President Alison Byerly emailed the following message to the Lafayette community on Nov. 13, 2015:
As communities of learning, colleges and universities seek to establish an atmosphere that not only welcomes, but depends upon, a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. It is disappointing when we fall short of this high aspiration. Over the past week, events at the University of Missouri, Yale and Ithaca College have sparked national discussion about the climate on college campuses. Our own community grapples with some of the same matters we see in the national debate. I am heartened, though, by our shared commitment to address this set of issues.
In an intimate community like Lafayette, incidents can create ripple effects that are felt far beyond the immediate actors. Our Bias Response Team is meeting today to discuss several incidents that have occurred in the last week. The BRT, chaired by Chaplain Alex Hendrickson, was established by a coalition of students, faculty, and administrators to provide a mechanism to respond to instances of perceived bias and resolve conflicts in a spirit of civil discourse and mutual accountability. You can learn more about its work here: http://studentlife.lafayette.edu/student-health-and-safety/bias-response-team-brt/
An equally important way to address stresses in our community is through open discussion and dialogue, and here too we can point to some good examples. I was pleased to hear that student groups are already discussing plans to hold a community wide meeting, and look forward to supporting these efforts and offering whatever partnership is helpful. The regular events that are included in the Social Justice Speaker Series http://intercultural.lafayette.edu/social-justice-speaker-series/ organized by Dean John McKnight provide a valuable forum for ongoing discussion and debate of difficult issues.
We at Lafayette continue to work hard to build a talented and diverse student community, and under the leadership of Dean of the Faculty and Chief Diversity Officer Robin Rinehart, are redoubling our efforts to attract and retain a diverse faculty and staff.
I am deeply committed to the idea that a diverse and inclusive community is a critical component of undergraduate education. We recognize, however, that in order to realize this vision, we need to continually improve our capacity to create a welcoming climate for all. We greatly appreciate your assistance and support in this effort.