July 20, 2020 - Statement on Congressman John Lewis
On behalf of Shelley Berkley, CEO and Senior Provost of Touro University California
Dear TUC Campus Community,
I mourn the loss of U.S. Congressman, John Lewis, my dear friend, who I had the distinct pleasure of serving with in Congress. John leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten. His warmth and kindness along with powerful words, and most importantly, his exemplary actions, provided a courageous path in the struggle for civil and human rights. Our country has lost a great man, a hero.
More personally, I absolutely adored this wonderful man. We became friends many years before we served as colleagues in Congress. I was privileged to share a warm and loving friendship with him. My son, Sam, and I had the awe inspiring opportunity to join this living legend on one of his walks across the Edmond Pettus Bridge. That experience left an indelible impression on me and changed my son’s life forever. John and I had lots of fun with each other and got into “good trouble” together. I loved him and will miss him more than I can ever express in words. My life was greatly enhanced by this giant of a man and now my heart is broken.
Rest in peace my brother, my friend, my colleague.
CEO and Senior Provost
June 18, 2020 - Celebrating Juneteenth - Campus Holiday
Dear TUC Students, Staff and Faculty,
Juneteenth commemorates and celebrates the end of slavery across the entire United States. On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas – the final outpost of the Civil War – to declare that the war was over and slavery was now illegal in every state.
In recognition of the importance of Juneteenth in our past and present history as a nation Touro University California will be closed. There will be no classes and it will be a paid holiday for all employees.
We now find ourselves 155 years later and communities of color in the US are still fighting for freedom from oppression and systematic racism. It is our hope that you will use this day as a time to reflect on the hard work that has been done and that lies ahead to bring equality and justice to every individual and all communities. It is an opportunity as a community to support communities of color – whether that be protesting in the streets, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or other community organizations, engaging in conversations about implicit bias, microaggressions, and systemic racism and how to dismantle it, or civic engagement at the local/state/federal levels.
The Members of the Touro University California Academic Leadership Team
Sarah Sweitzer, Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Michael Clearfield, Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine
Gayle Cummings, Assistant Dean, Public Health Program Director, CEHS
Patrick Donaghue, Director of Facilities
Robert Ficken, Director of Human Resources
Andrea Garcia, Associate Vice President for Advancement
Steve Jacobson, Dean of Student Affairs
Rolly Kali-Rai, Assistant Dean of Students, College of Pharmacy
Lisa Norton, Dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences
Jack Madderra, Network Manager and Chair of TUC Staff Council
Jim O’Connor, Director of the Center for Innovative Learning and Teaching, Western Division
Scott Olds, Director of Information Technology
Debbie Sasaki-Hill, Interim Dean of the College of Pharmacy
Zachary Shapiro, Compliance Officer
Meiling Tang, Associate Vice President for Institutional Research
Rabbi Elchonon Tenenbaum, University Rabbi
Tamara Trujillo, Library Director and Chair of TUC Faculty Senate
Eduardo Velasco, Associate Dean of Preclinical Education, College of Osteopathic Medicine
June 17, 2020 - Launch of the TUC Commission on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
I want to begin by thanking all of you for your commitment to social justice and to ending racism and racial injustice in our community. We are proud to have you here at Touro living out our mission statement through service and civic engagement.
In an on-going effort to foster a campus community that understands the value and importance of equity, diversity and inclusion, I am appointing a Touro University Commission on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (TUCEDI). The TUCEDI is composed of three members from the Academic Leadership Team: Dean Dr. Steven Jacobson, Assistant Dean Dr. Gayle Cummings, and AVP Andrea Garcia. The TUCEDI will work with the Provost to lead and manage an institution-wide focus to further develop and support a diverse community of students, staff, and faculty through strategic, operational, and organizational leadership that grows diversity and inclusion on campus and provides care for our community.
The TUCEDI will lead a new Touro University California Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Council. This new Council would be responsible for assisting in the development of programs which will enhance diversity with emphasis on issues related to, but not limited to, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability. Specifically, the work of the Commission and Council will include six areas of focus: campus climate, curriculum development, student recruitment and retention, campus programming, alumni and community outreach, and faculty and staff recruitment and retention. The Touro University California Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Council represents the natural evolution of the current TUC Diversity Committee. Council membership will include the Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, the current University Diversity Committee members, and additional faculty, staff, and student representation from across the campus units. This Council will be large in number to allow for six sub-committees to address the six areas of focus.
This will allow us as a community to listen and validate the various perspectives on the campus through educated conversations, transparent humility, and actionable items that foster a community of diversity and inclusion.
Sarah M. Sweitzer, PhD
Touro University California
June 13, 2020
Dear TUC Students, Staff, and Faculty,
It is with anger and heartbreak that we are once again confronted with another death of a Black man at the hands of the police. Yesterday Rayshard Brooks was killed by Atlanta police officers. This follows on the shooting of Sean Monterrosa by Vallejo police officers less than two weeks ago. It is utterly devastating that these deaths are continuing to occur across our nation and in our own community.
