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University System of Maryland Statements
USM Chancellor's Statement on Diversity and Inclusion
August 30, 2017
Recent events in Charlottesville are yet another tragic reminder that we continue to fall far short of our aspirations as a nation. By whatever name we call them – white nationalists, neo-Nazis, or the alt right – a toxic mix of hatred and ignorance descended upon the University of Virginia, perhaps inevitably spawning senseless violence and the loss of innocent life.
This intolerance and injustice targeting the most vulnerable among us – people of color, the LGBT community, women, and religious and ethnic minorities – remains one of America’s great unmet challenges. As a community of scholars and learners, we must confront, condemn and denounce both isolated acts of bigotry and the systemic, institutional racism that continues to limit our nation’s potential.
Tragically, the University System of Maryland is neither immune from these problems nor sheltered from their impact. Just a few short months ago, Richard Collins III – an ROTC student, commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, committed to serving his country – was murdered on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park days before he was set to graduate from Bowie State University.
The presidents and leadership teams of the two most directly affected campuses, UMCP’s Wallace Loh and BSU’s Aminta Breaux – as well as presidents and leaders at every institution across our system – have been working proactively to support students, faculty and staff shaken by these events. I write today to once again express solidarity with and support for their efforts and for every member of the USM community.
We recognize that there are issues of racism that we must address. We know there is a history we must face. As a system, we are working together to confront these challenges.
As we begin the new academic year, we must reaffirm USM’s core values: inclusion and tolerance, civility and mutual respect, fairness and justice, free inquiry and free debate.
At the same time, we must recognize that these values all rest on the bedrock of security. Research, teaching and learning can only flourish in an atmosphere free from fear. Our campuses serve as homes to tens of thousands of students, as centers of learning and scholarship to thousands more and as workplaces for faculty and staff. We can never tolerate violence, or the threat of violence, on any of our campuses.
The safety of all USM students, faculty and staff is paramount above all other considerations; it cannot and will not be abridged. Working with campus police and security, as well as law enforcement agencies across the state, we will take every prudent measure necessary to safeguard the wellbeing of every member of the USM community. In doing so, we will thereby enable and foster, not stifle, the process of free inquiry and speech that is at the heart of any academic enterprise.
As I walk to and from my office in downtown Baltimore, I often pass the last standing section of the city’s historic train depot, the President Street Station. Much like our society, it bears the scars of racism and hatred. Built around 1850, it became infamous during the American Civil War when a pro-slavery mob attacked Union soldiers passing through Baltimore on their way to reinforce Washington, DC. Now home to a Civil War museum, this historic, red-brick edifice is a daily reminder to me of the long and tortured road America has travelled towards a more equal and just society, and how far we still have left to go.
In the coming year, I hope we can all – through our words and deeds – support one another through this difficult phase in our nation’s history and, in doing so, take a few more steps towards creating a more perfect union for every American. Our collective success will depend on each of us – students and faculty, staff and administrators – doing our individual parts to advance justice, equality and fairness for all.