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As we enter the second half of the fall semester, it’s a good time to remind ourselves who we are as a university and what we value.
First, the scholarship and achievement of our students has been exceptional and is reflected in so many ways through awards and recognitions. This year more than 40 percent of our freshman class had a 30 or higher ACT score, placing them in the top five percent in the country. Our students have become engaged in service projects and given back to our community, and to one another. Our students excel at the highest levels when they arrive, while they are here, and after they graduate.
We also know campus life involves more than attending class and studying. The college years are a time of great maturation and learning life lessons we carry forward throughout our personal and professional lives.
Some of you are aware of last week’s social media conversations that involved several of our students. What began as a freedom of speech discussion about our students’ rights to either sit or stand during the national anthem turned into something so hostile that one student threatened another’s life. The student who made that threat was removed from campus and is no longer enrolled. We have heard from several students who felt threatened, and we have reassured them of our commitment to their safety and success.
For us to reach the aspirations we have penned through our Vision, Mission, and Capstone Creed – and for each of our students to achieve their own personal missions – we must continue to strive forward and be accepting and inclusive of all people. We must treat one another with the same dignity and respect we expect for ourselves, and be free of the hostility and egregious racial comments we witnessed last week.
We will not always agree with the opinions of other members of the UA community or invited speakers, but we can all pledge to seek common ground and shared understanding so we can live, study and work on a campus where diverse opinions are not only welcomed, but sought. And when we don’t agree with other’s opinions, we should express our disagreement with respectful and thoughtful speech.
We have such a great community, and I appreciate all of our efforts to support one another. I am committed to working toward ensuring this campus continues to be a welcoming and safe place for all, and I hope you will resolve to as well.
Stuart R. Bell