How we are creating a more welcoming and supportive environment at HSU.

On August 18, 2017, I sent a message to the Humboldt State University community outlining some of the many initiatives that are in progress to addressing one of our major strategic goals:  to create an environment that welcomes and supports everyone among our diverse populations.  A copy of this message follows.



To the University community:

As we begin the fall semester, I want to share some of the many activities and efforts currently underway to create a more welcoming and supportive environment at Humboldt State University and in the larger community.  Many people worked over the summer to plan and implement these initiatives.  These efforts are summarized below.

This work aligns directly with Humboldt State University’s mission, vision, values, and strategic goals.  One of our four primary strategic goals is to “Foster meaningful relationships across differences, including diverse cultural communities, identities, and competencies,” with the specific objective to “Ensure that diverse perspectives, identities, and communities are acknowledged and taught throughout the curriculum and provide a safe environment for everyone to explore a broad range of viewpoints and ideas.” 

The murder of David Josiah Lawson last April has been a catalyst for driving needed change in our community.  Evidence of the commitment to action includes open letters that were signed by hundreds of faculty and staff in May and June. These letters called for educational workshops on microaggressions, implicit bias, bystander intervention, and keynote speakers to stimulate our awareness of the need for, and discussion about, an inclusive and supportive environment at HSU.  This work in our region is connected to issues that are affecting communities throughout the United States. HSU joins colleges and universities across the nation in condemning the violence and hatred demonstrated in the recent white supremacy protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On July 12, 2017, a group of about 65 people gathered to spend the day working on actions to be taken in the upcoming weeks and months.  In addition to HSU faculty, staff, students, and administrators, and elected and appointed officials from the City of Arcata, sectors represented at the meeting included the business community, K-12 education, College of the Redwoods, non-profit organizations, the faith community, and local residents.  “Equity Arcata” has grown out of this gathering, with a focus on integrating University and City efforts and supporting the wide variety of activities that are underway across the region.  A website is being developed that will provide a link to the initiatives, groups, updates, and available information.  A summary of this meeting is included here (

A number of the initiatives developed during the July 12 meeting are described in more detail below, but here are some of the highlights of the day:

  • Housing Equity Support/Oversight Initiative
  • Equity Awareness Campaign
  • Racial Equity through Learning, Action, and Transformation (Training)
  • Strengthening the Connection between Police and Students Program

The next step with these ideas will be to consult with students to test, validate, and modify the concepts that were developed at this meeting, to be sure that the action plans directly address their needs.

In addition to these initiatives, many other specific activities are underway.  Some of these are summarized below.

Staffing and organization for 2017-18

The following staffing changes are already in place for the 2017-18 academic year:

  • Dr. Cheryl Johnson joined HSU as the Executive Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on July 1.  In this role, she is a member of the President’s Cabinet and the University Senate.  ODEI will be hiring a full-time associate director and establishing a faculty fellow program during the fall semester.  Cheryl can be reached at 707.826.4503 and  Her office is in Siemens Hall 209A.
  • Dr. Wayne Brumfield is the interim Vice President for Student Affairs, following Dr. Peg Blake’s retirement, effective August 14.  His office is in Siemens Hall 215.  He can be reached at and 707.826.3361.
  • Doug Dawes is the interim Vice President for Administrative Affairs, following Joyce Lopes’ move to Sonoma State, effective July 31.  He can be reached at 707.826.3351 and  His office is in the Student and Business Services Building 339.
  • Kenya James Nunley is the Coordinator of the African-American Center for Academic Excellence, effective August 2.  Kenya can be reached at 707.826.3640 and  Her office is in Nelson Hall East 207.
  • Fernando Paz is the Coordinator of the Latinx Center for Academic Excellence, effective August 2.  He can be contacted at 707.826.4586 and  His office is in Nelson Hall East 202.
  • The Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence now report to the Vice President for Student Affairs. Dr. Corliss Bennett continues as the Director, and she can be reached at 707.826.4587 and  Her office is in Nelson Hall East 216.

