Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

These last few days of the semester are traditionally when I would be sharing a holiday greeting. With events of the past few weeks, however, I want to use this message for a different purpose. I would like to urge all of us to rededicate ourselves to ensuring our university lives up to its promise of being a welcoming and safe community.

My leadership team and I have been meeting regularly with student and faculty groups, and we have attended several recent rallies and vigils. These conversations and experiences have reinforced the difficult truth that for many on our campus, racism and discrimination are part of daily life. That is unacceptable.

With guidance from key committees and Associate Chancellor/Associate Provost for Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke, some of our current efforts include:

  • We have put in place a mandatory diversity and inclusion online education module as part of University 101, and this spring all new students will take part in a peer-guided diversity workshop.
  • We now require diversity training for all employees who serve on search committees for new hires. More than 2,500 faculty and staff have completed this training so far.
  • We have increased undergraduate scholarship support -- an important contributor to our significant gains in the diversity of this year’s entering class.
  • We have committed $4.9 million to build and open a new facility for the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center in 2018.
  • In early January, we will launch a search for a new associate chancellor for diversity efforts and initiatives.

These are just a few examples of initiatives underway. You can read more here.

Yet there is more to be done. I am meeting with the student leaders of #BeingBlackAtIllinois and other groups after the semester break to identify additional actions we can take here at Illinois.

Universities like ours must be models of fair and non-discriminatory treatment as well as vigorous, respectful debate.

We are asking for your help. It will take a united effort from our faculty, staff and students to change culture, and it won’t happen overnight. It requires fresh ideas, institutional commitment, and honest evaluation and reflection from each one of us.

I hope the New Year brings us all back together with a renewed commitment to making Illinois a warm and welcoming campus for everyone.

Best Wishes,

Barb Wilson
Interim Chancellor

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