It has come to my attention that with the heightened tensions regarding the recent incidences of hateful writing on campus, that there has been a corresponding increase in less than civil discourse. As we, a college community, engage in these difficult conversations it is important to remember that we are allies, not adversaries, when it comes to not only finding out who (plural or singular) is responsible for the recent incidences of hate speech, but also building the type of communal climate that we all want for the college. Accusing one another – student to student, student to faculty, faculty to staff and administration, and administration to faculty and students – is not helpful.
As president I am kept informed of instances where students have expressed concern about faculty and staff (making comments in class or when serving students), as well as student-on-student behaviors (speech, actions) and administrative short comings (too slow/little communications and actions). I get and follow-up on formal complaints but also hear from you in informal ways (eating lunch in cafeteria, sitting on the bench, walking around campus). Blaming others, regardless of their membership in our community, for deeds done, supposedly done, or rumored to be done detracts from ultimate task at hand, engaging as a college community in difficult discussions surrounding human diversity in all its forms. We have individually and as a community all fallen short, and will almost certainly continue to meet challenges as we grow as a collective of advocates for social justice. But we must continue to try and do better. I have to believe that vast majority of our community truly believes in our Affirmation of Inclusion Policy and earnestly wishes to make Bellevue College a model of social justice. We must not allow an individual or group that write hate speech to infect or inflame our rhetoric with or behaviors toward each other.
So please, in the coming days let us be especially mindful of our speech and behaviors. Let us protest together the hateful behaviors of those who threaten our community with their ignorance, intolerance, and cowardly detestable speech. As a public college we are to model to the wider community how to engage in the exchange of ideas, even if they challenge our current understandings and belief systems. Let us exchange thoughts, ideas, and propose action on how to improve the college climate of tolerance and all within. There is no place for intolerance and hate at Bellevue College.
As many of you know, a group of very concerned, brave, and well-meaning students of our college met last week with myself and many other senior administrators. It was hard for us to hear the real fear in their voices. These students and the ones for whom they speak deserve unconditional support from every level within the college – collectively and resolutely from student leaders, faculty, staff, and administration. We are meeting again this coming week to begin the process of working through a list of concerns they expressed, to find common understandings, and develop a consensus path forward for our community. It is my sincerest hope that this meeting will begin to help us, together, formulate a plan of action, one that will both educate and, if necessary, shame those who practice hate. We have made progress in the past few years – for example we have created new programs (e.g., Social Justice Leadership Institute for midlevel managers), hired new staff (e.g., Title IX coordinator), and instituted new trainings (e.g., diversity training for faculty & staff) – but the task is great and we need all of us to move the college forward.
Again, if you see something, say something. If you hear those around speaking badly of other students, faculty, staff and administration, interrupt them with words of encouragement to think about how to help, not tear down. In the truest spirit of social justice, we are allies, not adversaries, in our opposition to hate. Together and united, we will be advocates for change at Bellevue College and beyond.
David L. Rule
Last Updated May 24, 2016