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University Town Hall Meeting Addressing the Racial Climate at Ferris State University

A truly inclusive university is one where all its members believe that the institution belongs to them as much as it belongs to others. It tears my heart to know that some of our students do not believe that the university belongs to them. Recent incidents on our campus have left them feeling mocked and marginalized. We are challenged to create and nurture a respectful and welcoming environment for our students—and faculty and staff.

We did not create this university. We inherited it. Our founder, Woodbridge Nathan Ferris, was a social justice warrior long before it was normative. Not only did he create an institution where women, African Americans, Native Americans, recent immigrants, newly-naturalized citizens, and others were offered opportunities to earn an education—he made sure that they were treated with respect. That is his legacy. It is our mandate. When we work to sustain an inclusive university, we honor his legacy. When we fail to do so, we contradict and insult his vision and work. I am proud of the students, faculty, and staff who are committed to honoring our founder’s work—and dedicated to living out our values of diversity and ethical community.

I want us to be a university community where we can have difficult, sometimes painful, conversations. There is racial tension on our campus—and campuses across the nation. To avoid discussing this reality perpetuates a cycle of misunderstanding and misinformation. We are a better institution when we hear the voices of our classmates and colleagues. We have begun this work, and we will continue it.

I am inviting you to attend a Zoom town hall meeting on Tuesday, November 24, beginning at 6 p.m. It is an opportunity for members of the Ferris community to voice their ideas about the current campus climate—and to offer insight on how we get to where we want and need to be. Here is the link:

David Pilgrim, vice president for diversity and inclusion