In the last week, members of IUP’s senior leadership team and I met twice with a small group of concerned students.
Their purpose was to present me with demands that originated from an external entity, the PA Student Power Network. Basically, the demands are that I not allow hate groups to speak at, or to receive support from, IUP. As I said during my April 16 mid-semester
briefing, there is no place for hate in our university community. I reaffirm and say again, there is no place for hate at IUP. As a public university, we must follow the US Constitution, e.g., the right to free speech, and federal and state law. I
thus cannot agree to the demands presented by the students. We must continue to work together to find ways within the law to make IUP what we want it to be, and to address the valid concerns and fears of our students and all members of our community.
The students with whom we met threatened to go public and reveal IUP’s secrets if I didn’t agree to their demands. But I don’t think the challenges we face are secret. As I said in January 2016, “IUP, and our nation, in spite of their goodness, are infected with the disease of racism,” and “There is no more important task than ensuring that IUP is a place where all can feel welcome to learn, work, and live.”
Our shortcomings impose the heaviest burdens on those from marginalized groups. We have made progress, but we have a long way to go. As I said in September 2017, after another racist post on social media, “Many thought our community had grown beyond this sort of thing. If only that were so.”
What is different now is that we have a Diversity Action Plan to guide our actions. The plan was developed with broad involvement from across the IUP community,
under the leadership of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. The concerns of our students further reinforce the need to move ahead promptly on the plan’s most urgent recommendations. I outlined our next steps during my April 16, 2018 mid-semester briefing. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to listen to it, here’s a summary of how we are proceeding:
A small group will work this summer to ensure that we have a system for reporting and responding to incidents of concern in place for the fall semester.
A task force will develop mechanisms for resolving disputes without resorting to legalistic, adversarial processes as the first step, to be implemented in the spring 2019 semester.
President’s cabinet is actively discussing how to best address the recommendation to establish a central, visible office or organization to lead IUP’s work to become more diverse and inclusive.
A subcommittee of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion will draft an “IUP Pledge,” a visible guide and aspirational standard for all of us, a standard that reinforces that there is no place for hate at IUP.
Becoming the place we want IUP to be is not something any person can do alone. As we move ahead, I invite each of you to step forward and be part of making IUP the diverse and inclusive community we aspire to be.
If you feel unsafe at IUP, it is important that you let us know. Call the police at 724-357-2141. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, contact the Title IX Officer/Compliance Specialist at 724-357-3402, or talk to the staff at the Center for Multicultural
Leadership and Engagement, our faculty, your advisor, your supervisor, or a colleague. We actively work to resolve problems when we know about them.
Michael A. DriscollPresident