Coming Together as a Community

November 20, 2019

Dear UAlbany Community:

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I would like to express my gratitude for the engagement of our students, faculty and staff in difficult and important conversations that move us forward and make us stronger as a community.

Over the past two weeks—including as recently as yesterday—our ability to compassionately navigate these conversations has been put to the test. But I am extremely proud of the way our community has responded, and of the outstanding leadership of our students. 

Last week, our Student Association convened a well-attended and lengthy open forum at which dozens of community members shared passionate and sincere concerns about our campus climate. Their words were powerful and left a deep impression on me and our leadership team.

Yesterday, a disdainful and extremely offensive message was written in the snow in the center of our Uptown Campus. While this message may be speech protected by the Constitution, I and many in our community found it deeply offensive, insulting and hurtful. As a community, we must, in no uncertain terms, strongly reject any behavior that goes against our institutional value of inclusive excellence. 

That message shows that we still have much work to do in educating and raising awareness in our community about how to have conversations that are respectful and productive.

Last week’s campus climate forum, organized by our students, is a case in point of how we as a community can come together to put serious issues on the table, discuss needs and concerns of our students, and explore potential next steps. I committed then that the conversations that took place and the issues and concerns that were raised will inform our path forward.

To that end, our Student Affairs staff is already actively engaging with student leaders to identify actionable items addressing issues of campus climate and inclusion. I am inviting you to hold campus leaders accountable for collaborating with students on concrete next steps. 

Meanwhile, we must come together as a community, and strongly reject any language or behavior aimed at vilifying, hurting, or inciting hatred against anyone.

We all want UAlbany to be a place where people communicate with civility and in the spirit of greater understanding. As we prepare for the Thanksgiving break, I ask you to reflect on your role in ensuring that we are, and will remain, an inclusive campus where we treat all members of our community with dignity and respect.

Signature of Havidan Rodriguez

Havidán Rodríguez