As members of the Vallejo community we were further appalled to read the statement released by the Vallejo Police Officer’s Association earlier this evening in regards to protests in Vallejo in response to the killing of Sean Monterrosa. As a community that stands against systemic racism and institutionalized inequity we want to wholeheartedly condemn the statement. It is an insensitive and cowardly attempt to shift the conversation away from police brutality and institutional racism within the police force through the use of racial “dog whistle politics”. This is not only a means of obstructing the movement towards justice but is also highly disrespectful to the families of those who have been killed and to our greater community. As such we will no longer be allowing the Vallejo Police Department to train on our campus.
We cannot imagine how heartbreaking it must be for many of you to see continuing deaths and the violence directed towards protestors exercising their first amendment right to assemble and protest. We understand that these actions are a result of institutionalized racism and brutality in policing and will require substantial changes in policies, laws, and oversight. We at Touro encourage you to continue to advocate for antiracist policies and action. This advocacy can take many forms including, but not limited to, protesting, making and displaying “Black Lives Matter” signs at your home and where allowed in the community, talking to your friends and family about systemic racism, donating your time or resources with local community non-profits and groups who work to support communities of color to address inequities, civic engagement at the local/county/state/federal levels (this can include things such as letter writing, supporting candidates, voting, attending board of supervisor meetings and city council meetings, supporting legislative and policy development), and speaking up when you see implicit bias, microaggressions, and racism in our community.
We are here to support you during this heart wrenching time. The mission of Touro has always been to serve, to lead, and to teach with a foundation in social justice and respect for the inherent value and dignity of each individual. Now more than ever it is important for our TUC leadership, faculty, staff, and students to speak up for racial justice, to stand side by side with our communities of color and to demand the change that is required to stop police brutality, to address the public health impact of mass incarceration, to eliminate bias and access in healthcare and education, and to provide every person in this country no matter their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or their religious beliefs the opportunities for equality and economic prosperity.
I want to recognize that discussions of race are inherently difficult and reinforced by centuries of racist white history. It takes introspection at the individual and organization level. This includes introspection within our own organization to ensure we continue to develop a diverse and inclusive community. We commit to continue to do the hard work at Touro to not just have these discussions but to also commit to making lasting and impactful change in each other, our students, and our community by engaging in anti-racism work and expanding diversity in our workplace and in our student recruitment. Now, more than any time before, we as the TUC community need to come together to support each other in this work so that we can be better partners for the communities of color that we serve.
As a TUC community we need to recognize that what is and has been happening in our nation has impacted some of us at a personal level and others at a community level and for some this may be a new recognition. I want you to know that as an institution we are committed to making TUC a place you are proud to serve and a place where you feel valued and have opportunities for personal success. I know that I am so proud of each and every one of you and of how we have come together in fires, power outages, COVID and now for the difficult work to ensure every member of our community is valued on our campus and in our community. Together we are an amazing force for change and I look forward to working together to continue to grow and evolve the TUC mission, vision, and values as we make our campus and communities places of inclusion and equity.
Thank you all for your advocacy and determination to stand for equality. We will continue to do our best to stand with you.
Sarah M. Sweitzer, PhD
Touro University California
June 1, 2020
Dear TUC Community,
We join you in your heartbreak surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of members of the Minneapolis police. We cannot imagine the devastation this has caused Mr. Floyd’s family and his community and our hearts go out to them during these immensely difficult times. We recognize that the impacts of George Floyd’s death are far reaching. We also recognize that this is not an isolated incident. We know that it is all too familiar of an experience for people of color in the United States historically and in 2020. As such, we stand in solidarity with our communities of color who experience marginalization and injustice as a result of institutionalized and systemic racism.
Like many of you, we at Touro University California are angry and grief-stricken with the events that took place surrounding this appalling death. There is no explanation for such actions and the blatant disregard that has been shown for the life of a person of color. Acts of racism and violence contradict our core commitment to social justice and underscore the need for all of us to join together in addressing matters of institutionalized racism and injustice.
We can do better as a society to protect all members of our community, and higher education plays a vital role in leading this work. We firmly believe you are all a valuable part of that mission. We understand the importance of partnering with our community to pursue justice for all members of our society and to advocate for those who are experiencing inequality. We will continue to work together in partnership with our communities in the pursuit of justice. It is up to each and every one of us to stand against racism wherever it occurs. We encourage you to turn to your families, friends, spiritual practices, and communities.
In difficult times, as a Touro Community we have always found ways to partner together to express our grief, anger, and helplessness and to find ways to support and advocate for change. We will continue to partner with you in the fight for social justice moving forward and are planning to host a Virtual Vigil on Thursday, June 4, 2020, from noon to 1 p.m. More information will come soon with details on how to participate.
As we end the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a holiday that marks Moses receiving the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, we are reminded that we are never alone. We are called to put into action the Judaic value at the foundation of Touro University California – a respect for the inherent value and dignity of each individual.
Sarah M. Sweitzer, PhD
Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Touro University California
Opportunities to Come Together as a Community
- Touro Leadership Team Vigil - June 4, 2020
- COM Townhall - June 2, 2020 at 2pm
- TUC Community Townhall - June 5, 2020 at noon
- COP Townhall - June 11, 2020 at 5pm
- MPH Townhall for each cohort - Week of June 22nd
- San Quentin Prayer Vigil - July 1, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.
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