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Town hall meeting on recent election allowed campus voices to be heard

November 29, 2016

The latest town hall meeting at IUPUI was held on Nov. 14 and provided a forum for discussion among students, staff and faculty processing the results of the recent presidential election. The meeting was convened by Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar; campus leaders shared guidance and resources to address specific questions.

Chancellor Nasser Paydar answers a question as Vice Chancellor Karen Dace stands behind him. | PHOTO BY LIZ KAYE, IU COMMUNICATIONS

More than 200 people filled almost every seat in the Campus Center Theater the morning of the town hall. The meeting began at 10 a.m. with opening remarks by Paydar. He reaffirmed the university's commitment to creating a welcoming, safe, civil and inclusive environment that promotes open dialogue as a marker of academic freedom and IUPUI's educational mission.

Karen Dace, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, moderated the discussion. She said the divisive nature of the presidential election means that campus discussions will -- and should -- continue. 

"Our actions live on, and we must decide today what story we want our lives to tell," said Dace. "We are here to listen. We are not pretending to have all the answers. In fact, it is quite clear that we will be having these conversations and grappling with these issues resulting from this recent election for some time to come."

Tralicia Lewis, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, and Stephen Hundley, senior advisor to the chancellor, handled the microphones to take questions from the audience. The first question was from a student worried about her immigration status; the second was from a faculty member asking about free-speech guidelines. Other questions from the audience covered a wide range of topics, including protective measures for LGBTQ+ students, how faculty members can be allies to students, where to report bias incidents, accommodations for students with disabilities and overall campus safety.

Representatives from various campus departments responded to the questions and shared information about campus resources. (See sidebar.)

One of IUPUI's 2,000 international students made an especially powerful statement. "We should not disappear or be afraid. I am an international student. I am a Muslim. And you can see me -- I am a person of color. I have all reasons to be afraid of this hateful rhetoric," he said. "I will support any type of movement that will ensure that everybody lives in a safe environment and can pursue whatever they'd like to achieve in life. So I am unafraid, and I do not feel despair."

Dace and Paydar wrapped up the meeting with closing remarks.

"While we may not see eye to eye on every issue, may we strive to never lose sight of one another's humanity," Dace said.

Paydar echoed that thought, adding: "As a campus, we could put a flower here, create a sign for a building here to try to make it welcoming. But the way that we all come together, the way that we talk to each other, the way that we look into each other's eyes as we discuss -- that creates the culture we need to create here."

Audience members who were not comfortable sharing their thoughts publicly were asked to make notes on index cards that were collected at the end of the town hall. Those questions and other suggestions made during the meeting will be incorporated as recommendations into the Welcoming Campus Initiative Final Report, which will be available by the end of the calendar year.

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