Society for College and University Planning, Seattle Washington
(Professor Ono presented the first annual President’s Session during the yearly meeting of the Society for College and University Planning, which was held in Seattle, Washington, July 2019. This is a transcript from his session. He was introduced by Michael D. Moss, President, Society for College and University Planning)
Good morning. It’s really wonderful to be with you today. And we’re going to have an interesting conversation about similarities and differences between building an inclusive campus and the different strategies and different challenges that exist both north and south of the border.
Thank you, Michael, for this kind invitation. I’ve been looking forward to spending time with you today. I think that campus planning is incredibly important for all aspects of what happens at a research-comprehensive university, both with respect to enabling the teaching and scholarship missions of the institution but also with respect to building community and ensuring that an increasingly diverse group of faculty, staff, and students that are our universities feel included and feel part of the community, which is really one of the major objectives of campus planners. And I know that not all of you are planners, but for those of you who are, you have an incredibly important role to play in building community on our campuses. It’s really wonderful to be with you today to talk about this. And I think wherever you might be, whether you’re part of an architectural firm or whether you’re a campus planner or you’re administrator, all of us really have the same sort of objective, and that is to build a inclusive campus in the context of either an urban area, a suburban area, a rural area, or to international campuses.
all of us really have the same sort of objective, and that is to build a inclusive campus in the context of either an urban area, a suburban area, a rural area, or to international campuses
And that if you look at what’s happened on our campuses over the past several decades, they have become increasingly diverse, and in many cases, that has been by design. And these sorts of approaches are easier said than done. And I think everyone would agree that it’s really an evolving landscape and that, as time progresses, challenges actually change over time. So I’m going to talk a little bit about how things have changed over the past decade or so that I’ve been a campus administrator. I’m going to talk a little bit about my experiences first at Emory University in Atlanta, which is sort of a small-to-medium-sized private university, also a comprehensive research university in Atlanta, Georgia. And then to a pretty large public university in the state of Ohio where I was president of the University of Cincinnati. And most recently, as you may know, I’m president of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, not too far from here. So I’m going to talk a little bit about my experiences in different nations, in different parts of North America and how I see the landscape has changed over this period of time. As I said, during that period of time, there’s been remarkable changes in geopolitics, in different stresses that we experience on our campuses, so really taking and increasing the first campus and making it feel inclusive is easier said than done. So I want to talk a little bit about that cross-cultural and cross-border experience.
As I said, I’ll focus primarily on University of Cincinnati and UBC. Mostly on UBC because that’s where I am right now. And all of these institutions, with the exception of Emory being a private university, are research-intensive universities. All three of them have very significant international student bodies. They have faculty members that come from all over the globe. And all of those individuals have diverse cultures and backgrounds. And when you mix people together with those different backgrounds, sometimes you have something that’s really remarkable. You really enrich the experiences of the entire community. But sometimes you also have misunderstandings. Sometimes, misunderstandings you get that can, in some cases, be frightening for an administrator or for a campus planner. So I’m going to talk to you pretty honestly about some of those situations and why that challenge has, in my view, become intensified in recent years. And I’m going to talk about real-life examples that I’ve had to face at these different institutions, but I’m also going to talk about general strategies that perhaps you and others are using in your institution to try to build community in an increasingly diverse community of scholars.
So if you think about it, all of our institutions are diverse in many senses of the word. We have people from the mid-teens. Some of us have laboratory schools. We even have individuals that are in primary school in many of our campuses, so we start that young. Some of us have pediatric hospitals, and we deliver babies, and so we even have newborn babies on our campus. And we all the way have individuals like emeriti professors that are part of the institution. So we have tremendous diversity in age, in ethnicity, in gender, sexuality, the status of their able-bodiedness, if you will, if that’s a word, in terms of their mobility in the campus. They have very different views in terms of religion and come from all nations of the world. And so as campus planners or administrators, we try to take all of that into account in trying to build a physical plant and a set of programs and policies that will make each of these individuals, diverse in every sense of the word, feel at home on either small, medium, or large university campuses. And the way you go about doing that is probably very similar from institution to institution. There are so many different things that you have to do to build an inclusive campus that it’s really important for you as a community to have a conversation about how you can build that sense of community, that sense of inclusiveness. And that’s something that I’ve tried to do at each of the institutions that I have worked at.
