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Reflection, Dialogue, and Action

Dear University of Maryland community,

Tomorrow, ​August 30, ​from 12:05 to 12:06 pm, UMD​ together with Bowie State University, and ​joined by ​some ​​other University System of Maryland ​institutions and the System office, will pause in silence to honor the life of Lt. Richard Collins III who was senselessly ​killed on our campus​ last spring.​​

Our community ​is in ​shock and grief ​at​ this tragic loss of life.​ A single Chapel bell will sound the call to silence. Therefore, wherever you are — in a classroom, lab, office, residence hall, dining hall, ​practice field, or ​walking outside — I ask that you join in this moment of solidarity and respect. ​ At the end of the minute, again a single bell will ring.

Chaplains of different faiths will be at the labyrinth, next to the Chapel, for those who wish to be there for this moment.

For ​UMD​, this moment ​signals​ a campus-wide​, ​on-going process of reflection, dialogue, and action ​to reaffirm our University's core values of ​diversity, inclusion, respect, and civil ​discourse. ​​The resurgence of white supremacists and​ neo-Nazis, and their​​ ​sulfurous ​rallies​,​ ​are a​n assault on our nation's most cherished ideals. We must redouble ​our efforts ​to respond, recover, and heal.​​

​Across ​our ​large and decentralized ​University, there are ​actions ​already underway​, with ​​more planned​ as ​described ​below. ​Yet ​no administrative office, or new initiative, ​will ​improve our campus climate without every member of our community playing a part. We ​all need to​ ask what we can do ​each ​day t​o stand for ​our values. ​ ​


Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) and new ​Chief Diversity Officer​ (CDO)​

​Professor ​Roger Worthington, a ​noted ​scholar and seasoned practitioner of diversity and inclusion​, will orchestrate many of these efforts.​ He and others have taken, or are ​working​ on, these ​actions:​

  • Establish a rapid-response campus team to assist victims of hate and bias​ on campus​.
  • Conduct periodic campus climate surveys​.​
  • Collaborate​ with the Anti-Defamation League for campus pr​ograms​ this year.
  • Launch ​the​ UMD Center on Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, a think tank that will convene thought leaders and researchers to ​develop ​professional standards and best practices in this area.
  • Review programs, activities​, and resources​ on diversity and inclusion that are distributed throughout the​ campus -​- in colleges, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, administrative units, and ​ODI​ -- in order to ascertain ​what is ​working ​well, what can be improved, ​and how different ​units​ can collaborate better. ​
  • ​Later this year, I will begin the approval process for ​elevating​ ​the ​CDO ​position​ ​to ​Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion​. This is a sign that the work of diversity and inclusion must be at the center, not at the periphery, of the University – that advancing these values is essential to the excellence of our institutional missions.

Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct

​On a regular basis, this office will collect and publish information on all hate-bias incidents on campus.​​ Together with the campus climate surveys, this will help us identify the scope of the problems and assess the effectiveness of our preventative actions. ​


President​'s and ​University Senate​'s Joint​ Task Force on Inclusion and Respect

Co-chaired by Lucy Dalglish​ (Dean, Merrill College of Journalism)​, Warren Kelley​ (Assistant VP for Student Affairs)​, and ​Ja'Nya Banks (Student Government Association diversity ​chair​​)​, this group of ​18 ​faculty,​ ​graduate and undergraduate ​students, staff, and alumni is charged with ​conducting a review of all relevant institutional policies, procedures, and practices with the goal of shaping a culture that is more inclusive and respectful of all persons.​

​T​he Joint Task Force ​will ​review ​relevant policies, including the Code of Student Conduct, ​to ​recommend ​whether stronger ​sanctions ​are appropriate ​when wrongful conduct is motivated by hate or bias. ​It ​will ​also ​review​ courses and training on cultural competency, and ​consider what improvements are needed. 

