A Message to Our CommunityAugust 22, 2016
Dear Truman Community:
Welcome back to an academic year filled with promise! We hope you had a chance to relax and rejuvenate and are ready to give this year your very best. As the semester begins, we are reminded of all we love about Truman: our mission, our accomplishments, our beautiful campus, and most of all, the people of Truman. We are a community that celebrates diverse backgrounds, experiences, and world-views because we understand that diversity challenges us to be more enlightened in thoughts and actions and is integral in achieving our vision:
Truman will demonstrate its public liberal arts and sciences mission by developing educated citizens needed to protect our democracy and offer creative solutions to state, national and global problems. It will do so through transformative experiences that foster critical thought, daring imagination and empathetic understanding of human experiences at home and around the world. Truman graduates will be citizen-leaders committed to service; globally competitive; able to thrive in the complexities of an advanced, technical and multicultural world; and inspired to live healthy and meaningful lives.
Truman is a caring community. Our relationships not only enrich our lives, but also define us as individuals.
If the events of this past summer are any indication, there is the potential that horrific acts of violence will continue to occur in the upcoming months throughout our nation and world. We may also witness divisive speech and a lack of civility saturating the airwaves and social media. The violence and inflammatory rhetoric will have a negative effect on all of us. Now is the time for our community to come together to provide opportunities to process emotions, to rationally discuss issues from multiple perspectives, to separate fact from fiction, and to exhibit the compassion and care that unites us in spite of our differences.
Like the issues themselves, how our University responds is impacted by a complex set of factors. It is not possible for Truman to formally respond to every deplorable act of violence. Even if we could, how does one determine which deplorable acts rise to the level of a campus-wide communication? A lack of response for any particular event could cause even more hurt for those pained by the event. We also fear that by sending a campus-wide communication for every event, the atrocity of the events may be unconsciously minimized as people become habituated to receiving the messages.
Instead of University proclamations following events, we encourage our entire community to be willing to engage in compassionate and rational conversations about events as they occur. We ask that we support one another as we struggle to replace feelings of hurt, anger and fear with meaning and positive direction. We encourage campus organizations and departments to sponsor programming that will help explore difficult issues in constructive and nonviolent ways. We encourage all of us, through our behaviors, to demonstrate that reflective discourse requires empathic listening in addition to sharing personal viewpoints, and it is not compatible with prejudice, hate speech, personal attacks or a disregard for others.
University Counseling Services, Multicultural Affairs, the Women’s Resource Center and the Interfaith Center are always available for students who need additional support. Student Affairs will be offering a weekly Listen to Learn Dialogue where faculty, staff and students who are concerned about the events of the week can gather to provide support for one another, listen and seek understanding. These Listen and Learn Dialogues will be held every Tuesday, beginning August 30 through December 6 from 6-7 p.m. in Magruder Hall 1090.
We encourage you to remember what it means to be a part of a liberal arts and sciences university community. Civil dialogue about differences is an imperative. We must rise above that which seeks to divide us and model the civility and compassion that is necessary to unite us and move us forward. The values of Truman require that we do nothing less.
With best regards,
Sue Thomas, Interim President
Vaughan Pultz, Faculty Senate President
Curtis Kelsey, Staff Council Chair
J.J. Dorrell, Student Government President