Transcript of Town Hall Meeting, January 22, 2016

Johnson:  Hello, I think we’d like to get started.  My name is Jim Johnson, I teach Political Science and I’m on President Seligman’s commission and an academic advisor at Douglass Leadership House.  This is Nick Bigelow who is in physics and optics – he’s also on the commission and we know each other from Faculty Senate and we’re nominally going to be trying to keep things in order.

This is the second town meeting in the college; one that happened just before break, mostly about social media concerns and we want to hopefully push along and make some – put other things on the agenda and leave most of the time for you all to have your say.

I’m going to pass things over to Dean Burgett, and he’s going to go from there.  He’s going to give you a little bit of overview on what’s going on with President Seligman’s commission and then Dean Feldman is going to tell you what the state of play is right now from the administration’s perspective.  Paul?

Burgett:    Thank you, Jim. It seems like it’s been almost 6 months since we met in here and had our first town hall meeting. There’s been a tremendous amount of activity; we’ve been moving to use a term the president likes a lot, which is ‘alacrity’ – we are moving with alacrity, a lot of speed.  There are a total of 7 town hall meetings; there is one more after this.

There will be a seventh town hall meeting on Monday.  We have been hearing from faculty, students and staff from throughout the university asking them to address four large questions – questions having to do with the climate on campus from their perspective and their particular domain.  The sorts of activities that are going on in their institution that seem to contribute to a healthy environment, the activities that do not contribute to a healthy environment, and then their thoughts about ways we can achieve the goal of, if not perfection, as close to perfection as we can get around creating the perfect environment that all of us here want to have – that enables healthy, productive and satisfied faculties, students and staff.

So we have been very, very busy.  The commission has met every week since we were formulated, and one of the things that became clear to us early on was the fact that there were a lot of issues that were related to the college.  There is, after all – and to their credit, the undergraduate students in the Minority Student Advisory Board, the Black Student Union and the DLH House that conceived and moved forward and were the catalyst for this current effort.

As someone who’s been around the university, as many of you know, for a very long time, I have seen these things happen every couple of decades or so.  For those students who precipitated the current situation, a tremendous debt of gratitude and great respect goes to them for serving as the catalyst that awakens the community to issues that are so very important.

I’d like to ask before we get into your piece of this – and your piece will be very important because we want to hear from you as we have heard from everybody else.  I should tell you we are taping this event as we did from the very first one, and the comments on the tapes – the tapes will be transcribed and uploaded, which takes a little time, we’re discovering, and will be uploaded to our website.

Without further ado, I would like to turn matters over to Dean Feldman, because I think he has a lot to report to you about the activities in the college where much of the initiatives and much of the concerns that were originally articulated for the protest take place.  Rich…

Feldman:   Thanks, Paul.  Thanks, everybody, for being here.  I think the protest in November has prompted the commission. The commission’s focus has been very largely a much broader set of issues around the entire university than the specific protest issues raised in the college.  And many of the issues directly focused on the college have been discussed by a variety of people in the college.

I’d like to begin this afternoon’s discussion by updating you on where we stand on some of those things so you understand what progress has been made, where there are remaining questions to be discussed and how we might discuss them, and then open it up for a broader discussion so we can hear from you about whatever comments you have.

I’m not going to talk at length – various other people have information to provide for us.  I think the first item is Jessica, if you would – Jessica Guzman-Rea, director of the Intercultural Center, will tell us about where we now stand with the bias-related reporting and that issue that was one of the key issues students had raised.

[finger snaps]

Guzman-Rea:   Thank you.  I’m just going to bring up the Care website right now so you can see what I’m going to be talking about.   So when students land on and you submit a Care report, this is slightly different than in the past.  Right now you have 3 options; you have the normal kind of care – if you have a concern about an individual, you would submit that report.

Now what exists here is the bias-related incident report.  If you know of an incident that you personally experienced or somebody else has, that has been motivated by any type of bias – age, disability, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation and things of that nature.

We also have a community concern report. If there is a humanitarian concern or a natural disaster that’s either occurring domestically or abroad, you can submit that.  You state that you are personally from that country or that state.  We’ve had a lot of these reports due to the mass shootings and different things that have been occurring in the states and also abroad.  If you know of some people that may be affected, their families, or they personally could be affected, you can submit a report.

Both of these were in implementation for the last year, but it wasn’t really until the students put it on the forefront that we had to expedite it.   So we thought it all belonged under the umbrella of ‘care’.  If we have a concern about an individual, a concern about us as a community, this is really for all of us as community members to support our students.

And, hot off the press, they haven’t been sent to the printer yet, but I do have copies of 2 new posters.  For those of you who have seen these care signs, one in particular is for the bias-related incidents that says ‘I can’t believe they used that word’ – and we try to be a little more open about what is that word.  We hope people understand there are many words that can be offensive.  The other one is ‘That tragedy happened in my roommate’s hometown’.

This is live, everybody can use it.  Please go ahead; we’ve already received several submissions in the fall semester and everybody is welcome to utilize these forms as you choose.  That’s where we are right now.

[finger snaps]

Feldman:  Thanks, Jessica.  A second item on which there’s been quite a lot of discussion and progress has been the point about launching an anti-hate speech, anti-racism campaign somewhat analogous to the ‘It’s on us’ directed against sexual assault.  Norm Burnett and Beth Olivares were asked to take the lead on that.  I know they’ve had a couple of meetings – perhaps many of you attended; I know there was a large turnout for those discussions, and I think Beth and Norm are going to update us on where we stand on that.

Olivares:  So after we were assigned this task by President Seligman, we did quite a lot of research into campaigns or similar activities on other campuses and in other places. We decided what we want to do is something homegrown.  We had one brainstorming meeting that was attended by about 70, 75 people and about 30 others indicated they would have liked to have attended but they couldn’t.

We have established a working group that includes students from all the groups that signed onto the demand document, as well as student government, athletics, and Greek life and Eastman School of Music. We are meeting weekly and we have a couple of slogans already that are out being market tested to various groups.  There’s actually quite a lot of activity.

We anticipate there being a student video contest where we will hopefully have some more information on it next week.  I think we’re moving pretty quickly.

Burnett:   We’re moving very quickly.  We want to create a campaign that’s similar in scope to the ‘It’s on us’ campaign that dealt with sexual assault – many of you know that.  We’re very much interested in not having something that’s just a one-time initiative; something that’s sustainable for a long time and it sends a message to the community that racism is not tolerated on our campuses.

In order to do that, we’ve created a couple of short-term and long-term goals. We’re going to be very transparent in terms of keeping the community updated on what that looks like.  We will have connections to the commission’s website so if you have feedback, you can send it to us in that way.  We are doing market testing of 3 ideas that are out there and hopefully you’ll be hearing about those soon so you can weigh in on that.  We feel that will be the kick-off to the campaign and will drive some of the programming.

I should say one of the short-term goals has to do with orientation.  Many of you are familiar with the ‘One Community’ who won an award recently for diversity – congratulations; we want to make sure ‘One Community’ is focused on race this year –

[finger snaps]

And so we’re going to make sure that happens and we’ll need everyone’s help to shape that.  That’s all I have to say right now.  Is there something we’re missing?  Oh, this is everybody’s issue, racism, but we decided we were going to focus initially on students in the college and Eastman School of Music – not so much in the other schools.  We hope what we come up with will be transferable to the other schools, but to help us really focus, we’re going to start with Arts Sciences & Engineering and Eastman School, both graduate and undergraduate students.

Olivares:  And one last thing is to say we don’t want this to just touch the students in one way – we don’t want it to be this mandatory thing you have to do and then it’s over with. We want it to imbue all the different roles you have on campus.  If you’re a resident advisor, you live in the residence hall, if you are in a workshop, a workshop leader, a student athlete, if you work on campus – it should be, what’s the word?  Inescapable.  It should understand that we’re all here in multiple roles.  Much more to come on this.

Feldman:   Okay, thanks, Beth and Norm. They’ve been making a great amount of progress in a short time on launching this campaign and as they said, are eager to work with many others in figuring out how to make this best and, as Beth said, inescapable.  Not any one-and-done thing but that it be continuous.

There are several other items in the set of demands from the students that President Seligman asked others of us in the college to look into.  I will mention 2 of them very briefly and then ask others to talk about other ones.

One demand asked that increased funding be provided to OMSA, to the Kearns Center and to the Intercultural Center.  I think the right way to think about that is the following:  Every year, right around this time of year, the directors of each of those units works on their budgets for next year.  They’re making plans for next year, they’re taking into account all the different kinds of things we’re trying to do.  Those requests come into me and I do the best I can to honor their requests.

It’s not like there’s a blank slate – that the resources are not finite, but I do try to support proposals and initiatives where I can. We’re very conscious of the kinds of things that are under discussion now and want to make sure we have the resources available to do the sorts of things in question.  Those requests are underway and will be considered very carefully.  I’m optimistic about my ability to work with them and support their offices in the way they request.

A second point in the statement from the students concerned OMSA’s office space and wanting additional space for OMSA.  I hope you understand how challenging space issues are in the college and moving offices around, it just doesn’t happen easily. I understand that request; we’re looking at ways we might be able to be helpful.  But, I don’t want to make any short-term promises, there’s just not available space that we can move to or take advantage of right away.  We’re thinking about what we can do.

I do want to make sure everybody realizes that next fall when the Frederick Douglass Building re-opens, the Intercultural Center will open there and will have space so some of that will be the kind of space that you’re thinking about.  So there is one space – one place for space that I think, to some extent, addresses the issue you raised.  I understand that’s not space for OMSA itself; that’s space on this side of campus, but I do hope that will be useful space you will find welcoming.  That’s certainly its intent.

So those are two of the specific topics where we’re continuing to think, continuing to figure out how best to respond. I hope you understand that your concerns are being taken very seriously.

I want to turn next to ask Beth; another one of the points concerned the Frederick Douglass Institute and Beth has a little bit to say where we stand on that.

Olivares:  I have notes; I want to be very careful. I have Jeff Runner here as well – he’s the chair of the linguistics department and our second faculty development and diversity officer in Arts Sciences and Engineering.  We have been meeting with Gloria Culver, who is the dean of Arts Sciences where the Frederick Douglass Institute resides.

She is working with Cilas Kemedjio, who is the director of the Frederick Douglass institute and the executive committee of the Institute to complete a curricular review.  Underlying the student concern is that there aren’t enough courses or the courses required by the major are not offered sufficiently so the major can be completed.

That review has already started. She has – is requiring the executive committee to complete the review by the end of the semester and in parallel, there is a review of all the courses being offered in Arts Sciences and Engineering to see, because there are courses that deal with race and things that would be appropriately cross-listed in AAS that are not currently.  So that is also happening.

By the end of the semester, the review will be completed and the dean will work with the director of the FDI to see what additional resources may, in fact, be required.

I did also want to mention that this year FDI has two post-doctoral fellows – one of whom is transitioning into a tenure-track faculty member next year, so will immediately raise the number of courses that are offered, and there is an open search currently that’s for an associate of FDI.  That’s where that stands.  Jeff, is there anything else?

Feldman:  Thanks, Beth.  Another concern raised by students had to do with funding for intercultural groups and the standard funding for cultural groups comes through the Office of the Dean of Students and Dean Burns will have a bit to say about where we stand on that.

Burns:  Thanks, Rich.  All right, so there’s widespread agreement that a fund that’s available for cultural programs is a good idea.  I think the demand said to give it to OMSA; the infrastructure for disbursing accounts to students really resides in the Dean of Students’ office so we probably will see a change in that since the infrastructure already exists to disburse funds to students and student groups.

Then the idea there is that we would have a program to disburse those additional funds – so supplemental funds – through a program that’s similar, and I know some of you are familiar with it, to the Communal Principles grants.  So there are grants that will be available in several different – at several different levels.  Student groups would have to apply for those.  That is likely to reside in Jessica’s office in the Intercultural Center since there’s already a similar program available for the Communal Principles grants that are administered by Jessica and a group that she supervises. That’s where that fund is likely to be.

Where we are right now is that we are trying to identify the sources of funding for those grants and Jessica is busy knocking on doors to see who can commit to that.  And, I think we’ll probably have an answer about that shortly.

Like some of the other concerns that were addressed in the demands that we received, this highlighted a bigger problem in that no amount of funding that we give to these grants is likely to be sufficient for some of the programs that come up.  What we see with all students groups, and certainly some of the culturally based groups, is that students have to go from office to office trying to get commitments for special programs that come up not frequently.

Separately from this demand, we’re trying to work with Anne-Maire Algier, who is the Dean of Students, to see if we can’t get a more streamlined process that makes it easier when good programs come up, to identify a single source, a single stopping point to go to, to coordinate those efforts so you don’t have to waste your time going from office to office for one of your good ideas.  That’s where we are with that right now.

Feldman:   Thanks, Matt. The final point I’d like to address now concerns Douglass Leadership House and the proposal / demand that it become a permanent place on the quad.  This is an interesting and important issue and in thinking about that over the last – this just came up in a meeting maybe last week; we’re trying to think about how to respond to that.

I think I speak for others in the college staff; we very much understand what motivates that proposal and we are looking for ways to support it.  What I would like to do is to appoint a group of faculty, students and staff to look at how more generally academic living centers are managed with the aim of finding ways for them to become more permanent in general, rather than the kind of cycles they now go under.

Thereby, Douglass Leadership House would become permanent in the same way any other might, but we need ot think through very carefully how that all works.  Our goal is to try to make academic living centers more permanent, steady, continuous occupants of their places on the quad.   The request, the proposal about DLH prompted broader thinking about how we manage those houses altogether and our overall response is very favorable.  We’re trying to figure out how to make this work and make this part of a system for managing the houses overall and that’s going to require a bit more thought as to what the system is and how to implement that.

That’s on our plate. I expect to ask a group to come together very shortly to start thinking about that in greater detail.  I hope to come to a conclusion no later than the end of the semester – I don’t know if it’ll take that long to think it through and I hope we can come to a successful outcome on that one over the coming weeks or months.

I hope you see through all of this there’s been a lot of thought, a lot of energy, a lot of response to the various demands the students made.  We continue to meet, there are – the commission continues to meet on the pieces of this and the larger issues that are in their domain.  That concludes the introductory remarks we wanted to make; it’s now – what we’d like to hear from you is other topics, other issues people have so we’ll turn it into the town hall forum that it was designed to be.

Jim and Nick are the moderators of that, so back to you.

Burgett:   We have students who have microphones if there are questions.

Feldman:   Also, if you don’t want to speak and want to write your questions, there are forms to do that.  These will make their way to the commission’s webpage.

Bigelow:  Just a little bit before we get started, there are so many things to discuss and to say, but please, when you have a chance to speak, try to be as concise as you can.  The other thought is what we’re really hear to do is talk about this university and this community.  There are a lot of things that one can talk about and think about that are important, but there are things we know because somebody else told us about them.  While those are important, we want to hear about things that you personally know, that are personal experiences.  Those are the things that many of us are trying to understand and help address.

Please do submit the forms and reach out to all of us on the commission, all of us who are really engaged on this topic and want to hear from you.  This is a little bit to remind you of what the charge was from Joel Seligman when the commission was formed.

As we speak today, things that I’ll certainly be thinking about that I think Jim and others will be, is how your comments, your experiences inform those questions for us as a group.  With that said, we open the floor.

Kemp:  Hello, everyone. My name is Sequoia Kemp, representing the Black Students Union as the president.

[finger snaps]

So my question is directed to Dean Feldman or President Seligman.  Last year the student government association senate endorsed a resolution asking the university to add a bias and tolerance policy.  This policy was also presented to President Seligman at the MSABs – Minority Student Advisory Board’s annual presidential meeting and I was told that it was going to be reviewed by a general counsel.  I was wondering, what is the update on that policy?

Feldman:  This will be verified; I spoke with Gail Norris just today.  She is working on that.  She hopes within the next week or so, maybe a little more, to have some recommendations about that.  The Commission will probably look at that topic as well.  I don’t – I really don’t know where it’s going to stand, what it’s going to say but she’s taking that under review.

Kemp:  Thank you.

Hardy:  Hello, everyone.  My name is Alanna Hardy, treasure of the Douglas Leadership House.

[finger snaps]

I’m going to direct my attention to the people in power over here since they’re the ones that are causing all these troubles.   Hold on a second, I took a lot of notes.  First of all with the ‘I can’t believe they said that’ were the initiative put up by you, Jessica.  Why can’t we be directly talking about race?   One of the posters is like ‘I’ll stop drinking when I graduate from college’ – where directly it relates to certain groups but not our groups, right?   I feel like we’re skirting around the issue of race when we’re literally having a town hall meeting about race.

[finger snaps]

We need to be more aware of why we’re here and know the purpose of this entire movement is not about all diversity; it’s about us being attacked, us getting death threats, it’s about us being unsafe and you guys all know it.  You continually make no actions, and questions about Yik Yak, what’s good – we’re still waiting on that.   What else?

Also, I don’t believe we should have to request more funds to begin with.  You continually disenfranchise black and brown students.  You say that the terminology is on us. For us to say that there’s already classes allotted to students who want to take classes under the AAS umbrella, we have to figure it out ourselves.  We’re students.  We have other stuff to do than sit and worry about which one of Tucker’s classes, which one of (Cilas’) classes.  We’ve taken them all, we haven’t been graduated yet.  That’s another thing.

And this whole concise thing, no.  The idea about DHL not being worked on being a permanent place on this campus, that’s disrespectful.  We’re not like average academic living centers; we do more.  Not to put Drama House under the bus, but we don’t make plays, we make revolutions, we make changes.

[finger snaps]

I don’t think you guys even realize the stuff that we do.  In the last couple years seniors had to worry about graduating because we’re making the moves that you guys should be making with the titles of Dean of X or President of Y or Director of Z. We’re freshmen, we’re sophomores, we’re juniors, we’re seniors, we’re trying to make a way out of this when you aren’t giving us the leeway whatsoever.  It’s honestly a shame that we’re sitting in here doing this again.

And I think you aren’t realizing how important DLH is as a house; I may look biased because I am.  I’m a representative of the organization.  But you have to understand something; I wasn’t always a member of this organization – I had to see shelter in the barren and racist wasteland that is U of R, so you guys need to also recognize as well, which I don’t think you have, so I’ll tell you to your face.

[finger snaps]

Like I said, OMSA does close at 5, and so we have to leave; these are freshmen I’m looking at right now and they have to go home and sit and deal with the micro-aggressions of the day.  If they got called a nigger that day, if they got called a spic that day, they have to sit and deal with all of these things.  To not have a permanent place, to the fact that we have to re-apply, that shows that you don’t believe we are valid.

I’m not putting Drama House under the bus, but I’m just saying we’re a different organization but we all have the same umbrella of academic living centers.  So once you realize this is a cultural hub, an oasis; when you realize this house as the potential to cure minds, to salvage hearts, when you realize this is a home and not just a building with four walls.  When you realize this is a place where we call home, where we get our mail, the moment you realize that, the moment you realize that everyone in this room realizes what they say not just about DLH but about all black and brown students and you realize how hurtful it is, and everyone in power knows what they’re doing.  No moves have been made, honestly.

I’m sorry, but I can’t accept that and I hope in the future you listen to what we’re saying.  I respect you all but I don’t respect the actions that you make because you continually allow us to feel endangered.

[finger snaps]

If I don’t feel safe on campus, I’m a university student, this should be the safest place in the world for me.  I can go home and get shot and I grew up being shot living in my house because of our peers or the people you elect, the people that you allow into my school.  This is my school and I think you guys lose sight of that.  The second that you guys choose to treat us like university students, we should be protected, we should have the respect to be given options to learn about their own culture, the space to feel safe constantly and not have to prove their worth constantly, then I will respect you all.  Thank you.


Seligman:  That statement was great.  I don’t know if you respect me, but I respect you.  I respect you for having the courage and dignity to come forward and say that.  And that frankly, framed why this Commission exists.  With all due respect to Paul and Rich, it’s not because of a protest march; it was because some students felt unsafe and they had grounds to.

Some of the messages I saw on Yik Yak were totally unacceptable on our campus.  As I’ve spoken more to students and learned more, and frankly, I learned from you – this is a two-way street at a university – my awareness of this has grown.

I’ve attended most of the town hall meetings and it’s been a process where my job is to listen, but more than anything else, there are a few principles which animate why I asked the many members of the commission to work hard on this as they are.  No one, no one of any race or religion or sexual orientation should ever feel unsafe on this campus.  If you do, that’s wrong and it’s my job to work as hard as I can to change that.

Second, I want everyone to understand, we are a rainbow; we have many different races, many different religions, many different nationalities and my job is to make sure all of you feel included and respected, and I’m going to work on that as well.  It’s not easy to hear the kinds of things you said, and you know what, it’s important you say it. It’s important people understand this is a place where we also believe in academic freedom.

I’m here – I have to unfortunately leave at 5 – but I’m here to basically say to you speak your hearts and minds; this is the way you solve problems, first by being honest about them.  I wish you had been at some of the earlier town hall meetings.  People sometimes were a little timid – I’m sorry, at the other ones I attended; for all I know you were at the other Arts Science and Engineering one.  People sometimes were a little timid.

Don’t be timid. This is a chance to speak and be heard. If you don’t want to speak and be heard, take us seriously – you can write messages, you can email. This is a commission that intends to move the ball forward and make some progress on this.

This is not a magical solution; not everything everyone wants will occur but it will be a thoughtful conversation.  It will be one in which we will work together to make this a better university.  Thank you.

[finger snaps]

Delia:  Hello, my name is Delia. I am part of the Douglass Leadership House – I’m the housing coordinator.  Wow, this is great; I haven’t heard President Seligman speak in 3 years, which is all the years that I’ve been here on things that are relevant to myself.

Another thing I wanted to bring up is the fact that Dean Feldman mentioned that they were considering DLH being permanent as long as the other academic living centers were permanent.  I feel like that is crazy because then that would mean you would have to choose between Drama House, DLH, and (Sig Ep), which are probably the only three academic living centers on campus that are actually houses, which are also on the frat quad along with the DLH.

I have never seen Sig Ep do the programs we do, neither the Drama House; they are focused on other things and that’s great; they are successful in that.  But we have been successful in what we have been doing since 2012 and we have proved it when we got our house contract renewed and I feel like we shouldn’t have to keep proving things.

[finger snaps]

Additionally, I feel like the funding for multicultural groups should not be things that are grants because that means, again, everyone can apply for them.  We are not trying to compete with anyone else again; we’re just trying to have money for our clubs.  I feel like this Commission on Race has now become the word ‘diversity’ – we’re trying to avoid things that we have to tackle.  Instead, we’re trying to make it fair for everyone when we know there are obviously groups that are having more opportunities than we are, and we are pointing that out.

I feel like everyone who wants to be heard is right here; there are no other groups here.  We have been here for the past – I don’t know how many town hall meetings.  I’m glad President Seligman made it to this one – I know he’s really busy, but then again, I came here thinking President Seligman was going to be the first one to speak on something because he’s in charge of the whole university, and here we are again, being pointed towards more people who are going to give us more answers that we’ve already heard and I think this is a joke.  I think we shouldn’t be thinking that we can keep doing this.  One day it’s going to be too late.

[finger snaps]

Male:  So I have one very interesting question: Why is there no Latino representative on the commission?


Just one question for you.  We make up a very large majority in the United States and at this university; I’m not asking for someone to specifically represent the Latino community, but you name yourself a commission on race and diversity.  I looked at the commission; it was pretty biracial, and according to the definition of diversity, it’s a wide variety on a large spectrum.

If someone can give me a direct answer, I would love that.


Feldman:  Partly the answer of how it came out is a function of – people weren’t appointed to the commission by race; people were – the different schools were asked to identify people and they did what they did and it turned out the way it is.  But, shortly before coming over here, Dean Burgett, President Seligman and I met and we discussed this very topic.  We will keep thinking about that, but we will very strongly consider the possibility of adding somebody to the commission.

Male:  You will strongly consider this.

Feldman:  Well, we discussed it, but yes.  We’re taking this under advisement, the idea of how best to add a person to the commission at this point.  Joel, do you want to say anything?

Seligman:  It’s a fair question.  You deserve to have candidly a Latino or Latina representative on the commission. Partly the reason we got to where we are now is we can’t have representatives from every race, every gender – well, clearly every gender, but every ethnicity and so forth.  I reached out to a lot of people to accept nominations; we didn’t get one representing Latinos / Latinas.

Today, that’s the reality.  Today when I was basically told this was a concern that some had, I said ‘How many Latino/Latina students do we have in the college?’  It’s a significant number.  How many do we have throughout the university?  It’s a significant group.  I’d like this to be a representative commission so we’ll work to get this changed.

In fairness, that’s how you move things along. You raise issues.  We’re not doing this because the squeaky wheel gets the grease; we’re doing this because it’s something that you’re right on.  All I’m going to say is I’m not going to bring out a magic wand and say ‘Poof! You’re a member of the commission’ but I will correct this as rapidly as we can.

Male:  Thank you.

Goodlet:  Hello, everyone.  I’m (Charlisa) Goodlet.  There’s a few things that I want to touch upon.  I think that what we’re doing is the students gave our university a list of demands, right?  And a part of those demands is to make our university a more welcoming space for under-represented students.  We say we’re moving forward but we can’t move forward when we have a commission that’s not focusing on our problems and our issues. We’re eliminating individuals who played an important part in delivering these demands to our university as well as fighting for our plight and our struggle.

When we sit here and say we’re moving forward and I can’t promise you anything, but we’re making promises and we’re extending to people outside of the commission, and we’re skipping over a Latina representative.  For me I’ve consistently as an individual who has served on the commission, I’ve asked over and over again, ‘When are we appointing a Latina representative?’

[finger snaps]

This is not how the way it should be; it really isn’t.  I feel in order for us to move forward we need more students on board because as a commission, the voice of the students is being diluted and we’re all over the place and we’re scattered.

I also think that we – we shouldn’t have to think about having a Latina representative; there should already be one on board.  We appointed an Asian student for concerns for the Asian community; he does not show up often to the commission meetings so therefore we should have an individual we know is going to be dedicated to the movement we’re struggling and fighting for.

Also, we’re thinking of the issues we’re struggling and fighting for as a one-size-fits all.  This is not a one-size-fits all thing, and we’re not going to move forward until we understand that and actually give the students what we want.  We’re telling you we want a Latina representative on board; we need to get that – there shouldn’t be any ifs, ands or buts about it.   That’s all I have to say.


Daniel:  My name is Daniel.  We speak about moving forward; I’m excited about that.  I’m excited we’re having this conference. I haven’t been in attendance and I don’t expect an answer immediately.  I want it to actually ruminate.

I’m from Rochester.  There are a few people from Rochester that I know of, and just a few weeks ago we heard of some students getting kidnapped by people who live in Rochester.  We’ve commented on that and it’s kind of amusing to me.  I don’t know how that happens and I want that to be thought about.

My particular question is, as we move forward, in the City of Rochester, I’m pleased with what Warner is doing with East High School, but how are we going to change the community?  Moving forward is not just saying that on this campus, we’re going to create a citadel that we can ignore what’s going on around us.  When people ignore what’s going on around them, we have to have these meetings.

Seligman:  Let me answer that if I can.  I’ve been spending a lot of time working with the community; among other things, I’m co-chair of what’s called the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.  We just made a proposal to the state to secure a $500 million grant which was successful. We were the only proposal in the state that focused on poverty.  We focused specifically on the severe poverty, particularly among the young, in the City of Rochester; we focused on the fact that the city has so many needs.

