Thursday, December 18, 2014

Editor's Note: The following is a letter that was sent to UI faculty, staff, and students via email the morning of Thursday, Dec. 18.)

Sally Mason
Sally Mason

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

As you prepare to leave campus for the semester break, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge your very fine work this semester. When the academic year opened, we welcomed the largest and best-prepared first-year class in University of Iowa history. These 4,666 new Hawkeyes are off to a great start. We also congratulate the more than 1,500 students who are leaving us at Winter Commencement.

We have much to be proud of here at the University of Iowa, including our cherished traditions of free speech and open dialogue, as well as our long history of being a welcoming campus. The university must foster an inclusive educational environment, one that is open to all points of view— and one in which people from all backgrounds are welcomed and respected.

Our history of inclusiveness and freedom of expression is rich and goes back to the founding of this remarkable institution. The history that we have to draw upon will provide the direction we need as we work together as a community moving forward. While our history may provide us with a framework, we must continue to realize these intertwined values of inclusiveness and freedom of expression in our work together.

My conversations with student, faculty, and staff leaders over the last several days have made it clear to me that there is more we can do. Our aspirations are high, and I am committed to continuing our efforts to meet our goals.

Today, I announce that before the next semester begins, we will:

  • Create clarity in the procedures that surround the use of public space for public expressions, including the prompt removal of unauthorized displays on campus.
  • Review our orientation procedures for new and visiting members of our community to identify opportunities to better acquaint them with relevant policies.

These specific actions are the start of a process that will seek to engage all members of our community in an open and robust discussion. It is through these conversations that we will develop and implement strategies that will create the community that we all aspire to have.

Our initiatives will be led by the UI Chief Diversity Office, under the direction of Georgina Dodge, chief diversity officer and associate vice president. I call on the campus community to review all of our efforts, and I hope you will join me.

I look forward to continuing this conversation and the meaningful work ahead.

Sally Mason
University of Iowa