President Nelsen denounces hate speech during fall address


Joseph Daniels

Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen delivers the fall address at the University Union Ballroom on Wednesday. Nelsen also discussed the protest at Charlottesville, Va.

Joseph Daniels

During his annual fall address Thursday, Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen spoke about the effects of the Finish in Four initiative, parking, construction and his hopes to make the campus “hate-free.”

Nelsen invited Shannon Swanson, an incoming freshman, to read a letter which denounced the Unite the Right rally that occurred on Aug. 11 and 12 at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville.

According to the New York Times, protesters were chanting “Jews will not replace us” and racially-charged epithets.

Swanson said she lead a group of new students to collaborate on an open letter to incoming students at the University of Virginia.

“I just felt so terrible for the students who are going through what I’m going through right now,” Swanson said. “Starting a new school, which is very scary, let alone being in a climate like that is turbulent and scary and frightening, so I think it is important to establish that sense of solidarity.”

Nelsen said that he plans to make inclusion and diversity a priority at Sac State.

“We have watched campuses fall apart and exploded,” Nelsen said in reference to the protests like the ones that took place at on Feb. 2 and April 27 at Berkeley. “Do we want this degradation (to) take place on our beloved campus?”

Associated Students, Inc. President Mia Kagianas, who attended the fall address, said that it was gut-wrenching for her to watch footage of the white nationalist protest in Virginia.

“Sometimes you can’t even see (prejudice), but it comes out,” Kagianas said. “I think that it’s important to continue training our students, our faculty, and our staff on unconscious bias training, and being inclusive, and eliminating any idea that prejudice could occur … that’s what sets (students) up to be global citizens is looking out for each other.”

Nelsen also used his speech to address how the Finish in Four initiative has affected graduation rates.

Sixty four percent of this year’s incoming freshmen pledge they will take 15 units or more, which was a 20 percent increase from the previous year.

The graduation rates for four-year students have increased to 12 percent from 8 percent, and the graduation rates for six-year students has increased to 48.9 percent. The graduation rate for transfer students has increased from 27 percent to 32 percent.

At the end of his speech, Nelsen said the student body will have to make adjustments due to losing 915 parking spaces.

The campus will lose a total of 1,250 student and staff parking spaces due to the construction of Parking Structure V, Science II and the Union expansion project.

Once construction is finished, campus will gain 1,750 parking spaces.

Nelsen said the school is required to have the same number of parking space for professors as it did last semester. He asked for professors to be patient for students who may be late to class.  

Parking Structure V is designed to be potentially reused in the future as a dormitory in the event that students are not as reliant on their vehicles, according to Nelsen.

Nelsen described Sac State as a school that is transforming from a small university in which students can park next to their classroom, to a campus which requires a student to do more walking.

“I am hoping you are all counting your steps,” Nelsen said. “And logging them into calorie counters.”