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The Importance of Dialogue on Diversity

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015

National events are again shining a spotlight on the critical issue of diversity and inclusion everywhere, including on our college campuses. Recent incidents at the University of Missouri are bringing forward important questions about tolerance, understanding, and trust at universities across the nation. These are important questions, and they are part of a conversation that is much larger than a single university or a series of unfortunate incidents that have made headlines.  These are questions about what we value, about our society, and the role we each play in leading it.

At Virginia Commonwealth University, we welcome such conversations because we know they help shape our world into something better:  A place that is open and transparent, where all forms of diversity are valued, and where all people from all backgrounds have a voice in leading.  

As I have often stated, and will proudly continue to repeat, VCU’s commitment to diversity is unrelenting.  Our student body is the most diverse of any university in Virginia, and we are distinctively welcoming and enthusiastically accepting.  We view the differences among our people not as barriers to collaboration but as opportunities to learn from one another.  And we will be tireless in our continued efforts to become even more inclusive, in all ways, including among our faculty and staff.

One of the most important voices in this national conversation is our students’, and I am proud of the civil and productive ways they are making themselves heard.  Open dialogue is critical in any discussion, and VCU will always support everyone’s right to voice their concerns.  I am, in fact, encouraged that our students care enough about this important issue to take a stand of leadership, and I always welcome their doing so.

Further, I hope the wisdom and dedication of our university community—including our students—will be heard on the national stage.  VCU is committed to diversity, inclusion, and opportunity in extraordinary ways, and we should be leaders in championing these ideals everywhere.

Michael Rao, Ph.D.
President, VCU and VCU Health