Concern about University Climate

Posted on 12/9/2015 11:11:42 AM

Dear IUP Community:

I write to you today because I am concerned about the IUP family. I know that this is a busy time as you focus on finishing the semester and look forward to a restful winter break. However, I feel a need to speak now.

As I’ve worked side-by-side with you this fall, I have felt a growing sense of unease about how we talk about and treat each other. I’ve sometimes felt that we have not risen to our shared values and have fallen short of being an inclusive, welcoming community of people who learn and grow together.

History, literature, and the daily news are filled with examples of people rising above their circumstances and demonstrating moral strength they didn’t think possible. I have seen much of that this fall as you have taken care of each other, as you have chosen to respond with compassion to pain, and as you have done the right thing. I am thankful for each and every example.

Unfortunately, the world is also filled with stories of people under stress succumbing to the worst of human nature. I am sad to say that, over the last several months, I have seen too many examples here at IUP. Some have resorted to name-calling and blaming groups of people for the actions of individuals. Some have leapt to erroneous conclusions based on rumor and innuendo. Some have responded to insults, intentional or unintentional, with threats and with violence. None of this is acceptable. We can do better.

My concern is not about a single incident or some specific sequence of events. It is not just about free speech, stereotypes, civility, or prejudice—although all of those are important parts of the discussion. It is not about creating a place where each of us is comfortable. Rather, it is about how we come together as a family to challenge ourselves to grow individually and as a collective.

I recognize, as should you, that the issues I raise cannot be resolved simply or quickly. I remain confident, however, that we can address them as long as we work together.

As a next step, IUP will have a series of university-wide dialogues starting in the spring semester. These dialogues will enhance our ability to come together and engage in the difficult discussions we must have to become the place and the people we know we should be and can be. I will be appointing a small team to guide us in this work.

As we finish this semester, I ask that you treat each other with the respect and compassion appropriate to fellow human beings. And I ask that you spend your break, as I will, in deep reflection about how you will respond to the challenges we face.