LETTER: Tackling racism as a community

To the Editor:

I am responding to the editorial The Cavalier Daily ran Wednesday about the racial slurs on the walls of the Kent-Dabney dormitory. As yesterday's editorial stated, this egregious and hateful act is indeed appalling. We must rise as a community to repudiate such behavior each time it occurs. This is an obligation for all of us, and it is important for us not to wait for an institutional leader to frame every event. I applaud The Cavalier Daily for speaking out, and commend others in the Kent-Dabney community for so eloquently responding as well. You can read some of their responses here.

The editors also raise important questions about how and when to respond. It is a difficult question, but an important one to grapple with, as it is clear that despite the progress of so many great leaders of the civil rights movement of a previous generation, racism strongly persists in society. The vast majority of our community condemns such acts, and even while we hold hope for reducing their number, events such as this occur all too frequently and will continue to occur until we ultimately achieve the culture and environment we value. To that end, a partnership of leaders and representatives from our community have been planning for several months a charrette on culture and environment that will take place tomorrow (Friday) in Zehmer Hall. A charrette engages all constituencies (faculty, staff, students, administrators, surrounding community leaders, alumni and parents) in a designed exercise to address a particular challenge, and it delivers a small number of actionable items that all constituencies get behind. It is not enough to give a list of recommendations to the administration; that all constituencies take ownership is important and powerful.

It seems appropriate that the University would apply its strength in design thinking to such a challenge. I can’t predict what the outcome of the charrette will be, but I wouldn’t bet against this community’s conviction and ability to come together to move the needle, not just for the University but for society more broadly.

Tom Katsouleas

Provost

Tom Katsouleas is the executive vice president and provost of the University.

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