Our campus community has been tried by many challenges over the last two months, not the least of which has been the traumatic events of Sept. 11. Those events and their aftermath added a new layer of issues and perspectives to challenges already facing our students, faculty and staff members and extended community.
Prior to Sept. 11, our community was challenged to chart a course that would ensure proper attention was given to those components of our social environment that affect community, campus climate, diversity and inclusiveness. This challenge still lies before us.
As a community, we have been responsive to the new challenges of Sept. 11. We have developed courses and seminars to provide information related to issues of bio-terrorism and public safety, Islamic culture and the geo-political situation in Afghanistan. We have sponsored forums to discuss the pros and cons of a war against terrorism, changes in our national security policy and its impact on our civil liberties, and expressed our views through rallies and demonstrations, both for peace and in support of the war.
We have been very passionate about our views but not always as respectful as we should be in our advocacy of them. We have counseled one another when our spirits were low and donated our money, expertise and time to meet the challenge of these new events. We must be no less energetic in facing the prior challenge that still lies before us.
Developing a campus community climate that will foster diversity and a sense of inclusiveness will require resources and respectful participation from all of us. A successful institutional diversity initiative requires:
- Leadership and commitment;
- Faculty and staff involvement;
- Student development and experience;
- Curriculum transformation; and
- A campus-community partnership.
The creation of the new office of the Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations is not the solution, but it is a good first step, in a series of steps we must engage in to develop a solution.
We have taken another important step with the creation of a "Campus Community Dialogue" to encourage faculty, staff and student participation in this process. Last week, a student-sponsored "Community Reconciliation Forum" was held to discuss the tension and divisiveness that has plagued our campus. I was impressed both by the diversity of opinions expressed and the respectful manner in which the forum was held.
The following day, the Campus Council on Community and Diversity held the open forum "Promote Respect." The forum provided faculty and staff members and students with an opportunity to share their views on a variety of important issues affecting campus climate with Provost Virginia Hinshaw and myself. We need to continue this dialogue and through new activities expand that dialogue to include the Davis, Sacramento and surrounding communities.
The challenge to develop and implement new initiatives to improve our campus community climate will be greater in the current budget crisis. We must remember, however, that our commitment to building community is long term. It is a commitment that didn't "just happen," but one built over a period of time with leadership, vision, enthusiasm, training and teamwork supported by the development of a recognition and reward system. I am certain we can use these same ingredients in a tactful manner to move forward even during this fiscal crisis. This is our next step.
Rahim Reed is the Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations at UC Davis.