Fighting COVID-19 Related Bias (4-27-20)
Dear University Community,
Over the past several weeks we have done our best to adjust to difficult circumstances that have disrupted our daily lives and threatened our health and wellbeing. I am proud of the strength and resilience of our University community. I know we will continue working together to care for ourselves and one another during this crisis.
An important part of that care is offering support to our Asian and Asian-American community members who are experiencing an increase in incidents of racism and xenophobia related to COVID-19. These incidents harm our students, staff, and faculty, and leave many feeling unsafe and unwelcome at a time when there is heightened fear and anxiety due to the number of bias incidents occurring in Minnesota and across the country.
The University does not tolerate racism and xenophobia. We are deeply committed to creating an inclusive environment for all of our community members. To combat COVID-19 related bias, we are communicating openly and often, encouraging reporting and tracking, offering direct support to impacted individuals, and providing opportunities for education.
President Gabel’s messages to the University community have included information from the CDC on reducing stigma related to COVID-19 and campus-specific resources for those who believe they have witnessed or experienced bias. When reports are made, we are able to track overall trends, learn more about what types of incidents are occurring, and provide support and resources to impacted individuals. Please visit Safe Campus for more information on reporting resources.
We also know that education is key in the fight against bias. The Office for Equity and Diversity (OED) recently launched Equity Certificate Hosted Online (ECHO), a new online equity and diversity certificate program. We hope that ECHO and other educational opportunities will increase understanding and proactively address climate on our campuses.
I want to assure you that we are taking all incidents of bias, racism, and xenophobia seriously. I encourage you to reach out to my office with feedback and suggestions for how we can continue to create an inclusive and welcoming climate for all.
I invite all of us to be intentional in continuing to show compassion, empathy, and kindness during these challenging times.
Professor and Vice President for Equity and Diversity
Statement on New Zealand Mosque Shootings (3/15/19)
Once again, we stand witness to the most recent mass shooting in New Zealand that claimed the lives of 49 people as they gathered peacefully in prayer. At our University, we hear the call to go beyond the extension of thoughts and prayers in response to this all too common pattern of violence against groups based on their identities.
Nonetheless, my heart pains for those affected directly by the loss of loved ones, friends, and colleagues in New Zealand. It aches as well for those here closer to home and around the globe who are grieving for the senseless loss of life.
This attack was directed explicitly toward Muslims and the Muslim community. At our University we condemn Islamophobia, racism, bigotry and violence in all forms. To dismantle the systems that allow hatred to flourish, we must take action in addition to extending our thoughts and prayers to victims.
Each one of us can commit to learning more about those who are different from us. Each one of us can commit to behaving in ways that embody kindness. Each one of us can commit to engaging in a collective effort to be and do better in confronting bias.
Our University can continue to provide space for education that addresses all forms of hatred. Our University can continue to work towards ensuring that our community is one where everyone can feel safe, both physically and psychologically. Indeed, our University can work to promote systems that support, encourage and endorse the constructive expression of differences and the ability to hear such expressions of difference in a non-defensive way.
Together, we can and we must continue to counter hatred in all its forms so that we can work collaboratively to ensure a more peaceful future.
Response to Pittsburgh Tragedy (10/31/18)
Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger. These are the names of the innocent people who lost their lives in the hate-driven attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue. It is important to say and remember their names, their families, and the significant pain that many are feeling after this horrific attack.
Across the University, students, staff, faculty, and leaders are coming together to mourn the loss of life, offer support to our Jewish community members, and find ways to ensure that our campuses are a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
This tragedy followed potential violence targeting politicians and journalists and an apparent hate-driven killing of two African-Americans in a grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky. We recognize that acts of violence, even those that do not occur at the University of Minnesota, lead to fear and anxiety on our campuses. Although we cannot alleviate those fears completely, we want to send a strong message of support to all who are impacted.
That we live in such times where hateful acts dominate our daily existence is reason to pause. That we have to write many such statements, too frequently, demands action more than words. That we want to convey more than “thoughts and prayers” means that every single one of us must consider what “I” (not “they”) can do to promote learning, understanding, healing, and peace.
If we truly want to become campus communities within a system, then we must spend as much energy bridging our differences as we are prone to highlighting our differences. Higher education, and our campuses, must be spaces where we can hold tensions and differences in robust yet respectful ways. We must recover dignity in our discourses, and we must seek out the common humanity in us all. We must also rediscover kindness and caring.
It is our responsibility to support one another, especially in times of tragedy. We will provide education to address all forms of hatred, bigotry, and anti-Semitism. We will continue to condemn acts of violence. We will continue to promote peace. We will continue in our efforts to create communities where everyone feels safe and valued.
This is the University of Minnesota I hope we can imagine.
Expression of Support and Policy Update (10/30/18)
Dear University Community,
With current national discussions around issues of access, rights, and the safety of transgender and gender non-conforming communities, it is an appropriate time to update our campuses about the University’s priorities and commitments. The state of Minnesota and our University have a long history of advocating for LGBTQ rights. In 1993, Minnesota became the first state to include gender identity protections. Similarly, the University of Minnesota is home to the first LGBTQ program office to include “T” in its title. We are proud to carry this legacy forward.
We must ensure that everyone feels safe, welcome, and valued on our campuses. This cannot be realized with words alone; our statements must be followed by action. Our draft administrative policy entitled Equity and Access: Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Names and Pronouns, and the intensive process to engage and receive feedback during its development, demonstrates this commitment.
The draft policy is a response to students, staff, and faculty asking for guidance on how to create an inclusive environment for transgender and gender non-conforming communities. While the University’s anti-discrimination policies prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression, we need more clarity about how to navigate this complex and fast-changing area of human rights. The draft policy and the discussions we are having about its implementation with student, faculty, and staff governance groups provides a highly visible, accessible, and centralized resource.
Consultation with students, staff, and faculty across the University system began in 2017 and will continue this fall. We expect the policy to be presented to the University Senate in Spring 2019, and implemented in Fall 2019. This process fosters broad collaboration to develop the best and most comprehensive policy that considers everyone’s rights and needs. Strong support for the draft policy has been expressed throughout the consultation process, and we are proud of the University’s commitment to achieving inclusive excellence.
We are not alone in our work. Institutions and organizations across the country are formally declaring support for transgender and gender non-conforming communities. We will continue to lead by example through our words and our actions. Now is the time for us to show how we come together, even with our many differences, to lift up and protect the rights of all members of our University community.
Professor and Vice President for Equity and Diversity