Suggestion on Dialogue
Donna and Vice Chancellor Hall:
I’m happy to see I’m able to follow the Pride Center’s Tweets.
A saying came to mind this weekend:
"When someone says you’ve hurt them, you don’t get to tell them you didn’t."
As a scientist, I’m predisposed to skepticism:
It’s possible Duncan is merely "playing to his base," stirring up rancor for the sake of partisanship.
And yet, the fact remains that feelings are subjective;
Is it impossible there’s some truth to his concerns?
Perceptions of reality can sometimes be more important than reality itself.
What I’ve seen so far from the Office of Diversity is a defense, even a "counter offensive," complete with a social media campaign to "rally the troops" with allusions to Nazism vis a vi references to Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller’s "First they came for…" homily.
My suggestion is the correct response to the current controversy is not combativeness:
The correct response is to listen.
I’m unsure where the Office of Diversity is located (Power Tower?).
However, I know the UTK Pride Center is located within walking distance of a wonderfully diverse assemblage of communities of faith.
To my recollection, Melrose Avenue / Melrose Place is home to a Catholic Center, Jewish center, Lutheran and Episcopal Campus ministry, Baptist Student Center, and more.
I would like to suggest inviting communities of faith to a community dialogue on how to best foster inclusivity during holiday celebrations.
Common ground for discussion might be found at the Black Cultural Center.
Inviting campus faith leaders to speak would highlight that the University is an institution respectful of a diversity of spiritual and religious traditions.
It also would unequivocally demonstrate that University leadership is willing to listen and engage not just legislators, but directly with the campus community.
Actions taken to date do not seem to achieve this level of dialogue.
Ironically, I benefit from the Office of Diversity’s guidelines on inclusive holiday practices.
I’m grateful for the controversy as it raises awareness of the need for respect of individual spiritual beliefs (or lack of spiritual beliefs).
However, I want to encourage you to capitalize on this opportunity to get the message of holiday season inclusivity right for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.