Celebrating diversity and renouncing intolerance

April 18, 2018

As a leader in higher education, the University of Oregon has a profound duty and mission to promote and celebrate diversity of all types. Bringing people of different backgrounds and beliefs together lifts communities throughout our state, nation, and world and also enhances our primary missions of education, research, and service. In addition, perhaps more than ever, each of us needs to understand the perspectives of people who are different from ourselves so that we might build a community based upon trust and mutual respect.

Endeavoring to create a diverse community is not enough. For all of the benefits of diversity to take root and flower we must ensure that all students, faculty, and staff feel embraced and part of our community. This is the principle of inclusion. And sometimes we have to go further to ensure that real, rather than symbolic, inclusion occurs—in other words, we may need to take actions to provide different groups particularized support. This is reflected by our commitment to equity.

We promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in many ways—through our outreach and pipeline programs, admissions policies, curriculum, and support for multicultural groups. We also sponsor or support an amazing variety of extracurricular events meant to educate and enrich, including this month’s Indigenous Devotion to Education Awards, Professor Regina Kunzel’s talk on queer history, the screening of Damon Davis’s documentary on standing up to oppression, and the “Don’t Touch My Hair” exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Despite our efforts, there is still more work to do. Also, we are not an island; we are challenged by outside forces. Racism, misogyny, antisemitism, xenophobia, and intolerance for people of different gender identity and expression and sexual orientation are a part of our nation’s history. Progress has been slow and not in a straight line. With the polarization that accompanied the election of 2016, ugly acts of hate have intensified throughout the United States, in Oregon, and even in Eugene. We see this in vile messages sometimes posted or chalked throughout our campus. We hear it in the occasional taunts of white supremacist visitors to our campus.

You might be wondering what the specific purpose is of this message. I have written and spoken numerous times condemning the intolerance of racists and white supremacists, supporting the rights of dreamers and our LGBTQ and Native Nations communities. Well, it is clear to me that from time to time our collective community, particularly our most vulnerable members, need to hear that the leaders of the university remain deeply committed to and protective of our core principles. A second reason for this message is to express my unwavering pledge to doing everything within the law to ensure that the voices of hate do not threaten our community. While we cannot under federal and state law or university policy prohibit people from coming on to campus and expressing their views, we can and will require them to follow university rules governing conduct. If those rules are not strict enough, we will work with the University Senate to change them. We will also go further and take actions to protect members of our community who are targeted, harassed, or physically threatened. If you hear of someone who plans to come on to our campus to spread hate, or if you or someone you know is threatened, please let us know by visiting the respect.uoregon.edu website or by calling 541-346-5555.

Each provocation by ignorant haters will be met by an even more vigorous effort to promote the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion that we cherish. As many of you know, all of our units on campus are implementing diversity action plans. In June we will provide an opportunity to share the work that is ongoing as well as the additional steps that we are taking as a campus to embed equity, inclusion, and diversity into the fabric of campus life.

We will continue to work vigorously with our diverse student organizations, faculty and administrative groups such as Native Strategies, ADPI, Los Patos, and Black Strategies, and with the University Senate to empower, incorporate, and celebrate our differences, while at the same time not losing sight of the fact that we are part of a broader community committed to learning and tolerance. We will continue to fight for the rights of our Dreamers to remain in the United States and get their degrees.

I invite each of you to join us in this effort to reclaim and promote our shared humanity.

Sincerely,

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law