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ASU organizations collaborate to fight for social justice

Zoom meeting

Representatives from three faculty and staff organizations at ASU met for the "Hindsight is 2020" event on Dec. 17.

December 29, 2020

With the year coming to an end, three of Arizona State University’s groups committed to social justice met on Dec. 17 for reflection and healing after 2020's pandemic, contentious election and violence against people of color. 

After systemic racism gained fresh attention this summer following the killings of George Floyd and others, ASU President Michael Crow proposed a series of actions to promote inclusivity on campus.

The Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association (CLFSA), African and African American Faculty and Staff Association (AAAFSA) and Faculty Women of Color Caucus (FWOCC) are all planning to tackle this problem locally, and they said they hope to see enactment of Crow’s 25 items of support for the Black community over the next few years.

In September, the organizations met as one for the first time to discuss how they can better collaborate to promote inclusivity at the university and across the broader community. The presidents of each group said they believe coming together can help unite people of color at ASU.

“There is a need to be there for each other, to be able to process things together … but also look at ways where we can make an impact, where we can work together with university leadership to create progress and make sure that they know the needs of our communities,” CLFSA President Sandra Martinez said. 

That first meeting cemented a partnership that led to the “Hindsight is 2020” event, where 79 attendees learned about the importance of working together to create positive change at the university and to help students.

The presidents of each diversity organization shared the history of their group and plans for the future. Lisa Magaña, a professor at the School of Transborder Studies who heads the Faculty Women’s Association, also discussed turnout this election and the role of Arizona as a swing state. 

Vanessa Fonseca Chávez, an assistant English professor and president of FWOCC, said she hopes these efforts create a platform to help faculty “in this political moment” and to foster relationships among organizations. 

“Now is a conversation to really think about who are the critical constituents and key stakeholders to the types of national and even regional conversations that we are having on Black Lives Matter and police brutality,” Fonseca Chávez said.

Kenja Hassan, president and founder of AAAFSA and assistant vice president for government and community engagement at the Downtown Phoenix campus, said systemic inequities and the “visible and invisible hatred” against people of color make it vital for organizations fighting for inclusivity to band together.  

“In order for us to hold truth to these statements that our nation has written — that we believe in liberty and justice for all — it takes work,” Hassan said. “A conversation like this is so important, because in order for us to be successful as a nation, we all have to figure out where we can find common ground. … Us being able to do it at ASU is critical.”

Stanlie James, ASU’s outgoing vice provost of inclusion and community engagement, was a special guest at the meeting — her last appearance before the groups. She offered some words of wisdom about the importance of continuing to fight for social justice. 

“Our country has an opportunity to finally begin to figure out how to live up to the words in our founding documents,” James said. “We will not be returning to the way it used to be. Rather, we must begin to specifically clarify how we want it to be, and how we can contribute to enacting that vision here at ASU.” 

Martinez shared her excitement to see CLFSA member Nancy Gonzales as the next executive vice president and university provost and Maria Anguiano as the next executive vice president of ASU’s new Learning Enterprise.  

2020 marks the 50th anniversary for CLFSA, which has had a strong presence at ASU as an advocate and a voice for communities of color.

Martinez believes that despite the obstacles they faced this year, this new leadership is a positive way to end the year and celebrate the organization’s anniversary, as well as a step in the right direction for the university.

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Written by Diana Quintero, journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.