By Mildred García
Cal State Fullerton President
Anyone who’s visited California State University, Fullerton during summer break knows that its magic stems not from its impressive physical structures, newly renovated classrooms, or even the world-famous baseball diamond at Goodwin Field.
Yes, those are key ingredients to our success, but when absent of faculty, staff and students, they’re nothing more than brick, mortar and landscaping — a languorous 241 acres that seem to solemnly await the return of their beloved Titan family.
Okay, so I may be projecting my own feelings onto the university’s inanimate grounds, but this much I know: every fall, when our more than 40,000 diverse students — and the faculty and staff who serve them — return for a new academic year, they transform empty classrooms and vacant walkways into one of the most vibrant, diverse and academically excellent institutions in the country.
I so look forward to this homecoming; I spend the hours leading up to it composing a letter welcoming everyone back. This year, however, with the principles of equity and inclusion the university was founded upon under attack in ways this nation hasn’t seen in half a century, I knew the letter needed to convey more than a simple “welcome back.” And by sharing a portion of it below, I hope to further convey the institution’s role in leading and healing what is so clearly a wounded nation.
Dear Titan Family:
The last time we were together, we witnessed one of the greatest achievements of the university’s now 60-year history: the commencement of our largest graduating class — nearly 11,000 diverse Titans, the majority of whom were the first in their family to put on a college graduation cap.
For years, I’ve made it a practice to read the backs of those caps; I find the messages not only inspiring, but also indicative of our nation’s mood through the words of young people who will soon be leading it.
“Nevertheless,” the back of one woman’s cap said, “she persisted.”
“Love Trumps Hate,” another said in rainbow letters.
“Mis padres cruzaron la frontera,” one read in Spanish, “para que yo pudiera cruzar este escenario.” “My parents crossed the border so I could cross this stage.”
I went on to write that the themes on the backs of these graduation caps reminded me of a social justice movement from my own youth, and given the progress we made as a nation since, I find it tragic…