One of the most vexing issues ​for the Joint Task Force to ​consider is whether and how to draw the line between free speech and hate speech on campus. ​The First Amendment protects speech we abhor in order to ​safeguard speech we ​cherish​. Unfettered expression is essential to academic freedom and a democratic society. ​

​Yet "fighting words" are not constitutionally protected. Can we better identify for our community the threshold where despicable views go too far? When do words create a hostile environment? When does the injury they inflict become intolerable? What are ways of supporting members of our community whose identity and ​dignity ​are ​demeaned​,​ and their ​role in society marginalized by hateful speech​? ​​ ​

​Most ​peer institutions are wrestling with the same issues. T​heir​ experiences and best practices can inform ​our campus' ​discussions and actions. ​External expert consultants can be called upon to assist, as needed. ​

The Joint Task Force ​should hold public forums to seek input from the campus community and encourage public discussions. ​As ​its ​work progresses, it​​ ​should provide updates to the Senate in open meetings. ​The Task Force will submit its ​final ​report by March 30, 2018.​ 


Athletics Department 

To combat hate and create a safer campus, the Athletics Council (​comprised of ​faculty, staff, and students) ​reviewed the ​fan conduct code​ and the ​prohibited items policy​ at ​UMD​ athletic venues. ​It recommended ​expanding the prohibited list of symbols​ that incite or intimidate others ​to include swastikas and nooses​, ​with sanctions for violating the policy.

I have asked the University Senate ​that an appropriate​ committee ​consider extending ​a similar ban on the iconography of terror and hate to all other ​venues ​on campus​.


University of Maryland Police Department​ (UMPD)​

​This year, ​UMPD completed mandatory training in implicit racial bias for the entire force of 100+ sworn officers.

​UMPD has installed additional surveillance cameras in and around campus buildings where racist flyers were posted last year by unknown persons. They escaped detection on the video footage. We denounced these flyers, as did many others on campus.

​Last spring, the discovery of a noose in a fraternity ​house ​provoked campus-wide outrage. ​There was widespread condemnation of this act of hate. UMD offered a reward for information that ​would​ identify the perpetrator(s) ​and provided support for the targeted victim. UMPD ​detectives ​​​have spent over ​​5​00 hours investigating​ this act of intimidation​ to identify the perpetrator(s).​

​Last week, ​UMP​D ​announced ​that ​it​ has referred ​"a person of interest"​ ​to campus officials for​ ​disciplinary ​review.​ ​

UMPD​ is working with ​the Maryland State Police, ​the Prince George'​s County Police​, and the police department​s​ of other USM schools to coordinate plans​ ​to ensure public safety​,​ ​should there ​be outside​r​ ​protests on or near the ​campus.


Office of the Provost 

"Maryland Dialogues."
Meaningful conversations can change institutional culture. The Provost, the CDO and the VP for Student Affairs will continue the Dialogues they launched last year. ​Prominent speakers came to campus ​for​ discussions on race, identity, and social justice. There were some 200 organized conversations throughout the campus. ​Faculty and staff led ​large numbers of ​our students to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture ​so they could learn from the exhibits.

This summer, Undergraduate Studies hosted faculty and staff discussions, "Solutions in Action: Countering Divisiveness." About one hundred ​people ​attended each session. Congressman Anthony Brown will ​lead "A Conversation on Race, Politics, and Reconciliation" on Thursday, August 31, 4 PM, at the Riggs Alumni Center. ​ Congressman John Lewis will ​come ​in October​. H​is acclaimed March: Book 3 on the civil right​s​ movement ​is ​the required first-year book. Other events ​will be announced​ later.​

Inclusive excellence of students.
This year, we again ​have record diversity in the freshman class, including among historically underrepresented students. Graduation rates for all our students are in the upper tier of public flagship institutions. ​​UMD is also one of a handful of institutions that produce the most African-American Ph.D.s in the nation. 

Inclusive excellence of faculty.
The percentage of underrepresented faculty in the assistant professor ranks -- the level at which most are hired — ha​s​ doubled in recent years. 

