Presidential Forum engages campus in community building
For a dialogue about what it means to be a member of a caring community within a democratic society, Radford President Brian O. Hemphill hosted a forum, titled “United as One Radford Family,” on Nov. 11 in the Bonnie Auditorium.
Faculty, staff and students joined the president; Irvin Clark, interim vice president of Student Affairs; Kenna Colley, dean of the College of Education and Human Development; and Faculty Senate President Carter Turner to explore and reinforce Radford’s commitment to civility, unity and respect.
“The rhetoric has been at an all-time high. It has been borderline appropriate to say just about anything regardless of how it might make others feel,” said Hemphill. “There is one thing for certain. People are watching, learning and paying attention.”
Almost 40 individuals out of a crowd of approximately 250 students, staff and faculty poignantly voiced concerns, shared feelings and offered suggestions during the two-and-a-half-hour session.
Reports of racially charged comments in violation of conduct and ethics policies were shared. “To continue the feeling of being a friendly and welcoming place where we rely on each other and we live together, I know that insults don’t produce change or improve relationships,” stated Colley.
Turner reflected on empathy, saying, “If you understand how somebody who sees the world very differently and how they came to that understanding, you can start to build trust and share your understanding of this world.”
President Hemphill framed the conversation as a central part of the role of a university and its academic community.
“This is what universities are all about – the ability to come together in trying times to have meaningful conversations, to embrace differences and to understand one another,” President Hemphill said.
Irvin Clark agreed. “As citizens, we can all express our rights and our opinions to our elected officials to represent our interests, but we must do so in the spirit of civility and tolerance.”