April 2, 2012


SUBJECT:    Letter to the UC San Diego Student Community

As we begin Spring Quarter at UCSD, I write to you about a series of incidents towards the end of last quarter that strained civility, hurt feelings, and escalated perceptions of invalidation and marginalization for some members of our community. These incidents crossed student, faculty and staff lines and related to a variety of identities and commitments. Some of the most hurtful comments have surfaced in cyberspace, under the cloak of anonymity, and/or from individuals who are not members of our community. Yet they profoundly affect our friends and colleagues, so they are our concern. It is worth reaffirming our Principles of Community while at the same time underscoring our commitment to freedom of expression.

At the core of what it means to be a university is that commitment to freedom of expression. A university is a marketplace of ideas, where any idea or opinion can be shared yet should be subject to rigorous examination from a variety of perspectives and where students are routinely exposed to multiple points of view. As our Principles of Community remind us, "We promote open expression of our individuality and our diversity within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity, confidentiality, and respect."

One of the reasons we embrace a diverse community is to be able to learn from those divergent perspectives, becoming better prepared to lead in the larger society beyond UCSD. It is true that strong feelings can create strong speech, and it is not uncommon to respond with equally strong words. Yet I believe it is possible for each of us to advocate for the positions we hold most firmly and the beliefs that sustain us, while also creating space to understand how and why someone might carry a different perspective, and do so with empathy, respect, and compassion. And the best response is a well-reasoned argument, carefully articulated.

At UC San Diego, problem-solving is at the heart of what we do. Our explorers, investigators, educators and researchers have set their sights on some of society's most vexing problems. Creating an equitable, inclusive and diverse community is one of them, and it is not beyond our reach. As President Obama challenged us, "we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future."

Penny Rue
Vice Chancellor -
Student Affairs