We’re working hand in glove with what’s called the Rochester-Monroe Inter-poverty Initiative; this includes leadership from Mayor Warren, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelli and many others on a series of proposals. The ambition of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council is to fully support these.  They have not been fully published yet – they’re still formulating them – but we know when you talk about the community, we’ve crossed the river; we did that during Dennis O’Brien’s time as president.

We started putting our university closer to the community.  We have focused on over 200 projects now in the community. East high School is just one of many.  We are many of us citizens of Rochester.  I’m one.  You’re one.  This is our hometown and it needs all the help that it can get and I’m proud, frankly, of how many people at the university are trying to address it, but it is not easy.

The key, for example, with the Warner School’s efforts or the efforts of Arts Science and Engineering is in many cases student volunteers, faculty or staff making an enormous difference and working with people in the community to move forward.  I don’t want to go on too long but a project that made a huge difference, Rochester used to be a thriving city.  The heart of it was Main Street.  It’s not dead but it’s dormant at this point.

One of our aspirations is to bring Main Street back to life. We’ve been working with real estate developers who are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to take essentially empty office buildings and transform them into housing, to take empty businesses and bring them back to downtown Rochester.

This is not necessarily part of undergraduate education and yet it is.  As students, part of your life is in the classroom.  As students, part of your life is in the community.  If you want to work with us on this, believe me, I welcome your efforts and offline, I’ll be glad to help you or anyone get in touch with people who can connect you to the community.  Beth, do you want to say something?

Olivares:   As students, you should all know that the Kearns Center runs pre-college programs in the Rochester City School District.  We have Upward Bound and Upward Bound-Math/Science and we operate two college prep centers, one at East High School and one at Vanguard.  We have three full-time staff members in the KearnslCenter who work full-time in the school district and 6 Americorps members who do the same.

We are also in the process of writing additional grants that will go in next week – $2.5 million worth of grants to serve even more students.  You all know that the graduation rate in the City of Rochester is really low but students who participate in our programs, 95 percent of them graduate on time and they go to college so we know they can succeed.

One of the reasons our programs work so well is because we have so many undergraduates who are involved and graduate students and faculty, so if you’re interested in volunteering or working, Anthony (Plonczynski) over here or me, or actually half of this row is Kearns Center staff.  We do recognize there is a tremendous amount of work to do in the city.  As an institution of higher education, our focus in the Kearns Center is education.  We want to make sure we provide as many children the opportunity to achieve their aspirations as possible because that’s how we – that’s how I got here and that’s how we all got here.  I just wanted to add that.

Assad:  Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Assad Mohammed; I’m from Rochester and what really made me want to speak is my brother, Daniel, because he’s from Rochester.  I’m from Rochester but what I want to say is we’re doing the right thing today because we’re recognizing there is a problem.

I want to focus on the fact that we’re at a university and too often, on university campuses we reject people because of a disposition they may have or their ideas.  A university is an environment to allow students to enter into truthful dialogue – truthful dialogue that is separate from the media’s manipulation of persons and events.  We have to focus on truthful dialogue that will allow us –

This is a university; this is supposed to be a hub of individuals to go out into society and be those vessels for change.  If we can’t get it right here, we’re not going to get it right outside of these walls.  That’s what I want to talk about.

[finger snaps]

For example, when I came here, when I came to the diversity event that was in (Strong) Auditorium, there was representation for my Christian brothers, there was representation for a brother who was homosexual, there was presentation for a sister who is black and came from the Rochester City School District.  The reason why I want to bring her up is that black people, Hispanics, people of darker – darker people of the earth are disenfranchised socially and the social engineering behind it is crazy.

But my point is, for example, why wasn’t there representation for Muslims?  We are a human family and we have to understand that regardless of creed, class or color there needs to be freedom, justice and equality.  My heart pains every day that we focus on things like race – these things that we allow to separate us.  We need to be a hub for change and in order to change, we have to put aside the petty and really focus on –

DLH, for example; Frederick Douglass, do you know what he stood for?  Do you know what that man stood for?  He had to teach himself.  When we talk about the condition of black people in America, you have to understand that this was a people who were enslaved for 300 years; it only takes about 24 months for a habit, but you take away a people’s language, their religion, their culture, and then you emancipate them and then proclaim it but don’t give them, okay, 40 acres and a mule.

All these things – okay, we talk about the university, keeping things within the university, but there’s a micro and a macro.  We have to understand it all and in order to be a better community we have to understand that we are a humanity.  Put creed, color and class aside and be the leaders of today that we’re supposed to be.


Delvin:  My name is Delvin and I’m a sophomore and a senator and a proud black man.  I want to talk about the community aspect because a lot of people I talk to in Rochester – I’m from Utica but Rochester is like a second home because I come here a lot.  They say ‘I know a lot about the University of Rochester but I don’t know a lot of people that go here.’  I think that’s something we should keep in mind.

There is a disconnect between the City of Rochester and the University of Rochester.  But in regards to community, I want to say a lot is talked about if I feel safe at the University of Rochester and I know personally speaking, I do feel safe but not comfortable.  I think I feel safe because there are some counterparts to me that need to be safe on this campus that I’m sure the university won’t let anything happen to.

But if it was just a matter of comfortability, I could get over that. If it was just a matter of not necessarily being represented, I could probably get over that in an isolated sense.  If it was just about being under-funded I could probably get over that as just an isolated sense.

But when you have students here – I’m trying not to get emotional, but when you have students here that are under-represented, under-funded, uncomfortable and we have to address a culture that the – the university has to identify that there’s something wrong and there’s a target against students of color.

Let me tell you something about students of color – we don’t care if you like us or not.  We really don’t care if you like us or not. But the problem is this; if you don’t like us, be clear about it but don’t be in our face and don’t provide the means for us to provide for ourselves.

The thing about DLH, which I’m a proud member of; DLH should be the center, even the hub of the university when it comes to culture, especially for people of color, but it should not be the oasis and the sanctuary, meaning that’s the only place we feel comfortable on our campus.

[applause / finger snaps]

So even though DLH is a hub, it should not be our sanctuary where the only place I feel at home is at the Douglass Leadership House.  That means we have a problem of culture on our campus that we need to address.

A lot of the administrators know me; they know I’m an approachable guy, you know what I’m saying?  But I’ve been pushing race a lot this year even at the senate table.  And my last thing about this commission, because the commission is the vehicle or remedy as they say in law, the remedy for the solution we’re going to have about race, I find it troubling when you only have one student of color on the commission.


And listen, I’m going to say this and you all may not like me, but when we were out there in the cold, there weren’t Asian-Americans with us, it was not all these other groups with us, and the problem is this:  we understand that we want to diversify the commission and get all these people involved, but I’ve always been told when you have too many chiefs and no Indians you’ve got a problem.

We need to pull together the individuals who understand our struggle, who understand our problem, and not just names that sound good on paper but who have never come to us and never talked to us, don’t come to Douglass Leadership House, who don’t come to BSU events.  To be honest, I’m really tired of it.

Yes, you have African-Americans and as Malcom X said, ‘You’ve got the field negro and the house negro’.  I’m going to be honest with you, to everybody who said ‘Well, it’s not a problem’, I’m black and I look black and I’m big enough that you know I’m black.


