Dear UNC Community Members,

 Welcome to a new academic year at UNC. Although I was sorry to see our Convocation ceremony get rained out this year, I was certainly happy not to be in Cranford Park in the midst of a lightning storm. 

Convocation is a great way to introduce our newest community members to some of our UNC history and traditions and to affirm what it means to be part of this university community. As I share at Convocation every year, going to college at UNC is about even more than earning a credential. Our goal is to both challenge and support students as they develop the knowledge and skills that will not only enrich their lives, but also prepare them to enrich the lives of others. As a teaching and learning community, UNC students, faculty and staff work together to support and bring out the best in each other. 

As a community, we share the responsibility for creating a welcoming, inclusive and respectful environment where every member of UNC is afforded the right to speak freely and academic freedom is sacrosanct. Continuing to build and sustain this kind of community is one of the things we will be working on throughout this year. The campus-wide climate survey we will do in September is one of the tools that will help with this work. 

In addition, we are updating our process for addressing student concerns to ensure it upholds the principles of free speech and academic freedom while fulfilling our commitment to create a safe and supportive environment for students. Provost Robbyn Wacker is working with the Faculty Senate to establish how we will handle academic concerns through the colleges, and Interim Dean of Students Gardiner Tucker is leading the work to clarify how we will handle non-academic concerns. You will be hearing more about both of these efforts as the semester progresses. 

In closing, I would like to acknowledge the passing of one of our students prior to the start of the semester and offer condolences to members of our campus community and the student’s family. Even as I am saddened, I find it heartening to see UNC community members come together to support each other in the face of tragedy.