From the Desk of the President

This page houses the personal and professional opinions of President Parham.

Formation of Task Force on Racial Reconciliation

July 20, 2020

Campus Community,

The challenges of the past several months have brought into sharp focus the racism and structural inequities that are too pervasive in society. The continued assault on and murder of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people in communities across America leave all of us shaken to our core, angry at the injustice, disgusted at the brutality, nauseated by the inhumanity, and vocal in our indignation. In response to that barbarism, the Black Lives Matter movement and various cohorts of organized social advocates and community members throughout the nation and world have raised their voices in collective outrage, demanding that this nation and its institutions confront the vicious legacy of individual and institutional racism. In the wake of demands for reform and justice, many of society’s most enduring institutions are taking a hard look at their own structures and practices, in an attempt to wrestle with the possibility that their organizations could use more enhanced scrutiny. Indeed, this nation is on the precipice of a social reawakening that demands all segments of society interrogate what they can do to achieve a just and equitable life experience for every citizen.

While certain domains have been the targets of social advocacy and intentional examination around their policies and practices, the community of higher education generally, and this campus specifically, cannot afford to be insulated from any analysis that addresses challenges that lay ahead. We are an institution of higher learning founded on the values of social justice. We as a campus community cannot become dispassionate spectators to our own history, but must be active participants in our institutional growth and development, to fulfill our vision to be a model urban university.

Consequently, I, along with executive leadership, have decided to constitute a Task Force on Racial Reconciliation to assist our campus in identifying ways in which this university can achieve greater degrees of congruence between our aspirational goals and the policies, practices, and institutional customs that frame our educational enterprise.

It will be essential for our campus community to work together and move forward. Therefore, in the spirit of transparency and communication, a web page will be created to list the Task Force members, state its purpose, solicit feedback, and provide ongoing updates. I want to thank Dr. Donna Nicol, chair of Africana Studies, and Dr. Anthony Samad, director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute, for agreeing to co-chair this task force. I also want to thank the other members, to be named shortly, who will participate and engage in this important endeavor. I look forward to the recommendations they will advance and to closing the gap between the institution we aspire to be and the policies and practices that we engage in on a daily basis.

I am confident that CSUDH will courageously take the needed steps to move the needle in this complex yet critical work, and I look forward to reporting back to your soon. Simply put, we cannot do it without every member of our village – the students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Sincerely,

Thomas A. Parham, Ph.D.
President


Emotional Caring: A Letter to the Campus Community

June 25, 2020

Campus Community,

As our official summer season dawns, I write to you today with a different flavor of messaging. The times we are confronting have tested us all in unusual and profound ways. Consequently, as we have attempted to respond quickly and reasonably to our changing circumstances, we have all tended to focus on the needs and obligations directly before us. Yet, even as we actively engage and address the issues of our time, I do not want us to lose the human side of the equation, in contrast to the more task-oriented and sometimes automatic nature of our workflow and daily rituals.

In my work over the years, I have been fond of saying that, where students are concerned, pride factors get them into places like CSUDH or other universities, but human factors get them through. Taken in a different context, I am acutely aware that human factors are important elements that must be attended to as we continue to face the crises before us.

Indeed, our focus on humanity was the driving factor that established the health and safety of our entire campus community as the beacon for our fall planning initiatives. Our focus on humanity in the earliest days of COVID-19 adaptations had us opening our computer labs and purchasing devices to accommodate those students whose technological circumstances were insufficient or non-existent. Our focus on humanity allowed our residence halls to be populated by students who, for reasons of foster care, homelessness, or family issues, needed to remain in our student living communities despite the urgency that most students move out. Our focus on humanity helped us find the resources to support students who the federal government deemed ineligible for CARES funding. Our humanity allowed us to cultivate and distribute financial gifts that provided necessary resources to those who had unfulfilled basic needs. Indeed, that is some of the best of what we do as a Toro Nation.

While the authentic nature of our humanity has invited us to care for others, I want to remind us all that self-care is essential as well. I see your work ethic. I hear about your commitment and dedication. I read about the efforts many of you are expending to help out your fellow Toros and this campus with whatever is needed. I appreciate all of that. However, I want you to care for yourselves as well.

In this moment of reflection, I find myself thinking less about WHAT I need to do as your president and more about WHO I need and want to be for all of you in this moment. So in that spirit of self-care, while I will refocus some of my energy inwardly and invite you all to take care of yourselves, know that my sense of self is more collective in orientation.

Thus, I want to be an extender of compassion and empathy to all of you who need your administration to know that you are managing these uncertain times, compounded by life circumstances with some amount of anxiety and fear. I want to be the curator of your trust, acknowledging that everyone involved in planning for our future do so with your health and safety, as well as your best interests, in mind. I want to be the supplier of optimism, asserting that while the challenges before us regarding COVID-19, racial oppression, state budgets, etc. are significant, we have the personnel and talent to navigate them successfully.

