Recently, our university community was disgraced by the placement of a noose, one of the most offensive symbols of racial hatred and ignorance, in a tree on our campus. I have no tolerance for this disturbing act. This act and the reaction to it, remind us of how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go as a community, state, and a country that values diversity.

I am proud of our students, faculty, and staff who, regardless of color and/or race, expressed indignation concerning this act. I am particularly proud of our African American students, for whom this symbol is particularly offensive, for reacting with such calm demeanor and appropriate justified anger. They were more focused on dealing with the issues behind this symbol than on satisfying the impulsive need for immediate justice. The willingness to work through this issue rather than reacting without the benefit of reason has completely undermined the reaction intended by the perpetrators.

I am also proud to be part of a Terre Haute community in which many of leaders and citizens expressed publicly and to me personally their condemnation of this act.

Yet, some reactions from within our community suggest that the university and our community leaders need to take the lead from our students and use this event to address with renewed effort the underlying issues of this act. As the most diverse residential campus in Indiana with a history of inclusion since its inception in 1865, Indiana State University is committed to making its campus and this community a model of tolerance and inclusion.

For this reason, I encourage our entire campus to become involved in the discussion and/or actions related to passing hate crimes legislation. I would like to see the American Democracy Project on our campus focus on providing forums on this topic.

I also encourage our students to revisit their petition for a hate crime bill in the State of Indiana and ask them to work on increasing the number of signatures on the petition. I pledge to work with you in carrying that petition forward to our legislature and to push for its passage this legislative session.

I am also asking that the President’s Commission on Diversity take the lead on several fronts, including:

n Development of a five-year strategic plan to increase the diversity of our faculty and staff.

n Complete an inventory and assessment of current efforts related to diversity and how they might be improved

n Research how diversity and affirmative action functions are structured at other institutions and make a recommendation on how these areas should be organized at Indiana State.

These are not steps being taken to respond only to this one despicable act. These initiatives are being undertaken because we must demonstrate to people of various colors and nationalities that ISU and Terre Haute provide a desirable place to live, work, and learn.

By engaging in this meaningful dialogue, the community can expect to see a plan of action detailing specific goals and steps to come as they pertain to an agenda of diversity. It is my hope that we can all work together to build to make this happen.

— Lloyd W. Benjamin III


Indiana State University

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