Racial incidents at University of Missouri/upcoming campus forum

November 12, 2015

To students, faculty and staff:

The events over the past several weeks at the University of Missouri, in which racially charged incidents have led to numerous protests, a hunger strike, most of the football team going on strike, and the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri system and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, have drawn renewed attention to the very real problem of racism on college campuses across the country.

At Eastern Michigan University, we have always taken pride in our efforts to support and promote a diverse student body and community. We are deeply committed to creating the best possible environment – one that is free from racism and racist incidents.

While we work to address any issues or problems if and as they occur, we would be naive to believe that there are not elements and individuals in our community who might exhibit racist opinions and actions. This sort of behavior and conduct, when and if it occurs, is not reflective of the culture we seek to have in place at our university. It is not acceptable nor will it be tolerated.

We have many resources in place in which someone can report inappropriate behavior or actions. These include:

While these offices are prepared to act quickly regarding any concern or problem, I am committed to further strengthening our efforts to address all matters of racism and bias.

We will be introducing a Bias Reporting System, similar to that which has been established at other universities including Ohio State University. The Bias Assessment and Response Team at OSU addresses “acts or behaviors motivated by bias against age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic information, HIV/AIDS status, military status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. While these acts do not necessarily rise to the level of a crime, a violation of state law, university policy, or the Student Code of Conduct, a bias act may contribute to creating an unsafe, negative, or unwelcome environment for the victim; anyone who shares the same social identity as the victim; and/or community members of the University.”

I have directed EMU Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Calvin Phillips to lead a committee to develop the program and to have it in place by the middle of the winter semester.

As many of you know, last April it was announced the University would establish a new position of Chief Diversity Officer to serve as the senior executive on the University’s leadership team responsible for efforts related to diversity, inclusion and equity. The individual will advise the president, senior leaders and campus units on policies, processes, and practices intended to foster a most diverse and inclusive campus where all members of the university community can thrive and contribute to the University’s mission and core values.

I am pleased to report that the Search Committee for the position has already had an initial meeting and is finalizing the position description in order for the position to be posted in January, when a national search will begin. The position is expected to be filled by the end of the winter semester. Search Committee members include:

  • Dr. Margaret Crouch, Committee Chair -- Professor, History and Philosophy
  • Dr. Brenda Riemer -- Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance
  • Dr. Michael Tew -- Professor, Communication, Media & Theatre Arts
  • Ms. Domonique McGhee -- President, Black Student Union
  • Mr. David Turner -- Vice President, University Human Resources
  • Dr. Chiara Hensley -- Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs
  • Dr. Melody Werner -- Title IX Coordinator
  • Dr. Talea Drummer -- Assistant Athletics Director, Academics

In addition, we continue to direct programming to foster broader discussions of issues of bias and controversy. Campus Life, in collaboration with faculty partners, has developed a film series entitled “Lens Wide Open,” which will feature four films intended to spark conversation that explores multifaceted and simultaneously existing points of view. The conversation will be facilitated by faculty to foster intellectual discussion. This series will begin in December and continue in the winter semester.

Finally, given the situation at the University of Missouri and the broader discussion of institutional racism that needs to take place across America, we will host a public discussion/forum on these matters. The program will take place next Thursday, November 19, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Student Center. The program is being coordinated by Eastern Michigan University’s Faculty Senate, the Office of Campus Life, and Eastern Michigan University Student Government.

I hope you will attend and participate in this event, and continue to work with me and everyone on our campus to bring attention to issues of inequality and racism.

Sincerely,

Kim Schatzel, Ph.D.
Interim President
Provost and Executive Vice President
Eastern Michigan University
202 Welch Hall
Ypsilanti, MI 48197