Monday, January 25, 2021

Dear Members of the Hawkeye community,

I am extraordinarily proud of the perseverance shown by the university community over the past year as we’ve navigated challenging times on campus and nationally. Our community has started engaging in meaningful conversations and we have become more united by creating a better understanding of each other and recognizing our differences. 

Today, we release the results of the 2020 Campus Climate Survey and an update to our campus-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action Plan. I encourage you to watch our new video, “A Journey to Unity,” which gives voices to where we stand today and our hope for the future as we continue our work to become a more unified and respectful community. 

It is critical we understand and respect differences in opinion, without being divisive. This awareness contributes to a more inclusive campus. University leaders now must turn a new page to demonstrate a continued, consistent commitment to supporting all Hawkeye community members, not only through our words but also through our actions. I encourage our community to maintain the momentum we have created by being bold, authentic, and honest in order to make real progress and change. 

However, the evolution of DEI on our campus has to be supported by everyone. Real change starts with each of us, individually. Ask yourself, will you speak out when you see an inequity or will you look the other way? Will you respect others for their differences or think lesser of them? Will you go to an uncomfortable place to learn what others face on a day-to-day basis? Being safe, comfortable, and passive about our differences is the enemy of our unity.

Striving for a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus community is not a one-time initiative, but must be integrated into our daily lives. We also must realize that improving DEI on our campus is not a conversation only for our diverse and underrepresented groups. Our challenges aren’t going to be solved overnight, and our community is a general reflection of our state and greater society. It is the expectation that all voices and perspectives at the University of Iowa are respected and heard.

If we remember that our purpose at the university is to serve our students, we will achieve our goals. A unified, respectful, and inclusive environment is what they deserve and expect. Remember, what we imprint on them today lasts a lifetime. It will shape their generation and generations to come.

We can work together as one university. Now is the time. While these conversations have been and will continue to be difficult, they are essential. The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is here to help lead us as we learn and grow together. I cannot wait to see what we accomplish in the coming year as we embark on this journey to unity together.

Liz Tovar, Ph.D.

Interim associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion