In the wake of the controversies surrounding the Freddy Gray case, protests regarding the case, and both peaceful protests and early turmoil in the streets of Baltimore, Illinois State University President Larry Dietz and the campus' NAACP responded swiftly to an inflammatory Twitter posting.
Here, in an open letter Friday, Dietz outlined steps taken, plans to publicly address concerns, and ISU's basic "not on our campus" commitment:
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
This afternoon, I met with student leaders from the Illinois State University chapter of the NAACP. The organization is planning a rally that begins at noon Friday, May 1, at Schroeder Plaza. I encourage you to attend.
The idea for the rally was sparked by a racially charged Twitter posting. Although the posting has been removed, and the Twitter account has no connection to the University, it does have the letters ISU associated with the account.
This small-minded posting may have prompted our students to take action, but we all know it is another example of abusive, intolerant and often racist opinions and actions happening across the country.
As unsettling as it is to read headlines in the national press, it is even more troublesome when incidents occur in your own backyard. The students I spoke to today told me that examples of this type of hostility can be found on our campus and in our community.
The United States Constitution protects our right of free speech, but it also enables cowards to hide behind anonymous social media handles and distribute vile and often racist content. It is not nearly enough to dismiss these individuals as fools or bigots - we must continue to speak out, and act to condemn and stop such behavior. I applaud our student leaders for taking action.
Diversity is one of Illinois State's five core values under the University's strategic plan, Educating Illinois.
The value states:
Illinois State University affirms and encourages community and a respect for differences by fostering an inclusive environment characterized by cultural understanding, ethical behavior, and social justice. The University supports a diverse faculty and staff who mentor a diverse student population. The University endeavors to provide opportunities for all students, staff, and faculty to participate in a global society.
Those of you who know me or have heard me speak understand how strongly I feel about Illinois State's core values. To those who cannot or will not respect these values, I invite you to follow your pursuits elsewhere.
To everyone else, I urge you to continue to speak out against intolerance whenever and wherever you find it. A good place to start is Friday at noon at Schroeder Plaza.
Larry H. Dietz