The Heart of Dialogue
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 47 seconds
Dear students, staff, and faculty:
Welcome back to campus! The college experience is legendary for all it brings to our lives: new friends and faces, fresh experiences, arts events, lively study sessions, and iconic fall foliage. Along with these hallmark features of college, we also can expect to encounter new and different ideas and voices.
At KU, we pride ourselves on our role as a marketplace of ideas. During our time here we will entertain many ideas, and in the process, learn more about ourselves and others.
To fully engage in this marketplace, it is important each of us strives to become our personal best as thoughtful purveyors and savvy consumers of ideas. As idea sharers, we must use “I” statements to ensure we speak from our own experience and avoid generalizations that can erase the unique experiences of individuals. We must also share the floor to ensure others can share their observations. As idea receivers, it’s important to free ourselves of preconceived notions, to silence the noise and interference, and to ask thoughtful questions. As intentional partners in the marketplace of ideas we can be the type of consumers that get the best value from our time at this amazing university.
There are many conversations we openly welcome. Among the first are themes of racial tension and stereotype exposed in this year’s KU Common Book, “Citizen: An American Lyric.” It was selected to be both accessible and challenging and offers views of the aggression and violence that people of color face regularly — experiences and observations that may be unfamiliar to the majority on our campus.
New students have already taken part in group discussions, and the dialogue will continue throughout the year. The book is incorporated into every section of COMS 130 and ENGL 101. The Spencer Museum of Art last week announced its KU Common Work of Art to accompany the book. Our Office of Diversity & Equity is using the book in outreach efforts at Lawrence Public Schools. And in early September, author Claudia Rankine will join us on campus.
On July 1 universities across the state of Kansas faced a new reality — concealed carry of handguns into most of our campus buildings is now legal. Our office and others on campus started receiving a growing number of questions over the last several weeks — both formally and in casual conversation — about the change in law and KU’s new weapons policy, and the implications this new dynamic may have on academics and the exercise of free speech.
Even as the law was still being addressed in the Kansas Statehouse, significant effort went into developing procedures, and providing resources and information to students, faculty and staff, as well as our incoming students and their families. Those who took part in the preparatory work deserve our thanks for their service to KU. They did the lion’s share.
It’s apparent now we could have done even more to raise awareness, answer questions and better prepare the campus community for the advent of concealed carry. Many leaders in both administrative and academic units and student organizations across campus have acted on short notice to fill the gap. Together we are creating new workshops and information sessions that address the needs and questions of specific audiences. The approach is one of honesty and partnership. Together we are open to offering action plans and exploring ideas emerging from these discussions. And as we adjust to the change in law, we want to keep this conversation flourishing. New questions will surely arise. Your inquiries and ideas are always welcome.
Hateful Ideology Exposed
There is one area where we as a community must be resolute — hate-fueled, inciting rhetoric is unacceptable. This August we saw ideological tension unfold with deadly consequences in Charlottesville, Virginia. Free speech is a treasured American tenet, but hateful rhetoric and accompanying violence will find no refuge here. We can have different opinions and difficult discussions about our beliefs without resorting to brutality, intimidation, and threats to make our point. As members of the Jayhawk family we have an obligation to approach classmates and colleagues with a spirit of honesty, curiosity and mutual respect.
Community of Strength
The give and take of difficult conversations is a test of our personal and community character. These tests are also a natural part of the academic environment. Let’s make sure we ace these.
I appreciate how each of you brings unique contributions and perspectives to our community and I’m truly so happy you are here. Your involvement is how we excel. It is among our many strengths as Jayhawks.
News & Notes
This week and next, KU Public Safety Office will lead a number of safety information sessions open to the university community. Check the KU Today email for dates, times and locations. KU PSO also conducts safety presentations for offices, departments and student organizations. Request a program at publicsafety.ku.edu.
KU Libraries will celebrate the grand re-opening of the North Gallery in Spencer Research Library with a public reception at 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 7. The North Gallery renovations allow users to experience our collections with interactive, self-guided multi-media tools.
Applications are due today for this year’s cohort of Staff Fellows. The program lets a select group of KU employees build their capacity as leaders, gain experience to grow their careers, and simultaneously work together on an important campus project.
Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity is offering a free self-defense workshop for students, staff and faculty on Sept. 16. The workshop is designed to improve awareness, personal safety, and self-confidence. Learn more.
“Ferguson Forum: A Conversation on Charlottesville” will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday in Alderson Auditorium. The forum, begun by the Office of Multicultural Affairs in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown and hosted by OMA and a number of other offices and organizations, features the Alice Griffin professor of English Deborah McDowell, director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia.
This summer brought lots of movement into new offices on campus. New residents of Summerfield Hall are throwing a block party to show off their redesigned spaces and welcome campus to their doors. Join the Office of Fellowships, University Career Center, Undergraduate Advising Center, the Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center and others for the Summerfield Block Party at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 14, at Summerfield Hall.
The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity is celebrating their new space in the Kansas Union. The celebration at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 6, includes free Jayhawk pride T-shirts, buttons and fun.
The Center for Undergraduate Research has several programs scheduled to help students participate in research projects. The first Rock Chalk Talk this semester takes place on Sept. 26 and will offer guidance on getting started in research.
Thank you to everyone in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, KU Natural History Museum and others on campus for coordinating the Eclipse at KU. Even though Mother Nature proved uncooperative, your spirit of discovery and sense of excitement was truly appreciated.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
This issue of Strong Ties as well as past ones can be found on the Provost website.