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COMMENTARY: CSUSM president responds to hate with platitudes

On October 17, a group of Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM) students, faculty and staff sent an unusual letter to CSUSM President Karen Haynes and the Cal State system board of trustees. The letter requested that Haynes and the trustees break their unproductive silence and take action to ameliorate the hostile educational and work environment created by The Koala, a private, for-profit hate tabloid distributed at CSUSM since January 2011.

You can learn more about The Koala and its three editions (CSUSM, San Diego State, and University of California San Diego), owner George Lee Liddle III, and some of the student staff and advocates of the hate tabloid at www.CallOutTheKoala.com.

On October 20, Haynes distributed a blog post to the CSUSM community, seemingly in response to our letter and our Change.org petition. The petition reiterates our demands and delivers, with each petition signature, a copy of the letter into the president’s and trustees’ email inboxes.

One of our stalwart supporters wrote in response to Haynes’ post:

Wahoo! Just saw Karen Haynes posted a statement about “civility” and DID NOT NAME THE KOALA!!! Does she think this is enough? Cuz it aint!!! We will not back down! Occupy the koala! Stay strong! We will keep fighting the good fight!


Then there’s the little problem with the CSUSM resources to which Haynes’ blog post directs those students who’d like support from the university to feel safe on campus:

University Police: They can’t do anything, unless they can prove one of the Koalans has committed a crime.

The Dean of Students Office: Dean Blanshan can’t do anything, because the university believes that the white, male Koalans’ right to free speech deserves greater protection than the students of color, LGBTQ students and female students’ right to an educational environment free from hostility and harassment. Or, hmmm, maybe it’s that the university believes the privileged white, male Koalans are more likely to come up with the resources to file a lawsuit against the school than are the students of color, LGBTQ students and female students.

Student Health & Counseling Services: They can’t do anything, because they’re underfunded (maybe my allotted eight counseling sessions per semester went toward paying for CSUSM’s three new deans?) and appointments are backed up by months.

The ASI LGBTQ Pride Center: Interesting choice, given that they are victims of The Koala‘s hate!

The ASI Women’s Center: They’re also victims of The Koala‘s hate!

The Cross Cultural Center: And they, too, are victims of The Koala’s hate!

Office of the Associate Vice President for Diversity & Equity/Ombudsperson: Haven’t yet checked this one out. Shall we hold our collective breath?

CSUSM’s new Civility Campaign: Could President Haynes possibly believe that men who think rape is a joke and knocking out the teeth of a 10-year-old pedophilia victim is funny — because the idiots think they’ll grow back — are going to suddenly put on Civility t-shirts and make nice?

No, probably not. But apparently she does believe that platitudes and impotent resources restricted by tushy-covering legal counsel are an adequate response to the bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, obscenity and glorification of violence spread across the CSUSM campus via The Koala.

There is an interesting juxtaposition, though, of Haynes’ new post with her previous one, which describes what she believes makes a good CSUSM leader:

Walk the talk. The difference between positional authority and real power comes from honesty and building relationships. It is easy to talk about a set of values and institutional principles, but it is far more difficult to examine whether you adhere to them on a daily operational basis (emphasis mine).

Our leader is not walking the talk. Our leader has stumbled.

Thankfully, you can give her a helping hand by signing our petition.



Note: Photo from the CSUSM website.

Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while working for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at kbgressitt@gmail.com.