But many times – and this is the culture that we have – I was invited to a frat house but my friends couldn’t ever dare think about going near the frat house, where I was invited to dean’s offices that my friends couldn’t even think about going into because I was maybe “the house negro”.

But let me tell you something; if you invited all these students to the university, which they should be, we have to create a culture that is not saying ‘If you dot this I or if you cross this T, if you walk like this, if you talk like this, then we’ll accept you into the university community’ – no, it should be that if I talk with a little bit of slang, if I’ve got an earring in my ear, if I talk a little bit urban, if I don’t say everything the right way, but it does not mean that I’m not intelligent or I’m not smart.

[finger snaps]

It just means that I’m different and different isn’t necessarily bad.  We can’t just come to all these town halls and you say ‘How do you feel?’  You know there’s a problem; just fix it.   We just want results.  We just want solutions. And it pains me that we have to sit here for something that you talk to everybody else about.

Let me tell you something; you could’ve had this town hall in DLH and gotten the solution you wanted.

[finger snaps / applause]

Female: I agree with what everyone has said so far.  I want to speak about the issue with Yik Yak; forgive me, I was not here last semester.  However, comments that have been made on Yik Yak have affected my peers and myself.

[finger snaps]

As we all know, the United States of America has a gun issue, so when a person goes on Yik Yak and threatens to shoot me and my peers, that’s an issue.  We were told it was addressed – I was at the CDR meetings and even when we had the protest and demands, someone asked about it and the university said ‘We’re working on it.  We’re working on it’.

We need results.  Is there going to be charges against the students who made death threats to University of Rochester students?  I want it to be taken seriously because I should not have friends calling me in Spain scared and crying to be living in their house because somebody threw our bench tables and we shouldn’t have to be the ones to have to find the student that destroyed our property and who made my peers afraid.

They should not have to call me in another country because they don’t feel safe.  It’s not okay at all.  I cannot walk around campus – you don’t know who are making these statements.  At the University of Missouri, when someone threatened the students, they found out who that individual was and that individual was arrested.

At another university, a student made a threat to a student of color on their campus and that person was arrested.  We don’t know who we’re going to school with; there are college students all the time – and I’m tired of it not being addressed properly.  Are there going to be charges against the people who made death threats?  Oh, University of Rochester DLH students, come outside so I can shoot you.  We don’t know if people have weapons on this campus.

I would like to know, have the individuals been identified and will there be charges filed against those students?  And, what are the security measures that are going to be taking place, if there are?  And not circulate through DLH; we’re already policed enough.   What are we going to do to address these comments?  They could become reality because they’ve become reality on campuses in this country.

[finger snaps / applause]

Seligman:  I could not agree with you more; this is a key issue that must be addressed.  I’ve asked for a recommendation from the commission by January 31st.  We have moved as forcefully as we could to encourage the District Attorney who is the only one who can bring charges.  They have issued an additional subpoena; they are in conversations with Yik Yik.  The issue is identify who made these horrible, disgraceful, anonymous yaks, as they’re called.

Our challenge is we can’t get them unless the DA enforces the law.  We’re moving on it and we’ll have more information for you as quickly as we get it, but I could not agree more with you.  The substance of what was said is disgraceful, has no place on this campus and we intend to address it.

Male:  Not to speak again, but I have a message from a local community leader who is also a trusted mentor of mine; her name is Gladys (Pedraza-Burgos).  She used to work at the Office of Minority Student Affairs and she’s now the COO of the Ibero-American Action League.

She says ‘I’m very disappointed in my university; I wish to remind my university that the future is not black and white.  It’s a little brown too.  Diversity means including various people and bringing those people to the table to talk.  You can’t talk about diversity with only African-Americans.  Don’t leave the Latinos out.’

[finger snaps]

Seligman:  Thank Gladys for the message.

Johnson:   Hi, everyone.  Good afternoon.  My name is Simone Johnson and I’m a representative in the DLH and the Black Students Union.  The topic I’m trying to get a grasp on is OMSA; is OMSA a replacement for ICC?  Is ICC a replacement for OMSA?  Okay, just checking on that.

And I just want to speak on the importance of OMSA – why it should be a priority that it has a bigger space, more funding and things along that line.  From my freshman year, OMSA has supported what we’ve done.  A lot of the students, besides the Douglass Leadership House, feel safe in OMSA and it is an organization that caters to not just the black kids, not just the Hispanic kids, but all minority students and we all feel safe there.  I felt like it was a little glossed over during the presentation; OMSA is a priority because it’s something that we need here.  If anyone could fill me in on that, that would be good.

Feldman:  I’m not – OMSA definitely is a priority; it’s here to stay.  It’s expanded in various ways over time.  We’re proud of its accomplishments.   I understand the reasons for that and we’re looking to see if we can re-organize some space to do that. It’s not easy.  If you expand that space, something else – space is finite and we’re trying to figure out how to configure things that will work and it’s just not a simple thing.  We’re working on it.

But the Intercultural Center is by no means a replacement; it’s an addition.  In the last several years, DLH has been added, the Intercultural Center has been added, so these are things in addition to OMSA.  The Kearns Center has grown – I’m not arguing these things are enough; I’m just saying there has been growth and we’re trying to be responsive and we’re looking at this issue too.

Kiara:  Hi, everyone.  I’m Kiara; I’m the president of the (Hispanic) Students Association.  My own concern with that follow-up question is that in order for us to expand and create new programs we can’t forget the programs that are in place.  I think it’s great that we add new things and we’re finding ways to deal with the situation, but we have to make sure that what we do have here is working and running before we expand.

The same way if you open new housing or you expand your business or whatever, you have to make sure your foundation is set and it’s running and working properly.  When you expand, you need to make sure they’re working together.  I think with ICC and Kearns and OMSA and DLH, they’re great but are we really looking at them as individuals and how are they running and are we forgetting about programs that have been here?  How can they work together to make sure that overall we’re on the same page?

[finger snaps]

I think that moving forward when we’re thinking about things like this – finding new slogans, new departments, new spaces – let’s look at how they’re running.  Are they running properly?  Do they have the resources they need in order to function, to give the resources to the community in need?  And, we are a big community on this campus.

[finger snaps]

Feldman:  Just very briefly to respond to that, you’re absolutely right.  If we build new things we also have to make sure the things that are already in place are properly functioning, but I do want to make very clear that we have sitting here in the front row the directors of the Intercultural Center, OMSA and the Kearns Center – the three of them interact routinely and talk about their programs; it’s all collaborative.  The college staff collaborates a great deal on programs to try to make sure we work together, so I think we are focused on what you suggest.

Olivares:  I would just add that we are taking Rich’s charge to come up with new budget proposals very seriously.

Burnett:  Ditto that.   Let me just say it’s not – and I want to speak for OMSA; that’s our charge, to represent under-represented students to make sure you graduate and you have the resources and you make the connections, help you make connections. But it’s not just OMSA’s responsibility.  All the offices on campus from admissions, the student life offices –we all have a responsibility to make sure that you’re safe and supported on campus.

