Message to faculty, staff and students, April 8, 2016

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Students, Faculty and Staff:

The reported incident involving racial issues in a campus residence hall has brought into sharp focus the need for us to have a critically important conversation about race and inclusivity on our campus. This is a conversation that is happening on campuses across the country, because the issues we face are not isolated to SIU. We must all be concerned when we have members of our campus community who indicate that they do not feel welcome.

Regarding the incident itself, you should know that we are taking it seriously but cannot provide the details many are asking for due to privacy issues associated with the individuals involved. You should not assume that silence is inaction, but that we are moving as quickly as possible based on the verifiable information we are able to gather, assess and respond to appropriately. We must be measured, and we must be fair.

Meanwhile, I strongly repeat that acts or statements that retaliate against, threaten or intimidate others are unacceptable and do not align with our university's core values. If you feel threatened or at risk, please contact campus police at 911 immediately. You can find more about campus safety at safe.siu.edu.

I remind the community that even speech that we consider inappropriate or hateful is protected by law; when speech or actions become threatening, we urge you to report it so we can take appropriate action. Regardless, I urge every member of our community to be respectful of others in their words and deeds. That is our shared responsibility.

I add that SIU’s discrimination policy states that “all students, faculty, staff, and guests should be able to enjoy and work in an educational environment free from discrimination, and harassment.” If you believe this policy has been violated, please contact the Office of Diversity and Equity, 618-453-1186, diversity@siu.edu.

Regarding the larger issue of campus climate, we have done a lot but clearly have much more to do. As noted yesterday, we have seen great success with the diversity dialogues in the residence halls and are working to expand those in other formats and venues. As noted earlier, I have asked staff in the Center for Inclusive Excellence and the Office of Diversity and Equity to develop a plan to expand and promote conversations and workshops that focus on the importance of valuing and respecting diversity. Your participation is strongly encouraged.  

Further, I think it is important that we assess the climate of our campus so that we can identify areas we could improve and strengths we need to build upon. To that end, I have asked the Office of Diversity and Equity to conduct a campus climate survey in the fall. 

Recently, I met with members of the Black Faculty and Staff Council for a frank conversation about a number of topics, and I am grateful for their ideas. We are moving forward on a number of initiatives as quickly as possible. They include mandatory training for members of search committees, the development of a campus diversity plan that includes all campus constituencies, the establishment of an advisory diversity council, and a commitment to conducting national searches for open, senior-level administrative positions. There were a number of other ideas that we will continue to explore, as well.

We have work to do as a campus and community. I urge everyone to be a part of this important conversation – a conversation that requires listening as well as contributing, respect and civility, and a commitment to fulfilling our historic mission as a university committed to diversity and inclusion.

Sincerely,

Brad Colwell
Interim Chancellor