I want to share with the university community the status of the investigations into the racial incident on February 9, 2016, by the Dean of Student Life and University Police Department (UPD). I also want to communicate some of our recent and future actions to further advance and deepen diversity and inclusion on our campus.
The two separate investigations began immediately and included as extensive interviews as we were able to conduct with students, bystanders and witnesses and a review of all information that was made available to the University. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits what information we are legally allowed to release. The law does not permit us to publicly disclose information associated with the Dean of Student Life investigation other than to say that one of the many students interviewed is no longer associated with Texas A&M University. The case has concluded. However, if additional information comes to our attention we will further investigate and take any appropriate action.
The police investigation was concluded and all information was turned over to the Brazos County attorney’s office for review. We have been informed that the county attorney has declined to pursue any action related to the case. I have asked that the information associated with the police investigation be made publicly available, in accordance with both open records and privacy laws, through appropriate channels.
Previously, the media had reported that there was a video of the actual incident. We are not aware of any such video, nor has anyone provided us with any video. I have asked UPD to review and reopen the investigation as appropriate if additional information is brought to our attention. I also would like to repeat from my earlier message to campus that Texas A&M has the website stophate.tamu.edu available for the reporting of racially based incidents and other hateful biased-based incidents.
Focusing on diversity and inclusion
I would like to mention some previous actions that have taken place in this regard, as well as highlight some future initiatives we will undertake. Texas A&M significantly revised our overall diversity plan in 2010, which has been recently featured for its multidimensional approach to engaging diversity on campus. This periodic revision is an important part of our plan, though we well understand we have so much more to accomplish in order to truly make a systemic change at Texas A&M.
I am engaging University and community leaders, including faculty administrators, staff, and students, in a “call to action” to review current initiatives and measures and to propose new ones, in areas such as recruitment, retention, climate assessment and course and curricular change. Here is a list of some of the activities planned, as well as those already being undertaken. I’m particularly pleased that many of these were recommended to us by various student groups and we are delighted to work with everyone to implement them.
— Moving our STOPHATE desktop website to a mobile platform to allow easier and more timely reporting by students and the community. This should be completed in April of 2016.
— Implementing mandatory “Community of Respect” seminars for all students at New Student Conferences, beginning the summer of 2016, as well as other cultural competency training that is grounded in theory and has proven success.
— The Faculty Senate has scheduled an open forum on March 2 and 3 to hear ideas on responding to in-class incidents and how to make the required International and Cultural Diversity classes more applicable and purposeful.
— Created permanent funding for our Aggies to Aggies Diversity Peer Education Program, starting this fall.
— Created a mandatory Effective Communication Module, which will be required for two or more officers of every student organization to assist in them in conducting effective dialogues and meaningful conflict resolution starting in April 2016
Working together to build a dynamic campus
As we all reflect on the various events on our campus, and those around the country over the past few months, it is impossible to ignore the importance of the principles of inclusion and diversity. But despite all the headlines, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of just why it is so important to all of us here at Texas A&M.
As a leading institution of higher education, we are the vanguard in affecting positive change in the attitudes and actions of future generations. We are called upon to lead our communities and make a difference because the consequences of such acts are intolerable. This change is essential in our ability to thrive and grow as our world diversifies. We are launching our students into a world where they will need to work with everyone to be successful in addressing the great societal challenges that we, as a country, face.
As your President, I hope I am always open to that which challenges me and makes me uncomfortable, but that I always respond with the essential core value of respect in all that I do. I hope all of you do so as well and join me in embedding all of the Aggie core values in all that we do. In this way, we can eliminate fear and lead with hope in an effort to build a nurturing and respectful environment.
Michael K. Young