Pursuing Inclusive Excellence

Pursuing Inclusive Excellence:  Daring Forth ... Embracing the Courage to be Imperfect

February 2017

Open Letter to My Seattle University Community,

I trust that you are well settled into the term and holding close the promise of beginning anew in 2017. For sure, these early days of the new year reflect a rapidly shifting and uncertain landscape; one that has caused many in our campus community to experience fear, isolation, confusion and distress, spurred most recently by the Presidential Executive Orders on immigration. While these sweeping actions meet the approval of some and the outcry of others, my message is not about who is and who is not drawn to a particular viewpoint in that regard. Challenges and opportunities abound. Period.

The divisiveness across our nation is palpable. Challenges of this nature are not entirely new and have drawn parallels to other historical moments. With Black History Month upon us, I’m mindful of the students, scholars, activists and ordinary citizens who found the courage to remain determined and engaged in the midst of great challenges, vulnerability and danger including the Greensboro 4, Senator John Lewis and Rosa Parks who persisted to demand dignity of her person. These and countless others remain beacons of hope in today’s quest for justice for people of all stripes.

I write today to offer support, to affirm our values fueled by our Jesuit Catholic mission and to invite your partnership as stakeholders in making Seattle University a place where inclusion and equity are pursued with an ethic of care. I also share an update on one practical measure my office has pursued to address campus incidents that impact our community, along with safety reminders and resources.

Committed to a Climate of Care

I want everyone on campus to feel valued, welcome and safe.

As the university’s strategic diversity leader, I unequivocally repudiate any acts of hate or bigotry, and attacks against, discrimination against and targeting of students, faculty or staff based on their individual or group identity. Such acts are antithetical to our values.

I have been heartened recently in witnessing many examples of the caring climate we strive to foster as circumstances surrounding the immigration orders continue to unfold. There have been several opportunities to engage and gain perspective via programs organized by several campus partners. You can read more about these efforts and find a list of resources on the immigration orders here.

I thank you for these “just-in-time” programming efforts to inform, educate and stimulate meaningful conversations. I imagine that there are numerous other ways that faculty and staff are supporting our students and fellow colleagues. I am inspired to be a part of a university filled with so many talented faculty and staff colleagues who care about the well-being and capacity of our students to address the complexities of the world. To our students, we are grateful for your curiosity and openness to take risks and broaden your knowledge during these challenging times.

Like universities across the country, we are working to understand and respond in the midst of an unpredictable and rapidly-changing situation. I encourage you to revisit the letter of solidarity that Fr. Steve issued last month in the wake of the Trump administration’s actions around immigration and other post-election communications. Fr. Steve also expressed his support for undocumented students in 2010 with an op-ed that appeared in the LA Times.

Bias Response and Prevention Efforts

We must accept that despite our values, good intentions and sincere efforts, reality shows up anyway, and increasingly in mean-spirited and ugly ways that cause pain and harm to those in our campus community. And the truth is that our country and the SU community will likely face more challenges in the weeks, months and years ahead. I appreciate the influence of external factors, as well as the daily tensions and indignities that occur within our university.

When circumstances occur that impact the health of our climate or the safety of members of our campus community we aim to respond wholeheartedly and mindfully. To strengthen our capacity to do so in a more efficient and productive fashion, I have established a Bias Response and Prevention Working Group comprised of faculty, students and staff from across the institution.

As background, this broader work was underway last term and well before the election, but certainly grows more salient with each passing news cycle and in light of various circumstances around campus. Last term, I met with a group of campus stakeholders representing a wide range of areas to begin dialogue around centralized bias response and prevention measures, which is a recommendation of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, particularly given its centrality to a healthy campus climate.

The Working Group will move forward to develop a draft bias response protocol mindful of the competing tensions and will consider preventive measures including broader education related to that process. This effort is integral to centralize and better coordinate our capacity to respond when an incident occurs on campus and to support those impacted. There will be outreach to and engagement with the campus community for your input. This effort represents the essence of climate care and seeks to foster greater inclusion.

In the meantime, I offer a few reminders with regard to safety and related resources for your consideration here.

I am optimistic about our future. We have a tradition of working to foster justice and inclusion. Admittedly, we have miles to cover, and I intend to do what I can to advance these goals further in partnership with all of you. I look forward to engaging with you more in the weeks and months ahead on early vision, priorities and efforts to pursue these aims on behalf of our entire campus community.

In gratitude,

Natasha T. Martin, J.D.
Associate Vice President for Institutional Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer