September 25, 2018
UMass Amherst has a long-standing commitment to social progress and social justice. We value diversity and equity and strive for inclusive excellence everywhere on our campus. But as the results of our Campus Climate Survey showed, and as recent campus incidents attest, we sometimes fall short of our highest ideals. As a community, we can and must do better.
This is collective work that requires all of our active engagement to ensure that our campaign, Building a Community of Dignity and Respect, is more than a slogan. This campaign begins our affirmative emphasis on campus climate, describing who we want to be and combining old and new resources and programming to help us build the community of our aspirations.
From the classroom to our workplaces, we can all use strategies and tips to treat one another with dignity and respect. Nothing, however, takes the place of conversation to best understand what respect looks like to your colleagues or fellow students. Have lunch on us on Wednesday, October 3, and learn more about the “What if I Say the Wrong Thing?” Learning Community. Or attend the first film of the Watch. Learn. Grow. Series, “A Dream in D oubt,” this Wednesday to learn more about a family’s journey to fight hate.
It is a sobering fact that our community needs to come together to fight hate. We have already had several bias incidents in academic buildings and residence halls that remind us that the work of building a respectful community is ongoing. Bias incidents on our campus have ranged from vandalism (defacing or destroying posters) to graffiti in public spaces (harmful messages on university property that target race, religion, socioeconomic status, and sexuality), but also include negative interpersonal interactions. In addition, outside extremist groups incite division and infighting in an attempt to derail our goals and hinder community. This frustrating reality was one of the motivations for the Hate Has No Home at UMass campaign launched last August. It provided a clear statement of our commitment to reject hatred and stand united to ensure that UMass Amherst is an inclusive community for all.
We will continue to face challenges. This is not uncommon on college campuses, which are unique places where people of differing backgrounds and perspectives come together and often collide. It is early in the semester, but we have cause to reflect and recommit to the work of building an inclusive campus community.
I invite you to get involved. There are endless opportunities for engagement and resources to help you grow. Building Bridges, the campus engagement initiative we began in spring 2018, continues this year; the second round of Campus Climate Improvement Grants have been awarded; and there are many creative ways that members of our community bring their creativity to the work of improving our campus climate.
There is much work to do and there always will be. Many hands make the work light. Join in.
Enobong (Anna) H. Branch, Ph.D.
Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer
University of Massachusetts
Office of Equity and Inclusion