Dean’s Update: November 2016
To: L&S Administration, Chairs, Directors, Associate Chairs and Department Administrators
During the past month, our campus has been confronted with a highly-visible and painful racial incident, and our nation has experienced a deeply partisan presidential campaign in which public discourse that seemed unthinkable became routine. In the wake of these events, we are concerned about our students as well as our staff and faculty colleagues, some of whom have expressed fear of leaving their homes to attend classes and go to work, and others who have expressed fear of retribution for stating their political beliefs.
I want to thank you for your efforts to reassure students, staff, and faculty that they are welcome in our College. Your efforts uphold our L&S core principles of inclusion, critical thinking and open discussion. Hate, bias, intolerance, and disrespect are not our values. We are fiercely committed to an institution where every student has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential and where the campus environment and the knowledge discovered here become guiding lights for Wisconsin, the nation and the world.
As Chancellor Blank wrote to our community the day after the election, “It is only in an environment that is safe and free from harassment that our primary mission of teaching, learning, research and service can take place.”
We need for all to speak out and take ownership of creating a better, more inclusive place. But here is a challenge: for many students who arrive on campus, UW-Madison is the most diverse place they’ve seen. For others, they have never seen a less diverse place. For students with very different backgrounds, how do we reach a shared commitment to be part of a community where all can live up to their full potential?
I would argue that the most critical resource the liberal arts offers us for the work at hand is empathy. The liberal arts teach people to confront problems from many perspectives, to imagine alternatives, to put oneself in another person’s shoes. This capacity to put oneself in another person’s shoes is needed now, more than ever, to address bias, incivility, polarization and poverty.
I am glad to observe the organic initiatives arising in units across L&S to welcome all and I am confident that we will be a better, stronger institution for openly tackling our challenges. Please share with your Associate Dean information about efforts in your units to help all of us navigate a polarized time with care, respect, and civility. We will share best practices on the L&S website http://ls.wisc.edu/faculty-staff. And please let us know how we can be supportive of these efforts.
Together, let us continue to do everything we can to make UW-Madison a welcoming place for all to learn and grow. We are stronger by embracing diversity in all its forms, whether racial, ethnic, sexuality, gender, political beliefs, country of origin, physical appearance, physical abilities, and the countless other ways that make us who we are.
Thank you for all your contributions to the College, university and world.
John Karl Scholz
Dean and Professor of Economics
College of Letters & Science
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