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From President Hancock: SUNY Empire a Place for Respectful, Educational Dialogue; Shared Sites Coming

By, Merodie Hancock, president, SUNY Empire State College

November 17, 2016

Feature Merodie HancockI am writing to reassure the college community that SUNY Empire State College is a place where people who adhere to divergent ideologies and political beliefs, and who are from different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, gather in respectful and educational dialogue. And it will continue to be.

In a time when values we hold dear are being debated and people do not feel safe for a number of reasons, we, as an institution of higher education, must reaffirm our commitment to the ideals of free speech, and to equity, inclusion and pluralism. This commitment has been a part of the Empire State College fabric since Ernest Boyer, Nelson Rockefeller and James Hall first envisioned this innovative college dedicated to access, inclusion and, above all else, student success.  In our founding prospectus, then Chancellor Boyer stated that “new forms and shapes of education” are the necessary ingredients that can “make the substance of education and educational processes more relevant for the individual and more responsive to the needs of society.” While the college is changing as the world changes around us, this charge is perhaps as relevant as it has ever been. It exists beyond changes to the college’s organizational structure, the adaption of new technologies and conformities with regulation.  Our college has always been, and will continue to be, a place where we strive together to understand, respect and include human differences as we respond to the needs of society

We are a place where people talk with one another with respect and concern. Anything less cannot be tolerated because inclusivity, and education itself, is as much about permitting the expression of diverse opinions as it is about fighting against oppression of ourselves and others. It is in open, respectful conversation where people learn trust and can begin to feel safe – and only then can understanding, learning and growth occur.

Public universities and colleges have knitted into their missions and into the very fabric of their daily conversations the values of diversity, access and inclusiveness. Embracing this mission also means we accept the responsibilities that come with it. We have long held open the doors of discourse and debate at Empire State College. This is something we do every day, this active engagement in discussion about difficult issues, and something we will continue to do as we move forward as individuals, as a college community and as a country, from fear and discord to rational and respectful dialogue.    

To this end, the college is establishing open conversation sites for both our students and, separately, for faculty and staff. The Integrated Technologies Services is working on the development of both sites. In addition, our faculty are actively developing new course offerings to facilitate the exploration of inclusion, equity and pluralism across our many academic disciplines. Details on each of the sites and other planned activities to discuss these important issues will be forthcoming. 

I encourage the Empire State College community to take a moment, think about who you are, get to know those around you for who they really are, and together take an active part in meeting the needs of our diverse society.

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