Retirement of Campus Violence Policy Highlights Diversity Gap
November 11, 2021
By Angelica Muro, Associate Professor of Visual and Public Arts
Our campus has a diversity problem–from the governing board, to administrators, to faculty and staff. If we are truly a campus that strives for diversity, equity and inclusion, our campus leadership must reflect our increasingly diverse student body as well as ensure that diverse viewpoints are taught, represented, defended, and considered within university decisions. Diversity includes, but is not limited to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, ability, and religion. Inclusion is respect for, appreciation of, and the deliberate act of welcoming and valuing diversity and equity. Diversity in leadership is an extremely important issue because leadership affects policy decisions and policy decisions affect our students. This means that campus leaders should represent diverse backgrounds that help marginalized and underrepresented students feel a sense of belonging. If we are to promote a campus environment of inclusive excellence–where all students, faculty, and staff are affirmed and represented–we must call out policy and leadership missteps that highlight diversity gaps.
Such missteps and diversity gaps can be seen in the cancellation of our Policy on Campus Violence–a policy established in 2010 to “affirm California State University, Monterey Bay as a place where faculty, staff, and students [could] engage in daily activities free from threats or acts of violence.” The policy further defined violence and threats of violence that included, but were not limited to, physical assault, acts of aggression, and endangerment. The policy was “intended to reflect the University's commitment to the principles, goals, and ideals described in the CSU Monterey Bay Vision Statement and its core values.” The policy also outlined University responsibilities, prevention, intervention, and disciplinary action, and (on more than one occasion) I had used it as an important resource and advocacy tool for my students.
In short, addressing campus violence through policy served to empower our campus community. Nonetheless, in December 2020, a one-sentence “official notification” withdrew the policy from active circulation, citing that “elements of the policy [were] already covered by other policies and law.” There was no further clarification or direction. No links to other policies or regulations. No campus guide for defining acts of violence, nor mention of mission and core values. Furthermore, and this is the truly shocking part, this announcement came in the middle of a global pandemic underscored by extreme inequalities and calls for social justice reform, which served to highlight the severity of police brutality and the staggering rise in racialized violence and hate crimes. In all, this campus notification deeply neglected the disproportionate impact violence has on our students. According to our recent CSUMB enrollment facts, 64% of our students are women. And if we review the Race and Ethnicity category, we also see that 60% of our student body is disproportionately impacted by violence: 45% of our students are Latino/a, 4% are African-American/Black, 9% are Asian American, 1% are Native American, and 1% are Pacific Islander. If we also consider the category of under-represented groups, 54% of our undergraduate students are First-Generation, 51% are Under-Represented Minority, and 32% are Low Income. Further, research shows that in the past two years alone, hate crimes in the U.S. (bias-based violence motivated by a person’s race, religion or sexual orientation, among other categories) rose to its highest level in more than a decade. By the end of 2019, hate-crime violence had hit a 16-Year high, and reports showed a significant upswing in violence against Latinos. In 2020, as violence against black people was on the rise, there was also a 7% increase in religion-based hate crimes, and anti-Asian hate crimes increased by nearly 150%.
Needless to say, our leadership must consider how policy and policy notifications affect the majority of our students (women, people of color, and first-generation). Our leadership must also reflect on the fact that these students experience disproportionate barriers when seeking help and obtaining guidance. Research suggests that campus violence is already underreported, and not having guidelines and policy that define our campus position on violence is dismissive of students who experience some type of violence and related consequences. Between 2011 and 2015, the Department of Justice estimated that 54% of violent hate crimes went unreported. Victims cited (among other things) hesitancy based on confusion, fear, and cynicism related to the lack of uniformity in how law enforcement addresses violence, and more specifically, hate and bias-based violence. Regrettably, the retirement of our Policy on Campus Violence is an example of how we address systemic inequalities of gendered violence, racialized violence, police brutality, and the unconscious/implicit bias that affects the majority of our students. At a time when other University campuses are highlighting policies and guidelines that broaden their views beyond a “rules and regulations” orientation in order to foster safe, healthy, and civil campus environments, CSUMB is issuing official notification announcements that serve to disenfranchise students.
In December 2020, I emailed the former AVP for Academic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness to ask where we could find guidance and tools for violence prevention and subsequent student advocacy. Their response stated that “Acts of violence, etc. all come within various criminal codes, which are what UPD would use in responding to issues.” Unfortunately, as stated earlier, laws across the U.S. lack uniformity, and victims of violence often distrust criminal codes, which means that those individuals most likely to suffer violence are less likely to report it. Administrators and policy makers need to take a hard look at their responsibility for the safety, security, and emotional needs of our campus community–simply touting commitment to diversity is not enough. We need to retain policies that help remove barriers, and demonstrate an increased understanding of diversity as it relates to race, ethnicity, sexual identity and orientation, first-generation status, cultural background, and gender. If we are truly a campus that values student-centeredness, diversity, equity, inclusion, and health and wellness, we must call on the reinstatement, revisioning, and renewing of a Policy on Campus Violence. Furthermore, the closing of equity gaps among traditionally underserved students will require diverse leadership. We need to ask if our mostly female, non-white student body sees enough diversity in our mostly White, male dominated leadership. Prospective students will start to take notice as they evaluate policies, leadership, and all facets of their identity in the admissions process. Until then, our current level of diversity in leadership roles not only signals our lack of commitment to equity and inclusion, but also reflects how much we truly value diversity.