November 12, 2015
Dear University of Miami Family,
Each of us has a responsibility to confront injustice and discrimination that threaten to divide and diminish us. As we look at events related to racial relations and freedom of speech taking place at the University of Missouri and across the nation, this is a perfect moment to appraise our own resolve to challenge injustice and discrimination in our community.
In the brief time I have been president, I have been impressed by our diversity—of people, ideas, and beliefs—and I salute our ongoing efforts to promote a climate of inclusion. But we can and must do more. We have to move beyond the concept of inclusion by creating a real sense of belonging that not only celebrates our diversity but also strengthens our shared commitment to respect one another, to create a safe environment for each one of us, and to ensure that we all feel we are valued members of our community.
As part of my 100-day listening exercise, I have met with many students and reviewed the findings and recommendations of the Presidential Task Force for Addressing Black Students’ Concerns and the LGBTQ Task Force. We have made important progress to address problems brought to light by these initiatives, but clearly we have more work to do to make certain that every member of the University of Miami family feels a strong sense of belonging.
How do we accomplish this? Together. First of all, we need to systematically understand better the organizational climate in our campus. Second, we need to launch a focused awareness campaign. Each gesture, each word, each commitment can make a difference. This is how we build a sense of belonging and, in doing so, we make our institution stronger and a true model for the world as it can and should be.
We must be mindful of our interactions to make sure that we speak and act in ways that build trust and respect. We must examine and overcome our own biases and call out those instances where we encounter bias—whether intentional or not. We must especially hear what others say and actively acknowledge that their concerns and well-being matter. Remember that dialogue implies mutual recognition, and there is no room for hateful and disrespectful language in our discourse.
I sincerely believe that working together we can create a sustainable environment for learning, discovery, and service that is rich in the kinds of diversity that make our world so remarkable.
This is our University of Miami, and we belong.