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University Marketing and Communications

Guidelines for Public Statements at Fresno State

As a prominent public university and a leader in higher education, Fresno State is often called upon to provide public responses following tragedies and significant events impacting local, state, national, and/or international communities. To address these situations, the university created the following guidelines to assess whether, how, and when institutional and/or leadership statements should be made. This ensures that decisions are based on consistent criteria rather than popular or personal sentiment.

At Fresno State, we acknowledge that issuing public statements on certain issues while remaining silent on others can raise concerns. This approach risks excluding members of our community who are deeply affected by specific events and contradicts our Principles of Community. Additionally, broad statements may be perceived as insincere or politically motivated, potentially limiting academic freedom and expression. Therefore, Fresno State will reserve institutional statements for exceptional circumstances.

These guidelines do not extend to statements made by individual members of the campus community in their personal capacity. Fresno State upholds academic freedom and acknowledges the constitutional right of individual students, faculty, and staff to express personal opinions concerning political and social matters within or outside the university community. However, individuals must adhere to university policies regarding the use of institutional resources, including email, websites, and social media platforms.

Fresno State's leadership affirms its dedication to free speech and embraces the principles outlined in the Kalven Report and the Chicago Principles

The following guidelines outline our approach to institutional and leadership statements, adhering to clear principles when deciding to engage in speech.

Freedom of speech and expression

Freedom of speech and expression are foundational values of our constitutional system in the United States, and they are at the heart of Fresno State’s core values. Learn more about the university's commitment to these principles and their related policies, resources and responsibilities.
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A public statement refers to any communication from a university leader through a Fresno State-owned channel (such as email, website, or social media feed) to students, faculty, staff, alumni, the press, the public, or other institutional stakeholders following tragedies and significant events impacting local, state, national, or international communities.  In addition, a public statement also refers to any communication from a university leader who directly identifies as an employee or a leader of the university, made through a non-Fresno State-owned university channel.  

As a general rule, statements made within one's job responsibilities are considered official and attributed to Fresno State if they are characterized by any of the following:

  • Utilization of university resources (e.g., email system, official social media channel or university webpage).
  • Clear connection between the statement's subject matter and the speaker’s university role.
  • Made by a university leader, defined for the purpose of these guidelines as the president, members of the president’s cabinet, the provost and deans.

Conversely, statements of a purely personal nature typically do not represent Fresno State. However, certain roles within the university may blur this distinction (see university leaders definition above), where the personal opinions of individuals, such as the president, may be interpreted as reflective of the institution's stance -even when made from a personal account.  

At Fresno State, diversity of thought and background is recognized as a fundamental asset. Public statements by university leaders should be exercised with discretion to avoid hindering the free exchange of ideas vital for education, research and discovery while ensuring that impacted communities are supported. In all statements issued on behalf of the university, a clear connection to upholding our stated Principles of Community should be referenced. 

University leaders may consider issuing institution- or unit-level statements under the following circumstances:

  • When an issue or event directly impacts Fresno State’s mission of teaching, research, and service.
  • When the issue or event directly affects members of the university community in their institutional capacities as students, faculty, or staff and their ability to function in these roles (either positively or negatively).
  • When an event disrupts campus operations, statements may be issued but will adhere to the Time, Place and Manner policy.

University leaders should evaluate the following questions before issuing a public statement:

  • Will the statement uphold or undermine Fresno State’s commitment to academic freedom, open inquiry, and free expression?
  • Would Fresno State's involvement in broader statements with relevant alliances or institutions enhance impact (i.e. a coordinated statement in partnership with the CSU and UC system)?
  • Does the statement comply with state, federal and Fresno State policies?
  • Could issuing the statement impede another individual’s academic freedom or free expression? Could issuing a statement enhance or create a sense of belonging or inclusion on campus?
  • Does the statement reflect Fresno State’s values and mission?
  • Would providing support services or special programming and speaking to impacted groups be more beneficial for the campus community than issuing a statement?

Public statements issued by Fresno State, irrespective of the sender, should adhere to these best practices:

  • Timeliness, clarity, and relevance to the university's mission should be prioritized, including outlining the principle(s) of community that is being supported.
  • Statements must be factual, avoiding speculation or unfounded claims.
  • When appropriate, actions being taken or planned in response to the issue should be outlined.
    Statements of support or solidarity should be issued by the most relevant academic or administrative unit.
  • Prioritizing programmatic support and resources for affected community members often constitutes the most effective approach.
  • Relevant experts, stakeholders and university leadership should be consulted when appropriate, before issuing a public statement. Additionally, university leaders, under the direction of the president, can provide guidance and consultation on who is the most appropriate person to issue a statement on behalf of the university.

A public statement should encompass elements such as referencing Fresno State’s mission, vision, values and principles of community, along with providing relevant resources applicable to the subject matter. Whenever possible, statements should include action-oriented information (e.g., supportive resources, relevant and informative programming, increased access to resources or information and contact information for questions/concerns).

Public statements issued by Fresno State must strictly adhere to legal regulations such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Additionally, they are expected to align with university policies concerning privacy, professional ethics, responsible information technology usage, and guidelines on political activity.

Therefore, public statements must refrain from the following actions:

  • Releasing private or confidential information, including academic records, health status, or personnel records of individuals within the institution.
  • Promoting, endorsing, or opposing political campaigns or candidates for elected or appointed government offices. Comments regarding specific legislation should only be made after consultation with Government Relations and University Marketing and Communications in coordination with the Chancellor’s Office of Government Relations and Communication Teams.
  • Including content that is threatening, harassing, discriminatory, or biased against protected classes.
  • Defaming or violating the rights of any individual.
  • Issuing statements on behalf of other individuals, entities, groups, or organizations.
All statements must follow California State University policy and best practices. For inquiries regarding public statements, contact Lauren Nickerson, Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications.