Making Fresno State feel like home

Inclusion, respect and equity – the President’s Commission on Human Relations and Equity is hosting monthly forums to promote those three qualities on Fresno State’s campus.

The commission has been on campus since 1991. Former University President John Welty established it after some incidents of concern took place on campus. He wanted the commission to serve as a pre-emptive measure so there would be something in place to address the campus climate in the future. The commission is a diverse group of students, faculty, staff and administrators that assesses the campus climate.

The next meeting is Thursday in University Student Union Room 312.

The commission hosts the “Conversations on Inclusion, Respect and Equity.” This semester marks the second time these forum events are being held.

Francine Oputa, co-vice chair of the commission said the idea for the forums was sparked when Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro contacted the commission.

Castro reached out after reading a tweet from a student on campus who had a negative experience related to comments about race.

“We do not want students having these experiences,” Oputa said.

After the commission members talked with each other, they developed the idea of having monthly conversations to gauge the campus climate on issues of inclusion, respect and equity. The commission wanted to create a place “where people can talk about those things, what’s going well, what’s going not so well and where we can begin to take action,” Oputa said.

“Ultimately with these conversations, it’s about getting information about how we can do better as a campus community,” she said.

Oputa and Dr. Ignacio Hernandez, who also serves as co-vice chair, said they share the same thoughts about the forums and what they can do for Fresno State.

Hernandez said the forums can bring about an informed dialogue on campus and create understandings within the campus community.

This is Hernandez’s first semester working on the commission. He said the forums are beneficial to Fresno State and help the campus continue its progress in the right direction for inclusion, respect and equity. Hernandez said he hopes the forums will bring members of the campus community together.

Orlando Leon, a member of Castro’s cabinet, attended the first forum held Sept. 15.

Leon said, “The PCHRE forums and events provide a great amount of value for our campus and an avenue for our students, faculty and staff to discuss potentially difficult or controversial topics.”

He said the forums can have an even bigger impact if students become more involved over time.

“I would like to see students lead these types of discussions, as well,” Leon said.

Hernandez and Oputa both want the forums to have a lasting impact on Fresno State’s campus.

“My hope is that people feel at home here and if they ever don’t, that we do what we need to do actively to address that,” Hernandez said. “Our No.1 business is to do good by our students.”

Oputa hopes students will see that their voices are heard and that a change will be made.

“What would be rewarding for me if we were to assess individuals that have come to this is that they had spoken some concerns and then, over time, they saw the result of something positive happening based on what they shared,” Oputa said.

The forums are held every third Thursday of the month. Upcoming forums are on Thursday and Dec. 15 in USU Room 312.

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