Wednesday afternoon, a group of VCU students staged a demonstration on The Compass as a sign of support for African American students facing discrimination at the University of Missouri. About 200 people attended the rally, which was positive, peaceful, and appropriate for a university that values diversity, inclusion, and thoughtful action as tenets of a distinctive educational experience. As one of America’s premier research universities, our mission includes thinking about and acting to solve social problems, and I applaud these students for advancing that mission.
Though other universities have made national headlines, I am mindful that these issues are no less important here. And I urge the VCU community to remember that these are not issues for only some of us, but for all of us. Every single member of our university must always feel free, empowered, engaged and respected — and when even one of us isn’t, then we all lose. That is because we lose the chance to learn from and to be inspired by the experiences of all members of our community.
We must always stand together as one VCU, with one mission: to advance the human experience for all people, through teaching, research, creativity, engagement and care.
That is why I hope that this demonstration was not a singular event, but rather the beginning of a conversation about these critically important topics at VCU and around the nation. To help facilitate this discussion, and to help ensure that we are advancing our mission as well as we would like, I have scheduled a Presidential Forum on Diversity and Inclusion for 12 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18 in the Student Commons – Richmond Salons 3 & 4. In addition to my comments, this forum will include senior members of my leadership team; student leaders; and members of our Board of Visitors, for whom diversity and inclusion remain paramount. If you cannot attend the forum, the event will be both livestreamed and live tweeted. Details on remote viewing will follow in the next day or two.
I know we can use this occasion for a candid and open dialogue and constructive engagement so that VCU will continue to be known around the nation as a university that embraces and values diversity and, not just tolerates it.
I look forward to continuing this important conversation with all of you.