CSUN students, faculty, staff and leadership reacted with outrage, horror and grief and called for change following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in handcuffs when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as other officers watched and participated.
In reaction to Mr. Floyd’s murder, and recent similar killings of African Americans by police in other cities, protests, sit-ins and marches erupted all over the country — and around the world — including on Tuesday, June 2, on CSUN’s campus and the surrounding streets. The peaceful, community-organized event was joined by students, faculty, staff and community members, most of whom were wearing face coverings due to COVID-19. The protesters gathered on the CSUN Library steps and on the streets around campus, carried homemade signs and took a knee several times along the march route.
The CSUN Black House shared video of the protest on Instagram, and later that day hosted a Black Table Talk podcast chat, which provided the opportunity for student and alumni leaders to offer comfort, support, encouragement and advice for students who want to be active in the fight for social justice and equality.
In a message to campus June 2, CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison and university leaders expressed their support for Black students and vowed to continue the university’s efforts to uphold and advance the values of diversity and inclusion.
“Universities like CSUN are among the most powerful forces for equality and justice in our society, but as important as our mission is, we must do more,” the message read. “Complacency is not an option. As campus leaders, we are committed to redoubling our effort to ensure that all members of our campus are supported and feel welcome. But more than that, we are united in working to create the change we need beyond our campus in order to eradicate injustice and racism, and put an end to the violence perpetrated against African Americans. CSUN’s leadership is united in this cause.”
Harrison issued an earlier statement on the killing of George Floyd on May 29.
“I have hope there will be some measure of justice, but I am left with the hollow realization that full justice for Mr. Floyd, his friends and family, and so many African Americans continues to elude us,” CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison said in the statement. “I want every member of our campus community to feel welcome and safe, and my heart goes out to our students, faculty, staff and alumni of color who again are reminded of the inequities and violence they continue to face. While we must do much more as a society and must do it now, CSUN supports all of you.”
Harrison invited students, faculty and staff to a virtual campus conversation on the killing of George Floyd, systemic racism, continued inequality and social justice on Friday, June 5. Participants were invited to share thoughts, feelings, perspectives and ideas as members of the CSUN community sought to learn from and support one another through the murder of George Floyd and the legacy of racism that act represents. Dozens spoke and hundreds joined the virtual conversation.
“I wonder why the message of accepting hurt is something that we are conditioned to have to do in the Black community,” Associated Students Vice President Deion Turner said. “As I watch the different news media, all I hear is ‘the destruction of our communities’ but when you say the destruction of our communities, please say the physical destruction, because the Black community has had to face the racist and systematic destruction of our communities for generations. I want all of you to know that the remnants of physical destruction can be rebuilt, that the inventory missing can be replaced but a life, you only get one of those.”
The faculty of the Department of Africana Studies released a letter sharing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and demanding action from the CSUN community and the city of Los Angeles. The statement noted the department’s history of challenging institutional racism and systems of oppression, with the goal of empowering current and future generations to be change agents in the world.
“We condemn racism and oppression in all its manifestations, including homophobia and transphobia,” the statement read. “The terrorism of white supremacy and white privilege continues to compromise the health and safety of Black Americans and African people across the globe. The systematic assault on Black lives in America and the world is an injustice that will not be tolerated and must be rooted out from the psyche and fabric of America.”
The department expressed the “need to interrogate our institutional practices that uphold white supremacy and invest time and resources into combating anti-Blackness, as well as identify ways to help our community and strengthen knowledge on contemporary race relations and the history of Black social, political and economic rights in the United States.”
CSUN Police Chief Gregory Murphy, who has stressed the importance of a respectful relationship between his department and the campus community since he arrived in January 2019, echoed Harrison’s plea for justice.
“As chief of police, I am absolutely committed to leading a department that is sensitive to the needs of our community and upholding fairness and equity in all that we do,” Murphy said.
CSUN Associated Students hosted a series of online conversations scheduled with CSUN leaders covering topics such as the role of CSUN’s Department of Police Services, support for CSUN’s Dreamers and other undocumented students, the disparate health impacts of COVID-19, and the impact of proposed reductions in state funding for higher education. For more information, visit Associated Students’ social media channels on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Friday, June 5, in collaboration with University Counseling Services, CSUN’s University Student Union hosted the virtual event “Healing Space: Uplifting the Community After Tragic Loss” to help the CSUN community process the killing of George Floyd.
More conversations are scheduled to continue in the coming days. At 10 a.m. on June 12, CSUN students, faculty and alumni can attend a University Student Union webinar on “Black Lives Matter and the Making of a Mass Movement” featuring Melina Abdullah, the co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, chair of Pan-African Studies and professor at CSULA.
On social media, numerous CSUN organizations also expressed support for the calls for justice.
“It is in times like these where unity is essential and more powerful than division,” Associated Students leadership wrote on Instagram. “Coming together to reach a common goal, to celebrate the things that make us different, and to acknowledge the hard facts of what’s going on throughout the world is extremely important.”