So part of our job is to bring forth issues and concerns that you have and make sure that all the offices serve your needs in an adequate and supportive way.  To the extent we don’t do that, we need to hear from you.  But I must say, no one has said to me at all that ICC or any other organization is replacing OMSA.  As long as I’m here, I wouldn’t want to be a part of that.

I just want to reinforce the fact that it’s not just the four offices sitting up here that have responsibility for your education; it’s all the offices that support the university and support students’ education.

Male:  I’m just going to be brief because I don’t want to take up too much space as a white person, but I want to make a comment that I think needs to be made, which is that in all of this conversation that we have where we’re talking about diversity, and as a queer white person, I love talking about diversity.

The problem is, all the diverse people on campus are not the ones who are being threatened in this situation.

[finger snaps]

The people who are being threatened in this situation are the black people on this campus and the Latino people on this campus.  So when we talk about diversity and we talk about having the Care reports and everything, that’s great.  But this meeting is about the danger to the black and Latino students on this campus, and we need to keep the focus there.

We have all of these things about diversity – this is focused specifically on race and we need to keep it focused on race.

[finger snaps]

Griffiths:  My name is (Aleem) Griffiths and I’m the vice president of Douglass Leadership House.  I understand that it may or may not take a while to fully establish Douglass Leadership House as a permanent place on campus, but seeing how we were established in 2012, there aren’t a lot of alumni who are able to help fund the house.  Is there any way you could go about helping fund this place while you (reach) to make it a permanent residence?

Feldman:  It’s not a matter of funding. That’s just not an issue we need to address here.

[speaker in background]

Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.  I misunderstood.  I guess I’m not – I don’t know enough about just what those issues are to say anything about that. I’m happy to look into that.   I’m sorry.

Aleem:  I agree with you; we need to figure out ways for ALCs to fund our houses and make renovations and I think that’s something they spoke about earlier.  There’s definitely room for collaboration on that.

Seligman:  We’re running a capital campaign right now and part of it is to focus on funding programs involving diversity – whether it’s scholarships, endowed professorships or programs.  Vivian Lewis has been the key coordinator of the Affinity Group that focuses on this – she’s been working with a number of board members and others.  You might want to reach out to Dr. Lewis.  She may be able to help you address directly what you’re raising.

Farid:  Hello, everybody.  My name is (Farid Adenuga); I’m the president of the Minority Student Advisory Board.  I want to speak on the funding of DLH, this brief instance that you spoke about.  The fact that you have to think that it’s a regular house that – DLH isn’t funded properly at all.  I need to state that right now – compared to the other houses, compared to the other organizations it’s just improperly funded.  We are students that bear the brunt of it every single day.

I was a previous resident in DLH and when I see my friends’ houses and other places on campus, it’s different.  You guys, I’m sorry – a quote you said about fundraising and diversity – this isn’t about diversity; it’s about race.   We’re not talking about diversity, we’re talking about race.

[finger snaps]

Honestly, this university, you guys have done so many great things and you continue moving – I understand change is not instantaneous; we have a continuous process, but there are certain things that can be done right now and aren’t being done at all. That’s where this conversation is coming from right now.  I’m sorry but I have to go; I have work.

Seligman:  Give me two minutes.  We’re continuing the conversation; that’s why we’re here – we want to listen.  Why do we continue to use the term ‘diversity’ when you say it’s about race?  Because of the Supreme Court, to be blunt.  They don’t let us make admissions decisions based on race.  They allow us according to the key Supreme Court decisions make diversity a plus factor, and that is what it’s pigeon-holed as.

When you say it’s about race, of course it’s really about race.  I get it. You get it.  Everybody in this room gets it.  I want to make changes, some of which will be subject to potential lawsuits that will stand up no matter how we do it.  To add the term ‘diversity’ and to take into consideration diversity decisions will often ensure whatever we do will be fully compliant with law and we also always have to be fully compliant with the law.  Sorry, I took my two minutes.

Mohammed:  My name is Mohammed (inaudible) and I’m a grad student on campus.  My brothers mentioned that the future is not black or white but that it’s brown too, so I think it’s appropriate for me to speak now.


I just wanted to say that I’m a freshman so I’m coming here and comparing the culture at the university with everything that it’s like in Pakistan.  I’m actually worried because if America cannot protect all the American citizens, which includes the blacks and African-Americans on campus, it makes me afraid for myself because I’m a Muslim, my name is Mohammed and I’m from Pakistan.  If something goes wrong, somebody is coming for me.

[finger snaps]

But for all these guys, you can see so many people are representing them.  I’m afraid that if some day the situation is on me, who is going to stand up for me?  I’m a minority student. There is just one organization that represents all the south Asians, which is (Odyssey) and that is not enough.

It represents our culture; it does not promote our rights.  We do not have funding to go out and practice our religion and culture on campus.  You do not have Halal food on campus so I have to survive on vegetables, which is not my diet, basically but all these ideas tell me about how you feel about me on campus.  And, if you can’t protect them, you can’t protect me.  And I’m concerned for them because I’m concerned for me.  Thank you.

[finger snaps]

Susan:  Hi, my name is Susan and I live in the Douglass Leadership House.  I just wanted to take a moment to address some of the rhetoric we use when we’re talking about the Douglass Leadership House.  So, we’ve talked about community engagement and community outreach and Douglass Leadership House as a safe space.

What I think we’re failing to realize is that Douglass Leadership House can serve as a connection, as a liaison to the community.  A lot of people who live in the house do a lot of work to reach out to the people who live in this community – probably more so than any other house on campus.

There will always be a need for Douglass Leadership House; it’s not something we need to reconsider every three years, as long as the state of race in America remains the same – and I don’t anticipate it will change any time soon – there will be a need for Douglass Leadership House.

[finger snaps]

So I just wanted to address the idea that this needs to be a permanent space on campus and I don’t think it should be a subject for debate.

[finger snaps]

Male:  Thank you.  I’m a student, by the way; I’m a junior.  After having entered some of the other house on the fraternity quad, maybe we should think about changing that name too.

[finger snaps]

I could walk into all those other houses, except maybe for Douglass Leadership House, and walk out more of an idiot than when I walked in, okay?  And except for maybe Drama House.  DLH, of the houses on that fraternity quad, there’s one of them – maybe Drama House – that is actually doing positive things on this campus.  A single one of them.  It’s an insult to them to say – I realize we have property rights issues with some of the other houses; I don’t really know how all that goes, but as far as the ALCs go, for DLH not to be guaranteed that spot is absurd.   It’s just mind boggling.

Then when we bring up ‘We should have our place’, it gets bundled in with the white houses too, that they should have their place permanently – that’s crazy.  DLH for me, as a white student – and I’m going to wrap it up because I am a white student – I walk out of there every time with a changed perspective.  I don’t go there enough.  Without that place, I would be a different person; I wouldn’t be standing up and speaking here and I wouldn’t have been protesting with them. That is so, so important.

