Dear UD community,
Greetings on this national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
2020 was a year like none other in recent memory. We faced a global pandemic, political instability, social unrest and cultural upheaval. Many of us felt discouraged or even angry. Many of us felt lonely. Many of us felt overwhelmed.
As we prepare to begin the spring semester, many of the challenges of 2020 still linger. We face these challenges together, as a community of faith. As children of God, we are called to be sowers of joy and peace, communicators of gladness. Joy is one of the most irresistible virtues in the world. Joy, expressed in a cheerful disposition, brings about peace and soothes anger, which our culture sorely needs at this time. As President of this great institution of Catholic education, one of my leadership objectives is to communicate to you, members of the UD community, with clarity and transparency so you understand the steps we are taking to facilitate dialogue and sow peace about an array of cultural concerns. Over the past eight months, we have been hard at work developing a number of initiatives to promote our shared identity as children of God.
Last summer, I engaged Bishop Robert Barron (founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, California), Bishop Daniel Flores (Bishop of Brownsville, Texas), Montse Alvarado (Vice President and Executive Director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty), Louis Brown (Executive Director of the Christ Medicus Foundation), and Robbie George (McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and professor) and other public Catholic intellectuals and nationally known figures in a series of interviews titled “Presidential Conversations.” In these conversations, I explored a Catholic vision of difference and unity, justice and mercy and building a civilization of love.
I also convened a task force to discuss diversity and inclusion on campus. In collaboration with the Office of the Provost, coordinating the office of student affairs, the office of personal career development and others, I have developed a number of initiatives based on the task force’s recommendations. These initiatives include the expansion of first-generation programs, raising awareness of cultural events on campus, continued attention to recruiting diverse pools of applicants in hiring searches, and many more. A complete list of these initiatives may be found here: https://udallas.edu/diversity-dignity/index.php.
Over the past few months, a group of student leaders, along with their faculty mentor, Dr. Matt Spring, has voluntarily engaged with the University’s newest trustee, Louis Brown, Executive Director of the Christ Medicus Foundation, an organization dedicated to fostering a civilization of love by sharing the healing love of God in healthcare, to work on a draft constitution and mission statement for a student group dedicated to fostering dialogue about race and diversity in the context of our Catholic faith. In February, Louis will discuss the topic of “Christian Identity and Witness in Time of Racial and Social Conflict” with members of our community. Building on Louis’ presentation, the Office of the Provost, coordinating between academics, student affairs, and campus ministry, will be working to encourage conversations informed by our Catholic faith and intellectual tradition on race and culture, dating and the complementarity of men and women, work, study, and respect for the dignity of each person as a child of God.
In addition, last summer, UD adopted and implemented a new Civil Rights Policy, in part to better comply with changes in Texas law and federal regulations. UD’s new policy provides a clear statement of principles that are important to UD, expands the involvement of faculty and staff in responding to civil rights complaints, and consolidates the University’s complaint process. UD’s Civil Rights Policy also sets forth the protocol for reporting complaints and the University’s process for investigating and responding to complaints. The Office of Civil Rights and Title IX is responsible for coordination and implementation of this policy.
To ensure better awareness about the policies, procedures, and resources available to the University Community on civil rights issues, I have asked the Director of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, Luciana Hampilos, and General Counsel, Heather Lachenauer, to lead a series of information sessions for faculty, staff, and students this semester. I hope these sessions will provide the University Community an opportunity to learn about UD’s commitment to providing work, living, and learning environments free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
Further information about these sessions will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, I encourage anyone who has experienced or become aware of sexual discrimination or harassment, or some other form of discrimination or harassment, to make a report to the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX.
As we continue to develop these initiatives, I encourage all of you to participate, and to provide relevant offices with your input and feedback, which will only help to strengthen our community.
With warm regards,
Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D. BA ’82 MA ’83
Professor of Philosophy