January 29, 2014
Dear students, faculty and staff,
One of the guiding values of the University of Illinois is our commitment to “treat each other with dignity and respect.” If you have been following the media these past few days, you are aware that a small number of students at the UIUC campus, upset that classes had not been cancelled on Monday due to the cold weather, failed to live up to that aspiration when they posted racist, sexist and vulgar comments on social media aimed at Chancellor Phyllis Wise, whose office had announced that classes would be held. The negative comments quickly went viral and have brought national attention to the University of Illinois for the worst possible reasons.
Though even these juvenile and offensive comments are protected speech, they are deeply disappointing for a University that prides itself on its civility and that values its increasingly diverse academic community. If any good can come from such an unfortunate incident, it may be to serve as a reminder for all of us that every member of our campus community has a responsibility to temper personal opinion with respect and to express disagreement without resorting to personal attacks. A university is a place where diverse ideas and differing perspectives, along with debate and reasoned argument, are welcome; but culturally derogatory, sexist and intimidating comments have no place in our academic community.
P.S. A message from University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman, Christopher Kennedy and President Robert Easter can be found at: http://www.uillinois.edu/cms/one.aspx?portalId=1117531&pageId=1464524