This statement is from 60 faculty affiliates of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Equality and Social Justice.
At their best, universities are places where diverse people share information, discuss ideas and challenge one another. At the University of Kentucky, like all universities, our mission is to educate, challenge and foster the intellectual, social and emotional development of our students.
That mission must inherently include providing a safe and protected place for students — for all of our students — to develop into their best selves. Our goal is for our students to graduate better equipped to understand and improve the world in which they live. Before students can be educated and challenged, however, they must first feel safe.
Unfortunately, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 300 bias crimes have been reported since the presidential election on Nov. 8. This compounds the 7-percent increase in hate crimes in the past year reported by the FBI.
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The second-most common place for these crimes are universities, second only to K-12 schools. Our students and colleagues who are immigrants, Muslim, Latinx, black, LGBTQ or female are statistically most likely to be targeted.
This is unacceptable. We are committed to advocating for social justice within our university, communities and public policies. We cannot be advocates without first acknowledging that social justice must begin at home.
Thus, we state, unequivocally and without hesitation, that UK will not tolerate bias in any form. We denounce and will not tolerate harassment because of gender, race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, religion, ability or political beliefs. We will not tolerate threats, vandalism or assault. We will not tolerate hate speech.
Every student, faculty member and staff person must be able to feel safe. Otherwise, we have failed to live up to our mission. We cannot fully educate our students if they feel marginalized, threatened or devalued. We cannot help them become the leaders of tomorrow if they are worried about their safety today.
As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
In the coming weeks, months and years, we will push policymakers to focus on socially just and equitable policies and laws for the citizens of Kentucky. Until then, we are committed to ensuring justice is not a distant ideal, but a daily assurance.
Related: Herald-Leader article, “Reports of racial, ethnic slurs up at University of Kentucky since election”