In the wake of the presidential election, the vast majority of our community has looked to our UM Creed to guide their interactions with others. I applaud that approach. Sadly, there have been some incidents founded in hatred and aimed at evoking fear and intimidation in some members of our community and nationwide. Such acts are unacceptable.
I ask each of you — everyone in our community — to actualize the principles of our UM Creed: respect every individual, embrace fairness and civility, commit to integrity, and encourage others to uphold these values. By adhering to the Creed, we can have the respectful discussions, in person and online, that we must have as a family, a welcoming community, and a country.
In my investiture address last Thursday, I emphasized that higher education has the power to transform lives, communities, and the world. It is more important than ever that we use that transformative power in our own community. I invite all to participate in “A Community Conversation,” scheduled at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, in Bryant Hall 209. The purpose of the program is for our community to come together, share concerns, and develop strategies to unify rather than divide. I regret that I must be at an IHL board meeting and cannot personally attend. You have my commitment that we will continue to foster the necessary conversations and actions to address the challenges facing us.
While we continue to foster freedom of speech and the exchange of diverse opinions, we condemn all acts of bias and intolerance and all threatening, racist, bigoted, or otherwise hateful and harmful language. Our university and those we serve are part of a diverse community that enriches our environment and the experiences of our campus constituents. We will always support all members of our community.
The safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors is our top priority. We will swiftly investigate reports of violent or threatening behavior and take immediate and appropriate action. We urge everyone to report incidents to the proper authorities. Any time a community member is fearful or needs immediate support, they should contact the University Police Department at 662-915-7234. To report a bias incident, which includes conduct, speech, or expressions that are threatening, harassing, intimidating, discriminatory, or hostile and are motivated by a person’s identity or group affiliation, please contact the Bias Incident Response Team. Additionally, there are a number of programs and resources available to the university community.
I want to close by reminding you of the ideals I referenced in my remarks during the Program for Reflection and Unity this past summer. We all should want to live in a place that elevates the voice and contribution of everyone in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We all should want to be part of a place where empathy, communication, and genuine caring are the very fabric of the community.
Our community is a welcoming and respectful one, and we will take all necessary action to assure that it remains so.
Jeffrey S. Vitter
Chancellor and Distinguished Professor