Encouraging Dialogue in the Current Climate

Friday, 2016, November 4

Dear faculty,

We would like to draw your attention to this powerfully written message to students from Dean of Students Allen Groves, Marcus Martin from the Office for Diversity and Equity and Catherine Spear from EOCR:

Important Update on Bias-Motivated Incidents. It points to the increase in bias-motivated incidents in recent weeks and months, makes a strong statement about such incidents having no place in our community, and outlines some initiatives underway.  It also makes the important point that each of us has the right to speak out and that speech itself is sometimes the best response to hateful rhetoric. This is particularly important because in the current climate, with such acts occurring all too often, we may be less effective if we wait for the institution to frame each event for us.

We are also committed to work to change underlying culture proactively rather than reactively, by working with you and other constituencies on the initiatives in Groves’ letter. We want to help faculty be effective members of our community as we all grapple with how best to respond.

At the end of this semester, we will hold two town halls to help us discuss these issues together.  The first town hall will be on December 2, organized by student leaders. The Faculty Senate December 7 meeting will be also be a town hall and allow us to act on these issues iteratively.  All members of our community will be encouraged to attend both town halls.

So what else can we best do as faculty to help? Many people have asked us, and we wanted to share a simple thought that has arisen several times in recent meetings with students:  Students have told us they thirst for faculty to acknowledge in their classes the outside events that may be affecting them. We ask you to consider this simple request:  try to be aware of current events that could affect your students (the Cavalier Daily and the Student Affairs website, are two good sources) and, when it seems appropriate and within your comfort level, acknowledge the event and that it may be painful for your students. Show your concern. Not everyone is equipped to facilitate discussion of painful or divisive topics, though many are, and within each school there are various resources to help you. For example, Arts & Sciences departments have a director of diversity and inclusiveness; other schools have diversity officers or committees.  And of course, you may reach out to either of us.

This is a starting point, and we look forward to working together with you and the students toward the vision of UVA as the best place to work and learn in Virginia.

Thomas C. Katsouleas
Executive Vice President and Provost

Mimi Riley
Chair of the Faculty Senate