The Matador Statue.  (Photo by Ringo Chiu / CSUN)
Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a posthumous pardon for William “Bill” Burwell, an influential student activist in the 1960s and a founding member of the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Department of Afro-American (now Africana) Studies. Photo by Ringo Chiu/CSUN.

Media Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, carmen.chandler@csun.edu, (818) 677-2130

Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday signed a posthumous pardon for William “Bill” Burwell, an influential student activist on the California State University, Northridge campus in the 1960s and a founding member of the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Department of Afro-American (now Africana) Studies.          

“With this posthumous pardon, we honor the legacy of Dr. Burwell and recognize the courageous change makers who led the charge for social justice and educational freedom in the face of efforts to censor history and silence free speech,” said Gov. Newsom.

Burwell helped lead  a series of civil rights protests  on CSUN’s campus (then San Fernando Valley State College) in 1968 and 1969. Known as “The Storm at Valley State.” CSUN’s students, supported by faculty and staff, led a civil rights campaign demanding  equitable access to higher education and the transformative opportunities of a college degree for all students. Burwell, along with other students and community stakeholders, were convicted on charges related to their participation in a peaceful protest, lawfully exercising their free speech rights. The students’ efforts were successful and resulted in the creation of Afro-American Studies (now Africana Studies), Mexican American Studies (now Chicana and Chicano Studies), the expansion of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and the recruitment of more faculty of color. 

“I believe, but most importantly our campus believes, that to achieve even greater heights in service to our students, we must honor the past and hold ourselves accountable to realizing a more equitable and just future. It is in this regard that I reached out to Governor Newsom’s office, to explore opportunities to recognize the courage witnessed all those years ago, to the benefit of CSUN, and frankly to the benefit of California and our nation,” said CSUN President Erika D. Beck. “We are incredibly grateful to Governor Newsom for shining a light on this important moment in California’s history.” 

One of the largest universities in the country, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) is an urban, comprehensive university that delivers award-winning undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 36,000 students annually and counts more than 400,000 alumni who fuel the region’s economy. Since its founding in 1958, CSUN has made a significant and long-term economic impact on California, generating nearly $1.9 billion in economic impact and nearly 12,000 jobs each year. CSUN is a Hispanic Serving Institution ranking amongst the top twenty in the nation in graduating Latinx students. More than 70 percent of CSUN students are first-generation college students, and 60 percent come from historically underrepresented groups. Money magazine consistently ranks CSUN among the nation’s “most transformative” colleges for putting diverse students on the path to higher career earnings.

For information about the governor’s clemency authority and for information in applying for a pardon, please visit gov.ca.gov/clemency

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Media Contact: carmen.chandler@csun.edu - (818) 677-2130

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