It began over 15 years ago when I was in London, England. Was in the relatively early stages in Britain of looking at inclusiveness in a very diverse setting of a major British research university, the University College London, which is even more international than most of the universities here in North America. If you look at the London School of Economics, it’s incredibly diverse in every sense of the word in a very large metropolitan area. But about 15 years ago, there was quite a bit of dissatisfaction among the faculty staff and students of that institution in Britain or those institutions in Britain. And there was intense conversation about how to take that diversity and to realize, really, the benefits of having such a diverse community. And it occurred at the federal level, and it occurred at the institutional level. At the institutional level, it’s probably a case of each of your institutions, the step is to have a conversation and try to develop a plan, a plan that touches upon the physical plant, a plan that talks about curriculum, a plan that talks about the kind of mechanisms and programs that exist to bring people together regardless of their diversity, as has been defined in my earlier comments. And so in Britain, as has been the case at each of their institutions, it begins with a conversation. And sometimes, it’s a difficult conversation because sometimes, there are different groups of people on your campus that really feel fundamentally at odds with each other. And I’ll talk a little bit about specific examples of that kind of tension that has to be overcome and building an inclusive community within a very diverse institution, which defines all of our universities.
In Britain, that conversation actually resulted in the very first– and British universities are very old. Several of them are several centuries old. And to give you an idea, a historical context of how recent this kind of conversation is, despite their age, it was only about 15 years ago that the very first what we called race equality policy was developed at University College London that was founded in the days of Jeremy Bentham, somebody who espoused utilitarian. So that was the very first thing that happened in that institution was have a dialogue and put it on paper. It was called a race equality policy there. In some institutions, it’s called a diversity plan. And some places, it’s called an inclusion plan. And so that’s part of what happens. At the federal level – and this is happening in Canada now; it’s happened in the US quite a bit with Title IX and those sorts of policies – different levels of government also get involved. And about 15 years ago when I was in Britain, something relatively progressive occurred to try to address inequities within high education, and it was something called the Athena SWAN initiative, which was taking a look at gender disparities in terms of representation in the faculty and the staff of the institution, even looking at disparities and the numbers of diverse kinds of students at that institution, and really trying to develop plans to try to change that situation. The US would call it affirmative action.
And you’re aware of what happened and continues to occur here in the US with respect to firm of action. Some of the fundamental decisions made involving the University of Michigan, Lee Bollinger, and others as well as what’s happened more recently in the University of Texas and what’s happening right now as we speak with the current government here in the US. So you can see that, over a period of 15 years, both in Europe and the US and in Canada, that there’s a shifting landscape with changes in leaders and changes in laws and policies. But in the UK, about 15 years ago, something really progressive occurred called Athena SWAN, which really tried to as a government, a national government, look at these inequities, look at inequities in pay across gender, and they tried to institute expectations at the governmental level to address those inequities, realizing that those inequities are barriers to a truly inclusive community of scholars. And just this year in Canada, that kind of approach, looking at tensions and differences and inequities to build an inclusive community, in Canada, a Canada own version of Athena SWAN called Dimensions has just been launched this year to address those sorts of disparities that actually are a barrier to true inclusiveness in our educational institutions. So all this has happened over the past 15 years or so.
And I think one of the values of coming together as a group of international leaders such as yourselves is to really share best practices and to learn from each other about how to truly build inclusive communities within our universities. At the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, when I became president, there was a part-time chief diversity officer, and his name was Mitch Livingston. He’s a terrific guy, but he worked part-time focusing on how to build an inclusive community in a university with 45,000 students and a budget of about $1 billion at that time. And one of the things that I felt was essential, in addition to writing our own diversity plan, which we wrote and board of trustees endorsed while I was there, was to make a decision that a half-time senior management leader, a vice president, a half-time individual was insufficient to really address all of the things that are needed to build a truly inclusive community in an institution of that size. And so Mitch became a full-time chief diversity officer and was followed by Bleuzette Marshall, who is now full-time chief diversity officer at the institution. I’m going to talk about some of the challenges that existed. I’ve talked a little bit about Britain, but I’ll talk a little bit about some of the challenges that we experience at Emory University in Atlanta, at the University of Cincinnati, and here at UBC more recently because it’s that kind of specific examples that I think hopefully will stimulate a dialogue between us about where you might be at your institution and how we might share best practices at really taking this shifting landscape and the challenges that exist and building an inclusive community.
So you see, first with Mitch Livingston and then Bleuzette Marshall, we developed a diversity plan and embraced the notion that a university could not truly achieve excellence if it didn’t embrace the remarkable assets and dimensions that come from that diversity. It’s something that we believe is essential to the excellence of an institution and that I believe, personally, that the more diverse an institution is, the better it can be. Let me tell you a little bit about the University of British Columbia. It’s only about an hour and a half north of Seattle where we are right now. For those who may not know, it’s a global center for research and teaching. In most global rankings, like Times Higher, US News, it ranks among the top 20 public universities in the world. In US News, it ranks, I think, number 29 among the world’s top universities. It ranks in a top 7 to 10 research universities in North America.
It’s very large, which is relevant because the size of the institution does affect the process that you use to build an inclusive institution. It’s very large, about 65,000 students. On any given day in the Vancouver campus, our two main campuses, are about 80,000 people on our campus. It’s very, very large as an institution. There are two major sites. There’s one in Vancouver, the beautiful, idyllic area called Point Grey. And then over the mountains, in the Okanagan Valley, there’s a second newer campus that’s about 10,000 students now, a community of about 15,000 individuals. And University of British Columbia sits on about 1,600 acres of land, so not only is it one of the largest universities in terms of population, it’s also one of the largest universities in terms of acreage, which gives the campus planners there a lot to do, but there are some challenges associated with that as well. Building a sense of community and inclusion in something that’s 1,000 acres is very different from building such a community in a campus of 100 or 200 acres, but they do a fantastic job.
Now, what we’re trying to do is probably the same thing you’re trying to do on your campuses, that is to take this diverse community of individuals and to support all of those people and the visitors that come on campus and to inspire those individuals with ideas that are generated in the campus to really result in actions that hopefully– in our actual strategic plan, we hope that the work that takes place in our campuses actually has a direct positive impact on making this a better world. And I’ll explain that in a number of ways. One is in teaching the next generation of leaders to be truly global citizens, to be individuals that embrace differences and embrace diversity of the people that are on the campus right now so that when they graduate, they can go out wherever they might go to be inclusive leaders. And so this conversation about how you set up your campus, what kind of programs do you have is fundamentally important, we believe, because some of these individuals become prime minister. Some of them will become judges. Some of them will become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. So what we do in the 4 years or 5 years or, if they do a graduate degree, 10 years on our campus is very, very important. It’s not just about what they experience while they’re there. It’s about how we form them to be truly inclusive and to spread that wherever they might be to make the world a better place. That is a bold, audacious goal that we have at the University of British Columbia. And I’m sure it’s the same for you as well.
Now, we’re a public university, as was the University of Cincinnati, and it’s also true for private universities, such as Emory University. All institutions, I assure to you, and I think you’ll agree, are privileged, whether they’re supported by taxpayers or whether they’re supported by benefactors. We’re privileged to be situated at these magnificent institutions called colleges and universities. I think you probably agree with that. Just about a week ago, some of you may know that I was with the president of France, Emmanuel Macron. Believe it or not, he’s only 41 years old. I said to him, “Young man, you’re 16 years younger than I am [laughter].” And it’s true. But he was incredibly articulate, incredibly intelligent individual that as core believes that universities are central to the future of civilization. And I agree. He talked a little bit about the G7. As you may know, France is the host for the G7 this year. And he brought university leaders together from the G7 nations but also other nations because of his belief that it’s incredibly important, at this time of geopolitical change and conflict and tension, for universities to transcend that and to come together and to think about joined projects and to think about how to send students back and forth so that they embrace the diversity of the views around the world and really learn to be global citizens and to work together for a better world.
And so about a week ago, I was with him in a launch of something called U7+, and you may want to go back to your universities and talk about it and building inclusiveness not only on your campuses but around the world. This is a new opportunity called U7+ – you can google it if you want – where universities are thinking about how to build inclusivity around the world. And so universities are very special places. They’re privileged places. And we have with that privilege a responsibility, whether we’re public or private universities, to think about how we form global citizens and, as we think about every aspect of the plan, how we build inclusiveness, and try to, hopefully, embed that into the collective DNA of– in that case, there were about 48 universities where 2 million generations these students are actually studying. Think about the impact of building inclusivity into the ethos of 2 million future leaders. That’s why what we’re talking about today is incredibly important.
The other thing that’s a privilege of ours is just what we do. Set aside the groundbreaking research that takes place in our campuses, many of the cures that people enjoy in medical centers and hospitals around the world are really coming from our campuses. Let’s set that aside. We should be proud of that no doubt. But think about the core fundamental mission of colleges, universities, and that is in educating the next generation of individuals. And think about the power of education, that it is a enabler of social mobility, of development. And for that reason, getting this right, getting diversity right, building a culture of inclusivity is so important because it’s not just about those that are already privileged. It’s about giving the opportunity for a better life and better future to those who are less privileged. And if we don’t get inclusivity right, even if we really succeed in building a diverse set of students and faculty and staff, if we don’t get that right and people don’t really feel included, then that will be a barrier to their future social mobility.
To really truly build an inclusive community, you need to have that shared vision.
Now, as I said, getting this right is easier said than done, and it starts with having a dialogue, having a shared vision and a commitment at every level. It does no good for the president and the board of trustees or governors to believe in the plan that you have. It does no good if it’s just your full professors, if the students are not involved. To really truly build an inclusive community, you need to have that shared vision. You have to talk about it. You have to put it down on paper. And you have to buy in throughout the institution. And so that, I think, my friends, is one of the most difficult things in inclusivity plans or strategic plans, it’s really getting inclusion in action to get true commitment throughout the entire community. And our communities are, in some cases, large towns or small cities. In our case, we have about 100,000 people that we have to try to get rowing in the direction. It’s easier said than done.
I want to talk to you about some of the mechanisms that we’re using to try to get there and some of the challenges that I’ve experienced at UBC, the University of Cincinnati, and at Emory University. And the reason to do it– I’m just going to mention this one last time. It’s not just about global citizens. It’s about humanity. Those are all self-explanatory. It’s also about what we do in terms of our core mission. There have been tremendous amounts of research from each of our institutions that show that if we achieve true inclusivity and diversity, that we become better universities. Diverse groups, as you know, think about complex issues in a more comprehensive way, come up with better solutions, and come up with things which wouldn’t be realized in a homogeneous group of individuals. So those are the reasons, in addition to global citizenship and a more peaceful world, that we want to succeed in building this inclusive campus. And we know from our own research at UBC that if you can really build an inclusive campus, that leads to better student learning, student outcomes. We know that from our own analysis. We know that if we have a truly inclusive community, that we have a better chance recruiting the next generation of faculty, staff, and students from around the world, and that requires that the message be out there that each of our campuses is truly inclusive.
that is one of the most difficult things in inclusivity plans or strategic plans, it’s really getting inclusion in action to get true commitment throughout the entire community
We know, whether you look at the humanities or the social sciences or the performing arts, the visual arts, that if you have an inclusive microenvironment or the inclusive community, that it leads to enhanced creativity, innovation, and productivity, whether you’re in the humanities, the social sciences or whether you’re in the STEM disciplines. So for optimal effectiveness of what we’re trying to do in every aspect of what we do, having a diverse, inclusive community is the result and the benefit. Lots of different organizations realize this. If you look around the US, the AAC&U, the APLU, the AAU, all really understand how incredibly important it is to achieve what’s called Inclusive Excellence or IE. In Canada, our consortium of universities is called Universities Canada. And it’s not called Inclusive Excellence. It’s called Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion or EDI, but it’s really the same concept both north and south of the border. Now, whether you call it Inclusive Excellence or EDI, I say that the whole concept of inclusion, equity, diversity has been a focus of US higher education longer than in Canada. And that’s something that’s acknowledged by individuals who look at post-secondary or higher education both north and south of the border. Something that has been a priority in the US longer than in Canada. And so in Canada, we benefit from what’s been tried and what’s succeeded in US universities.
Now, one thing that we’re not proud of in Canada is that if you look at US universities and look at Canadian universities, look at European universities, there was just a picture tweeted out just a few days ago of all the premiers of all the provinces in Canada, they’re all white men. Not a single female. Everybody is white. It’s not true in the US if you look at all the governors. And if you look at the U15, which is the 15 top Canadian universities, there’s only one female president, and there’s very little diversity on the other side. So Canada has a lot to learn from the US as US has something to learn from Canada. We’ll talk a little bit about that in a moment. But one of the reasons that this is the case, I think, it’s because, in the American universities, it’s been much more focused on diversity and inclusion for a longer period of time, and that’s a very good thing.
