Dear Members of the University Community,
This fall I’ve heard from faculty, students and staff who want to engage deeply and directly with issues roiling our society. Many are troubled by our nation’s continuing struggle with race. Others are distressed about sexual violence, xenophobia, inequality, hate crimes and the offensive tone of our political discourse, to name a few. What they share is a desire to talk about these problems — and in the spirit of a community of learners, better understand the issues and work toward solutions.
It is important here to call out the issues around race. These problems remain among the most painful and intractable challenges to our society. Let me reiterate what we wrote to the university community last December: Racism is real. It is a global problem and an American problem, and it exists on this campus, as it does on every other. With humility in the face of this deep-rooted problem, we remain committed to working for inclusion, diversity and justice.
So are many of you. Just in the last few weeks, the inaugural “State of the University” event hosted by Community Advisers tackled the question of, “Why Take a Knee?” The entire School of Drama met to reflect on recent tragedies, here and abroad. Students used storytelling at the “You, Unedited” forum to examine injustice. The Graduate Student Assembly teamed up with the Urban League to host a panel on the upcoming election. It is gratifying to see students, faculty and staff create and own these important venues for dialogue. That is a sign of our vitality as a community, as are the informal conversations that happen every day.
Faculty, staff and I want to do all we can to support and sustain these dialogues. I continue to discuss with student leaders opportunities for us to connect with student groups in various settings, for conversations about events around the world that impact all of us.
It’s also important that we find less structured opportunities to come together as a community, to reflect and share, to lean on one another. In that spirit, I’d like to invite you all to gather at the Fence at noon this Friday, October 14. After a very brief welcome, we are going to take time for individual reflection, followed by small-group conversations about the issues that matter most to you. I hope you will join me and other university leaders for this chance to continue building a caring community.
Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair
Carnegie Mellon University