BLOG: Presidential Perspectives

This is your home; you deserve to feel welcome

Embracing the ideals of inclusion and respect

Originally published by CM Life on April 30, 2024 as a guest column by President Bob Davies and the Chair of the CMU Board of Trustees, Todd Regis.

Everyone deserves to feel welcomed, supported and empowered to thrive at Central Michigan University. We are more than a place to earn a degree, we are the academic and professional home of thousands of students, faculty and staff members. When the egregious behavior of a few individuals threatens the safety and well-being of our community, we will take action to address it.

During the week of April 15, we took swift action to address and condemn recent incidents involving the use of a racist slur. However, we know there are larger issues we must address by reviewing, updating and creating university-wide policies and procedures. This work is underway, and we are committed to ensuring its completion. We all have important roles to play in this effort.

Though we dream of a world in which racism and other hate speech no longer exist, we are reminded that it has not been eradicated — not on our campus, in our country or in our world. As is the case on every college campus and in every community, there are people who do not choose to embrace the ideals of inclusion and respect. And although we cannot fully eradicate racism everywhere, we have taken and will continue to take steps to address it here.

Our CMU community will create an environment that is hostile to racism,hatred and intolerance. We will promote training and learning opportunities that reduce ignorance, whether intentional or accidental. We will facilitate engaged conversations that promote understanding and compassion—which are included in the new CMU Strategic Plan, the Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging, and Academic Visioning. We will ensure that our policies and processes demonstrate that all forms of racism are unwelcome in our community.

Each member of our community must accept the responsibility to learn, to participate and to enforce these efforts. The Board of Trustees and university leadership team are committed to creating these solutions in alignment with the CMU Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Belonging Plan and the recommendations received from our students, faculty and staff.

To be transparent, we will communicate our progress on these efforts as we go, knowing that some of these solutions will manifest more quickly than others. The work will continue until our goals are achieved, and we know those goals may change as we move forward.

Together, we can create a university culture that promotes inclusion, fosters understanding and champions respect for all people. Our goal is to empower every individual to find their place within our community and to feel a sense of belonging on our campus.

This does not mean that racist comments and other forms of hate speech will never happen again. It does mean that we are shaping an environment where those comments will decrease in number. It means we will mitigate the risk of harmful language and behaviors as we increase understanding and compassion.

This also does not mean that no one will ever again be offended by the things said and done on our campus. Not all offensive speech is unconstitutional, and there will be times when we must protect an individual’s right to free expression.

As a taxpayer-funded public institution of higher education and as a marketplace of ideas committed to the academic freedom of our faculty and students, there will be times that challenging, uncomfortable and even offensive language will be a part of the educational experience.

It will take time for our community to find the balance between the need to protect freedom of expression and the need to create an environment that empowers and supports all learners, but we will seek it together. It will take time for us to resolve the underlying issues that lead to hate speech and behavior, but we will find those solutions.

When we are successful in these efforts, Central Michigan University will serve as a model for institutions of higher education everywhere. It must, and will, be a community where everyone feels welcomed, supported and empowered to thrive.

This is our campus, this is our community, and this is our home. This is our CMU.

The views and opinions expressed in these blog pages are strictly those of the page author.