Thursday, April 22, 1999
The question posed by the Coast Weekly headline last week ("Vision Quest," by Laurel Chesky), "Is a blonde, blue-eyed Republican from Vermont capable of leading a multicultural campus?" proves the need for education like that offered at CSUMB. Our strong focus on multicultural issues and diversity clearly could have been useful to some at Coast Weekly. To question the qualifications of an individual based on color of eyes, hair, skin, or any other physical attribute is simply unacceptable. To assert that ancestry and origin or birthplace precludes qualification violates the most basic tenets of equal opportunity.
The article was an example of "attack journalism" and the equivalent of a journalistic food fight. The lack of facts--pertinent numbers and information that we provided at the time of CW''s interview with me--and blatantly skewed information told a story very different than the real story being told by the many satisfied people at CSUMB.
The facts show that our commitment to purpose has been confirmed--the Carnegie Foundation selected CSUMB as one of only six universities nationally to receive a grant to participate in its study on ethical reflection, stating, "Unlike most other institutions, CSUMB is characterized by a high degree of intentionality and infuses moral development and civic responsibility throughout its academic programs."
Our approach to learning and curriculum has been confirmed--every graduate from our Collaborative Human Services major who applied to graduate school was admitted. Our faculty excellence has been confirmed--one of our faculty members, Dr. Angie Tran, became the first educator in the nation to receive a coveted Fulbright award to teach in Vietnam. Our student scholarship has been confirmed--three of our students placing in the top 20 in the statewide CSU Research Competition, including a first place award for Yolanda Gutirrez. Recent graduate Nikki Sannicolas turned down the opportunity to earn a master''s at Harvard to go straight from CSUMB to the doctoral program at Northeastern University. And in just a few weeks, 290 students will graduate from CSUMB more prepared than most to meet the demands of the 21st century. These are measurable milestones of success that matter!
The facts show that our commitment to diversity is real. Forty-three percent of students, 48 percent of faculty, and 41 percent of administrators and staff are individuals of color. These numbers are also impressive for other diversity factors such as gender and geographical origin. Through the combined vision and determined work of community members, students, administrators, staff, and faculty, in less than five years, we''ve taken a vacant military base and created a diverse community where extraordinary talent, commitment, and success abound.
But we all know that diversity is more than just numbers. It''s a question of commitment, of knowingness, of awareness. It takes conscious effort to achieve. And like every goal the people of CSUMB have targeted, we will accomplish the objective with the determination of people who know we are creating a new model for education.
Rather than questioning where I come from or how I look, I expect people to care about what is in my heart and mind. Rather than relying on accusation and speculation to come up with the answer, I expect people to look to the facts. I will resist the temptation to guess what is in the hearts and minds of the Coast Weekly editor and reporter and the few individuals who were quoted in the article. Instead, I will continue to work to achieve the lofty goals of the CSUMB vision statement. I hope after reviewing the facts, you''ll agree that although unfinished, CSUMB has become a university deserving of respect.
Peter Smith is president of California State University at Monterey Bay.