Now, there are fundamental differences in how one looks at this issue of inclusiveness both north and south of the border. In the US, as you know, for a long time, politicians and academic institutions have been thinking about inclusivity in the context of civil rights. So having been the president of University of Cincinnati in a pretty diverse city with challenges but also benefits of that diversity, the civil rights lens, I think it is one of the reasons why there’s been so much progress in the US with respect to inclusion. So in the US, it’s really been that civil rights framework that has driven the conversation. In Canada, it’s more European in how the idea of inclusiveness has been considered. It’s something that’s considered through the human rights lens or something defined, for example, by the United Nations. And for that reason, if you look at American universities, they have that civil rights equal opportunity kind of lens and offices that look at complaints and address issues. They have Title IX offices that span not only athletics but almost everything that happens in the campus. In Canada, we don’t have that kind of a civil rights lens. We don’t have the same kinds of legislation or requirement. The focus really is on human rights. It’s more of a European view to inclusivity.
Human rights and civil rights are not exactly the same, and there are differences from province to province, from nation to nation. And in many cases, we don’t have the same kind of laws in Canada as exist in the US. The human rights lens is really based on the premise that simply because you are human, you have certain unalienable rights that you’re expected to have, and it’s not based on laws, but it’s just based on the fact that you are human. In the US, some of these same areas are embedded within civil rights legislation and policies, but they’re also adjudicated and examined, and the complaint is reviewed and assessed in the context of that civil rights lens. So as you can see, from the very get-go, when you think about how to build inclusivity in university campuses both north and south of the border, there are differences historically in terms of law, between how US and Canadian universities experience and think about inclusivity and diversity.
In America, there have been recent changes in the US government narrative as recently as the past few days with respect to immigration. And as some of you have probably experienced, there’s debate about whether white supremacy, issues of harassment and intimidation of foreign professors are matters that ought to be considered. If you read clinical higher education, look at Inside Higher Ed, you can see that those are real drivers to a sense of inclusion or barriers to a sense of inclusion within many of our American universities. I can tell you that I meet with my American counterparts on a regular basis. I was with some of them in France just the other day. I meet with American presidents regularly on the West Coast. I meet with the presidents of the University of California System. I meet Janet Napolitano in a few weeks. Some of you may know. And they talked to me about those current tensions with respect to immigration because a lot of the diversity in our campuses really stems from the diversity of national origins of the students, faculty, and staff in our universities. And so these kinds of things that change relative to the landscape of what’s happening in geopolitics has a direct impact on the sense of inclusivity on our campuses both north and south of the border.
I’d say the political climate in Canada is different. I think most people here would agree that Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump are very different kinds of individuals. But the same kinds of stresses, I have to be fully honest, exist in Canada. The same kind of issues of ethnic harmony, if you will. Same kinds of issues about white supremacy. Same kinds of xenophobic views also exist north of border. And that presents a challenge for all of us because we have diverse communities of scholars that are affected by national laws and by the views of politicians.
Now, so you can see some of the similarities and differences between US and Canada and some of the differences that stem from history, some of the differences that stem from leadership. But let me tell you that Canada has its own challenges. As you know, both in the US and in Canada, our university campuses, many of them are located on territories that were originally of the indigenous people. In the US, in most cases, American universities that are situated on those sorts of ancestral lands, there are treaties in place that govern that land. And for that reason, it’s a different situation in Canada. University of British Columbia, to give you a specific example what challenge that we have, is located on the traditional ancestral unceded territories of two indigenous bands, the Musqueam and Syilx Okanagan nations. There is no treaty upon which the universities are freely situated on the campuses, and that’s University of British Columbia but also other universities in Western Canada and also elsewhere within Canada although in some parts of Canada, there are treaties as there are within the US, with the American Indians. That is something, if you’re following Canadian politics, you know that there’s an initiative called the truth and reconciliation process that tries to address this fundamental barrier, if you will, to connectivity between the ancestral lands and the people that still live there and the modern universities that have been situated on those same lands without a treaty.
So you can see that we have our own challenge to deal with and really coming to grips with our history in Canada in terms of truth and reconciliation and really be inclusive for the youth, indigenous youth, upon which our campuses are actually situated is really one of the most important challenges that we have to address as universities in terms of building a truly inclusive community. We need to have more indigenous students. We need to have more indigenous faculty. We need them to truly feel that they belong on the lands that are theirs and have been unceded. So you can see, we have our own situations in Canada as well.
So let me start with — and these are not easy ones. To talk to you a little bit about what I think is one of the biggest challenges that face us wherever we might be in really building the kind of inclusive educational campuses that we all aspire to. Talk about three different universities, three different situations. Much of this has been in the news both north and south of the border. And I was encouraged to be very honest and transparent with you because what I say might be the most impactful if I do so. So I would think that most of you would probably agree that if you put aside things like history, civil rights, truth and reconciliation, if you put aside things such as leadership, geopolitical tensions, these are all things that you’re experiencing, but I’d say one of the biggest barriers to feeling included on a campus that is diverse is this tension between freedom of speech, academic freedom, and a true sense of inclusion. Let me talk about that.
So whether you’re on the West Coast, whether you’re in Seattle or Berkeley or Michigan, Vancouver, Toronto, wherever, one of the things that you see in the news every single week is this tension between freedom of speech, academic freedom, and feelings of inclusion, feelings that you’re in a community that respects you, that it’s a respectful environment. So let me tell you about three different vignettes. They’re all real. If you google them, you’ll see them. The first time that I really had to deal with this really big challenge was in Atlanta when I was senior vice provost and deputy provost at Emory University in Atlanta. By the way, I love all these universities. No university is unique in having these challenges. We all experience them. And for that reason, I’m giving you these real-life examples. So Emory University in Atlanta is, as I said, a moderate size private university; a selective elite research university in Atlanta. And you might’ve noticed just a couple of weeks ago that one of its most distinguished professors just got tenure. His name is Jimmy Carter. And Jimmy Carter, after he stepped down as president of the United States, set up his library, as presidents do, left that far away from the Emory campus, and he would teach every year at Emory, and he would welcome the first-year students to that campus.
And when I was there, he wrote a book. He’s written scores of books, as you probably know. And he wrote a book called Palestine. I think it was something like Peace Not Apartheid or something like that. And if you google that search, Emory University, Jimmy Carter, and that book, what we had to deal with was really what developed into quite a tempest. It was something that received quite a bit of national attention. Emory University was founded as a Methodist university. If any of you know Emory University, you’ll know that now it has a very large Jewish student body to the point where we used to joke – and this is an affectionate joke – that Emory stands for Early On Methodist Only Recently Yiddish [laughter], Emory. But that’s the kind of diverse kind of community, right? And we’re talking about diversity and an inclusion and the kinds of situations that work against what we’re trying to do is build an inclusive community. So Jimmy Carter, most eminent Nobel Prize-winning professor of Emory University, wrote this book. It’s quite critical. About Israel. And in a university that has about 30% Jewish kids, it was offensive. It also has a very, very distinguished faculty in Jewish Studies. Deborah Lipstadt – you might’ve seen the movie Denial – is a professor there, and she was offended by the book.
So one professor, Jimmy Carter, writes this book that’s offensive to another professor, that’s offensive to a lot of the students. They build a wall on the middle of campus. And there were really concerns about safety. You had to put 24/7 security there and make sure that different groups of people on that campus, diversity that we had actually achieved didn’t result in violence. And so how do we try to actually address that? Well, we believed, as a leadership, that one of the cardinal, most important, sacred responsibilities of the university is to be a place – because if not at universities, where? – where different perspectives, their different cultures, the different beliefs, sometimes diametrically opposed, can coexist on a campus and talk about these things. It’s something that’s really embedded. And for example, the law of many states, federal law in British Columbia, freedom of speech is something that is clearly articulated. It’s articulated in our senate policies on academic freedom at UBC. It’s found in board policies. But nevertheless, there’s this tension between allowing people to speak, say things that are offensive to others in the same community, this inclusive community that you’re trying to create.
So what did we do at Emory? We had about a week of tension. It was in the papers. You can read about it. And we decided that if we were going to be true to being a place where you can have active evidence-based discourse about controversial issues – in this case, the controversial speaker was a former president of the United States – then we had to provide opportunities for both points of view to be articulated, pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian. And so in addition to Jimmy Carter speaking about his book, we brought Alan Dershowitz from Harvard to talk about his different perspectives and his actual criticisms of the book. Ken Stein, who had founded the Carter Center with Jimmy Carter, the presidential library, resigned from the co-directorship of that because of how offended he was by what former president Jimmy Carter wrote in that book. At the end of the day, I think we grew as an inclusive community in standing by academic freedom, freedom of speech, and even though it was difficult, to hearing both sides of polar opposites on what’s happening in the Middle East. We all grew. And I think whoever you ask that was there at the time, they’ll say, “Thank goodness. Both views were permitted and were heard and argued and debated, but it was exactly what should happen in universities.” Example number one.