Educational opportunities in 2017-18

  • Dr. Cheryl Johnson is currently coordinating a plan for the delivery of educational workshops requested in the open letters from faculty ( and staff ( ).  She is focused on creating systemic change, assessing the impact of the workshops, and validating the content/curriculum of these sessions.  Her response to the open letters is available here:  Dr. Matt Johnson (Wildlife) and Dr. Amy Sprowles (Biology) are seeking authorization to use funding from their current U.S. Department of Education grant to match University funds to support these workshops and bring external speakers to campus.  More information about these sessions will be announced via myHumboldt and the Library Lifelong Learning Lounge (L4HSU) at
  • The newly established Center for Teaching and Learning will focus on assisting faculty in eliminating bias from instruction and creating culturally relevant pedagogy, assistance with instructional design, and classroom management.  CTL will work in close partnership with ODEI. (
  • A diversity-and-inclusion-awareness campaign, collaboration with the City of Arcata, included door-to-door canvassing by volunteers who visited students who live off campus. Volunteers welcomed the students to the neighborhood and invited them to the I Street block party, the annual community fundraiser for Arcata’s sister city, Camoapa, Nicaragua (Monday, September 4, from noon – 6 p.m. in front of Los Bagels in Arcata).  The awareness campaign occurred August 9-11.
  • KHSU, HSU’s public radio station, has launched a series of public service announcements with the theme “Not in Our Town,” which is dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive community.  KHSU already produces “TNT: Race Beat,” hosted by Lorna Bryant, which usually airs on Thursdays nights and focuses on in-depth discussions about race, equity, and other issues facing people of color, both in Humboldt County and nationally.  Past programs can be accessed on KHSU’s website at
  • KHSU has launched a new initiative titled “Voices of Diversity” to capture oral history and storytelling about the experiences of diverse residents of the North Coast.  More information is available at .
  • The Equity Alliance of the North Coast is a broad coalition of nonprofits, local governments, and the business community focused on understanding and improving racial and social equity through education, dialogue, and coaching opportunities for organizations and individuals.  The Alliance was launched by the Humboldt Area Foundation with strong support and participation from HSU.  Further information is available here:  
  • In addition to the Equity Alliance of the North Coast, many other workshops and training programs about diversity and inclusion are currently offered throughout the county, such as unconscious bias awareness training for HSU and City of Arcata employees; assessments from professional consultants for City of Arcata Employees; and HSU classes and workshops on various diversity topics.
  • In the 2017-18 academic year, conversations, workshops, and symposia are being planned at HSU in conjunction with other events, such as Indigenous People’s Week (October 9-13, 2017) and Campus Dialog on Race (October 30 – November 3, 2017).  Featured speakers during the upcoming year will include Professor john powell from the Hass Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley.
  • The City of Arcata is focused on training and initiatives that provide the basis for racial equity and inclusion for staff, as well as trainings for the community at large.  These will include half-day workshop trainings for employees in mid- to late fall and contracting with Fair and Impartial Policing ( to provide both patrol and supervisor training in October.

 New student and faculty orientation for 2017-18

  • New student orientation in August 2017 includes sessions on cultural awareness and a show by Sasheer Zamata, from Saturday Night Live.  For more information, contact Nicholas Conlin, Coordinator for Orientation, New Student Programs, and Campus Tours, at 707.826.3507.
  • New faculty orientation included an overview of the programming being planned by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion throughout the upcoming year.  Workshops will include the topics of diversity, equity, and bias, and they will be incorporated into the new Faculty Learning Community.  For more information, please contact Cheryl Johnson at 707.826.4503 and
  • Peer Health Education at HSU has a publication titled “Remember What Happened Last Night?” that addresses safety, well-being, and self-care related to parties, whether on or off campus. This is distributed during orientation and at other programs and events throughout the year.  For more information, contact Mira Friedman, Health Educator, at 707.826.5234 and

Housing activities for 2017-18

  • Mira Friedman, Health Educator, is leading the University’s efforts to address housing insecurity.  She can be reached at 707.826.5234 and  Her office is in the Health Center 215.   In this role, Mira is working with the Homeless Student Advocate Alliance, a recognized student organization.
  • A housing attorney is available to work with low-income students who suspect they are subjects of housing discrimination.  Lynn Martinez, a managing attorney with Legal Services of Northern California, can be reached at and 707.445.0866.  Legal Services of Northern California is located at 123 Third Street, Eureka.  These legal services are free of charge for people below a specific income level.
  • A group of community members, students, and city and business representatives are meeting in August to discuss the issue of housing equity in Arcata. In addition to the work that HSU is doing to develop a strategic plan for University housing, the City is also incorporating the University’s needs into Arcata’s housing plans.
  • HSU is partnering with the College of the Redwoods to hold a two-day regional symposium in February 2018 about addressing housing insecurity in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.   

Policing and public safety in 2017-18

  • The Arcata Police Department is continuing its investigation into the murder of David Josiah Lawson.  The Arcata Police report that new witnesses have come forward with information and additional forensic evidence is becoming available.  This investigation is active, on-going, and will continue until the case is resolved.
  • The Arcata City Council approved the establishment of a community reward program for information leading directly to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Josiah’s death.  Community members have donated $21,000 to establish the fund, and donations are still being accepted.  Any information should be provided to the Arcata Police Department at (707) 822-2428 during normal business hours or (707) 822-2424 after hours and on weekends, to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office at 707.445.7411, to the attorney for the Lawson family, Shelley Mack, at 707.268.0445, or to the e-mail address
  • University Police Department Chief Donn Peterson will host a series of informal discussions with students starting this fall, with the goal of building stronger relationships between police and students.  Together, Chief Peterson and Arcata Police Department Chief Tom Chapman are finalizing a schedule for formal and informal sessions to meet with students.
  • Chief Peterson will be working with students to formalize a Chief’s Advisory Panel to address issues of concern and help strengthen the relationship between students and the University police department.
  • The Arcata Public Safety Task Force, which began in January 2017 and which includes four HSU representatives, will continue its work to collect and analyze data, prioritize safety concerns in the community, and develop a list of workable solutions to address these isses.  The draft report from the Task Force is expected in December 2017.  More information is available at
  • The free Rave Guardian App enables all members of the University community to use a smartphone to increase personal safety.  The app can be downloaded from Apple or Google Play.  More information is available at .

Looking ahead

Humboldt State University and the City of Arcata are committed to supporting diversity, racial equity, and a safe community.  Many more ideas have been proposed than can be implemented simultaneously, but we are collaborating, as a community, to create the needed changes.  The University, the City, and the local business community are working together toward the common goals of respect, civility, understanding, racial equity, and social justice.  I will continue to keep you informed as we make progress toward these goals.