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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Election Week Message from Chancellor Black

Dear Campus Community:

As I said in my Chancellor's welcome last August, "The political environment, and particularly the presidential race, are adding considerably to feelings of unrest, discouragement, and anger."  Unfortunately, that unrest, discouragement, and anger not only continued but increased for many people.  The election is now over, but healing and moving forward in positive ways will not happen unless we take decisive action to repair what has been broken.  I raised these concerns in August because I was worried about our entire campus community.  I wanted to be sure we focused on helping our students and caring for each other, regardless of our political views.   
As a result of numerous national and local events, significant numbers of our colleagues were already experiencing attacks, threats, and an increased loss of their sense of belonging. 

On all sides of the political debates, or I should say, "irrational accusations and name calling", we have had people engaged not in communication, not in sharing meaning with each other or attempting to understand and respect each other.  Instead our dialogue has been dominated by an approach that literally screams: "You must listen to me, because you are wrong, and I reject you!"

We are a public institution and all political views should be expressed freely without degrading those with whom we disagree.  Our classrooms and all learning environments must be safe places for intellectual discussion and true debate as we expand our knowledge and try to better understand those with different opinions and perspectives.  If we only focus on winners and losers, we have no chance of fulfilling our higher education mission.  However, if we recognize how the past year or so of inflamed rhetoric has split us further apart and hurt those who were already marginalized, perhaps we can begin moving together towards a different future.  Many UMD community members may feel disempowered, but together we can control how we respond to these events and how we discover new avenues of living and working together to advance our purpose of educating our students, all of our students, for our new and ever-changing realities. 

UMD is such an outstanding place.  Let us recognize the harm that has been done and commit ourselves to creating an even greater future of collaboration, respect, and academic achievements.


Lendley Black