President Hatch addresses civility

The following is a message from President Hatch to the campus community:

At Wake Forest University, civility is more than formal courtesy. It is a basic expectation that we will treat all human beings with kindness and respect. It is the backbone of our motto, Pro Humanitate.

Last week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article titled, “As Slurs and Offenses Multiply, Colleges Scramble to Respond.”  The article details several instances of bias and intolerance occurring on college campuses across the country.  From offensive theme parties to graffiti and vandalism, insensitive and threatening behavior appear prevalent in places committed to opening minds and hearts. This is hard to understand and impossible to accept.

Unfortunately, Wake Forest is not immune to such behavior. Earlier this week, Vice President for Campus Life Penny Rue sent a message to all undergraduate students after graffiti on a sign outside the LGBTQ Center and disrespectful behavior in some of the residence halls left members of our community wondering if Wake Forest is truly an accepting and supportive environment. Dr. Rue acted with the full and deliberate support of the University’s senior administrative team. I applaud her quick response and positive steps towards opening a dialogue among students about their responsibility in fostering a positive and inclusive environment.

The Director of the LGBTQ Center, Angela Mazaris, posted a poignant response to the graffiti on the Center’s website. In her response, she offered an important reminder for us all:

What we have in common is a commitment to creating a Wake Forest where every single person feels valued for who they are.

Like Dr. Mazaris, I know that the vast majority of us — the members of the Wake Forest community — are committed to the values of respect and inclusiveness.  I also know that when language or behavior does not reflect our values, it will be called out, not only by me, but by many members of our campus community.

I want to assure you that questions about what it means to be a truly inclusive, welcoming, and humane community, continue to be discussed at every level of the university, among students, faculty, and staff as well as in the President’s Cabinet and among other senior administrators.

Our goal is a vibrant academic community that allows people of different backgrounds and convictions to live and learn together. Unfortunately, this kind of community is increasingly rare in America today. We live in an age of polemics rather than persuasion; dueling communities speak largely to their own adherents rather than to those who may differ. At Wake Forest we must welcome real diversity of thought and cultivate the art of listening — even to those whose opinions we do not understand or appreciate. The greatest gift we can give our students is an ability to disagree in the context of civility and friendship. That is a balm that our nation and world desperately needs.

It is my sincere hope that each and every one of you shares in this commitment, and will work together with me to build a Wake Forest where every student, faculty and staff member feels like they have a voice in our collective future.