A Catholic vision of difference and unity

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

In the Book of Revelation, John sees a vision of a “new heaven and new earth,” populated by people from “every race, nation, and tongue.” The vision of many cultures and races united in heaven is a magnificent image of difference and unity.  

As President of this great institution of Catholic education, one of my objectives is to communicate to you, members of the UD community, the steps we are taking to facilitate dialogue and build bridges about an array of cultural concerns (https://udallas.edu/diversity-dignity/index.php). We want to do all this in a way that grows out of our Catholic identity and draws upon the rich resources of our tradition.    

As I have said on a number of occasions to faculty, one of my aspirations for the University of Dallas is that we be a community that combines robust, civil—and yes, charitable–discourse with a welcoming spirit, which expresses itself in solidarity with all members of our community.  A number of initiatives for first generation students supports the latter goal.  

Last summer, I 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.  A complete list of these initiatives may be found here: https://www.udallas.edu/diversity-dignity/index.php.

I also began a series of “Presidential Conversations.” In these conversations, I explored a Catholic vision of difference and unity, justice and mercy, and building a civilization of love. In the wider culture, conversations about these matters often emphasize diversity without unity, justice without the prospect of mercy, and dignity without any sense of what the foundations for it might be.  We have a distinctive contribution to make. 

Conversations are indispensable, especially in a university.  But we also need to make sure that our civil rights policies and practices are well understood. UD recently 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 Milano, 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. 

Of course, for UD to pursue its mission of forming students in a love of truth and justice, there is much more that we must do. Knowledge and wisdom are the proper ends of education.  Yet, as members of a Catholic institution, in a world where so many are suffering and near despair, we understand that the pursuit of justice is not a distraction from the pursuit of higher things. Solidarity helps to fulfill divine justice. 

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