The following letter was sent to the Chatham campus community on Friday, September 9, 2016.
More so than many institutions and communities, Chatham University and the Chatham community have always stood for certain fundamental values, one of which is respect for diversity of all kinds: gender, race, sexual orientation, opinion, among others.
In recent years, this strong institutional and community value has manifested itself in a number of important and high profile ways, including our Mission, which states our commitment to “recognizing and respecting diversity of culture, identity and opinion,” and the Dialogues course, required for all new First Year students, through which students examine issues of diversity.
In my remarks to the campus community at Opening Convocation, I underscored Chatham’s and my own personal commitment to the values of respect, responsibility, tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity. I shared my expectation that, even in these sometimes contentious times, our campus community will be a place where people will treat one another with respect and civility, even when disagreeing with one another, and that ours will be an inclusive, safe and welcoming campus for every member of the Chatham community.
At Opening Convocation, I also shared two new initiatives for 2016-17 that will strengthen the university’s and the campus community’s commitment to furthering these goals:
- Diversity and Inclusion Council will develop and recommend initiatives that support diversity and inclusion for all members of the Chatham University Community, and support a climate where all members of our community are respected, treated fairly, and have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
- Director of Multicultural Affairs will be leading efforts to build and sustain a diverse and culturally vibrant campus, which promotes multicultural education and student success and retention.
While Chatham acknowledges the good work we have done to promote these values, these two newest initiatives underscore that we continue to seek ways of strengthening our work in this vital area. As such, we want and need to hear your ideas on how we can improve the campus climate and achieve our goal of having Chatham be a place where each member of the Chatham community feels welcome, safe, respected and supported. Until the Diversity and Inclusion Council and Multicultural Affairs position are active, I plan on holding small discussions with leaders of key student organizations, and a series of open forums on this topic so that members of the Chatham community – students, faculty and staff – can share their thoughts with me.
As Dean Waite indicated in her message yesterday, an inappropriate and offensive meme was posted by a Chatham student which runs directly counter to the values that Chatham stands for and the environment we are seeking to create. Her office has been investigating this incident since we became aware of it and we will be taking appropriate action in accordance with the Student Honor Code. I want to urge all members of the Chatham community to allow us to complete this process and to behave in accordance with this code, which includes “zero tolerance for violence” or the threats of violence.
The final point I would like to make is that each one of us has a personal responsibility to seeing that we achieve our collective vision for the kind of University and campus community we want to be. It’s up to each of us, acting as responsible members of a community of shared values, to embrace and live those values in each and every action, 24/7, on campus and off campus, in person-to-person interactions and in social media and other online interactions, in the classroom and the office and on the athletic field.
As we enter a new academic year, I hope each of you will join me in renewing our individual and collective commitment to the values of diversity, respect, tolerance and responsibility. Let us work together to combat intolerance and incivility, starting right here at Chatham as a bright and shining example, and then let us apply our lessons learned at Chatham to solving the problems of the country and the world.