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Race & National Historic Legacy Conversations at Monmouth University – December 14, 2015

From:       President Paul Brown
To:           Members of the University Community
Date:        December 3, 2015
Subject:  Race & National Historic Legacy Conversations at Monmouth University

In recent weeks the conflicted legacy of a number of prominent national historic figures including Woodrow Wilson has sparked a national conversation on racial injustice.  As a university we have a special responsibility for critical self-examination and leadership on these important issues.

These issues have a direct bearing on Monmouth University, most obviously because our signature building was named for Woodrow Wilson in 1966. His historic association with the Shadow Lawn estate offers an opportunity to explore our relationship with his mixed legacy as our country’s 28th president.

Board Chair Henry Mercer will co-chair a committee with Nina Anderson, Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity, to engage our campus in a discussion about Wilson, his legacy and his role on our campus.  The Committee, whose members will include students, faculty, alumni, administrators and trustees, will be charged with gathering perspectives and feedback from all areas of campus, and beyond.

More importantly, this dialogue provides a launching point for a much broader plan to engage in campus-wide conversations on racial injustice and the experience of underrepresented populations. Our students, faculty, administration and staff have expressed a commitment to these issues through their scholarly work, their community and campus involvement, and support for peaceful demonstrations and rallies. It is important that we gain a clearer understanding of the views and experiences of as many members of our community as possible.

We have periodically undertaken evaluations to ensure we are addressing these important issues comprehensively, and it is time to do so again.  I am scheduling a series of open “listening sessions,” in December, January, and February, to gather input from our campus constituencies.  Other methods will also be available to share private feedback.  The information we obtain through this process will inform future initiatives, to be arranged in the spring semester, and beyond. We will work closely with the University’s Office of Equity and Diversity as those arrangements are made.

Our work will involve many existing groups and committees, and much like our work together on strategic planning, it is imperative that all areas of campus are represented. Racial injustice can be a highly personal topic, engendering frank and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.  A hallmark of our community is the ability to confront difficult issues in a spirit of academic inquiry, with informed and courteous dialogue.

This process will underscore our core institutional values which embrace diversity, service, empowerment of every member of our university community, and actively fostering a caring campus characterized by mutual respect.

I look forward to your perspectives on these issues, and our conversations in the coming weeks and months.

Paul R. Brown,