Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty,

I sincerely hope you had an opportunity to rest and recharge during the winter break and are excited for the year ahead, and for the Spring 2021 semester. As we reflect on the difficult year that has just passed, we must reckon with the lasting impacts of the global pandemic, heightened racial and economic inequality, uncertainty about our economy and our political systems … and now an attack on the U.S. Capitol. It is more important than ever that we lean on the wide-ranging strengths of the University of Arizona to survive and thrive, to analyze, understand and address our current challenges, and to ensure that the future is brighter for all members of the Wildcat community.

The University of Arizona affords all of us the opportunity to learn, to teach, to serve, and to contribute to the greater good of our local, national, and global communities. We are honored to work on the traditional lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and we are privileged to serve the people of Arizona as a research-intensive land-grant university and Hispanic Serving Institution. We remain dedicated to raising up everyone in our communities—regardless of background, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic status, or religious beliefs—to facilitate personal, societal, and economic growth.

The challenges we face together will not be solved quickly or easily. The path ahead to a brighter future is not clearly defined. Understandably, each of us bears a unique set of perspectives and priorities. I urge each and every Wildcat to commit to bridging our differences in pursuit of greater good. I challenge each of you to practice being actively welcoming to all, and warmly inclusive of those who have traditionally been excluded from our disciplines. I ask that you solicit thoughts from, and engage in dialogue with, everyone in your orbit. And I ask that you aim to be an agent for the necessary changes, small and large, that will increase our impacts and broaden our reach.

As we move forward in 2021, I feel hope and optimism despite the uncertainties. Our institutional Values—Integrity, Compassion, Exploration, Adaptation, Inclusion, and Determination—are still at the core of all that we do. Our VisionTo create a world where human potential is realized and we’re all working together to create solutions to big problems, so that life in our communities, in Arizona and on our planet can thrive—remains as relevant as it ever has been. Your talents, your knowledge, your creativity, your skills, and your insights are critical to our shared success, and I look forward to Wildcat students, staff, and faculty leading us forward for a bright 2021 and beyond.

Bear down, Wildcats.

Liesl

December 21, 2020

Dear Campus Colleagues,

As 2020 comes to a close and I reflect on the past year, I am deeply appreciative of our extraordinary campus community. Our faculty, staff and students have weathered this most challenging year with remarkable creativity, compassion, flexibility and resilience.

Much has been asked of you in both your professional and personal spheres. You have changed how you teach, learn and work. You have cared for loved ones at home and from afar, created classrooms and study spaces in your kitchens, and found new ways to connect with friends and colleagues. You devised clever ways to keep your research programs moving forward, despite serious hurdles.

You all have worked incredibly hard and it's now time to rest, relax and recharge. Please use the next few weeks to truly take care of yourselves – physically and mentally.

We of course can't know what 2021 will bring. But I do know that I feel very fortunate to face the future alongside the members of the University of Arizona community. I am humbled and proud to call myself a Wildcat!

With warm wishes for the holidays,

Liesl

Dear campus community members and friends of the University of Arizona,

Last week I shared a statement regarding concerns and questions over a number of alarming racist social media posts from current and incoming University of Arizona students. My message to the campus community and beyond elicited a number of welcome responses.  Many eloquently made the point that it seems very unfair that those whom anti-Black racists would choose to oppress, or do active harm to, should need to share the campus with those who use hate speech, and thus potentially be made to feel anxious or afraid while they seek their own education.

Painfully, as a society we don’t have a solution to that inequity, in the case of anti-Black racists any more than we do for other known oppressive individuals and groups that exist in our communities, including on our campuses.

The hard question we all face is how to change the hearts and minds of people who have been conditioned into anti-Black racism and anti-Black violence?  If they don’t go to college and are not exposed to views from outside their insular communities, there is a much-lowered chance that these damaging and dangerous views can be changed.  In particular, it is unlikely that an understanding of the systemic and institutional supports of racism will be developed.  Unchanged, racism will continue to be communicated within communities, perpetuating the harm.  

