As many of us know, this year’s “celebration” of Cinco de Mayo on and around the Durham campus produced some deeply disturbing interactions, including highly uncivil discourse, hateful speech and symbols, and even incidents targeting individuals by spitting on them and hurling rocks. These interactions are contrary to everything we believe that UNH represents. It is clear to me that they cannot be dismissed simply as isolated, “one-off” occurrences. Instead, they appear to be symptomatic of fundamental problems in our culture, here at UNH and across the country more generally. While we may not be able to end the scourge of racism in America by ourselves, we can and must do everything we can to address it on UNH’s campuses. Additionally, we will continue to address the issue of excessive drinking and general unruly, destructive behavior.
Accordingly, today I am creating a presidential task force that will assess issues of race, inclusion and civility on our campuses and make comprehensive recommendations for action. I have asked Nancy Targett, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Jaime Nolan, associate vice president for diversity, equity and community, to co-chair this task force. The task force will identify and assess all existing initiatives and identify gaps that need to be addressed. The task force will also make recommendations to improve the process by which ongoing efforts are coordinated, monitored and communicated to our community.
Because this is a problem that touches every corner of the university, it is one that will require everyone to be part of the solution. It is essential that this task force reach out to the entire UNH community.
I ask that a preliminary progress report be delivered by August 31, 2017, and a final report by January 19, 2018.
I would note that many faculty, staff and students have long been engaged in these challenges. Indeed, it has been heartening to see the response from our campus community as we have sought to improve our campus climate for everyone. Training sessions that had already been planned for the summer are at or beyond capacity and we are adding more sessions; the incidents reported to the police in May remain open and investigators continue to encourage community members to come forward with any information that would advance their work; the police have committed to 12 hours a year of additional cultural/diversity trainings for their officers and are collaborating with the diversity trainer for the NH Police Academy; and the office of student conduct is actively investigating and processing reported incidents from May. In short, we have been taking vigorous action even as we develop a more comprehensive long-term strategy.
Next week, we will be launching a new web page dedicated to these efforts, one that will be updated on a regular basis.
Mark W. Huddleston