University Of Hartford President: ‘Racism in America is right here on our campus’

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The following is a letter to the alumni of the University of Hartford written by President Gregory S. Woodward.

Dear University of Hartford Alumni,

A student at the University of Hartford was recently the victim of some reprehensible acts by another student. This has been deeply upsetting to me and to the entire University of Hartford community. While the University is limited in our ability to legally answer many of the questions raised, we are working diligently to provide details and action steps surrounding this situation.

The individual responsible is no longer a student at the University and has been arrested by the West Hartford Police Department. She is facing charges and the case will proceed through the legal process.

There has been an outpouring of concern for the victim of these acts from across the University and the country. In my meeting with her this week, I pledged my personal commitment to make sure she has all available personal and academic resources the University can provide. I am confident that the student body, the administration, and everyone here at the University will continue to support and show kindness to this member of our community.

The harsh reality is that racism in America is right here on our campus. We are a reflection of the society at large. It is disturbing and inexcusable and is not spoken about nearly enough. We must all speak up, speak out, and be relentless in our pursuit of a more inclusive environment for our students. Acts of racism, bias, or other abusive behaviors will not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form on this campus.

There is clearly work to be done at our University. That work has already begun. Last night, more than 400 students, faculty, administrators, alumni, representatives from the NAACP, and community leaders attended a student-led meeting. They voiced concerns, asked questions, and offered suggestions for steps we can take to address real issues of inclusivity on our campus. One initiative we are immediately putting into place is to begin a student NAACP chapter at UHart. We will continue providing opportunities for students to make their voices heard. I will do whatever is needed to make this campus welcoming to all, including meeting on a regular basis with students to keep this issue at the forefront of our thoughts.

Last night was the first moment of optimism I have experienced since learning of the heinous incident. It showed that our community is ready to come together, put in the hard work, and fight to make change. I am all in for that fight—and I simply can’t accomplish it without help from every segment of our UHart community. A number of alumni have reached out this past week to offer their thoughts and their talents. Regardless of whether you are a recent graduate or attended here many years ago, we not only welcome—we need—your help and ideas. Together, we can lead by example. Please email uofhart@hartford.edu.

I think our current student government president, Bryson Owens ‘18, echoed the sentiment of so many in the UHart community when he wrote his fellow students this week, “What inspires me about the campus community’s reaction is the sight of human compassion, love, and support for a fellow student. This has proven to me that no matter how much negativity we may face, and believe me that there will be an abundance of negativity, there’s always love to help us overcome and continue to fight for justice and liberty for all.”

The conversations this week are just a starting point. I will share additional information in the weeks to come about opportunities for our path forward in meaningful dialogue and action.

Gregory S. Woodward is the sixth president of the University of Hartford.

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