This blog post summarizes comments given by UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Schmidt to attendees at the Jan. 31, 2017, open forum hosted by the University Senate, University Staff Council and Student Senate.
I want to thank and commend the University Senate, University Staff Council and Student Senate for sponsoring this important, campuswide conversation today. The endorsement by the University Senate for our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Plan last fall opened the door wide for us to move forward and take action to fulfill the important vision we have for our campus.
That endorsement — echoed by the University Staff Council and the Student Senate — was underlined by comments made by faculty at last November’s Senate meeting. I heard you say, loud and clear: “We have a plan. Now, let’s get moving. It’s time for action.”
I thank all of you for coming today in that spirit of urgency and commitment.
I want to acknowledge, however, recent national events that have caused concern for faculty, staff and students. I am referring to President Trump’s executive order suspending entry into the United States for immigrants and non-immigrants from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
With UW System, we continue to review the executive order and its implications. While we will comply with federal regulations, we will do all we can to support any students, faculty or staff who may be affected in the weeks to come.
While this executive order has raised questions and caused uncertainty for many, it does not, in any way, change our university mission nor our commitment to fulfill it. I want to be clear. Nothing in our mission and core principles has changed. We continue to champion the global learning and immersion experiences that are the essence of the transformative liberal education that sets us apart.
Last year, I received a letter from Secretary of State John Kerry recognizing UW-Eau Claire as a national leader in the Fulbright program. We are leaders because we believe, as J. William Fulbright did, that “The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy — the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately.” As Fulbright wrote, a global education is “not a panacea, but an avenue of hope.” It is that hope and promise that we must continue to protect and to hold high, for our students, our faculty and staff, and for our future.
This morning I met with Dr. Eric Torres, who told me about our exciting partnership in Peru. He shared a letter from President Marcial Rubio of Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, with whom we are working. That letter reinforced for me why our mission is so important. Dr. Rubio was eloquent about the value of global learning: “It is in this task, where the complex challenges of our cultural, geographical and biological diversity must be seen not as obstacles but as wealth and springboards. They need to be assumed and woven in a momentous, creative way, in solidarity and in respect for one another, and always respective of nature.”
For decades, UW-Eau Claire has brought the world to our campus and opened the world to our students. We will redouble our efforts to extravagantly welcome students and scholars from across the globe. We must also redouble our efforts to extend that welcome to those closer to home — to recent immigrants, to underrepresented people in our region and the Midwest. I remind you that our mission calls for us to “foster in one another” the hallmarks of a transformative liberal education. We are a community, called to support one another, and to support each other with dignity and respect, no matter what nation we call home, what religion we may practice or what identity we claim. Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is the bedrock principle on which we thrive as a university.
Today, you will be talking about how we can evaluate our EDI efforts and progress. I encourage you to anchor your conversation on the mission and values that make this university what it is. Keeping that focus will help each of us find ways to make our EDI plan real in our own lives and in the work we do in our classrooms, labs, offices, playing fields and residence halls.
In the days to come, let us continue to ask of each other: What can we do to live our EDI plan, to create a more inclusive, radically welcoming learning community — even in times of uncertainty?