Inclusivity, Tolerance and Respect in the New Academic Year
August 2, 2022 10:50 AM

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

As we are all making the final preparations for the opening of the fall semester, I also ask that we all take a moment to recommit ourselves to our collective responsibility to create a community at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where people of all faiths, races, gender identities, ethnicities, national origins and viewpoints can live, learn and thrive.

Inclusivity, tolerance and respect are core values for our institution, but unfortunately, they are not always reflected in the lived experiences of all members of our community. For instance, the traditional celebrations of the end of the last academic year were shadowed by anti-Semitic messages dropped around the campus and by an individual’s irresponsible act of throwing a rock towards a rooftop deck where a group of Jewish students were gathered for a private event. No one was physically injured, and the quick and careful investigation by our University of Illinois Police Department identified the person responsible who is now facing criminal prosecution. Just last week, we received reports of swastikas and Nazi-associated phrases carved into a restroom stall in one of our facilities.

These anti-Semitic acts and expressions are antithetical to our university values. Anti-Semitism has no place here at Illinois. And we are all diminished by expressions of intolerance and prejudice of any kind. Whether in the form of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, religious intolerance, gender bias or any of the too many other ways some in our society invent to marginalize or devalue others—this university will never tolerate hate, discrimination or violence. 

I know the coming year will bring differences of opinion, strenuous debate and intense disagreement across a spectrum of issues. Academic freedom and freedom of expression remain our bedrock foundation. We will certainly see protests and other very public expressions of perspectives on some of the most difficult and divisive issues facing our community, nation and society. As a university we welcome those expressions, and we embrace this discourse. We are at our very best when we encourage everyone to give voice to their beliefs and to openly and safely be their authentic self.

I simply ask that we also commit ourselves to expressing ideas with respect, compassion and empathy and to cultivating a community that allows for a safe and robust exchange of viewpoints. And I remind everyone that hate, violence and discrimination will never be acceptable or tolerated here at Illinois.

I wish you all a restful and happy final few weeks of summer, and I look forward to our new year together.


Robert J. Jones

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