District Attorney Speaks to Faculty, Administration
Harris Praises Educators' Work
January 25, 2007 5:11 PM
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris spoke of the connections between education and social justice to a group of SF State faculty and administration Monday night in Downtown San Francisco.
“Everyday as district attorney, I see education as a powerful antidote,” Harris told the mostly receptive audience of educators during a dinner function at the Parc 55 Hotel. “As the chief law enforcement officer of the City and County of San Francisco, you and I are in this together.”
“Education is a crime-fighting tool,” she said. “It’s a way of preventing crime in the first place.”
Harris cited five years worth of statistics from her office showing that among all homicide victims in San Francisco under the age of 25, 94 percent were high school dropouts.
“There is no question that there is a connection between lack of education and victimization,” Harris said.
Harris, who counts several family members as having taught at SF State, said that she has long been aware of the school’s history of social activism. She cited the work of actor/alumnus Danny Glover and others who successfully demanded the creation of the world’s first ethnic studies department during the late 1960s.
More recently, SF State joined other schools and organizations in the city to collaborate with the District Attorney on “Back on Track”, a program designed to help young adults recently released from prinston to re-enter society through educational and employment opportunities.
“In California, the average state prison sentence is 21 months,” Harris said. “In three years of release, 70 percent of these prisoners go back in. We have to recognize that fact and do something about it. We have to help these people be a productive part of the community.”
She cited two success stories of the “Back on Track” program: a young African-American man arrested for drug dealing who will graduate this spring from SF State, and a female, former drug dealer who is graduating from the Academy of Art University with a 3.8 grade point average.
“We’re creating an opportunity for people to be equal, to have access,” Harris said.
“Let’s not forget the fact that, though he was a student of Gandhi and a pacifist, Martin Luther King was by no means passive,” Harris said.
The reaction to Harris’ speech was overwhelmingly positive, with many in attendance openly agreeing with her views on crime prevention and reduction.
“It was great having Kamala here,” SF State President Robert Corrigan said as he left the dinner. “She really brought it back between educational institutions and society at large.”
Harris’ speech capped off a daylong retreat in which 400 faculty members converged on the new SF State Downtown Campus at Westfield San Francisco Centre. Under the theme of social justice, the retreat included 64 different workshops regarding a wide range of topics.
“This is an opportunity for cross-campus dialogue that we seldom have on-campus,” Academic Senate President Dr. David Meredith told the audience before Harris’ speech.
Corrigan followed Meredith’s opening remarks by touting the new campus as a way of strengthening the school’s ties to the community. While praising those who participated in the event, he also alluded to the recent contract negotiations that have strained relations between Cal State University administrators and faculty members.
“If the rest of the Cal State University administration and faculty can have this kind of civility, then we can all be better off,” Corrigan told the audience.
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