[applause / finger snaps]

Male:  I just want to hit on two questions real quickly.  The first is about ICC, Kearns and OMSA and the second question is about after the Commission is over.  So my first question is, I think what Simone was saying when she was talking about expanding OMSA, I don’t think it was necessarily physical but more about the programs we think should be in OMSA or transitioning to ICC.  Like, I heard historically CDR was in OMSA – now it is not chaired by somebody in OMSA.

My question is, to the administration, is that the movement now – that a lot of stuff is shifting to ICC and Kearns?  To my knowledge, the only department that, by default, when you step on this campus you are assisted by is OMSA – by default of you being a minority student.

[finger snaps]

So I think that should be the largest department for us because we are a part of that by default by us being on this campus.

The second question is, after the Presidential Commission is over, after this report is written, what happens to students of color and minority students?  What’s the connection?  Will there be some sort of advisory to the administration and the president when this is over?  A task force of some sort created?  This needs to continue after the report is written that says we don’t have as many problems as the students think we have, which I feel is the reality of what the report will say.

So, after that report is written, what’s going to be the next step for the university?

Seligman:   One second.  I apologize that I have to leave after this answer, but I will read the transcript for this and all of the town halls I couldn’t attend.  First, let’s get it written.  It’s going to come in two parts – it’s not only addressing students but also faculty and staff, some of whom sometimes feel marginalized too, and that is unacceptable.

It will, in the first part which will come January 31st, address Yik Yak, address some issues of context.  Dean Feldman announced a number of decisions that have already been made and these will be reflected.  We will then keep going and we’re going to keep going and have a final report after we’ve done, among other things, a very broad survey of faculty and staff throughout the university and try to address issues of race and diversity throughout the university.

I can’t tell you what the report will fully say; I will tell you we’re devoting a lot of focus and attention on it because it’s time, it’s appropriate and I’m open to consider any wise suggestion and proposal.  I will tell you one thing I know for sure; the problem of race relations, whether it’s here or in this country, will not be solved with one report or two reports this year – it’s going to continue.

I have made it a priority in my time here.  We’ve done a lot of things; we’ve got a lot further to go.  In one way or another, what’s most important is your voices will be heard and we are going to continue to try to make progress.

I want to close my remarks with a very simple thought:  some of you have addressed the notion that there should be this sense of sanctuary on campus and we are in, in my experience, the ugliest cycle of presidential candidates I’ve ever seen.  We have some who are talking about deporting people because of the color of their skin, we have some who want to exclude them because of their religion, build walls and all the rest of it.  That is part of this country’s dialogue right now.  That is not part of our university.  We are better than that. We are going to do everything we can to make all of our students, whether Pakistani and Muslim, whether African-American, Latino, Christian or Jewish, we want all of you to feel welcome.

Do we do it as well as we can?  No.  We’re constantly trying to improve.  The only way we improve is by listening.  The only way we improve is by learning from each other.  I grew up a long time ago.  I grew up in the 60’s; I grew up in the time of Dr. King and the biggest lesson I learned from him, other than his cause was just and right, was that you persevere.  You never surrender.  You keep going.  And that’s what we all have to do.  You have raised your voices, you have raised them, frankly, with dignity.  You have raised them in a way they’re going to be heard.  You are part of a discussion and we’re going to move this place forward.

What I’m saying to you more than anything else is work with the members of the commission you know, take us seriously, send in your emails, send in your comments.  See how this plays out.  You’ve already this afternoon made some progress that’s been announced. There will be more before it’s done.  Thank you.

[finger snaps]

Burgett:  We are at the time when we said we would end our town hall meeting – it’s 5 o’clock and we want to be mindful of everyone’s busy schedules.  I think we can take one or two more comments, but again, we would urge you to make your views known to us in any number of ways.  Dean Feldman and I read the emails that come our way, but let me offer the opportunity for one or two more comments.

Feldman:  We have one already coming.

Burgett:  Yes, please.

Gabby:  Hi, my name is Gabby.  I kind of stick to myself but I do notice stuff and I feel like – I remember when I came to this campus in April of last year to see the school, tour it around and things like that, and I feel like there was a lack of public attention to things like DLH and (SALSA) groups and things like that – things that open a space for people of all races and ethnicities to feel safe and feel like they can be within their culture.

I remember walking around the school and see the frat quad and people going ‘Oh, this is the frat quad’, ‘this is this building’ – you didn’t mention there was one house that was not a fraternity and could actually help people.

[finger snaps]

And it doesn’t have to be just that one (black person) in a group; it could be all white people, Hispanic, Middle Eastern or any other ethnicity because everyone is welcome there.  I feel like you can mention any of the groups that are there for people and if you don’t mention the groups because they don’t exist, then they should be made. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity it is.

I feel like everybody who does tours comments ‘Look at the array of flags’ – just because you have an array of flags from different nations, it doesn’t prove this place is diverse.  It doesn’t recognize diversity; anybody can go buy a flag.  You can make a flag out of paper – you know what I’m saying?  I think it should be recognized when people tour the school.

When you’re walking around a school, this is when you’re deciding whether you’re going to apply, whether you’re going to say ‘yes’, so we should give people a reason to say yes – because they know they’re going to feel safe, because they’re going to be around people of their culture, and you know, they could be around themselves.  That’s all I have to say.

[finger snaps]

Burgett:  Thank you.  Thank you.   One more – we’ll take one more comment.

Taylor:  Hi, my name is Taylor.  I’m a freshman and I am a DLH house member.  Something I just wanted to say is you guys keep saying ‘diversity’, and diversity is fine and dandy but this is about race.  By saying diversity, you’re allowing other issues to subsume race like religion, sexuality – and that’s not what this is about.  This is about race and under-representation for race.  By saying ‘diversity’, I feel this is a cop out for trying to say race but not saying race and by not actually acknowledging this is about race, you’re letting all these problems fester and that’s what’s making this worse.

[finger snaps]

Burgett:  Thank you.  I want to thank everybody on behalf of President Seligman, Dean Feldman, and the members of the commission.  I want to thank you for coming and for offering very thoughtful and heartfelt comments.  This was a very, very difficult – this is a very difficult problem that this nation has been dealing with throughout its entire history.  It was Alexis de Tocqueville in the 19th century who said when he toured the United States on a trip from France, ‘The great American challenge, the great democratic experience, its success will depend on how Americans deal with the issue of race.’

And here we are, 100-plus, 150 years later still dealing with it.  I think Alexis de Tocqueville would say ‘I told you so.’   But all of us, all of us and if Gilda Richard, who is an MD student and on the commission were here, I think she would exhort all of us – as she has done in other town hall meetings – that all of us are putting our shoulders to the wheel.  All of you are putting your shoulders to the wheel.

I’m a product of the 60’s; I remember the sit-in in 1969.  I remember the sit-in in 1999 – the protest – and the most recent protest.  We are all pioneers.  Every one of us, regardless of the color of our skin, we are all pioneers in a struggle that just continually defies ultimate resolution.  But that gives none of us, that gives none of us the right to give up.  And your being here today is part of that commitment.  We appreciate it.

Thank you.  Have a great weekend.


End of Recorded Session.