Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
The beginning of the school year is an exciting time of learning, building new connections and embracing new challenges. As the interim head of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, I want to welcome you to campus. Each of us plays a role in creating a safe and inclusive campus. Our office is here to help and guide that work.
Just last spring, The Inclusion & Respect Task Force, composed of students, faculty and staff, made recommendations to the University Senate and university President Wallace Loh on steps to improve diversity, inclusion and equity on campus. An important pillar of their work – and in fact, the very first recommendation – agreed to the adoption of a set of university-wide values: United, Respectful, Secure and Safe, Inclusive, Accountable, and Empowered and Open to Growth.
As we engage each other in new relationships and new experiences, these values should underpin all that we do as a campus community. Simply agreeing upon a set of values is not enough. We must all look for ways to see ourselves in these values, live these values, and expect each other to contribute to our community accordingly.
We are, unfortunately, already seeing incidents that do not reflect our values. In the last few days, anti-LGBT language was reportedly used on campus, and a swastika was drawn on a whiteboard. Resident Life staff are offering immediate resources and support, and University Police are investigating both incidents. These types of hateful incidents undermine the progress we are working hard to make to foster a safe, inclusive campus.
Hateful behavior affects all of us. If you feel impacted by this, I encourage you to engage with the many resources our campus offers. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Counseling Center, the University Health Center, the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, the Nyumburu Cultural Center, the LGBT Equity Center, Resident Life and many other offices are here to help.
It is important that our community acknowledges these incidents as they happen and make clear that they do not reflect the values of our institution. The primary role of ODI’s hate-bias response team is to review potential hate-bias incidents, to provide appropriate responses based on the nature of the incident and to work collaboratively to provide educational outreach to the campus.
Under the direction of Neijma Celestine-Donnor, the program manager for hate/bias response, we have launched an online reporting site where you can report an incident you are concerned about. In addition, you can call University Police with a report. We are also preparing to launch a website where our campus community will have access to information about all reported incidents. Visit diversity.umd.edu/hbrp to learn more about reporting, as well as resources that can be accessed on and off the campus.
The start of a new academic year presents an important opportunity to learn something new about yourself and the community around you. Consider attending Quelcome 2018 or watch this video about the importance of pronouns. Read the first-year book, The Refugees, to have greater context about the experience of our diverse community, many of whom are immigrants. Take an online tour of our campus landmarks by visiting umd.edu/blackhistorytour. Join one of the many faculty associations or student clubs that support our diverse communities. Attend a hate bias training. Say hello to someone you’ve never met. Invite someone new to join you.
As you start the semester, consider what more you can learn outside of the classroom. I heartily encourage you to be part of creating a vibrant, inclusive campus. We will be better as individuals and as a community for each of our contributions.
Cynthia Edmunds is the interim chief diversity officer at the University of Maryland.