Fall 2011 Convocation Speech
President, Associated Students
Fall 2011 Speakers
August 22, 2011
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Chair of the Faculty
Associated Students President
Staff Representative to the Academic Senate
Good morning. On behalf of the students of Sonoma State University it is an honor to be invited to speak here today. I’d like to start my address with direct language from a source we are all familiar with. “The mission of Sonoma State University is to prepare students to be learned men and women who:
- have a foundation for life-long learning,
- a broad cultural perspective,
- a keen appreciation of intellectual and aesthetic achievements,
- will be active citizens and leaders in society,
- are capable of pursuing fulfilling careers in a changing world, and
- are concerned with contributing to the health and well-being of the world at large.”
The mission statement of Sonoma State University is what we as community are dedicated to providing to our students. The mission defines who we are and where we want to go. We must maintain our mission if we are to be effective as a university.
Beyond the mission we must focus on how our students feel and interact with the University. I remember the first time I stepped on campus. It was late April 2007 my family and I were touring universities. Sonoma State just happened to be on the way back and I knew little to nothing about the university. My mother and I joked about living around cows but nonetheless we decided to stop in for a tour. I still remember the shock I had when I first started walking toward Salazar. Each person I passed was friendly and took the time to say hello and smile. I still remember my tour. I was so impressed with Sonoma’s core mission and I saw myself here. Then magic happened I passed Stevenson Hall on the lakeside. There I saw the ivy in bloom and in that moment I knew that there was no other school for me. I still remember March 2008 there was a blizzard outside. I’m from Lake Tahoe just in case you all are wondering. My mother called me and said the letter had arrived. I was so incredibly nervous and I told her to open it. When she said I was accepted I squealed and danced around my room. As early as orientation I was able to start connecting with students, faculty, staff, and administration. The professionalism and overall friendliness made my transition into the university smooth. At Big Nite I found the Queer Straight Alliance and that’s how I first interacted with co-curriculum and found a community of comfort. A couple weeks into the first semester I would attend a leadership retreat. At that retreat I realized that I wanted to be involved in the Associated Students and started with committee work. I fell in love with student government and worked my way to the presidency.
Our students all have their stories on why they chose Sonoma and why we as students continue to stay here. All of us have our expectations of what our university should offer us. We expect to be able to take a wide variety of courses that will foster our intellectual development. We expect our classes to enhance our ability to think critically and engage in insightful dialogue. We expect to be able to get into courses that we need. We also expect to graduate in a timely fashion. We expect to not spend the next 20 years paying off student loan debt. We expect our faculty to not only be experts in their field but to be committed to teaching and mentoring us. We expect there to be quality advising that will help us navigate our educational and future plans. We expect the university to provide us ample opportunities for career placement after our time here. We expect to go to a wide variety of events be they intellectual, spiritual, social, physical or multicultural. We expect our university to create a climate that we feel comfortable and supported in, no matter our background. We expect to feel a part of the Seawolf community.
As a representative of the students, I feel it is my duty to say Sonoma State University is falling short of meeting the expectations of the students, falling short of meeting our mission statement. We see semester after semester fewer classes being offered. We see some of our most impactful lecturers not coming back. We see a huge problem in academic advising. We see that it is becoming near impossible to graduate in four years. We see our tuition exponentially increasing. We see an economy that is not providing jobs and a university that is not providing adequate career counseling. We see our programming options being cut down as mega classes start to take over limited venues.
We see students of diverse backgrounds feeling uncared for because this university would rather talk about diversity on four different committees than put any sustainable resources toward diversity. The fact that we do not have a functioning Multi-Cultural Center when school starts on Wednesday is disheartening beyond belief. We have about 1100 Latino students here and yet there is not a single Seawolf Service line that says “Se Habla Espanol”. How are we supposed to make our campus inclusive and comfortable for all students when Sonoma State University does not even have the basic foundation for diversity? Since 1980, the Multi-Cultural Center has never received sustainable funds from the University instead it has only received departmental or auxiliary funding at random intervals. Diversity needs to be treated as a mandatory cost for this campus. Our students are going to have to work and live in a diverse democracy and we as a university are doing them a disservice if we continue to not prepare them. We are done with this university talking about diversity it is time for this community to commit energy and financial resources.
For clarification I define diversity as more than race or gender, I am talking about as Age, Ability, Ethnicity, Gender, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation and Socio-Economic Status. We as a community made up of students, faculty, staff and administration must make diversity our top priority. We all must strive to learn and act on improving our multicultural competency. For clarity multicultural competency is our ability to understand another culture, and thus be able to communicate and work with people that are different than us. We need to create a community where every Seawolf feels comfortable and included. So what are some basic things we can do as community members? Well as students we need to hold each other accountable to what we say and how we act. As faculty you will make a great impact on the diversity on this campus through mentoring students and take action to innovate your entire curriculum to include a core of diversity. As staff your mentorship also plays a huge role in making our diverse students feel comfortable. Finally to the administration the students call on you to dedicate sustainable resources to diversity, specifically the Multi-Cultural Center and Diversity programming. We understand there is a budget crisis, however the inclusivity of our campus must take top priority regardless of the cuts. The Associated Student Senate is so adamant about changing our diversity climate that we have a senator position wholly dedicated to push the university on student diversity topics.. I’ve been in dialogues with faculty, staff, and administration where diversity is a critical issue. It is great to have the conversations and hear the dedication in people’s voice. But what I am asking for is a a commitment of resources and a action from the university as a whole.
Another concern is that students are getting closer to being the majority contributor to our education, and the Associated Students will become a watchdog of student tuition/fee usage. This semester in-state undergraduate student tuition is $2282 for 1-6 units and $3431 for 6+ units. I should mention that in my time here this means that state tuition has more than doubled. It begs the questions: How are our fees being used? Are the fees we pay being used on the purpose they are supposed to? How can some small class sizes stay small as other courses continue to balloon into mega classes? Are IRA fees being used most effectively to impact the largest group of students? The Associated Students Senate will focus its attention on the issue of Fee usage and be fully accountable to the students. As students we are more than fees and if we are paying for a lion’s share of this university then our voice will be heard.
In closing, I love Sonoma State. I love our community. Sonoma State is my home and my favorite place on this earth. If I did not truly love and respect our community I would not be forthright. Our community has incredible potential and I would like to see us live up to it. As students we will continue to challenge ourselves and our Seawolf community. So I challenge us all to focus on our core principles as highlighted in our mission statement. If we do not focus on our mission our students will not be prepared to take on the responsibilities of our ever changing world. If we do not come together and collaborate as a community especially during these tumultuous times, we will fail. My mother told me each morning “Alex today is another day in which to strive for excellence”. Sonoma State today is the day in which we must strive for excellence. Thank You.