Our students said it best: Hate will never win

Chancellor's Messages

Dr. Rodney D. Bennett

Our students said it best: Hate will never win

This past week, in the killings in Pittsburgh and Louisville and the pipe bombs sent around the country, we saw once again the tragic outcome of hate, intolerance and bigotry.

We all mourn the horrific loss of life. Our flags fly at half-staff far too often.

These continued acts of hate come at a time when it can seem that intolerance is winning and civility is losing. Our news feeds contain multiple examples of those seeking to pit one group against each other, or seeking to rollback hard-fought gains in inclusion. Divisive voices in society are screaming to outdo each other – attempting to push us further apart as a nation instead of bringing us together.

What can we do? First, we can honor the victims by upholding our core values. In 2006, our UNL community adopted our Core Values, which were expanded in 2016 to include these beliefs:

  • We value equity, inclusion, and dignity for all.
  • We strive for excellence and recognize that our differences make us stronger. We respect and seek out inclusion of differences, realizing we can learn from each other.
  • We insist on a culture of respect, and recognize that words and actions matter. The absence of action and words also matter.
  • We believe in the freedom of speech, and encourage the civil and respectful expression of ideas and opinions.
  • We all share in the responsibility to create a positive culture and to safeguard equity, inclusion, dignity, and respect for all. Each member of the University community—faculty, staff and students—should be a role model for others.
  • We take action when we observe someone being treated unfairly or in a demeaning manner.

These are CORE values of our great University. They don’t shift in political winds. They don’t change because of proposed federal policies. They are core to our Land-Grant mission of education, research and creative activity, and engagement with Nebraska and the world. We will continue to stand by all of our students, faculty and staff in support of these values.

Second, as individuals, we need to make our voices heard. UNL students have registered to vote in record numbers for a non-presidential election. This is incredibly positive, and reflects great work by ASUN, TurboVote and the Center for Civic Engagement.

Finally, we need to have conversations with each other, not speak at each other. We won’t always agree – and that’s how it should be. Disagreements and alternative points of view are to be expected, and should be encouraged. Having a fulsome debate is integral to a university’s unimpeded mission of education.

On October 22nd, we were fortunate to have former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Senator Bob Kerrey at UNL as part of the Heuermann Lecture Series. At that event, Kerrey noted, “It’s easier to hate today. Because it’s easier to get people to pay attention to you.”

He’s right. Even on a university campus, where we are dedicated to encouraging discourse, debate and the free exchange of ideas – in today’s digital world, too often our unfiltered dialogue occurs on social media. Good advice for all of us – put down the phone. Talk to one another, listen to one another, seek to understand one another, learn from each other.

As we grieve senseless acts of violence and loss of life, we have an opportunity to encourage each other and lift high our values. Hagel said, “I have confidence our young people will pull us out of this.”

Our students said it simply, courageously, and eloquently this spring when faced with expression of bigotry on our campus, “Hate will never win.”