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Friday, November 30, 2012

Important message affirming our commitment to inclusiveness

Dear Colleagues,

It is incumbent upon us as leaders at the University of Minnesota to create an inclusive culture for our students, faculty and staff and to uphold values of respect, inclusiveness and equity.

At UMD, we have been working for over two years on a major initiative to create a welcoming campus where students live, study and learn from and about each other in a supportive environment. As is the case throughout the system, we are creating a campus culture where we respect and embrace the diversity of individuals, perspectives and ideas. Creating a positive climate is an ongoing process and we will not let setbacks overshadow the many strides forward made by students, faculty and staff.

A video with offensive racial slurs created off campus by a UMD student has had widespread impact throughout the University of Minnesota system. We abhor the hurtful video and immediately addressed the situation at UMD. This is not acceptable behavior for anyone at any time--whether at the university or beyond. Information about individuals involved is considered private so we cannot publicly share details related to the incident.

It is a challenge when individuals join our university community who do not share the UMD core value of inclusiveness. While we have taken many steps to teach others to respect and to embrace the diversity of individuals, perspectives and ideas, changing deep-seated beliefs and behaviors takes time. The video is an extreme example that nonetheless serves as a reminder that bias and discrimination fall along a broad spectrum and that even small instances of prejudice and thoughtlessness can have damaging repercussions.

Advancing equity, diversity and social justice across the board requires persistence and long-term effort at all levels of our campus community. As was shared in Reimagining Equity and Diversity: A Framework for Transforming the University of Minnesota (pdf): "Equity and diversity efforts must be led not only by people with formal authority, but also by faculty, staff, students and administrators at every level of operation and responsibility." At UMD, our action plan can be found here: http://www.d.umn.edu/chancellor/climate. Today, we take this opportunity to renew this promise made to our campus community and beyond, and look forward to working with all of you to realize our goals.


Lendley Black