Dear Miami Faculty, Staff and Students,
Watching our Miami campuses come alive this past week with returning students and faculty from every corner of the world – and with thousands more here for the first time – has been especially exhilarating for my wife, Renate, and me. As Miami “first years” ourselves, helping new students move in and meeting new faculty and staff has been especially meaningful.
The enthusiastic greetings we’ve received and that we’ve seen among the new and returning members of the Miami family have made us feel right at home. A warm welcome to you all!
During one of our early visits to Miami last spring, a student asked, “What does ‘Love and Honor’ mean to you?” I’ve considered that question ever more seriously this summer as, time and again, senseless violence gripped our nation.
In the midst of that turmoil, I visited the Freedom Summer Memorial on Miami’s Western campus and was struck by the parallels between today’s events and the struggles of the 1960s. Those who gathered at Western in 1964 paved the way for positive change, civilly and peacefully, leveraging education and dialogue combined with a passionate dedication to equality.
In other words, they lived the values that are the heart of Miami and every other great liberal arts university: Empowering people and preparing them for the complexity, change, adversity, and diversity they’ll experience for the rest of their lives.
Today, Miami has tens of thousands of graduates equally committed to social justice and hundreds of faculty, staff, and students collaborating in extraordinary research and service in the name of justice, equality, and diversity.
Our campuses mirror the world around us, so unfortunately we sometimes encounter bias, ignorance, and intolerance. Amid a tense election year, as we also grapple with a national epidemic of violence, many people feel isolated and targeted. And rather than hide from this situation, we should confront it as an opportunity to discuss, learn from, and explore the possibilities of change.
In such times, our core values must establish the starting point for any solution to the divisions we face. The Code of Love and Honor resonated with me when I first stepped on campus, especially where it calls for character, integrity, and respect for “the dignity of other persons… and the right of others to hold and express disparate beliefs.”
My fervent hope is that we can keep these values in sight and use them to demonstrate to ourselves, our communities, and beyond that we recognize the enormous power of diversity and inclusion to enrich learning. As part of a thriving academic community, each of us must seek common ground and emphasize civility, thoughtfulness, openness, and respect. Like our Freedom Summer predecessors, we must aim for civil (if vigorous) discourse. And while we don’t have to always agree, we must engage in conversations where we listen with a genuine desire to understand.
As a new president, I plan to spend the next several months listening to as many of you as possible before we begin together to fashion Miami’s longer-term goals. As part of that listening process, several interactions are planned: I’ve already started visiting departments and divisions on all Miami campuses; a faculty survey will be implemented by the Provost during the fall; and an all-inclusive climate survey, led by the president’s office, will be conducted early in spring semester.
The findings and recommendations from EducationCounsel, a national education firm that met with more than 200 Miami faculty, staff, and students last spring will help us start shaping a strong foundation for advancing diversity and inclusion. In the next few weeks we will share those with all of you.
Your participation in the listening sessions and surveys, and your ideas and perspectives, are vital to our future success, so please let me hear from you, in person or in writing. You can email me at president@MiamiOH.edu; submit questions for me online and subscribe to my blog at www.MiamiOH.edu/president
; and follow me on Twitter at @PresGreg.
Our faculty – recognized among the very best in the nation at mentoring and teaching – will continue to model a Miami education at its best in the classroom, but the responsibility to create a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive community – to be our very best selves – rests upon each and every one of us.
That includes me. You’ll hear me talk a lot about values, which are more important today than ever. Our values remind us that we have the wisdom and reason to achieve justice and equality in the midst of upheaval and violence, the empathy to inspire unity, and the courage to lead through these tumultuous times. These are also times of promise, possibilities and purpose.
Renate and I are excited to be here and want to thank you for the warm welcome we’ve received during the past several weeks. We also look forward to meeting those of you we haven’t yet met, and hope to see you at the amazing slate of thought-provoking events scheduled this semester
that can facilitate intercultural connections and understanding of widely diverse perspectives.
As we begin the year, let us reflect on our values, which state very clearly the things we embrace as a community. Likewise, the Code of Love and Honor – which starts with “I am Miami” – allows each of us to personally pledge our embrace of those values. It reminds us all that in a very real sense, we are one Miami.
Love and Honor,