To L&S students, faculty and staff:
Over the past few months, I have been concerned about our students as well as 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 reassure students, staff, and faculty that they are welcome in our College. I want us to 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 in a recent post to her blog, Blank's Slate, "A university’s commitment to academic freedom and free speech is a commitment that allows all ideas to be presented and discussed. Ideas should be dismissed only after research and debate proves them inadequate, rather than being dismissed out of hand without debate because they challenge perceived wisdom or offend current beliefs."
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.
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.
Thanks to all of you for your contributions to the College, university and world.