A Message from Southern Connecticut State University President Joe Bertolino
Dear Parents and Guardians,
In recent weeks, there have been incidents on campus involving the use of racial slurs, which have tested our commitment to academic freedom and free speech.
Rather than dividing our community, however, these incidents have brought our members together for a time of introspection and an opportunity to educate, explore shared values and consider our collective future as a leader in social justice.
First, I must emphasize that, while we at Southern abhor hateful speech and actions and will confront them when they occur, we are committed to respecting different points of view.
As a public institution, it’s critical that we engage in courageous conversations, taking time to listen, taking time to hear… allowing individuals to tell their stories and share why they feel the way they do, and what they have experienced.
On the contentious issues of our time — which we seem to face on almost a daily basis — we must respect each other, even when we don’t agree with one another’s opinions. Sometimes, we must agree to disagree.
Indeed, the hallmark of a social justice university like Southern is not that we are perfect, but rather that we are transparent in revealing our imperfections.
We have a commitment to ensuring that all members of our community have a voice, and a mutual agreement to ground that voice in dignity, respect, kindness, compassion and civility.
To that end, we recently conducted a campus climate survey — an important tool for assessing the beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and experiences of our campus community. It’s also a means of evaluating the extent to which individuals can participate freely and fully as members of our community while feeling safe, respected and valued.
The knowledge and insight gained from the responses will help us celebrate those areas where we have accomplished this goal and to acknowledge where we fall short. In addition to implementing recommendations from the survey, we have pledged to take a number of other steps to enhance our campus climate. These initiatives include but will not be limited to:
- Ongoing campus-wide dialogues and discussions about societal issues and how they impact members of our community.
- A commitment to strategic recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, staff and students.
- The creation of an ombudsman position to respond to a wide variety of concerns, from billing and housing issues to matters that would need addressing by the Office of Diversity and Equity.
- Conversations between senior leadership and staff and faculty of color about their experiences and concerns.
- Diversity training for all campus constituencies — the Division of Student Affairs, for example, is already midway through a two-year initiative designed to enhance the cultural awareness and competency of all members of the 100-person team.
In these and other ways we hope to build on our inherent strengths as an inclusive, multicultural community. And by working together to reinforce our commitment to social justice, we will help ensure that our campus culture remains inclusive and welcoming for all Southern students.