How one student prioritizes the safety of 31,000 others

Freshman activist strives for a more secure campus


Lucas Monteros

Michael Lee-Chang posing on the alleyway inbetween the Academic Information Resource Center and the Union on Feb. 6, 2023. Lee-Chang, a first-year student, is a student member of the Sexual Assault Awareness Team where he advocates for campus safety.

Anthony Dehzad

Tears rolling down his face, a Sacramento State student felt his stomach turn as he listened to stories in the university’s Redwood Room from his peers who are sexual assault survivors.

At the height of several sexual assaults last fall at Sac State, first year political science major Michael Lee-Chang took initiative to make change.

“I know what that experience is like and I know the trauma with it,” Lee-Chang said. “I wouldn’t want any other student to live through that.”

In November, Lee-Chang organized a student-led forum in the University Union to address students’ disappointment and safety concerns with the university’s handling of sexual assaults. 

One of the biggest factors that drove Lee-Chang to his advocacy was his own experience as a survivor, he said.

Lee-Chang is one of two student representatives of the university’s Sexual Violence Awareness Team, coordinating with ASI on ways to promote both campus safety and mental health awareness.  

“I want to do whatever I can do to ensure that students feel safe and that they feel heard,” Lee-Chang said.

Empathy and reliability play a big role in Lee-Chang’s advocacy, he said.

As a student attending Sac State for the next three years, Lee-Chang said the university is his home.

I wouldn’t want any student to feel harassment or assault of any kind. I want it to be safer for me and for other students.

— Michael Lee-Chang

Lee-Chang lives and works on campus and said he doesn’t want a hostile environment for himself or the people around him. 

“I wouldn’t want any student to feel harassment or assault of any kind,” Lee-Chang said. “I want it to be safer for me and for other students.” 

Erika Cessna, a third-year political science major and Lee-Chang’s supervisor in the Political Science Department, said Lee-Chang is dependable.

Cessna said Lee-Chang always makes sure he does a good job on any task he’s assigned, which makes him easy to work with. 

Cessna said many colleagues in the department enjoy being around Lee-Chang not only because he is hardworking, but because he has a great attitude. 

“Michael is a very genuine, friendly person who cares deeply about making a difference at the university and community as a whole,” Cessna said. “He is very mature and intelligent, and he has proven to be a quick learner.” 

Chair of the Sexual Violence Awareness Team, Britnie Hopkins, said Lee-Chang is passionate, putting a lot of time and energy towards everything he strives towards.

Hopkins said Lee-Chang’s time on SVAT has created a ripple effect of improvement as the university has memorialized his work through campus-wide emails.

The efforts Lee-Chang made to form the town hall meeting resonated with students, according to Hopkins. 

“When he hosted the town hall, a lot of students afterward gave positive feedback,” Hopkins said. “They felt like they were heard and got to voice some of the things they had been feeling in places where they don’t normally get to, like in front of audiences.”

With the sexual assaults that had students on edge last semester, Lee-Chang said he believes mental health for students needs to be monitored.

He is part of an organization on campus, Students for Quality Education, which is affiliated with the California Faculty Association. 

Lee-Chang said the organization’s goal is to promote more resources into mental health, like improving wait times for students to schedule counseling appointments.

“I set up an appointment mid-way through last semester and was finally scheduled to meet someone during the final week of school,” Lee-Chang said. “Two to three months of waiting to see a counselor for students that could be in a serious emotional crisis is an issue.“ 

While attending Redondo Union High School, Lee-Chang was well-known by many students on campus for his advocacy work, according to a senior newsletter published by the school. 

His work ranged from ways to protect the environment to pro-choice rallies and a protest due to a surge in COVID cases that he said his high school was doing little to address, leading to a school-wide walkout.  

Lee-Chang’s work on COVID legislation led him to team up with Senator Richard Pan, including California Senate Bill 866, which seeked to lower the vaccine consent age to 12.  

With his time remaining at Sac State, Lee-Chang said his mission is to make campus a better place.

“I try what I can to give back to the community,” Lee-Chang said.