Update from the President

January 23, 2023

Dear Campus Community,

Millions are celebrating Lunar New Year - the Year of the Rabbit (China) and the Cat (Vietnam) - a ritual crucial to the resilience of the myriad diverse cultural traditions across Asia. This year, though, we are also mourning the mass gun-death of 11 individuals celebrating Saturday night in Monterey Park, marking yet another cycle of violence in our country. And just yesterday, right here in the Bay area, at Half Moon Bay, a gunman killed seven people at a mushroom farm and at a trucking facility. Despite its horrific repetition, this level of violence is senseless and insensibly devastating to the safety we should all be able to claim. And because these are wounds that do not just heal on their own, we must tend to that process on every societal level we can reach, from legislative changes to our gun laws to greater support for mental health. And, at Sonoma State, we should hold space for those members of our community who wish to come together. 

I am pleased that the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, along with the Asian Pacific Islander American Faculty and Staff Association, invite members of the community to come together for support.  The Zoom gathering will occur on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 6:00 p.m. The in-person gathering will be held on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 12:00 p.m. at the HUB, Student Center.

Our tendency is to keep moving, to keep pushing on through the challenges, hoping that somehow we will come out of everything ok. I have been thinking about this a lot now that we are back on campus in this new year, starting over all those rituals that result in new students coming to campus, the promise of admissions and scholarship announcements, the start of new research endeavors, and a slew of additional new beginnings. We face a number of truly difficult challenges, from deep budget shortfalls to worrying student enrollment trends that will not be magically wiped from the board because we all believe in magic of some kind. The impact of these cycles is real, the fallout substantial.

I realize I keep saying this, but I want to make sure we all remain aware just how precarious our situation is, and how important it is that we vigilantly monitor and respond to each new stressor. Because we are out of time when it comes to thinking about how we want to respond – we need to be responsive and to follow-up, adapting as necessary. Fortunately, we have taken some good foundational steps, from establishing a partnership with Vision Point Consulting on elevating our marketing and enrollment strategies to meeting with Mendocino College Superintendent and President Timothy Karas around transfer and retention processes. California Assemblymember Kevin McCarty visited the campus last month and his staff was very complimentary around both our mindset and the steps we have been taking to renew campus prosperity.

In the meantime, we look forward to a number of innovative programs, including the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities)-funded K-12 English Teachers Summer Institute focused on climate futurism, our second campus-wide climate survey in April where we will engage the campus on issues of inclusion and belonging.

Despite my serious tone here, I do not want to suggest that we are doomed to failure. Quite the opposite, in fact – that if we really want to succeed, we have to protect and expand those qualities that keep us in forward motion, toward our goals. As the recently celebrated Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” King borrowed the sentiment from the Bible, but it fits beautifully within his own work because of the focus on intentional, persistent, collective change. And even though this Lunar New Year is somewhat tarnished with the loss of all those precious lives, I will honor their memory by committed to celebrating the New Year with unity, hope, and…to keep moving! 




Mike Lee, Ph.D.