Hundreds of students, faculty and staff packed the Nebraska Union’s Centennial Room on Nov. 25 to help UNL launch a campaign to strengthen the campus’s culture of respect and inclusivity.
The campaign – dubbed “Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever” – officially kicked off with a gathering at the Nebraska Union. Speakers, including Chancellor Harvey Perlman, ASUN president Eric Reznicek, Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center Director Andre Fortune, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan Franco and student Shams Al-Badry, exhorted students to help build up UNL’s environment of tolerance.
“This campaign is about unity, about promoting respect for all, about building a community where all feel welcome,” Franco told those in attendance, which included standing-room only overflow. “It’s about our continuing efforts to foster an environment of understanding between groups … and it’s about supporting the vast majority of students, faculty and staff who make a habit of doing the right thing.”
Several of the more than 550 students, faculty and staff who attended shared their thoughts and concerns – some emphatically – during a question-and-answer session with Chancellor Perlman and Vice Chancellor Franco following the formal addresses. Still others added written contemplations to a pair of large banners, including one that asked students to envision what a diverse and welcoming campus looked like to them.
“It looks like a tree growing in different directions with the same root idea,” wrote one student.
“Acknowledging where we’re all from and deciding to move forward,” wrote another student.
“This is an opportunity for us to take the initiative to engage and relate to one another in hopes to not only recognize our differences, but relate our commonalities,” wrote a third.
On Nov. 21, in response to a series of racially insensitive incidents on campus during the fall semester, Chancellor Perlman sent a campus-wide message condemning the acts and reaffirming the university’s commitment to promoting a campus environment that rejects intolerance and respects diversity of all kinds.
In his speech, Gaughan Center director Fortune echoed the chancellor’s message, saying UNL students should feel empowered to take on the duty, as individuals, to create positive change.
“I challenge each of you here to pledge your commitment to be the majority leading the few,” Fortune said. “From here forward, let’s pledge to make one time (of racial insensitivity) too many times.
“This administration is taking the lead, but this is a shared responsibility.”