I am writing you following a week in which events in our state and around the world have challenged the optimism of many. It has been a week of sadness — sadness that so many students have felt marginalized; sadness that despicable acts of terror continue to threaten the freedoms of all people, here and abroad; sadness that such ugliness led to the arrest of one of our students in connection with threats of violence.
Following last week’s events on our campus and within our University of Missouri System, I have received hundreds of letters and phone calls from current and former students, and current and former employees. For some, this recent unrest has brought attention to old scars and memories that will never be forgotten. Let me be clear on this issue: discrimination has no place at Missouri S&T, and hateful actions will not be tolerated on our campus. No one should be made to feel their value is lesser because of their skin color, or religion, or nationality, or sexuality or gender.
As I have shared with you, we are working diligently to make our university a safe and secure place for all of us to learn, work and flourish.
From the moment I stepped foot on this campus, I have discovered a community of allies in support of diversifying our campus, and together we have made much progress. In 2012, we conducted a comprehensive climate study to understand the challenges before us. Soon after, we adopted inclusion as a shared value on this campus, and increasing inclusion at all levels became the underpinning of our bold strategic plan. Furthermore, we have been, and continue to be, actively engaged in changing the very structure of our campus to reflect the value we place on diversity.
Over the past several years, we have successfully implemented a number of changes related to this issue. We now have a vice chancellor-level chief diversity officer. We launched an office of institutional equity, diversity and inclusion. We have added financial incentives for departments to attract and retain diverse faculty members, and have examined and improved hiring processes to produce diverse candidate pools. We are using our ambitious initiative to hire 100 additional faculty by 2020 as an opportunity to bring in more underrepresented faculty. We have signed articulation agreements with predominantly African American and Hispanic schools to foster greater diversity in our student body and have initiated partnerships that resulted in a record number of women on campus. In an effort to continue this progress, we encourage, and host, difficult dialogues about race and other issues with open invitations to the entire campus community.
We recently highlighted our commitment to diversity with this year’s celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention. I am also happy to share that our growing Celebration of Nations event is now in its seventh successful year of operation.
Still, there is more work to be done, and also growing interest and engagement in addressing these challenges together.
Over the past week, I have spent a good deal of time listening. On Thursday, I met with African American student leaders who shared their concerns about the troubling recent events but also their faith in the Missouri S&T community. Of particular note from that event was the outpouring of concern for other groups who also are marginalized or experience barriers to success. I also met with Faculty Senate, which began its meeting by passing a resolution condemning wrongful discrimination. In addition, my recent meetings with both Staff Council and Student Council featured frank conversations about our efforts to ensure that Missouri S&T is a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
This past week has been a week of sadness, but it has also been a week of hope. I have never seen our university come together more in solidarity against racism and exclusionary behavior. And the events unfolding in Missouri are opening conversations across the country and the world about how to improve our higher education institutions and our society. That is a good thing.
I believe these recent events can be a catalyst for Missouri S&T and the entire University of Missouri System to move forward with our goals to become more welcoming to all members of the community and to take steps to be more inclusive in all we do.
Thank you for your part in ensuring that hope is what we at Missouri S&T deliver for the future.