Remembering what brought us, and ties us, to the University of Iowa
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Bruce Harreld portrait
President Bruce Harreld

Over the past few days, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with students and families as they embark on an exciting year at the University of Iowa. I’ve reconnected with friends on faculty and staff who are ready to engage, enlighten, and serve our students. For those of us returning, we are comforted by the knowledge that this is a welcoming place, a diverse and dynamic institution strengthened by our differences.

But in the wake of racist violence on a university campus not unlike our own, it is incumbent upon us to reach out to those who are new to our community. To tell them we denounce the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazi groups who use public universities as a backdrop for their violent theater. To assure them that we will not be bullied into silence or turned against one another. To pledge once again that we will not tolerate anything but a safe and inclusive campus for people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or country of origin.

When coming to Iowa two years ago, I outlined new challenges the university faces: increased competition, diminishing federal and state funding, rising tuition, rapid shifts in technology, and questions about our value. Coming here, I lauded our community’s creativity, collaboration, work ethic, and willingness to speak forthrightly. We must rely on these enduring qualities now as we face more persistent challenges: racism and bigotry.

This is a community that values the First Amendment and freedom of expression. We vigorously debate literature, philosophy, and scientific interpretations all while forging lifelong friendships. Civil discourse and the respectful exchange of ideas are the cornerstones of higher education and this great institution. But these ideals are incompatible with hate and can be fully realized only when all members of our community are valued and supported. Those of us who have made Iowa City our home know this already. Now is our chance to demonstrate these values to the newest members of our community.