Aug 15, 2017

Recommitting to Our Vision of Becoming a Diverse and Inclusive Campus Community

Students, Faculty and Staff,

Welcome to the 2017-2018 academic year at the University of Northern Iowa. There is always a great deal of excitement with the beginning of a new academic year. It is a time to reconnect with one another as the university awakens from its summer calm.

Unfortunately, this year we return to a new academic year under the shadow of violence, racism and hatred that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, and at the University of Virginia. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those that died in this tragedy: Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Culle and Trooper-pilot Berke Bates. My thoughts are also with the faculty, staff and students of the University of Virginia as they deal with the emotional trauma of these events.

As a university community, we cannot look away from these tragic events and pretend that they don't affect us at UNI or that they can't happen here. These racist acts of terrorism were intended to intimidate and silence others. We can never allow such acts to occur without a response, especially when those acts come under the guise of free speech. These acts attack the core principles of our democracy. These acts also attack the core principle of a university-academic freedom-which cannot exist without free and open expression, unbridled by hatred, intimidation and violence.

The University of Northern Iowa's vision statement commits us to becoming “a diverse and inclusive campus community that provides an engaged education empowering students to lead locally and globally.” An “inclusive campus community” welcomes all perspectives, even those that challenge our basic beliefs, presented in a manner that respects the beliefs and ideologies of others. The students, faculty and staff of the University of Northern Iowa recognize that bullying, intimidation and violence are clear statements of disrespect for others and have no place on our campus. Bullying, intimidation and violence do not lead to an engaged and empowering education for all, but instead destroy our commitment to help each other reach our educational, professional and personal life goals.

As this academic year begins, let us recommit ourselves to our vision of becoming a diverse and inclusive campus community, one that engages in courageous conversations that challenge our beliefs in a manner that is respectful and leads to understanding. In doing so, we will continue to educate each other in a manner that will empower us to lead locally and globally.

With great sincerity,

Mark A. Nook