November 17, 2015

Faculty, staff, and students:

The institution we are today is not the institution we strive to be, or need to be.

Since Wednesday’s town hall on race, respect, responsibility and free speech, a large number of administrators, staff, and students have met in person, by phone, and by email to put ideas into action that stops racism and discrimination. Messages from offices, units, and groups across the University of Kansas have expressed solidarity with the students of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk and other speakers at the forum and have declared a readiness to embrace change.

We are assembling a small advisory team of faculty, students, staff, and administrators. The group will deliver an action plan by mid-January that addresses challenges put forward by Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk, as well as concerns from others at the forum. The action plan will target retention and graduation rates of students, in addition to mandatory education, through facilitated sessions, on inclusion and belonging for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators and a plan for accountability.

A top national consultant, who is guiding KU’s Climate Study Task Force, was on the Lawrence campus Monday meeting with members of the task force and additional students to explain the study process, answer questions, and hear concerns.  Together we are actively exploring ways to address student experiences and perspectives to improve KU’s culture.

Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity Nate Thomas and the offices that report to him ­— which include the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity, and the Multicultural Scholars Program — have a framework to address key goals on diversity, equity, and inclusion and how to increase diversity into the leadership of the university.

Rising to the challenge

I am proud of the people who stood up Wednesday to tell their accounts. I know others didn’t have an opportunity to talk. Some departments and units have held meetings to continue the conversation and others have forums scheduled. Information about a handful of those events appears below in Bits and Bytes. Individuals can also share their personal experiences through an email to

I also am impressed by the KU faculty members who make it clear that racism and other forms of discrimination have no place in their classrooms and offices. As Chancellor Gray-Little mentioned in her message on Friday, change will happen not from the top down, but from within and with participation from across the institution. We must and will work together to make inclusion and respect for others a priority for everyone. As my time at KU comes to a close, I want to make sure everyone knows these issues will continue to command our attention. Senior Vice Provost Sara Rosen, the incoming interim provost, is, and will continue to be, involved at every turn.

We can, and should, proudly proclaim, “Black Lives Matter.”  It is the first of many steps we will take together. KU must be a place where people are recognized and celebrated for their curiosity, intellectual gifts, cultural insights, and artistic talents. And as Jayhawks, we must acknowledge that how people identify themselves adds to the richness of what they have to offer.

Bits and Bytes

  • Reminder: The Tunnel of Oppression is at the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center Wednesday, November 18, through Friday, November 20. Thank you to the staff at the Office of Multicultural Affairs for brining this important experience to KU.
  • Student Union Activities and the Office of Multicultural Affairs just announced that the co-founder of #blacklivesmatter will be at the Lied Center on February 24, 2016.
  • Several units on campus are advancing the town hall effort by holding forums for their students, faculty, and staff.  Here are some I’ve heard about:
    • School of Journalism and Mass Communications, open session with Dean Ann Brill, 9 a.m., Wednesday, November 18, in the Richard C. Clarkson Gallery, 111 Stauffer-Flint Hall
    • School of Education: Open forum for students, faculty, and staff, 3:15 p.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday, November 30, in 247 Joseph R. Pearson Hall
    • School of Business: Open forum for students, faculty, and staff 4 p.m., Monday, November 30, in 427 Summerfield Hall.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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