July 16, 2012
Greetings to the campus community,
In the almost six weeks since I arrived on campus I have felt warmly welcomed by staff, faculty, and students. I look forward to meeting and getting to know many more of you as we quickly approach the fall semester.
Since my arrival I have grown to appreciate even more the many strengths of this university I now call home. Anticipating much busier days ahead, I want to take the opportunity now during the relative quiet of the summer months to offer just a few initial thoughts and impressions, and specifically share some of my observations about the extraordinary diversity that exists on this campus.
When I considered the opportunity to become the fifth president of California State University, Northridge, one of the attributes that most excited me was the wonderful and enriching CSUN diversity. One has only to walk around campus to see and hear evidence of the amazing diversity here.
As I began to acquaint myself more fully with the history and present strengths of CSUN, I was struck by the depth of this diversity. I read with interest the rich history of activism for civil rights surrounding the early founding of our Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and the Chicana/o Studies and Pan-African Studies programs. Presently, there exists no true majority race or ethnicity on this campus—the traditional census categories simply do not describe our community.
I have become more familiar with our degree programs in Deaf Studies, Asian American Studies, Queer Studies, Central American Studies, Jewish Studies, Spanish-Language Journalism, Languages and Cultures, Teaching English as a Second Language, and more. Ever responsive to the changing needs of the community and the global landscape, we are introducing new programs like the planned M.A. in Intercultural Communications and minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. And I am proud to have learned that for 27 years we have hosted the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, the largest of its kind in the world. Our commitment to supporting students of all backgrounds is demonstrated well by our extraordinary National Center on Deafness (NCOD) which enrolls the largest number of deaf students of any mainstream university in the U.S. I was also fascinated to learn that we educate the largest number of Armenian students outside the nation of Armenia.
Before arriving on campus I was impressed to read that CSUN ranks 10th in the U.S. in bachelor’s degrees awarded to under-represented students. I was further impressed that CSUN is 5th in the U.S. and 1st in California for bachelor’s degrees and 10th nationally for master’s degrees awarded to Hispanic students—graduates who are now making an impact in California and beyond.
Student organizations on campus include nearly every cultural group imaginable and a growing number of international students have chosen to study at Cal State Northridge. Certainly the definition of diversity at Cal State Northridge has expanded to include world cultures.
I could go on and on. In short, CSUN is a university where diversity abounds, and in diverse ways! This is a university that offers diversity, values diversity, and thrives on diversity. The education offered our students in the classroom is amplified by the cultural competency nurtured from having studied, worked, played, and lived with students who bring an array of differences to the experience. Our students also benefit from studying and interacting with a diverse group of faculty, staff, and administrators. Students leave Cal State Northridge ready and able to succeed in a diverse world, with the preparation and skills so necessary in today’s global economy and multicultural society.
Clearly, diversity at Cal State Northridge is celebrated, nurtured, and held as a central and core value. I have seen that the CSUN community takes pride in the diversity of its students, staff, and faculty. While diversity inevitably yields conflicting views, this is no excuse for delegitimizing or dehumanizing others. Likewise, actions such as discrimination, harassment, and the expression of bigotry are abhorrent and threaten our core values—we simply do not tolerate them. This is essential to ensuring that Cal State Northridge is and remains a safe and productive learning and working environment. As your president, I am responsible for ensuring this.
The university has procedures and due process in place for investigating and dealing with all complaints of discrimination and harassment, and I want to make sure that our entire community is aware that this university takes seriously all such allegations. On this campus, the Office of Equity and Diversity is specifically designated to receive complaints of discrimination and harassment based on protected categories. Additionally, any supervisor or faculty member can receive such allegations and should engage the Office of Equity and Diversity for further assistance. This extends to all students, all employees, all visitors, anyone who is part of our community.
I am excited to be here at Cal State Northridge. I sincerely appreciate our diverse learning and working environment and our community where differences are celebrated. We all have opportunities to learn from, be challenged by, and enjoy others whose life experiences can enrich our own. I look forward to meeting and getting to know more of you, learning from you, and working collaboratively to enrich the incredible assets that CSUN has to offer.
Dianne F. Harrison, Ph.D.
President, California State University, Northridge