Our challenge at the University of Arizona is to build real strength into the educational process, into our student support structures, into our reporting processes, and into our disciplinary processes, to provide real protections for our BIPOC students, to bolster the strength that comes when we witness that our community will not tolerate anti-Black racism.  On this front, we have much work still to do, and I look to our students, staff and faculty to actively inform that process and to guide our path forward.  I have optimism that we can work together to find ways to channel our anger into building better systems that serve to reduce racism at the University of Arizona and across US society.

Seizing this moment in history, our faculty, staff and students are already strengthening our efforts in action-oriented ways, including voter registration and education, campus gatherings to discuss controversial issues, protocols that increase a robust pool of candidates and hiring of diverse faculty and staff, utilizing our existing data and shared experiences to inform proactive change regarding the student experience, and intentional consultation with the Shared Governance organizations that are committed to the success and transformation of the University that reflects our core values, our Land Grant charge, our Hispanic Serving Institution designation and service to the State of Arizona.

We owe it to our local and regional community, and to our nation, to seize this historic moment to be better and to serve our students better.  Change is hard – always – but now is the moment.

Bear down, Wildcats.
 
Liesl

Dear campus community members and friends of the University of Arizona,
 
Many of you have taken time to write to share your concerns and questions over a number of alarmingly racist social media posts which appear to have originated with current or incoming University of Arizona students, in response to the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide protests against systemic and institutional violence against and marginalization of the Black community.  Other recent posts have documented anti-Black racism by recent graduates of UArizona.  I very much understand your concerns, and your suggestions that the University act in response.

We are taking all actions that are available to us to respond swiftly with the students implicated in these cases of anti-Black racism coming up in social media, while adhering to the federal and state laws (including free speech laws) that we must comply with, especially as a state institution.

But the harder question we all face is how to change the hearts and minds of people who have been conditioned into anti-Black racism and anti-Black violence?  If they don’t go to college, and are not exposed to views from outside their family and insular communities, there is a much lowered chance that these damaging and dangerous views can be changed.  In particular, it is unlikely that an understanding of the systemic and institutional supports of racism will be developed.  Unchanged, racism will continue to be communicated from generation to generation, perpetuating the harm.  The very experience of shared learning within our nation’s universities is a powerful way to dismantle ignorance, increase compassion, and reduce cruelty towards others who are different from us.  For this reason, I believe we must continue to operate a “big-tent” institution, allowing all students a chance to learn and mature, to grow their intellectual abilities, to develop a working knowledge of history, of cultures and of the workings of democracy, with the words from the preamble to the Constitution as a lodestar, to “form a more perfect Union … insure domestic Tranquility … (and) promote the general Welfare.”  

That said, I very much understand the point that many have made very eloquently that it seems very unfair that those whom anti-Black racists would choose to oppress, or do active harm to need to, should be involved in this process, and potentially be made to feel anxious or afraid while they seek their own education.  Painfully, as a society we don’t have a solution to that inequity, any more than we do for other known oppressive groups that exist in our communities, including on our campuses.
 
Our challenge, then, is to build real strength into the educational process, into our student support structures, into our reporting processes, and into our disciplinary processes, to provide real protections for our BIPOC students, to bolster the strength that comes when we witness that our community will not tolerate anti-Black racism.  On this front, we have much work still to do, and I look to our students, staff and faculty to actively inform that process and to guide our path forward.  We have to work together to find ways to channel our anger into building better systems that serve to reduce racism at UA and across US society.
 
I believe it remains an imperative to educate the individuals who will build the systems and institutions that uphold society and the Constitution, with the express aspiration that they will find the wisdom to become part of the solution to institutional and systemic impediments facing our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.   Integrity. Compassion. Exploration. Adaptation. Inclusivity. Determination. We live these values every day and we continue to work with the students who want to participate in our educational community to help them to learn and grow responsibly in our special Wildcat way.
 
I do not agree.  I do not excuse.  I do not condone.  But I do defend the right for all students to seek an education that might help them become better humans and to fulfill their human capacity for doing good in the world.
 
Regards,
 
Liesl

The Office of the Provost oversees all academic programs and units and supports the academic mission of the University by ensuring the quality of academic programs, providing support activities that enhance teaching and learning, making services available that enable faculty and student involvement in education, research, and creative expression, and supporting research excellence with a focus on the land-grant mission.

 

Our office is currently working remotely. Please contact us: provost@arizona.edu | 520-621-1856


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