Important message from Chancellor Sheri N. Everts
Dear Members of the Appalachian Community,
Last night, at approximately 8pm, two white men posted a banner reading, “A New Dawn is Breaking, Rise and Get Active, Identity Evropa” on the pedestrian bridge that crosses Rivers Street. Consistent with their actions across the United States, we believe posting this banner illustrated an intent to recruit members to Identity Evropa. Within 20 minutes, two other white men were seen removing the banner. University Police are monitoring the situation closely, and have found no connections with recognized student organizations thus far.
I want to emphasize there are many resources available that provide safety, care and concern assistance to members of our university community.
As many of us have seen in traditional media and in social media, college campuses are an attractive venue for provocative displays of speech. Like us, our colleagues across the country are struggling with this reality. As your administration works with students, faculty, staff and national organizations, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, we are keenly aware of the violence and hatred that has played out in cities and on college campuses across the country.
Appalachian is well-known in the state and region, and it is therefore possible that our campus will also become a venue for clashes of ideology.
It cannot be said too many times: we will not tolerate violence, discrimination, injustice and racism on Appalachian’s campus.
“What is the university doing?” This is an ever-present question, and one that bears serious consideration. Let’s begin with what the administration is doing:
- Monitoring groups with a history of violence and their activity on or near our campus. Our primary responsibility is to maintain the safety of our community. Law enforcement – at local, state and national levels – have a heightened awareness for the potential for violence. Our University Police are committed to maintaining the safety of our entire community.
- Working with faculty, staff and student groups to explore challenging issues. Defining the line between free speech and inciting violence is a daily occurrence, playing out across our nation. We are actively engaging in this work.
- Helping students build resiliency. As educators, we must prepare our students for harsh realities, whether they occur on our campus or in life after Appalachian. We recognize this responsibility, and work to help our students develop skills to manage and address complicated societal issues.
- Getting involved. University Police take a proactive approach to protecting the safety of our community. This means building and keeping trust with the members of our community. You will likely notice police officers working hard to get to know our students, faculty and staff. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are working collaboratively to develop more, large-scale academic programs, panels and new initiatives dedicated to discussing the tough issues facing our society and thus, our campus. The Office of Equity Diversity and Compliance and the Chief Diversity Officer are working together to engage underrepresented populations in meetings and in small groups.
- Keeping the compassion. Administrators hear the frustrations, the fear, the anger, and the concerns expressed by members of our community. We strive to understand and respond to each individual situation to support members of our community and prioritize safety.
- Staying focused on our campus. We’re paying attention to what’s happening across the country, but we are staying focused on our campus. Outside groups and individuals who crave attention will not receive it at the expense of our students, faculty and staff. Our own community deserves our attention and our resources, and that’s where we will focus our energies.
How can you help?
Faculty and staff are on the front lines, working with students and helping them wrestle with complex societal issues every day. Your interactions with students are powerful and memorable. Every day, you bring with you the potential to help the next generation address problems in effective, interdisciplinary ways. Your expertise is key to keeping Appalachian safe – and giving our students the guidance and mentorship they require to know how to effect change, build relationships, challenge ideas constructively and develop sophisticated problem-solving skills.
- Share your expertise. We’re sensitive to the intense demands on your time. That said, a university exists because of the work of faculty and staff. As you can dedicate time and energy, share your expertise with us, with your students, with one another. Classroom discussions, panel discussions, faculty and staff meetings are all important venues to share your expertise with your colleagues.
- Ask for resources. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs look for ways to support opportunities for campus and community events, speakers, discussions and conferences.
- Report incidents that concern you. We encourage taking a “better safe than sorry” approach to areas of concern, especially as they relate to matters of safety. Report things that concern you and they will be looked into. It is important to note, federal law does apply to student records, so it is possible you might not be aware of any follow up, but be assured it is taking place.
- Focus on our collective responsibility to foster a community that is welcoming to all. Experts are available to help all of us navigate this challenge, and while we don’t have all the answers, our office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance and our Chief Diversity Officer, as well as experts in Student Affairs, are skilled at helping us all access tools and resources we can use to help understand varying perspectives and motivations.
Students, members of the administration and I have spoken with many students throughout the day. Several members of the Student Government Association (SGA) have expressed they are hearing students’ outrage, fear and concern about our university being targeted as a potential recruiting ground by outside agitators. SGA has agreed to continue sharing student voices with us. We will continue working with student leadership, and are dedicated to finding opportunities and venues to continue to hear and listen.
Let me close with an important emphasis. The safety of our community members is paramount. We are working to ensure your safety and security every day, and will continue to do so.
Sheri N. Everts