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December 01, 2015

Commission to examine campus climate

The commission is chaired by Paul Burgett, vice president and senior advisor to the president, and Richard Feldman, dean of the College, and includes faculty, students, administrators, and staff. Other members include (additional members are likely to be appointed):

  • Nancy Ares, associate professor and faculty diversity officer at the Warner School of Education;
  • Nick Bigelow, cochair of the Faculty Senate and the Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Physics and Optics;
  • Linda Chaudron, associate vice president and senior associate dean for inclusion and culture development at the Medical Center;
  • Carin Cole, assistant dean of student engagement at the Simon Business School;
  • Grant Dever, president of the Students' Association in the College;
  • Donna Brink Fox, senior associate dean of academic and student affairs and the Eisenhart Professor of Music Education;
  • Charlisa Goodlet, president of Douglass Leadership House and a student in the College;
  • Myra Henry, director of administrative services for River Campus Libraries;
  • James Johnson, professor of political science;
  • Anthony Kinslow, associate vice president for human resources;
  • Vivian Lewis, deputy to the president and vice provost for faculty development and diversity;
  • LaRon Nelson, assistant professor and Dean’s Endowed Fellow in Health Disparities at the School of Nursing;
  • Anne Nofziger, chair of the Medical Faculty Council and associate professor of family medicine;
  • Gail Norris, vice president and general counsel;
  • Guylda Richard, a student at the School of Medicine and Dentistry; 
  • Jonathan Teoh, secretary of the Chinese Students' Association, and a student in the College; and
  • Andrew Winslow, president of Students' Association at the Eastman School of Music.

President and CEO Joel Seligman has formed a commission to address concerns about the racial climate on campus.

The Presidential Commission on Race and Diversity is charged with assessing the state of the campus climate and offering recommendations for improvement. The commission—cochaired by Paul Burgett, vice president, senior advisor to the president, and University dean, and Richard Feldman, dean of the College—is expected to conduct town hall meetings on the River Campus, at the Medical Center, and at the Eastman School by the end of January.

“It is clear to me that the climate on our campus is not all that it should be,” Seligman wrote in a statement to the University community. “Some of our students, faculty, and staff have experienced instances of hostility, notably recently because of their race. I cannot ignore evidence that our campus climate can be improved.”

The commission will include administrators and staff, faculty, and students.

On November 20, student leaders from several minority leadership groups on campus presented Seligman with a three-page petition designed to improve the racial climate on campus. Among their demands is blocking the use of Yik Yak and other anonymous social media applications from University networks. The commission is charged with deciding whether such a ban should be issued.

Seligman had already approved a campus-wide survey of faculty and staff to assess campus climate. The survey will be administered next semester and results are anticipated by May.

Seligman also outlined several immediate actions to be taken, including

  • the implementation of a Bias Related Incident reporting system—similar to the existing CARE system, which provides reports about students who may need emotional or academic support—by the start of the semester in January.
  • the launch of an effort—similar to the national “It’s On Us” campaign to raise awareness about campus sexual assault—to address hate speech based on race
  • a review of the Student Code of Conduct to determine if additional provisions should be added to address hate speech

“Mutual respect and mutual pride is what all of us should most want to strengthen at the University of Rochester and at each institution in our lives,” Seligman said. “Working together we can further strengthen a University that is welcoming and supportive of all in our community.”

Seligman’s full message to the University community is available at Rochester.edu/president/memos/2015/petition-response.html.

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