Spartans, regardless

11-14-2016

It has taken me a few days to gather not only my words, but my thoughts. In doing so, I have listened to and watched events across campus and across our country. I have thought deeply about, and felt deeply, my love for our great university, and my love for our great country.

Regardless of who we are, we have all experienced the divisiveness of the recent election season. And regardless of who we are across these divisions, we all remain Spartans; we remain committed to upholding the core values of Michigan State University every day, in every action and interaction across campus. That unites us. And it is certainly a time to focus on that which unites us.

Of this you can be certain: students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, faiths, and identity statuses deserve to feel safe, supported, and welcome on our campus, and MSU is committed to upholding a safe, supportive, and welcoming community where all students, faculty, and staff can pursue academic and professional success. This university was founded at a time of great disruption in our country, a time of strife, of inequity, of hardship. But the ideals of learning and enlightenment and the commitment to education as a means to improving the quality of life grounded this university's founding. Our three interwoven core values of quality, inclusiveness, and connectivity didn’t just form its foundation, they continue to guide us every day, regardless. Now more than ever, it is a time to reaffirm our foundational core values, to be clear about why this bold and broadly inclusive community of scholars exists, and to make it infinitely clear, that our commitment to these values is our compass if ever we feel lost or uncertain. They orient us; they keep us moving in the right direction. They allow us to do the good work that is done here every day.

Some see a tension between being a place that protects the expression of diverse points of view while also being a place that protects those hurt or offended by some of those points of view. Managing that tension should be a welcome challenge, as it gets to the heart of the academy: space to try and test and challenge ideas. The real challenge is recognizing the difference between the expression of intellectually defensible arguments and personal and hateful speech.

In the same way that we embrace rigor and the high standards in our scholarship, we must do so, too, in our expectations for our community life. Now, more than ever, Michigan State University needs to be a place that maintains the highest expectations of ourselves and others. Each of us is accountable for building a supportive, respectful environment, and we are equally accountable for holding others to that standard: in and outside our classrooms. Every faculty member is involved in guiding and shaping students. In these actions and interactions, we ARE Michigan State University.

Many members of our community have expressed feeling vulnerable and uncertain in these times. We have a responsibility to find ways to remind them of our steadfast commitment to inclusion and our intolerance of actions that are discriminatory or hateful, by our own words of support or by directing them to resources available across campus. Some of you have likely seen announcements of community conversations around campus, and I encourage all to participate in these opportunities.

Ours is a university that continually takes on the toughest problems facing the world, bringing its diverse strengths and tenacious will to the task every day. While it may have often seemed enough to keep our heads down and work hard, this seems the time to look around and recognize our mutual need for support and encouragement. This is not about coddling, but being intentional about building a community of scholars where all of us can do our best work. Because for Michigan State University to be the place it promises to be, it takes all of us—together. Regardless.