California State University, Long Beach, hosted its annual convocation for students and faculty last Friday, Aug. 25, in the Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center.
Key speakers included President Jane Close Conoley and Provost Brian Jersky.
Although usual business would mean discussing the current state of the school's academics, funding and programs, the tone was widely political, with an emphasis on student safety.
Close Conoley urged students and faculty to avoid participating in any violent protests in an effort to keep the CSULB campus a safe space for all parties.
The president referenced the incident in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month, where a 32-year-old woman — Heather Heyer — was struck by a vehicle while participating in an anti-white supremacist protest.
Close Conoley urged the audience to approach possible conflict on campus with reason rather than violence, recalling the death of CSULB student Nohemi Gonzalez — a victim of the 2015 Isis attack in Paris.
"There is one clear and present danger that confronts our campus and most campuses across the nation," she said. "We must guard against any erosion of First Amendment rights while at the same time protecting our community, our people and our property."
She also denounced the KKK and Alt-Right party, adding that CSULB has no room for hate groups.
"Neo-Nazis, Identity Evropa, KKK, white supremacists, and white nationalists are not working to bind up the nation’s wounds or achieve a lasting peace among the diverse groups who make up this great nation," Close Conoley said. "Their beliefs, which they can freely share because of our Constitution, are un-American."
Still, the convocation was not without good news regarding university updates and accomplishments.
The speakers also reviewed the current state of the school with attendees, boasting the many accomplishments that CSULB has witnessed with the 2017-2018 school year.
"The Beach continues to be very attractive to incoming students," Jersky said. "We received over 103,000 student application before 2017... This is the largest number in Long Beach State's history."
Jersky said that freshman applications totaled more than 63,000 and transfer applications more than 33,000 — which is one of the highest application rates in the country, he added.
Other positive items mentioned by Jersky included the university's new Faculty Research Experience and Expertise (FREE) database, which facilitates and shares data analysis with other institutions, including the media and partner universities.
Additionally, three CSULB faculty members were recognized in the 2017 University Achievement awards.
"Our university demonstrates this simple but powerful fact — what we achieve together positively changes the future," Jersky said. "We do this by working together to leverage what each individual, department, college and program does so well."
Despite Conoley's fear of violence and concern for campus safety, she said that she's positive that the university will continue to showcase academic excellence.
"You are welcome here if you work hard and you are a contributor to our goals of inclusive excellence," she said after the convocation. "I don't care who you voted for... We have such great people here and there's a lot of effort — both inside and outside the classroom — to accomplish what we do."
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at email@example.com.