Thursday, February 6, 2014

Injustice and Justice

At an event of Martin Luther King, Jr. Week last evening, the following quote of Dr. King appeared: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  This is a true statement, I believe. Injustice is certainly the enemy of justice; it is also the enemy of peace, community, equality, and even sustained prosperity. 
There is another way to look at this, however, which is (I think) fully consistent with the leadership provided by Dr. King. It is equally true, I think, that justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.  Acts of injustice may be deflected or defeated by acting justly. Institutions and societies that perpetuate or promote injustice cannot permanently withstand the comparison to institutions and societies that embody a commitment to justice.  In essence, darkness cannot withstand the light, and light anywhere, if replicated, has the potential to dispel darkness everywhere.
Consequently, in addition to combating injustice, which we must, we need to focus on building more just institutions and societies.  And that is a priority for the University of Rhode Island, as reflected in our commitment to building a diverse community here that is devoted to equity.  “Equity” is an interesting word. Its definition in the American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd Edition (the one we have on hand in the Office of the President) is “the state, quality, or ideal of being just, impartial, and fair”.  I believe that articulating this as a priority for our university, and every step we take towards achieving that goal, can, in some small way, contribute to building a more just society in America and a world where justice is the norm.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2014 is Off to a Fast Start

Beginning with the University of Rhode Island’s first January term, continuing with the Governor’s State of the State address, and warming up in February, Spring Semester 2014 promises to be truly “up tempo”.  There is a lot to do, much to discuss, multiple opportunities, and a few key challenges – all of which must be priorities for the University community between now and commencement.  There will be many occasions for us to work together as a community in public forums, in committee or council meetings, in small group discussions, and via technology.  There are significant issues to address: the question of arming the URI police; evaluation, prioritization, and implementation of recommendations from the Administration and Management Review Committee; the budget; collective bargaining; and more.  Moreover, there is just a lot going on at URI, as one would (and should) expect from a research-intensive, globally engaged university.

Let’s begin with just the next two weeks, which reflect URI’s continuing commitment to building community, equity, and diversity. Starting on the 3rd, the University of Rhode Island celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, in recognition of one of America’s greatest and most influential leaders.  The week is part of Black History Month at the University, based on the theme of African American Progress in the 21st Century. It all begins with a lecture by Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., the CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, who will speak on the subject of Economic Development, Law, and Education.  On Wednesday the 5th, the Unity Luncheon will be held, which features the presentation of the Peacemaker award(s) by the URI Chaplains Association, and a speech by Martha Yager, Program Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee.  There is much more – just check out the URI homepage to access a complete list of all the great events scheduled over this week and the rest of the month.

Next, starting on February 9th, we mark the 20th anniversary of the LGBTQ Center Symposium – an important benchmark for URI.  The week is packed with a wide variety of events; it begins with a lecture by Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church, and includes a community breakfast on the 14th. The theme for the week is “Seeking Spiritual Joy: Our Sacred Quest”.   Follow the link in the article at for a complete listing of symposium events.

And that’s not all. On February 7th everyone is invited to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Join students, faculty, and members of the Chinese community in Rhode Island in welcoming the Year of the Horse. The celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. in Edwards Hall and should be a lot of fun.

Collectively, these events illustrate the diversity, community, and international scope of the University of Rhode Island. These are the kind of occasions that help define a university, and help shape its influence and impact. Please join me in thanking the members of our community who worked so hard to organize and plan all of the events. The best way to do that: participate!