Since the Nov. 8 elections, I’ve spoken with many members of our UL Lafayette community about the campus climate. I’ve talked to students, staff and faculty members. I’ve talked to representatives of many student organizations, races, and faiths.
Emotions about the presidential election were heightened by some subsequent provocative messages that were chalked on campus and a false report of a robbery that was made by an American UL Lafayette student who is Muslim. A video of some student-athletes’ inappropriate behavior before the polls closed and a remark later by our football coach prompted criticism from fans who were offended.
Some of these incidents were included in national media coverage of reactions at numerous colleges across the country to the outcome of the presidential race.
In the discussions I’ve had, a common thread emerged. Many students and faculty expressed sincere feelings of anxiety and discomfort. They are concerned that they will be treated differently at a time in history when some citizens have mistakenly assumed that it’s now acceptable to treat certain groups of people disrespectfully, such as African-Americans, students of the Muslim faith, international students, women, and LGBTQ individuals. One young man who voted for Donald Trump said he is uncomfortable because some people incorrectly assume that he agrees with everything the president-elect espoused as a candidate.
Unease following the election is especially acute because we have worked hard to ensure that UL Lafayette’s environment is one of inclusion and mutual respect.
I want to reassure everyone that UL Lafayette will not allow threats to our community’s safety and well-being. We will not tolerate hateful acts against any individual or group. And, we will protect everyone’s right to express their beliefs in a civil manner without reprisal. Each member of our community should be treated as an individual, not a stereotype.
Since last week, University Police, Lafayette City Police and the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office have stepped up patrols of campus and adjacent areas. There are many resources in place to help keep the University safe, such as emergency notifications, timely warnings, an escort van and the Rave Guardian app. The Counseling and Testing Center can assist students, faculty and staff who are dealing with stress and anxiety.
A web page has been set up on the Student Affairs website that offers information about available resources that may help allay some concerns.
It’s important to keep in mind that a fundamental principle that guides our University – respect for others – has not and will not change.
Our system of government has checks and balances that are intended to maintain stability – even during turbulent times. So, our country and our University will ultimately move ahead as long as we keep open minds and concentrate on working through our differences.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for everyone’s desire to maintain a caring University that values every person’s contribution and opinion.
Dr. E. Joseph Savoie