Dear Pacific Community,
As Pacific University President, I acknowledge that in moments of racial crisis, our students, faculty, and staff — especially people of color — turn to me and to senior administrators for leadership and confirmation of the university’s commitment. My goal is that we be courageous and responsible as we continue to advance a lens of equity and inclusion on our campuses.
We approach the start of the fall semester, and the return to school for many, during a heightened time of racial and religious strife in the United States. The recent events surrounding the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., are unquestionably rooted in racism and hatred. We cannot ignore these acts of violence.
In consultation with Narce Rodriguez, chief of equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as Cabinet members and deans, we want to assure all of you that we are committed to our non-discrimination policy — and more, to aligning our practices with our university mission to inspire all of us to think, care, create, and pursue justice in our world.
In addition to the Diversity Committee that is part of the Pacific University governance structure, we are forming a diversity task force to bring forward an equity, diversity and inclusion strategic plan. If you have an interest in serving on this task force, please contact Narce Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org. The work of these two structures is extremely important as our student demographics change. We have to assure that we meet the needs of all of our students and provide professional training for all of our constituents.
Many of you are already engaging in conversations about diversity and inclusion, making this a priority in your classrooms and the campus community. For example, the First-Year Seminar faculty chose Ta-Nehisi Coates’ profound work, Between the World and Me, as this year’s summer reading for first-year students. It is intimately related to the present questions that embroil our country.
The dialogues in which you engage one another — whether about this book or other events that bear witness to injustice — are important steps to understanding this crisis, transforming our campus, and fulfilling our university mission. I encourage any of you to join with our first-year students and their faculty in reading this text.
If you are engaging in other work around diversity, equity, or inclusion, please promote it on the university calendar and let Narce know, so more of us can participate in the good work happening here at Pacific.
Additionally, Narce is bringing to fruition the efforts to establish a Student Multicultural Center (SMC) at the Forest Grove Campus. Under Narce’s leadership, the SMC will be operated by student leaders this year. The goal is to have the SMC open its doors in Scott Hall by Sept. 15. An open house invitation will be sent in a few weeks.
Narce has been very busy during her first month at Pacific and has interviewed many alumni and current students of color via phone and in person to hear their experiences at Pacific. She has confirmed that our students are no different than other students of color across the country: They want a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is a basic human need and key to educational success.
All of us must be vigilant in the effort to create a world free of discrimination. We urge students who experience any discrimination to report such an act so that the university can provide immediate assistance. We also remind our students and community members that University Chaplain Chuck Currie welcomes and supports students, faculty and staff members of all faiths.
Let us continue to practice kindness and respect for everyone at Pacific. I, for one, want you to know that I appreciate the unique voice and perspectives each of you brings to our community.
Lesley M. Hallick