NEWS

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November 13, 2016

President Commits to 'Diversity and Inclusion' in Wake of Racist Events on Campuses Since Trump Win

The President and the Provost sent a campus-wide e-mail Sunday afternoon reaffirming the University’s values of diversity, inclusion and free speech following a string of racist events on campuses since the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

According to President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier, the values of free expression and inclusion are not mutually exclusive.

“Recent national events have generated waves of disturbing, exclusionary and sometimes threatening behavior around the country, particularly concerning gender and minority status,”  the e-mail reads. “As a result, many individuals are asking whether the nation and its institutions are entering a period in which supporting the values of diversity and inclusion, as well as free expression and open discourse, will be increasingly challenging.

“We are writing to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms our unwavering commitment to these values, and to the importance of the University as a community acting on these values every day.”

The Provost, President, and News Office were not immediately available for comment on which "recent national events" inspired the e-mail.

The University entered the national spotlight in September following a letter to incoming first-years warning them not to expect safe spaces or trigger warnings on campus. The letter also reaffirmed the University’s commitment to free speech. Zimmer additionally penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal addressing the attacks against free speech on college campuses.

Now the University is reaffirming its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the wake of several incidents on college campuses across the country following Trump’s victory.

A student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor was allegedly approached by a man who told her to remove her hijab or he would set her on fire. Several students at University of Pennsylvania were targeted in a racist GroupMe. “Trump!” was graffitied on the door of a Muslim prayer room at New York University. At Canisius College, photos of a black doll hanging from a dormitory curtain rod surfaced— and was created into a meme with language about “Trump fans."

Both in the spring and in the fall, chalkings across the University of Chicago campus reading “Trump 2016” sparked mini-controversies surrounding free speech on campus. On Wednesday following the election results, a “primal scream” was held in the center of the campus quad, where protesters lit Trump paraphernalia on fire. A “StopTrump Walkout and Rally,” coordinated by UChicago Student Action, is planned for Tuesday afternoon.

The full text of the e-mail is below.

“Early in the fall quarter, we sent a message welcoming each of you to the new academic year and affirming our strong commitment to two foundational values of the University – fostering an environment of free expression and open discourse; and ensuring that diversity and inclusion are essential features of the fabric of our campus community and our interactions beyond campus.

Recent national events have generated waves of disturbing, exclusionary and sometimes threatening behavior around the country, particularly concerning gender and minority status.  As a result, many individuals are asking whether the nation and its institutions are entering a period in which supporting the values of diversity and inclusion, as well as free expression and open discourse, will be increasingly challenging.  As the president and provost of the University of Chicago, we are writing to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms our unwavering commitment to these values, and to the importance of the University as a community acting on these values every day.

Fulfilling our highest aspirations with respect to these values and their mutual reinforcement will always demand ongoing attention and work on the part of all of us.  The current national environment underscores the importance of this work.  It means that we need to manifest these values more rather than less, demand more of ourselves as a community, and together be forthright and bold in demonstrating what our community aspires to be.  We ask all of you for your help and commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion, free expression, and open discourse and what they mean for each of us working, learning, and living in this University community every day.”

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