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Published February 17, 2021
To the UW community:
As emphasized by President Seidel, one of the “four pillars” we have established to guide the university is that UW must be a more inclusive and welcoming place for people of all races, ages, ethnicities, genders, incomes or backgrounds. This is a central and important issue to all of us -- the president, the Board of Trustees, vice presidents, deans and the university community at large -- and we are truly committed to advancing this objective, and addressing issues that impede our progress.
So you can imagine how distressed we were to learn yesterday that participants in a Monday evening Zoom discussion that is part of UW’s Black History Month activities were subjected to racial epithets and other highly offensive, inappropriate comments and images by an individual or individuals intent upon disrupting the session. As a result of this horrendous occurrence, we want to make several points very clear:
First, the University of Wyoming unequivocally condemns this behavior. The First Amendment may allow expression that is reprehensible, but we have a responsibility to answer it. Make no mistake, the words and images to which the Zoom discussion participants were subjected are unacceptable and absolutely contrary to the values of our university. UW immediately began working with local law enforcement to address this matter.
Second, we are taking steps to make sure the behavior isn’t repeated in upcoming Black History Month events conducted via Zoom. Technology makes it possible for us to “gather” for important discussions amid the current pandemic; it also allows those conducting such sessions to take steps to prevent disruptions of the sort that took place Monday evening.
Third, we are reaching out to those impacted by the uninvited outburst to make sure they receive the support they need and deserve. Students affected by hate speech and images should contact the University Counseling Center at (307) 766-2187. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. After business hours, students can call (307) 766-8989 or the Peak Wellness Center. Employees and members of their households can seek assistance through the Employee Assistance Program or call Human Resources at (307) 766-2377.
Here are some other resources as well:
At this point, investigation by UW’s Information Technology Office indicates that the offensive content came from computer servers in other countries and an East Coast state -- and not from UW users. We’re looking into this further. Nevertheless, Monday’s unfortunate incident demonstrates that, as a society, we can and must do better.
Hate does not align with the values the of University of Wyoming. Unfortunately, there are people who promote hate through their speech, behaviors and actions. Hate does not belong in an educational environment where individuals regardless of ability, age, country of origin, culture, economic class, ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, world view and other ways we show uniqueness and similarities live, learn, study, engage in research and work together. Efforts to build the capacity to expand a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus community will continue to flourish at UW. Hate speech and exclusionary behaviors will never flourish here.
President Seidel so appreciates the welcome that he and Gabrielle have received at UW and in Wyoming, and is committed to making sure all students, faculty, staff and others feel the same way after they arrive here. While their personal interactions with the vast majority of people have shown the state and the university to be warm and inclusive, it also is clear that we have significant room to improve in this area.
We look forward to working with the Inclusivity Pillar Team that is part of our strategic scenario planning process, as well as others, to advance the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, but more than that -- to creating and growing a community where we engage with civility, kindness and respect. A community where not only is everyone welcomed, but where they are safe, valued and respected in all manners. A community where its members can succeed and flourish. A community of which its members are proud to be a part. For UW to achieve its full potential as a land-grant and flagship university, it’s essential that we make progress in this area. And we are all fully committed to doing so.
Ed Seidel, President
UW Board of Trustees
UW Vice Presidents
UW Deans and Directors