From Provost Wilcox to the faculty this morning:
As we begin the fourth week of Spring semester classes, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for getting us off to a great start but also to comment on important matters that I know are on the minds of many of our faculty, staff and students.
In the weeks leading up to President Trump's inauguration, and most particularly in recent days, I have heard from many who are unsure about the impact on our university of statements made, and actions taken, by the new administration. From questions concerning the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to the administration's posture regarding scientific research (especially that concerning the environment and climate change) and, over this past weekend, the meaning of Friday's executive order entitled "Protecting the Nation...," I deeply appreciate the care and concern that you have expressed for our university community.
Throughout history, the strength of our democracy has been communicated to the world via peaceful transition of the presidency. On this occasion, the early days of the new administration have been characterized by many as unconventional, unpredictable, and even unprecedented.
At the University of South Florida, we will continue to be guided through such change and uncertainty by our clearly stated mission, vision, values and goals (USF Strategic Plan, 2013-2018). As provost I will, with your support, continue to execute our plan and vision for the future – which represents our path to preeminence. We will do so in a climate that "values cultural and ethnic diversity and global understanding... by sustaining a community of free inquiry in which people of diverse race, ethnicity, veteran status, marital status, socio-economic level, national origin, religious belief, physical ability, sexual orientation, age, class, political ideology, gender identity and expression participate in, contribute to, and benefit equally, from the academic community" (USF Diversity Statement).
Moreover, you will recall that toward the end of last semester, USF joined other universities across the nation as a signatory on a statement of support for DACA students. We continue to monitor related policy matters and remain committed to protecting student records consistent with federal and state laws.
As we assess the potential impact of last Friday's executive order that blocks entry of immigrants from certain countries to the U.S., it is important that we celebrate the valued contributions of our international students, faculty and staff. USF is enriched and strengthened each day by the contributions they make toward our pursuit of excellence in education, research, partnership, and economic development. Their work is crucial to the success of our university, the Tampa Bay Region, our state and nation. It is for this reason that we will continue to recruit, enroll, support, and retain the best and brightest talent from around the world.
We have reached out to students from the seven countries identified and have advised them not to leave the U.S. at this time. Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor developments and provide our USF students, faculty, and staff with the care, support, and guidance they need during this difficult time. Most important, we want our international students, faculty and staff to be able to focus on what first brought them to USF: the pursuit of a world class education and the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways to the scholarly life of a top tier global research university and the communities we serve. We are deeply committed to providing a warm and welcoming campus to students, faculty and staff from around the world.
Please encourage any of your international students who may have questions about recent developments in Washington DC., to reach out to the Office of International Services in USF World.
The USF Research Strategic Plan, 2017-2021 serves as the roadmap to our scholarly future and publicly affirms our dedication to the unfettered search for truth through scholarship, scientific investigation and discovery. Shaped by both principle and practice, USF remains steadfastly committed to the search for innovative solutions to many of the most pervasive, complex, and urgent issues of our time.
The message to our students who are enrolled through the provisions of DACA and accompanying state law, and to those who have joined us from around the world, is that USF deeply values the knowledge, ideas, and perspectives that they bring to our campus community and, most importantly, we are committed to their success. And to those engaged in research, especially in areas that have been questioned by some, USF stands firm in its support for your valued contributions to new knowledge and discovery.
In conclusion, we can take pride that USF System Policy 10-050 affirms our institution to be "a community of scholars united in the pursuit of truth and wisdom." Like any great university, we will continue to embrace a plurality of ideas, opinions, and perspectives, and encourage reasoned and civil discourse, debate and dissenting viewpoints, grounded in the search for truth. As I urged you last November, please continue to work hard to foster and sustain a climate of respect, tolerance, and trust in building a community of belonging in which we can all feel safe and appreciated.
While, collectively, we will continue our focus and discipline in executing our strategic plan, we will do so in accordance with federal and state law, while keeping a watchful eye on continuing developments. Please let me know if you or your students have additional concerns. Meanwhile, I urge you to reach out to your elected representatives (senators and congressmen/congresswomen) to share your thoughts on legislative and policy proposals emanating from our nation's capital.