In light of new initiative, what do the Principles of Community mean to UC Davis?

In light of new initiative, what do the Principles of Community mean to UC Davis?

Photo Credits: Markus Kaeppeli / Aggie. The Principles of Community placard in Peter J. Shields Library at UC Davis.

Following 30th Principles of Community week, a look into university’s “four words campaign”

For the past 30 years, the UC Davis campus community has aimed to stand by its Principles of Community, but have students noticed? The week of February 23rd was Principles of Community week ー where faculty and students celebrated the Principles of Community and workshopped how to better apply them to the community. Held at both the UC Davis campus and the university’s health campus in Sacramento, the week of the celebration included various speakers addressing topics such as microresistance, freedom of expression and disability resources.

The California Aggie asked random students on campus: “Do you know what the Principles of Community are?” And among those randomly asked, most said no. One student, who understood the aspirational purposes of the Principles of Community, said that to him they are “kind of bulls–t.”

The Principles of Community have existed for almost exactly 30 years, and students are told about them during orientation, when applying for any job in ASUCD or even sometimes when joining an extracurricular organization. So why don’t more students know what the Principles of Community are? 

“The Principles of Community are aspirations, not policy,” said Mikael Villalobos, associate chief diversity officer in the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “[They] were made in response to the reality that we were growing as a campus community, and that we were going to experience demographic shifts.” 

Villalobos was one of the many students 30 years ago who took part in the discussion to create the Principles of Community. But the Principles of Community are not just aspirations alone. 

“The Principles themselves are connected to […] several [university] policies,” said Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Renetta Tull — meaning that some of the aspects of the Principles of Community can be enforced by university policy, but not everything in the Principles of Community is tied to policy. 

“The university will forever challenge to reach the aspirations of what the Principles promise to be,” Villalobos said. 

With each new year, as the community continues to grow, steps are being taken to further spread the Principles of Community. 

“It seems to be reaffirmed every five to six years or so,” Tull said of the Principles of Community. “[New students] are able to see that [the Principles of Community] are something that we hold on to, something that we refer to.” 

The administration is taking new steps to spread the Principles of Community to students through a campaign called the “Four Words.” The focus of the campaign is to highlight the four words in the Principles of Community that are most important to the campus — the four words chosen will “embody what we feel the Principles of Community mean now,” Tull said. 

“I think that having something that’s distilled down to something that people can remember very easily is going to be very important when we talk about what our core values are,” she explained. 

The campaign is still in the planning phase, but it will include a social media campaign with “posters, laptop stickers” as well as an effort to highlight the Principles of Community at certain campus events, such as orientation and Picnic Day.

“The hope is that, by September, by the time Fall Quarter starts in 2020, people will have a firm grasp on the four words that are part of the Principles of Community,” Tull said. 

Despite these efforts, the Principles of Community might not always be upheld. In the past two years, the university has been accused of bias against low-income students and ethnic and racial minorities. 

“We will fail, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t make meaningful dents in making sure that our campus community continues, or strives to be, as welcoming as it could be,” Villalobos said. “That’s the beauty, and also the challenge of the Principles of Community.”

Written by: Alex Weinstein — campus@theaggie.org