1. Conversations and support for our community

    September 28, 2016

    To All Members of the Campus Community:

    Earlier this week, our community discovered hateful fliers in a variety of places on our campus. We do not know who posted them, but these racist, discriminatory and offensive fliers were hurtful to our community. On a more personal level, I am both angered and frustrated by this episode, the pain it is causing, and the underlying prejudice it represents.

    Hateful messages have no place at the University of Michigan. They are an attack on all of us who value constructive dialogue and a welcoming university environment. We’ve heard this from our African American students and students of many races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and other identities. Behavior that seeks to intentionally cause pain to members of our community is reprehensible. It violates basic human decency and goes against the values of our university.

    Many students have told us they are in great pain. They experience these messages on a very personal level and in the context of violence and discrimination happening across our nation and around the world.

    Our ability to come together as a community and support one another is again being tested. But I am confident that our commitment to do so is as strong as ever.

    We are working to convene conversations on our campus to hear what students are experiencing, offer support, promote healing, and discuss the roles we each might play in preventing discrimination and creating a more hospitable community. I would like to personally invite all members of our community to participate in a conversation at 1:00 pm this Sunday, October 2, in the Rogel Ballroom of the Michigan Union.

    More conversations are being planned at other times and places on our campus, as well. As events are scheduled, we will add them to our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion website. Our College of Literature, Science, and the Arts – whose buildings the fliers were first reported in – brought together students last night. Our Division of Student Life offers several resources for students who seek support.

    Efforts to confront hateful speech with more speech that is reflective of our values, such as the posters being placed around campus by the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, are indicative of broad support from the faculty. Student Life has also been working with many groups on our campus on a new campaign to help us learn how to respectfully discuss and debate many differing viewpoints.

    Our commitment to working together is essential to improving diversity, equity and inclusion at U-M. The campuswide strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion we will launch next week includes specific training around inclusion and bias, measures of accountability, and initiatives that involve the entire university community. It also will include a commitment to keep listening and learning from one another.

    As we implement the plan, we will invite our community to continue to share their experiences. In developing the plan – and in our daily interactions on campus – we understand that there is much work to do to prevent discrimination.

    I hope you will not hesitate to participate in these conversations in the months to come and commit to actively collaborating in our shared efforts to help shape a more welcoming, equitable and inclusive third century for the U-M.

    Sincerely,

    Mark Schlissel
    President