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January 13, 2003

Dear Colleagues and Students,

I write to welcome you back to the University and to wish us all a year of successful learning. As we begin anew, it is appropriate to reflect on the University's mission as well as our own purpose in life and goals for the year.

Old Dominion's mission states that we are a community that "promotes the advancement of knowledge and the pursuit of truth locally, nationally, and internationally" and "develops in students a respect for the dignity and worth of the individual, a capacity for critical reasoning and a genuine desire for learning." In addition the University is committed to "the principle of free inquiry."

Over the course of the last academic year, we celebrated many victories (the opening of Constant Hall and the Ted Constant Convocation Center, the passage of the bond referendum, the University's re-accreditation and rise in ranking by the US News and World Report). We also faced many challenges together. Among them were September 11 and the budget cuts. I am very proud of how this community has pulled together, has comforted its members in their grief, and has stood up to protect and support those in need. After September 11, students and faculty alike spoke out against violence and, although they expressed their anger, they were also kind and caring to those who lost family members and to those who risked a backlash of victimization because of culture and religion.

Since then, however, some members of the campus community felt that occasionally certain discourse at Old Dominion, which must remain free and tolerant, was intolerant and attempts were made to constrain competing points of view. As a university we are about seeking truth. We must respect and uphold the meaning of academic freedom and the responsibility we all have, one to another, to respect each other and to admit other opinions and other versions of what we see as self-evident facts. We must not insult others, and we must take utmost care to provide for the real and perceived safety of all to express ideas within the limits of good sense and taste.

In the context of the current fear of impending conflict in several parts of the world, it is especially important in Hampton Roads and at Old Dominion University, which is part of an ethnically and religiously diverse community with important military installations, that we reaffirm our respect for individual and academic inquiry free of intimidation and personal attacks.

I am writing to all members of the campus to ask each one of you to practice tolerance, non-violence in language and deed, inclusiveness and understanding. This campus is a micro United Nations with students and faculty hailing from more than one hundred countries. Let us promote international understanding by starting within ourselves and our community. As a true portal to new worlds, let us open our minds and set today an example for others to follow in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Roseann Runte

This article was posted on: January 13, 2003

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.