The University of Iowa reaffirms its commitment to diversity, decency, and respect
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dear Members of the UI Community,

The University of Iowa is committed to maintaining an environment that recognizes the inherent worth and dignity of every person and that fosters tolerance, sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect. This commitment requires that the highest value be placed on the use of reason and that any harassment or discrimination in the university community be renounced as repugnant and inimical to its goals.

Reprehensible comments on social media platforms have referred insultingly and disparagingly to members of our community. We join other university leaders in condemning these comments. Though the university encourages and facilitates free speech and differences of opinion, the educational environment is damaged and lessened when free speech descends into verbal abuse, bullying, and racism.

Many in our university community make a personal commitment to call out and reject harassment and hateful behaviors when they see them. We applaud that level of personal responsibility and believe that it represents the true spirit of our institution and our state. We expect all UI students, faculty, and staff to contribute to creating the best possible campus environment.

No quick fix exists: This is a long-term project to which we are strongly committed. As we near the end of the fall semester and look forward to the spring semester, we urge you to consider how you can help make our campus a more inclusive environment. We are pleased that so many students and members of the faculty and staff have gone beyond personal commitment to organize efforts that involve other members of our community. For example, 

  • Several student-initiated meetings have taken place, generating positive dialogue and collaborative approaches.
  • UISG is focusing on creating a more inclusive, welcoming campus climate for all students.
  • UISG and GPSG put out a statement condemning the hateful posts on social media; there is discussion of a “thumb it down” campaign to proactively remove Yik Yak posts.
  • The Faculty Senate, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and the Center for Teaching sponsored an Inclusion Teach-In titled, "Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Topics in the Teaching and Learning Experience."
  • UI students are holding a series of open discussions on “Racism & Xenophobia” and will create an action plan to acknowledge and address racism on campus.
  • The International Student Advisory Board is producing a two-part video looking at racist incidents, which will include personal stories, as well as recommendations for the university.
  • Discussions are being held to review and improve university activities and practices such as student orientation, living-learning communities, and housing assignments.
  • International Programs offers the certificate program “Building our Global Community,” educating UI faculty and staff about fostering an intercultural campus community for international students and scholars.
  • The Chief Diversity Office’s BUILD (Building University of Iowa Leadership for Diversity) initiative offers UI faculty and staff the opportunity to gain strategic knowledge and skills to contribute to a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.
  • A module on diversity and inclusion is under development for the first-year Success at Iowa course required of all incoming undergraduates.
  • The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will require all incoming students to fulfill a diversity curriculum requirement beginning in 2017.

We expect to be able to announce additional initiatives early in the spring semester.

We believe that a rich diversity of people and the many points of view they bring serve to enhance the quality of the educational experience at the University of Iowa. We encourage vigorous debate and reasoned disagreement of opinion, which are at the heart of our mission as an institution of learning. At the same time, we must demonstrate inclusion and understanding. The University of Iowa welcomes students, faculty, and staff from all corners of the globe and from a variety of cultural backgrounds. We learn from our diversity and are a better place for it.


Barry Butler, Executive Vice President and Provost
Georgina Dodge, Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President
Bruce Harreld, President
Tom Rocklin, Vice President for Student Life
Downing Thomas, Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs