Diversity and Race Relations at University of Redlands

To:  University Community
From:  President Ralph Kuncl
Date:  November 13, 2015

Across our nation, campuses and whole communities continue to be roiled by the painful, often injurious outcomes and raw emotional debates spurred by abuses of language, power, and privilege, and outright violations of human rights. We hear in the national news of feces-smeared swastikas on dormitory walls, racial slurs shouted by students at fellow students, and a busload of fraternity brothers singing a despicably racist song. We read about the swelling tide of discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, and retaliation taking place on campuses and in workplaces. We hear of the latest police officer’s shooting of an unarmed person of color, and the prison guard’s abuse of a young inmate from another under-represented minority group.

When things happen elsewhere, it can make all of us feel angry and unsafe right here. As your President, I too am deeply troubled, and I want to bring us together to talk about it.

An Open Forum was held on the Redlands campus Wednesday afternoon to discuss “Cultural Appropriation and Halloween.” The Forum was organized as a partial response to an issue that arose at Redlands the week of Halloween and was reported in the Redlands Bulldog. Similar issues have been the basis of protests this week at Yale University. The Forum, co-hosted by Campus Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) and the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office, was emotional for all involved. But good questions and pointed challenges were posed, heartfelt discussion was had, and deep concerns were expressed. Proposals were brought forth, and dialogue (and even some catharsis) occurred.

This is the key to a healthy, productive debate about the most difficult issues on our campus and in our society:  to create and maintain at all times a safe space, and frequent opportunities, to talk to each other, and even challenge one another, about such issues. My deep concern about the issues raised and the pain expressed Wednesday is tempered by my pride that we did just that – we talked to each other – and we are organizing a second, larger Forum to continue this critical dialogue. Join us next Wednesday, November 18, at 9 p.m. in Orton Center on the Redlands campus.

Below in quotes is a list of some topics and proposals that were voiced Wednesday for us to engage in when we meet. I ask you, our community, to round out this list with more questions, challenges, and proposals, and bring them to our Forum:

  • “The president should be with us in this dialogue.” I am.
  • “The president should issue a statement on diversity and inclusion at Redlands.” This memo serves as my pledge to renew my commitment and provide continuing communication on this crucial topic.
  • “The University should have a plan to recruit more students and faculty of color.” We have these plans. We will tell you about them.
  • “We don’t believe the College is as diverse as portrayed.” We are encouraged that 47% of the 2015 undergraduate class in the College is comprised of students of color. We will talk about this, and also how our socioeconomic diversity and support of access for first-generation students (who comprise 30% of the current undergraduate class) is strong and getting stronger.

 

Although our community does pretty well at tackling issues and solving problems together, continual improvement and aspiration are always necessary. This very kind of dialogue is the key. Each of us needs to come to the next Forum with proposals for what we can do beyond what we already do. Together, we need to break down the barriers among groups and focus on the collective community. This University is very much about that sense of community that brings us together year after year to celebrate and value our diversity.

Diversity doesn’t just happen in our excellent CDI area. It also happens in our residence halls, Greek organizations, student clubs, classrooms, offices, on our athletic fields, and in our performing arts venues. In recognition of this, I will be convening and leading a Council on Diversity and Inclusion, with University-wide community representation.

The University of Redlands is wholeheartedly committed to providing a positive learning, living, and work environment for everyone. Welcoming intellectually curious students of diverse religious, ethnic, national, and socioeconomic backgrounds, we seek to develop responsible citizenship as part of a complete education. The University’s commitment to diversity dates from its founding. Today, Redlands is strengthened by its appreciation of the differences – from learning styles to social class to gender identity – that make each of us unique, and the ability to find commonalities amongst these differences.

I believe we have staffing, space, programming, and mission in support of diversity issues. I believe we have real diversity. And I believe we hold attitudes about diversity and community that are far better than average – but they must continue to evolve. These attitudes, these values, are built into the core of who we are as a community. Redlands remains sensitive to contemporary trends in society, and I challenge each and every one of us to commit ourselves to a lifetime of learning and dialogue about diversity and inclusion – both in society, and within the confines of our beloved institution.

I look forward to seeing you next week.

Warmly,

 

Ralph