I want to be a president who leads with love in a fear-based world because I love this campus and all the efforts faculty, staff, senior administration, students, and external stakeholders expend to fulfill our mission and help us reach for greater degrees of excellence. And, I want to be a purveyor of hope in recognizing that “trouble don’t last always,” that the vast majority of us are committed to change, and that things will get better in the months and years ahead.

Be well, stay healthy, find ways to do something nice for yourselves, and make authentic connections to the people in this life you care most about. GO TOROS!

Sincerely,

Thomas A. Parham, Ph.D.
President

CSUDH Statement on DACA Decision

June 18, 2020

Campus community,

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Trump Administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As a result, hundreds of thousands of individuals are proudly calling out, "Home is here!" Indeed, the United States is the only home most Dreamers have ever known, and CSUDH stands with them in proclaiming our delight and relief at the court's decision.

And we will continue to stand with you, because we realize that DACA is a temporary solution and more steps are needed to reach full citizenship for our Dreamer brothers and sisters. Today’s Supreme Court ruling threw out the Trump Administration's attempt to end the program because it did not follow the proper procedures for dismantling such a program. It is yet to be determined if other attempts will be made to end DACA with a different rationale and process. Let's celebrate this victory, but remember that it is but one battle in an ongoing fight to protect our neighbors, friends, and classmates who are American in every way except on paper.

The CSUDH Toro Dreamers Success Center will be announcing plans for further actions and ways to continue to move the conversation forward. Concerned community members can contact the center for information, resources, and suggestions at (310) 243-2782 or tdsc@csudh.edu.

Rest assured that we will not retreat from the challenge to create a more equitable and just nation that recognizes the dignity and humanity in us all. Social justice has always been a key aspect of CSUDH's mission, and we will continue to support and fight for our undocumented students in every way as we navigate our way forward. Your fight is our fight.

This circumstance has shown once again how urgently our nation needs lasting reform to its immigration system, and we must demand that our representatives in Washington rise to that challenge. CSUDH, along with a coalition of dedicated partners, remains committed to advocating for and supporting our Dreamers and undocumented Toro family members.

In solidarity,

Dr. Thomas A. Parham, President
Dr. Michael Spagna. Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs
Dr. William Franklin, Vice President of Student Affairs
Mr. Chris Manriquez, Vice President of Information Technology/CIO
Ms. Deborah Wallace, Vice President of Administration and Finance/CFO
Mr. Michael Losquadro, Interim Vice President of University Advancement
Mr. John Walsh, University Counsel
Ms. Deborah Roberson, Chief of Staff
From Tragedy to Transformation: Thoughts on Confronting Racism

May 2020

I write to you in an hour of racial tension and social strife that is gripping this nation. The plague of unchecked assaults and traumatic violence aimed at Black, Brown, and poor people of this nation leaves all of us stunned, sickened, and nauseated. My heart goes out to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other families who live with the pain of loved ones lost to senseless violence. As a CSUDH family, I ask you to join me in honoring and praying for both the souls of those whose lives were taken, and the families who seek to assuage their grief, righteous anger, and pain by synthesizing demands for justice with thoughts for a brighter future in our nation.

The incidents in Minneapolis in the aftermath of the Floyd murder bring into sharper focus the raw pain, anger, hurt, anxiety, fear, and outrage that people are feeling. When human rights are so violently violated, liberties so thoroughly trounced, freedoms so frivolously forgotten, humanity so profoundly disrespected, and cries for relief from the pain and suffering being inflicted are so callously disregarded, it makes sense to strike back at the systems and institutions you perceive as oppressing you.

I understand this impulse completely. Yet, when legitimate forms of freedom of speech, demonstration, protest, and social advocacy deteriorate into the rioting and looting of stores and businesses that people depend on for their daily sustenance, such behaviors must be guarded and guided by the higher principles that instigated our outrage in the first place.

While Brunswick, Louisville, and Minneapolis are hundreds of miles away from Southern California and the CSUDH campus, I am cognizant that there are teachable moments in this tragedy, and that institutions of higher education have a role to play in addressing the ills of our nation. In addition, the collective community orientation many embrace, and the compassionate sentiments we feel in these emotionally painful moments, impact all of us in profound and lasting ways.

Consequently, if you find yourself needing to talk, listen to others, reason, shout, or just try to make sense out of this poignant reality, know that campus personnel and external resources are available to assist you. Please reach out and contact our campus student mental health, affinity centers, or employee assistance professionals:

  • For students, our dedicated team of Student Health and Psychological Services professionals are available to assist you and may be contacted at (310) 243-3818.
  • In addition, our student affinity groups are open virtually, including the Rose Black Resource Center, Multicultural Affairs, Women's Resource Center, EOP Center, and Queer Culture and Resource Center.
  • Additional psychological resources for students, faculty, and staff can be found on the SHPS Psychological Services web page.
  • Faculty and staff can receive assistance through LifeMatters. They can be reached at (800) 367-7474, and are available 24 hours a day for immediate, in-person access to services. LifeMatters can also be contacted online through the CSUDH LifeMatters portal, password: DHtoros.

The social justice roots that this university was founded on run deep in our campus DNA. Yet, if we become passive spectators to our history, instead of active participants in actualizing the full promise and possibility of our educational mission to challenge biases and assumptions, confront bigotry and prejudice, eradicate cultural ignorance, and help students, staff, and faculty realize a greater measure of our common humanity, then we have not completely fulfilled the legacy we have been blessed to inherit.

Let us commit to use this tragedy as the impetus to become better versions of ourselves, and find a way as a Toro Nation to impact this country and a world that is sorely in need of transformation.

Mind the Gap - Is a Gap Year a Good Idea in a Time of Crisis?

May 2020

Summer is nearly upon us, which typically would mean opportunities to engage with family and friends, with social gatherings, barbeques, music festivals, and sports all on the menu. We would then enjoy the transition into fall, with the promise and excitement of a new school year motivating students and teachers nationwide. Unfortunately, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis will make these next several months much different, with major disruptions weighing on this year's high school seniors and community college transfer students.

Many have applied to universities and colleges, and have by now received acceptance letters from a number of those schools. Normally, students would have already declared which school they are planning to attend. But the COVID-19 pandemic has created such disruption to the academic schedule that many institutions like ours have modified their timelines, pushing back deadlines for intent to enroll decisions from newly admitted students until June 1st. Consequently, lots of students have been spending the past few weeks pondering their futures, contemplating where to enroll, or if to instead take a gap year during all this turmoil and uncertainty.

Gap years provide students with a deliberately planned pause or break between one segment of their studies and another, whether between graduation from high school and the beginning of college or between earning their bachelor’s degree and starting graduate or professional school. While there are a small percentage of students nationally who usually consider that possibility, the COVID-19 health crisis has a greater number of the newly admitted class of 2020 exploring that option.

Some of my colleagues in academia have written opinion pieces encouraging students to pursue this break in their studies. Avoiding burnout, improving academic performance upon one’s return, receiving unit credit, enhancing one’s maturity, and securing independence are among the reasons cited. In an op-ed in the New York Times, the writer shared that her daughter was strongly considering the option of a gap year rather than engaging with a virtual reality for some or all of her first year in college.

No one can blame students and families for exploring this option. After all, the uncertainty in the air regarding fall planning, and the strong possibility that the pending semester will begin in a virtual format is quite evident. In fact, a number of universities in the nation, particularly those in the California State University system, the nation's largest system of public higher education, have recently announced their plans to be principally virtual this fall. Others in the country appear to be following suit. Yet, despite the probability that the semester will begin virtually, I can think of a number of reasons why students and their families should rethink a gap year at this time.

My rationale for opposing a gap year, despite the turmoil that now confronts us, begins with the fact that higher education is one of the greatest engines of social mobility in our nation, particularly for culturally different students and those that come from economically challenging circumstances. In fact, several universities, including California State University, Dominguez Hills, where I serve as president, have been recognized for their work in elevating the social mobility of their students and their families. The sooner a student begins their academic journey, the faster they will finish, and be able to take advantage of the expanded range of job options and increased salary potential that comes with a college degree.  A gap year delays the launch of that trajectory toward greater success.

There is also something to be said about academic continuity and momentum. Immediately continuing one’s studies catapults a student into the midst of college life, excited and engaged with their academic and co-curricular learning. Taking a gap year potentially derails that momentum. For some students, it will be difficult to recapture.

An additional variable centers around the distractions of work, expanded social activity, opportunities to travel, and accumulation of bills to pay. During a gap year, an individual may become so engaged with these endeavors that it's difficult to get back on track with their university studies. While some students may have the discipline to easily re-engage and re-enroll in school, others will find it easier to extend their gap year indefinitely, giving them a bigger hurdle to climb once they decide to get back in the game.

Finally, I am cognizant of the fact that while a gap year typically allows one to work, travel, and engage the broader spaces of one’s community, the COVID-19 health crisis has significantly disrupted such plans. People are still being advised to stay home, job are being lost, businesses are closing or reducing workers, and domestic travel is being restricted. International travel is even more of a challenge, and the predicted second wave of this global pandemic has not yet arrived. Indeed, I would definitely invite students to rethink the notion of a gap year.

Rather than bow out, I am encouraging students to lean in. True, the virtual reality that now frames much university instruction is very different than what students were expecting. However, it may be that working from home or remote locations is providing new college students with an advanced peak into a future where more and more of the world’s affairs will be conducted via web-based conversations, seminars, and virtual realities.

In the end, there's a strong possibility that the adaptations and technological innovations forced on us by the pandemic will become essential components of our working world going forward. Taking a gap year might set some students back more than they know or expect.copy