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Statement from the Chancellor

June 1, 2020

In the wake of uncertainty and injustice

Dear WCU Community,

I write today with a heavy heart to offer a message of profound and sincere compassion for all those who are suffering pain and frustration in the wake of events that have rocked our communities and our nation. The last few days have been difficult ones for our country. Like you, Dennis and I have watched these moments unfold. We share in the collective heartbreak over the death of George Floyd and the events that have followed.

I hope you all saw the sentiments expressed by Ricardo Nazario-Colón, our chief diversity officer. They help to show us how one tragic event can remind us of our shared humanity. I thank Ricardo for his beautiful words even though the pain from which they come is real and raw.

As an institution of higher education, we have a responsibility and an obligation to shine a light on intolerance, inequity, and injustice. WCU has a long and proud tradition of embracing diversity.  We must continue to model the commitment to inclusive excellence that we espouse. My heart aches for the vulnerable among us. These recent events reaffirm my dedication to make inclusive excellence a priority for Western Carolina University.

I implore you to support our students, faculty, staff, and alumni who may be feeling fear, pain, and uncertainty. Lend an ear or a voice to lift them up. In doing so, you will live up to the core values our campus community hold dear. The greatness of our university and our country lies in the rich tapestry of variety that we see all around us. No one should live in fear that their skin color or ethnicity could cost them their life or make them a target for hate or lesser treatment.

Should you have need, Mr. Nazario-Colón will be holding office hours via Zoom this week Monday through Thursday from 11:00am until 2:00pm. Please email him at rnazario-colon@wcu.edu for the link. 

Kindest regards,
Kelli R. Brown
Chancellor


May 30, 2020

From the Chief Diversity Officer

To the members of the WCU community,

Spring at WCU is my favorite time of the year; not only are we in the season of renewal, but Commencement is nearby, and what better time to celebrate the richness of our student accomplishments. It is indeed a beautiful day. This spring was different. We faced a pandemic that changed our lives and continues to do so. We are still somewhat in disbelief, yet we remain steadfast and resilient, something we live and breathe at Western Carolina University.

I feel blessed and safeguarded by my experience at WCU, and I hope the gladness I enjoy is one that you also experience.

My words today are trying to form themselves. I write with a heart that is also full of angst – because it is difficult to consider our humanity without a tremendous feeling of trepidation for our nation.

The death of George Floyd and the public’s reaction brings Minnesota a bit closer to our consciousness. I have learned that even in times of crisis, there are events that can further discourage our spirit. The continuous persistence of racism and systemic injustice in our nation highlights the importance of expanding our critical thinking and experiences.

I am in pain today because my humanity is at stake. For me to understand what happened in Georgia, New York, and Minnesota, I must feel. It is difficult to process the loss of life. At this moment, we cannot afford to disaggregate ourselves from our humanity. To think that what matters is the local.

I imagine that many of us just want to stay close to our loved ones and shelter them. Others might be experiencing a deep sense of loss and a desire to want to help. Today, let us do what we can. Start by checking in with your family and friends. Keep in mind that our WCU community is here for you. I think of Chief Lillard and all the officers that keep our campus safe. I think of our African American faculty, staff, and students who have chosen to make WCU part of their lives. I think of all of you who stepped up during the pandemic and carried WCU’s mission until the semester’s end. Our strength and our resolve will continue to support us.

As a community, we must commit to working together to improve our societal challenges. When we build a community, we seek to treat one another with respect and kindness. Let us value and care for that community – and let us work to improve it. I am here to help guide us, and you can reach me at rnazariocolon@wcu.edu. Let’s find meaningful ways to come together.

Sincerely yours,

Ricardo Nazario-Colón
Chief Diversity Officer

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