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Friday, June 22, 2012

UnFair Campaign

The City of Duluth is dealing this week with one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our region and state. As are all people in Duluth, we are currently focusing our attention on dealing with this crisis and beginning to repair our community.

Still, we have received calls and emails expressing concern about the University of Minnesota, Duluth's (UMD) participation in the Un-Fair Campaign. We understand that the recent Un-Fair Campaign public service announcement (PSA) is divisive and has alienated some people. That's concerning to us as a public institution whose goal it is to provide a welcoming environment for all people.

While we fully support the foundations and principles of the Un-Fair Campaign, we feel the PSA is divisive and we do not agree with the creative strategy. UMD expressed displeasure to the partnership that the PSAs were aired without a chance for our review. We will continue to discuss our concerns with the partnership and will require review of all future campaign materials and efforts to ensure they foster constructive dialogue and do not alienate people in our community.

Contrary to some media and blog reports that suggest UMD is the sole sponsor of this PSA, the fact is that UMD is one of 18 community partners in the campaign working toward a common mission: "To raise awareness about white privilege in our community, provide resources for understanding and action, and facilitate dialogue and partnership that result in fundamental, systemic change toward racial justice." Other campaign partners include the City of Duluth, St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services, the NAACP, the YWCA and the University of Wisconsin, Superior, as well as others.

As a community, we believe it is critical to have a serious discussion about diversity and racial equity. Duluth has had a difficult and long history of challenges regarding racial equity and justice that we have not entirely overcome. For example, in spring 2010, an African American woman studying in a campus residence hall was the subject of other students' racist comments on social media. Other people of color on campus shared similar concerns and experiences. Such concerns led to an on-campus summit that led to the formulation of our Campus Change process that continues today.