Dear WD? community,
On Monday November 3, we delivered a letter to President Kaler and the administration inviting them to meet with Whose Diversity? off-campus at the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. We are hoping the administration will accept our invitation to engage in meaningful discussion about how the demands we made last semester can be implemented.
Because many of you endorsed our demands, we are hoping that you will seriously consider attending this forum. For this conversation to be fruitful, we need to demonstrate support from students, staff, faculty, alumni, youth, elders, community members - everyone who has a stake in creating a University that is safe, equitable, and inclusive for everyone. We need you to be there.
A copy of the letter we delivered to President Kaler has been attached to the end of this post. We were informed by his staff that he is out of the country until Friday, November 7. We have asked that his scheduling staff provide a response by our original deadline of November 7 and that President Kaler personally respond by Friday, November 14, 2014. We have informed him that if he does not respond or if he is unwilling to meet, we will take action.
Thank you again for all your support, in any form you are able to give, whether you have been attending meetings and giving us feedback or contributing to the language in our documents or spreading the word to friends, colleagues, and community members about the work that we do and the issues of diversity that pervade this campus. This work is only possible because there are so many amazing people in our communities who are dedicated to social justice and the struggle for a more inclusive university. We would be grateful if you read our letter to President Kaler and saved the dates for our community forum. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Members of Whose Diversity?
November 3, 2014
Dear President Kaler and members of the Office for Equity and Diversity administration,
On Wednesday, April 30, 2014 we issued a list of demands on the steps of the historic Morrill Hall to address the state of diversity at the University of Minnesota. On Thursday, May 8, 2014 President Kaler provided a response to these demands. Please accept the following as our reply.
President Kaler, in your response, you provided various examples of current University policies and programs relevant to the institutional changes we called for. While it is heartening to learn about the University’s ongoing commitment to issues of diversity on campus, we cannot help but acknowledge the discord between institutional rhetoric and the lived realities of historically marginalized groups on this campus. It’s flattering that you chose to quote our ideas around diversity as a “process.” However, we’re afraid that there may have been some pieces of this concept lost in translation. When we speak of diversity as a process, we are talking about an ongoing struggle to speak candidly about the way multiple dimensions of our identity including race, indigeneity, class, gender, sexuality, ability, religious/spiritual belief and citizenship intersect and inform our everyday experiences as students at a predominantly white institution rooted in middle-class values and beliefs. You appear to use “process” as an excuse to engage in dilatory tactics when addressing issues that condition our lived experiences as students. Appreciating diversity as a process does not mean you can take your time in addressing issues that have material consequences for underrepresented students at this University.
As students with limited time in our academic careers, “we are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” The state of diversity at the University of Minnesota remains in jeopardy. We do not have to look far for evidence of the mired state of diversity. It is no coincidence, that the recently released movie “Dear White People,” was filmed here on campus. The film’s directors clearly were not trying to cast for color when selecting extras. While predominantly white institutions are the norm in higher education, this is no excuse to dismiss the racial realities of underrepresented students and faculty of color.
A number of recent developments have only heightened our concerns about the University’s commitment to diversity. Despite the University’s attempts to appear more inclusive, we have witnessed the closing of the Post-Secondary Teaching and Learning (PSTL) program, a blanket refusal to search for faculty in ethnic studies departments, continued lack of support for replacing faculty in Chicana/o studies, and the continuing departure of faculty of color from the University. We see these recent and troubling developments as indicative of the University’s real agenda on diversity. We make demands because we have little time to wait. We make demands because we have already asked politely. We make demands because conventional and institutional channels through which we are encouraged to affect change have already been pursued, only to reveal further bureaucratic obstructions and administrative neglect.
We are now left questioning how to move forward in evoking a more sincere and substantive response from you. We should explain our past reluctance to meet with the President. President Kaler, your response foreclosed the possibility of any substantial dialogue over meaningful changes to the “campus climate” for students from historically marginalized communities by suggesting that existing initiatives and policies were adequately addressing issues of diversity. Furthermore, inviting us to meet with you and your staff on University grounds reinforces unequal power dynamics which will inevitably render us subordinate. We are seeking to facilitate this meeting on more equitable terms and avoid institutionalizing meaningful conversations about issues of diversity. We have seen and even participated in many of these conversations (e.g. Community Forum on “Academic Freedom” and “Civility”, Campus Climate-”Real Stories” forum), all of which failed to address issues of institutionalized oppression. These disappointing outcomes are exactly why we are demanding that this meeting be held on neutral grounds. While entertaining for some, our lengthy exchanges through various press outlets have proved unproductive. In short, we are tired of talking through external channels.
In meeting with you in person and off campus we expect to engage in a meaningful conversation about how we can truly commit to making campus more inclusive by realizing our demands. In other words, we expect to come to a resolution on how we can implement the demands. Therefore, at the end of this response, you will find an invitation to meet with us at the Brian Coyle Community Center. We hope that you will find this meeting place acceptable, and that you will honor the vision of your Strategic Plan by “build[ing] a culture of reciprocal engagement, capitalizing on our unique location.” We have also invited students, faculty, staff and community members to contribute to and witness this important conversation in which we all have a stake. We ask that you please respond by informing us which of the three dates and times work best for you. If these dates and times do not work, please provide some available dates and we will make accommodations. All potential meetings are expected to take place at the Brian Coyle Community Center (420 15th Avenue South)
Friday November 14 from 3:30-5 PM
Friday November 21 from 3:30-5 PM
Saturday December 6 from 12-1:30 PM
This letter has been made public through a press release. Please respond by November 7, 2014. We look forward to your response and the opportunity to witness the transformative changes we need at the University of Minnesota. In the event that you do not respond or are unwilling to meet, please be aware we will take action.