EMU Statement on Diversity and Inclusion
This institutional statement reaffirms the importance of diversity and inclusion at the core of our mission and vision at Eastern Mennonite University. To that end we also want to use this opportunity to identify some university initiatives that will assist us in becoming a stronger community of reflective learners committed to practices that foster respect, social justice and dignity for every person.
There have been unacceptable incidents on our campus that demonstrate that our community is sometimes a part of the forces at work in the world around us to divide and incite fear with racially charged derogatory remarks. These incidents past and present are too many; even one is too many for the kind of community we aspire to be.
Diversity and inclusion matter at EMU because these aspirations reflect our core values, align with the diversity in the kingdom of God, and were modeled by Jesus, our master teacher. As we “educate students to serve and lead in a global context” we are committed to accomplish that noble mission in the spirit of Micah 6:8: “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” (For more, see our diversity and inclusion webpages.)
Voices of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny fracture our community and debase our humanity. EMU does not tolerate hate speech and racial and ethnic slurs. These expressions are not protected “free speech” on our campus. There are legitimate constraints to free speech on a university campus because some forms of speech violate the higher values of dignity, respect, and reason that are the foundations for academic freedom and debate. This is particularly true for a faith-based university whose mission is rooted in the belief that each of us is called to answer Christ’s call for us to love one another.
Eastern Mennonite University has a strong reputation as a leader in conflict transformation and restorative justice in many arenas locally and globally. We must extend these lessons in preventing racial discord more intentionally on our own campus. We want to share with you several new initiatives and plans to do just that:
(1) We have established a standing university Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. The charge of the Committee is to develop and sustain a diverse and welcoming community of learning and provide education and training on diversity and inclusion (See the full statement);
(2) We have a new 5-year strategic plan composed of four goals, one of which is diversity. One objective under the diversity goal specifically calls us to substantially increase hiring of new faculty and staff from underrepresented groups who can lead us on diversity education (See EMU strategic plan)
(3) We have a new “Life Together” statement that invites each of us at EMU (faculty, staff, students, board) to model healthy community expectations around love for God and one another, wisdom, equity, sustainability, and accountability.
Today, we stand with our students of color who want and deserve concrete action on new diversity and inclusion measures so they can be proud of their university for our day.
In the spirit of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, we say together: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny.” (Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963)
Susan Schultz Huxman, PhD
Fred Kniss, PhD
April 20, 2017