Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color and low-income communities. We are also seeing harassment and assaults on our Asian and Pacific Islander neighbors, targets of misplaced fear, fed by racist rhetoric. These incidents have no place in our world.
We want to take this opportunity to express our support for and solidarity with every member of the SDSU community. Now more than ever, our commitment to equity and inclusion compels us to do all that we can to support our most vulnerable students, staff and faculty. This includes the following:
For the Campus Community
- The Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Task Force will present its recommendations in a virtual town hall from noon to 1 p.m on Wednesday, April 22. HSI Affairs Chair Roberto Hernández will host the virtual town hall, and the community is encouraged to RSVP to attend.
- The Division of Diversity and Innovation (DDI) is partnering with Instructional Technology Services to host conversations on Keeping Your Zoom Session Secure. Those who participate will learn strategies for preventing Zoombombing and other disruptive behaviors.
- As a reminder, the Inclusive SDSU system can be used to report any incident related to bias, as well as positive incidents
that serve to build a better SDSU community. Any member of the campus community can
report an incident via the system.
For Faculty and Staff:
- DDI Virtual Happy Hours, held from 5-6 p.m Fridays via Zoom.
- The Working and Teaching Remotely video series provides live sessions allowing the SDSU community to discuss ways to appropriately adapt and manage in the online environment.
- A web guide on Maintaining Equity and Inclusion in Virtual Learning Environments provides guidance on how to ensure virtual materials are fully accessible to all.
- The Staying Connected with SDSU DDI and the Employee Resource Groups is an information sharing and community engagement Facebook group.
- SDSU’s cultural centers continue to create a sense of belonging for students with programs and services now offered via virtual engagement. Each center provides opportunities for students to develop community, seek mentorship, and participate in identity-specific programs. For more information on how to get involved in a cultural center, please visit their sites: The Black Resource Center, The Center for Intercultural Relations, The Center for Transformative Justice, The Latinx Resource Center, The Native Resource Center, The Pride Center and The Women’s Resource Center.
- The Professors of Equity have created a video on Graduate School During Uncertain Times, and are holding continuing conversations with graduate students weekly.
One positive side effect we often see during a crisis is the way communities come together to support each other. We have seen that in abundance among the San Diego State University community over the last several weeks:
- Faculty have committed extra time to moving their courses into virtual environments.
- Staff have reached out to hundreds of students to ensure they have the academic, food, housing, technology, counseling and other resources and support they need.
- Students have organized shopping services for community members in need.
- Volunteers have made face masks in support of those working in public health and custodial
Moments of crisis present opportunities for each of us to lean on and step up to support others. By strengthening our ties to one another and our commitment to a community of care, we are able to sustain a culture that serves to support and benefit all members of our community, no matter our current state.
J. Luke Wood
SDSU Chief Diversity Officer
Facilities and Custodial Staff Share Relationship-Building Approach for Student Success
They tend to know everyone. They have the types of interactions with students that contribute to student success. And they support the campus in ways that other staff and faculty may never see.
Members of San Diego State University’s facilities and custodial staff become sounding boards, surrogate parents, even sometimes first responders. They impart wisdom. They’ve been called over to pose in graduation photos, and have received Christmas cards, flowers and other trinkets of appreciation.
During the “Building Better Relationships with Students: A Panel Discussion with Facilities & Custodial Staff” panel discussion held Thursday at the Office of Diversity and Innovation, five staff members described the importance of those types of interactions.
SDSU Chief Diversity Officer J. Luke Wood hosted the talk, which explored ways that custodians, groundskeepers, service workers are often uniquely positioned to support students.
Many of the actions taken by the panelists in support of student success were simple ones anyone can replicate: a kind word to start the morning, a sympathetic ear, taking opportunities for an act of kindness.
“Sometimes just saying hello, making eye contact—those things are so important,” said Benita Mann, assistant director of housing facilities services. “We make the connection by showing them that we care about them.”
Rhonda Graves said she makes a point to introduce herself to freshmen on move-in day and tells them “I’m the person who cleans your floor.” That’s not just a connection, it’s a subtle hint not to make her job more difficult.
Graves said, “They come to you like you’re their mom all the time—‘Rhonda, does this look OK?’” The personal connection can be long-lasting; Graves said she has heard back from alumni who have gotten married and had children.
Mery Santacruz and Manuela Pacheco Cuevas, two custodians, said some students just need a few friendly words of encouragement, to keep pushing, or that they can do it.
They become proactive. Pacheco said she once noticed a usually upbeat student who seemed distressed; it turned out he was worried about not having a textbook he couldn’t afford. She consulted her own son, who came up with an online solution.
And Johnny Eaddy, director of logistical services who started at SDSU in 1987 as a custodian, said students’ daily familiarity with staff brings a high degree of trust. “They know they can just come on lay it on you,” he said. The employees, he said, represent “a comfort zone, being non-judgmental.”
And Eaddy said not be deterred by students walking around with their heads down who appear to be “in their own little worlds.” In those cases, “breaking the ice and taking the lead (to) say hello” is the key to interacting with them.