Campus Bias Incident, Action Steps, and Resources

Dear Members of the Bellarmine Community,

I write to you about a deeply disturbing matter regarding an offensive and insulting bulletin board that was posted in a residence hall which was a misguided attempt to raise awareness around diversity issues on campus. Unfortunately, the message on the board displayed the following: that tolerance does not require you to like, know, or agree with the following types of individuals – atheist, racist, liberal, communist, poor, homophobic, Muslim, rich, Jewish, homeless – tolerance requires you to respect these individuals.

While Bellarmine University’s core values call us to respect the intrinsic dignity of every individual, we cannot respect systems and beliefs that express hate or intolerance of a person based on their identity. We recognize this incident is not isolated and we take these issues seriously. While we strive to become a more diverse community, we understand that we have to work equally as hard to achieve equity and inclusion. The bulletin board was removed from the residence hall Monday, October 7, at 3 pm. However, our community has been adversely impacted.

As President, I apologize to everyone on campus and particularly to students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are most affected by this action. It clearly indicates the work that we must continue to do and that is expressly articulated in our new strategic plan that “Bellarmine will demonstrate a lived commitment to equity and inclusion, empowering all members of its increasingly diverse community and supporting them to achieve their full potential.”

Today, I witnessed students on the quad “living this fully realized commitment” by protesting the content of this bulletin board on the Ursuline Terrace as students, faculty and staff entered Café Ogle at lunchtime. We should stand on the rooftops to protest when any individual or group is harmed by words or actions. We as a community must commit to work harder to bring about change, by educating ourselves, by speaking openly, and by acknowledging our shortcomings as a community.

In the end, we are human and we will make mistakes. But we can learn from our mistakes, we can speak out and we can dialogue about the diversity that makes us so much stronger as a University. While we have a long way to go, we are committed to making progress.

Today, I met with the President’s Advisory Board on Equity and Inclusion, a board I formed in January 2019 consisting of faculty, staff, and students to advise me on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Later today, I will meet with concerned students, including those who protested.

As we consider the greater impact of this event on the campus community, we invite you to attend a listening and action session focused on coming together as a community to share concerns, ideas, and action steps for moving Bellarmine University toward a fully realized and lived commitment to equity and inclusion.

Call to Action Sessions:

  • Thursday, October 10, 2019 - 3:30-5:00 pm - CNMH 276
  • Thursday, October 17, 2019 - 3:30-5:00 pm - CNMH 276

Next Steps:

  • #BUDialogue on Thursday, October 10, 2019 - 11:00-Noon in Clayton Hall 230 (Topic: Civility).
  • Faculty and Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion online workplace training launched by the end of October 2019.
  • Campus Climate Survey for Students, Faculty, and Staff - Launching November 6, 2019
  • As a reminder bias incidents can be submitted through our Bias Incidents and Reporting Page. The bias incident process is an educational and developmental process that seeks to move the campus community toward addressing instances of microaggressions and bias and developing programs and practices to eliminate biased language and actions.

Any student affected by this week’s events should feel free to contact:

  • Counseling Center at 502.272.8480;
  • Campus Ministry at 502.272.8051; or
  • Office of Identity and Inclusion at 502.272.7304 – walk-in counseling sessions are offered every Friday from 11am to 1pm in the OII.

Any faculty or staff member affected by this week’s events should feel free to contact:

  • Human Resources at 502.272.8435;
  • Campus Ministry at 502.272.8051; or
  • Office of Identity and Inclusion at 502.272.7304.

Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D.