President Hurwitz cites importance of ‘opening the gates wide' to campus diversity and inclusion
Today, we are fortunate "to live in an era of newfound respect for differences," President T. Alan Hurwitz stated in his February 19, 2013 State of the University address, "Open the Gates Wide: Diversity and Inclusion at Gallaudet."
Symbolically, in American Sign Language, the sign for diversity is to reach out, while the sign for inclusion is to draw in. "All of us at Gallaudet ... must reach out and must draw in," he said. As members of a university community-traditionally a haven for open thought and respect for differing opinions-people who live, study, and work at Gallaudet don't need to be convinced of the benefits of diversity and inclusion, said Hurwitz. However, he acknowledged unresolved conflicts between groups on campus.
As the University's president, Hurwitz said it is his duty and obligation to air these issues, and to encourage civility between these individuals. "But there is no magic programming that will open each of your hearts," he said. "I say each of us must work to resolve these issues ... We must open our hearts for those who want to be here ... . We must make all feel at home. All must be ‘equal' under the principles by which we operate at Gallaudet."
Hurwitz warned against the destruction that exclusion can bring. "The wider the gates of acceptance open, the more room there is for all. Sadly, the community that excludes shrinks and dies," he said. He encouraged members of the audience to expand their circle of friends and colleagues to include those whose background is different from their own, and to embrace them "in the common cause of advancing our community and humanity."
The Deaf President Now (DPN) movement of 1988 forever transformed the lives of deaf people and how society views them. As Gallaudet celebrates that historic week in March, it also serves as a reminder, Hurwitz said, that a key to DPN's success came from the many diverse members of the campus community uniting for a common cause. "I believe one of the reasons why DPN succeeded was because of its inclusion." said Dr. Hurwitz. By reaching out to many diverse groups on and off campus, the movement gained insurmountable momentum. "We learned that the wider the gates are open, the more we can welcome others," he said.
In closing, Hurwitz stated his pride in the University and serving as its president. He challenged the audience to make four commitments in their daily interactions: "Commit to acknowledge, support, and engage all others. Commit to mutually respectful dialogue, attitudes, and kind gestures. Commit to opening the gates wide.
"And finally, commit to being heroes for one another."