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Building a community of respect

The following message was distributed to the Morris campus community on November 14, 2017.

UMM Community,

Recent events on campus have made clear the need to reiterate our campus values and community standards of respect. UMM values its students, staff, and faculty from all backgrounds. A diverse learning environment makes a university richer, both culturally and intellectually. While our democracy should and does rightfully tolerate expression of differences of opinion, hate-filled speech and its symbols cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged.

Public universities, as a recent UMN School of Law symposium noted, “strive to promote free speech, academic freedom, and thought-provoking debate. They also seek to foster an inclusive environment where people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints are able to feel safe.” With this in mind, we want to strongly reaffirm our mission and values as a University community. Differences are our strength, and we value the opportunity to learn from each other.

The news is filled with college campuses that have seen "It's OK to Be White" posters displayed, as we have here along with other inflammatory postings, as part of an effort to instigate a “predicted media furor, adding fuel to culture wars” (Inside Higher Ed). Symbols of hate, highly provocative speech, and inflammatory rhetoric do little to foster learning and are counter to our community values. Making members of marginalized groups feel unwelcome and more vulnerable benefits no one and no part of our mission. Such provocations aim to divide; we strive to make Morris a community of respect and encourage everyone to work toward this goal.

As a model for civil discourse in our learning community, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents Guiding Principles bear repeating:

In all of its activities, the University strives to sustain an open exchange of ideas in an environment that:

  • embodies the values of academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, and cooperation;
  • provides an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance;
  • assists individuals, institutions, and communities in responding to a continuously changing world;
  • is conscious of and responsive to the needs of the many communities it is committed to serving;
  • creates and supports partnerships within the University, with other educational systems and institutions, and with communities to achieve common goals; and
  • inspires, sets high expectations for, and empowers the individuals within its community.

We appreciate all that you do to uphold these guiding principles and to make Morris a welcoming and inclusive community. We will look to our resources within our community, as well as outside of it, to foster more campus learning and discussion on these issues during this academic year. We encourage students to contact Student Counseling or Equity, Diversity and Intercultural Programs, should they need additional support at this time.

Sincerely,

Michelle Behr, Chancellor

Janet Schrunk Ericksen, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean

Sandy Olson-Loy, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Hilda Ladner, Chief Diversity Officer

Bryan Herrmann, Vice Chancellor for Finance and Facilities