The second example, which became even larger news, had to do with what happened at the University of Cincinnati. Some of you may know that when I was president of University of Cincinnati, which has its own police force– I don’t know if anybody’s here from Johns Hopkins. I know Johns Hopkins is just something of its own police force. And the students chained themselves to Garland Hall, I think?
Protesting to Ron Daniels because they didn’t think it was right, because there might be some situation that might result in racial profiling. And I’ll say this. It’s the kind of decision that a president– it’s a unwinnable decision because, on the one hand, as president of the university, you have to make sure, sometimes in a campus where there is violence, that you have a responsibility for the safety of every single person on that campus. On the other hand, if your police force does something questionable, then you have that on your shoulders as well. So what happened in Cincinnati was we had a very large police force. University of Chicago has a very large police force. And in trying to keep that neighborhood safe, one of the University of Cincinnati police officers– it’s all in the news, so I’m not [inaudible] anything that’s not out there. One of the University of Cincinnati police officers went beyond the campus and pulled over an African American civilian because he didn’t have a front license plate on his car. Everything’s out there on YouTube. You’ll see that he pulls over the African American civilian. There’s a misunderstanding. There’s a tussle. And then the gun goes off. And the African American civilian dies.
So then what happens to the sense of inclusivity on that kind of campus, I can tell you that it took years, not only in that campus but at– but that campus being at the epicenter of racial tension – remember, this was at the heart of Black Lives Matter – it was a very tough time for everybody in the city, in the very community. I being on social media, as been noted, was a deluge of tweets and Instagram posts came from a group called Irate 8. It was called Irate 8 because only 8% of the students in this diverse campus were black in a city that was quite black. And they presented me with a set of demands about what we needed to do to create a more inclusive community in what we’re trying to build as a diverse cause campus. I’ll tell you, all the people thought it was crazy. They said, “You should shut down your social media,” because the comments and criticisms of the university and me personally because of that happening were painful and difficult. But today, I’m so happy that I’m on social media because I heard and I felt this, really, the outrage of what had happened. It was racial profiling.
And so I sat down with the mother of Samuel DuBose who was shot and died. I sat down. I went to the church. Everybody was angry at me. That was the students, the African American students, the Irate 8 students. We talked about every single demand, and I think we grew as a university. I grew as a person. And we agreed upon a whole set of steps where we would address each of those demands to try to make in a more inclusive campus, from the curricula, from the police force, from seminars that occurred. It took years, but we grew as a campus, as a city, as a police force. We all grew through those challenges. Example number two. So sometimes, believe it or not, adversity and really addressing the root cause of things that exist that are never discussed and true difficulty on everyone’s side is, at the end of the day, the only way to make true progress.
really addressing the root cause of things that exist that are never discussed and true difficulty on everyone’s side is, at the end of the day, the only way to make true progress
The last example – because I said was going to open up the questions – is very recent. You can look it up. At the University of British Columbia, we had a transgender individual called Jenn Smith, who’s now a man. Our faculty of education has pioneered a program that, in British Columbia, we’re very proud of. It’s called SOGI, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, where our faculty and students have actually made some progress in putting forward in the curricula of British Columbia conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in our schools, recognizing that transgender youth in transition are the most vulnerable to suicide ideation and actual suicide. We’re proud of what our faculty of education has done. Well, we got an application, because a public university, people can apply to book our rooms, our venues. Jenn Smith, a transgender male, doesn’t believe in SOGI, doesn’t think it’s appropriate to have those sort of conversations in our schools, that the youth are too vulnerable, too immature to have this kind of conversation about their sexual orientation and gender identity. Debatable point. Well, I’ll tell you, it’s all in the news. That tension between freedom of expression and feeling of inclusivity was put to a test.
Ultimately, the provost of the university, the general counselor of the university decided that, looking at the BC Code, that talk should go forward. Well, it was very offensive to our transgender community on campus. We’re going to talk about this as a university at our senate and at our board because that’s where the policies actually exist. What I’m going to leave with you is this. I’ve talked to you about all the approaches that we all use to build inclusivity on our campuses, and I’ve ended with three challenging situations that I believe – and I hope this is true for the third one – working through that as a community will really allow us to grow as a campus and each of those students that are involved in the dialogue to grow as human beings and citizens, which I submit is the very job that we set out to do as institutions.
Thank you very much.