, including:
- Hiring of four Title IX/DHR investigators and a case coordinator
- Targeted Preventative Education Meeting (TPEM) resolution process to address problematic behavior that does not arise to the level of a policy violation but still must be addressed
- Upgraded case management system
- Community outreach
- New open office hours and training program
Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that SF State is a caring and safe environment to learn, work or live. Vigilance and compassion for one another helps us create a campus free from harassment and sexual misconduct.
Thank you for all you do to make our campus a welcoming, safe place for all.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.