Dear Campus Community:
The University of Memphis is dedicated to helping students, faculty and staff create a vibrant, welcoming, inclusive and safe environment. As you may be aware, there was an incident last week in which a student found her car vandalized and a racist note was left on her windshield. We immediately reached out to the student involved, along with her family. The incident has been vigorously investigated, but we have been unable to identify the perpetrator. We will continue to investigate the incident and will respond accordingly. Racism, bigotry and hate speech, in any form or fashion, will not be tolerated on our campus.
This is an important moment in our nation’s history. Issues of race, free speech and social justice have been at the forefront. We were proud of our campus’ response to two visitors espousing controversial ideas and opinions a few weeks ago. There is a difference, though, between free speech and hate speech meant to demean and humiliate. As was noted in a communication last year, at the heart of our mission is a commitment to providing a high-quality comprehensive education for our students, and doing so in a safe environment but also an environment that challenges our students to explore a diverse range of ideas and beliefs, and to grow and develop as individuals. An exceptional educational experience is one that challenges ideas and encourages creativity, not one that insulates students from the diversity that is our city and nation. Diversity enriches all of our lives. Universities are about ideas, some of which will push traditional boundaries and challenge the status quo. A vibrant university community embraces this reality. It does not seek to silence debate and discussion; rather, it encourages and nurtures it. Similarly though, a vibrant university community does not tolerate racism, bigotry and hate speech meant to demean, humiliate and degrade. This most recent incident was intended to do just that. We will respond to incidents like the one last week in quick and decisive fashion, recognizing that we need to investigate and fully understand the situation first.
The last few weeks have raised important issues for our campus. One incident was clear in its intent and purpose, the other more nuanced and complex. Consistent with our mission, our next Critical Conversation campus-wide discussion will address this very issue, and we invite you to participate - details about this Critical Conversation event will follow. We also have a University Town Hall meeting scheduled for next week, Thursday, October 13 at 3:00 p.m. in the University Center Theatre. Please join us.
We will always strive to create a vibrant and safe environment for our entire campus community. Sometimes the issues raised will be clear, sometimes more subtle, provocative and difficult. As an engaged community, we will always be up to the challenge.
M. David Rudd, President|Distinguished University Professor
Karen Weddle-West, Provost|Director of Diversity Initiatives