The circumstances at the University of Missouri serve as a call for colleges and universities across the nation to reaffirm our commitment to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion across our campuses. I ask that each of us do our part in creating a university where people of diverse backgrounds do not just coexist, but thrive and learn with and from one another.
When I arrived as President of Tufts in 2011, I spent considerable time listening to members of our academic community about how to achieve greater diversity in our student body, faculty, and staff and create a more inclusive environment on our campuses. Collectively, we embarked on the President’s Council on Diversity, which produced a thoughtful report in 2013 with many recommendations including the hiring of a Chief Diversity Officer. Over the last two years, we have taken concrete steps to improve our climate and culture for all community members, but it is clear that we still have much work to do. We must recognize, as distinguished members of our faculty have shown, that we all harbor racial, gender, and other implicit biases. Individually and collectively, we must understand and overcome these biases in order to achieve our commitment to a more inclusive and diverse Tufts.
In recent years as well as the past, members of our community have experienced both subtle and explicit racist actions. These incidents reflect deeper racial tensions in our country, which have erupted overtly at the University of Missouri and other college campuses. These events have been particularly distressing for our African-American and other students of color. As a community, we must stand together against such behavior; we must support students who are targeted by bigotry and ignorance; and we must all continue to have regular, frank, and difficult discourse about issues of race and power through our academic and community activities.
I urge the members of our campus community to step outside your normal routines and engage with those whose backgrounds, ideas, and experiences may be very different from your own. Building an inclusive environment does not happen by accident, and we cannot ask those who have suffered most from racism to bear the responsibility of overcoming it. What is required is collective dedication and purposeful action. We can build a better future if we come together as a community to achieve the shared goal of a university that truly welcomes and serves each other and the wider society.