End-of-the-Year Message: United in and Through Our Diversity
As we conclude 2016 and prepare for the year to come, I write to add my voice to the thoughtful reflections shared by so many at this time of the year. It remains a tremendous privilege to serve this remarkable community that is guided by our shared core values.
By week's end, we will have congratulated some 3,000 students as they cross the finish line to a college degree. This achievement is comprised of countless milestones, new discoveries and raised expectations — all made possible by the dedicated service and support of faculty, staff, fellow students and alumni. Our world desperately needs more Kent State graduates and their unique gifts and capacities.
I express appreciation to all of the members of our community who have raised their voices in the aftermath of a particularly divisive political election cycle. I applaud our students and others who have responded to experiences of discord with inspiring and creative expressions of unity. We have come together to proclaim the strength of our diversity in support of a climate of inclusion. I am both proud of and duly energized by the many proactive and thoughtful testimonies to the power of free speech — a true symbol and signature of Kent State.
A university exists to engage in passions for research, teaching and learning in an environment that honors free speech and freedom of expression. When we exercise this right and responsibility, our voice will resonate with some and potentially offend or even provoke others. Kent State's values call for this kind of exchange to take place in a respectful, kind and purposeful manner.
Even as we uphold these values, we know the university cannot prevent exposure to deeply offensive personal attacks — particularly from some affinity groups who may not share our same commitments. Such experiences have caused some in our community to feel vulnerable, threatened, unwelcomed and concerned for their future. For this reason, I boldly affirm our commitment to diversity in all of its forms. Denigrating rhetoric based on people's identity, ideology, or political or social views is unacceptable at Kent State. Messages of hate and exclusion — verbal or printed — have no place here. While we want to cultivate a vibrant academic culture that pushes the limits of our intellectual comfort zones, we are deeply committed to physical safety and a sense of belonging for all.
It is our mission to welcome 2017 with a renewed commitment to our role as champions of civil discourse. Every member of our community can contribute to expanding and strengthening our culture of caring and respect. You will soon learn of new programs, including cultural competency programs and other intentional gatherings that will be a centerpiece of university activities in 2017. We will look for opportunities for the voices and actions of our community members to be highlighted as examples of the goodness and hope in our world. Through our individual and collective efforts, the message will be clear: We stand united in and through our diversity.
I look forward to working and rising with you to pursue these aspirations with renewed energy and an elevated Kent State sense of optimism. Thank you for the many ways you make this community better as we collectively shape a kind and purposeful future together.
With best regards and warmest wishes for a safe and enjoyable winter break,