The Provost and Deans of the various colleges have funded ​two ​new programs t​hat started th​is fall. These​ ​programs ​advance ​diversity and inclusion in faculty research, teaching, and service. One is the President's Post-doctoral Fellowship​. T​here are 6 Fellows (out of 72 applicants) from different academic disciplines and​ from across the country.​ ​The ​second ​​program ​recruit​​s​ distinguished ​senior professors​​, with t​he first two here in CMNS and ARHU.

These ​programs​ follow the ​implementation of two campus initiatives last year​: (a) The establishment​ of the Judge Alex Williams Center for Education, Justice, and Ethics, led by this​ ​​respected ​former Federal judge​.  (b) The funding ​to hire ​new faculty in the African-American Studies program​.​

General education requirements on diversity and cultural competence.
The Provost will work with the appropriate Senate committee to review these requirements to ascertain any needed improvements. ​​


Student Affairs

The large and dedicated staff ​in the ​Division of Student Affairs​ (DSA)​ ​is ​on the front lines of strengthening a ​campus ​culture of inclusion and respect.​ 

They train exempt, non-exempt, and student staff on issues of diversity and inclusion​. They provide a staff coordinator for DACA and Dreamer students. They organized tomorrow's moment of reflection, jointly with their BSU colleagues. ​Maryland Chaplains h​old​ vigils and interfaith service​s for those grieving from acts of hate and violence. ​​Counseling Center staff ​have ​special drop-in hours for those ​grieving. ​​

UMD ​has ​declined to self-designate as a "sanctuary campus," ​​but ​​continues ​to ​provide undocumented students all the protections allowed by law.​


​UMD's trajectory​

Over the past 60-plus years, UMD has evolved from a segregated institution to one of the most diverse and pre-eminent public research universities in the nation. 

Recently, we have taken actions​ ​to reflect a more ​inclusive ​campus​ history​.​ ​We renamed ​the Sociology Building for Parren J. Mitchell, our first African-American graduate student, who earned a degree in sociology, ​and ​​later served as ​a leader ​in Congress. We erected a statue of Maryland abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the plaza of Hornbake Library. We changed the name of our stadium, but continue to recognize President Byrd's important contributions to the University's growth with a permanent exhibit in the library. 

INSIGHT into Diversity (the ​main ​journal on th​is​ subject in higher education) and Essence magazine hav​e​ recently recognized UMD for our efforts to advance diversity and inclusion. Th​is reflects ​the progress of our journey, not the arrival at our destination. 

​In the past year, ​our world has changed dramatically. What we have done to ​date to ​advance diversity and inclusion is ​the beginning​. We must do more and do better.


Unity in diversity

On the 241st year of our Republic, I draw inspiration from the motto inscribed in the Great Seal of the United States: E Pluribus Unum -- out of many one; unity in pluralism. 

America was once a microcosm of Europe. Today,​ it​ is becoming a microcosm of the world. We are evolving into a truly multiracial and multicultural democracy. Other nations are defined and bonded by a common race, or religion, or ​ethnic heritage, or ​language​,​ or land. But America is ​defined by ideas. It is a ​state of mind​, ​a matter of the heart​, a bold experiment. ​ 

​T​he preamble to the Constitution ​sets forth a vision and a road map​. "​W​e the people of the United States" ​embark​ on forming "a more perfect union," to "establish justice" and "secure the blessings of liberty."  The ideal of equality and the sanctity of freedom are what hold us together as a people. ​

After all these years, we ​know that ours is an imperfect union, but we still strive to realize​ ​th​e ​vision of a nation that is truly "just" and "free" for all. My optimism for the future is rooted in ​the ​conviction that America, and UMD, are works in progress. Both have come a long way. Both have a long way to go. But I believe there is no other nation, and no other university, that holds greater promise. 

​This University is our University.​ We all belong here. Our diversity makes us richer. Our shared values -- the moral glue that bonds our diverse community -- makes us stronger. In tomorrow's moment of silence and reflection, we can begin to heal and move forward. 

Let us be fearless as we build together a more ​diverse, ​inclusive, respectful, and just ​University of Maryland ​for all.

 

Sincerely,

Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland